This summer I was given the chance to partake in an incredible adventure. The trip consisted of a 3,700-mile, 67-day bike ride from San Francisco to Washington D.C. The goal of the Journey of Hope (JOH) is to raise money and awareness for people with disabilities through an organization called The Ability Experience. We had 48 "friendship visits" with incredible groups of people throughout the country. I've always been told that doing good deeds for others is the key to happiness. I would agree; last summer was one of the happiest times of my life, albeit extremely difficult.
I don't think it would be right to say that I adequately trained for this adventure. But with an average of 75 miles per day on the road, adequate training would’ve consisted of, at the very least, five hour intervals on the bike. This isn't particularly attainable as a full time college student with a part time job as a cook at a gym cafe. In total, I think I rode about 250 miles to prepare for this adventure: roughly 1/15th of the mileage I would soon encounter.
I was told that first two weeks really kick your ass unless you're already a competitive cyclist. They were not lying. There's a ski resort in Eastern California by the name of Kirkwood. I'd never been, although biking a ski resort seemed inevitably daunting. Day 4 consisted of a 105-mile ride across three massive peaks into Lake Tahoe. This was the most physically demanding day of my entire life. We climbed 11,000 feet that day: a stat I still can't quite seem to comprehend.
There were steep stretches of road that lasted for miles. Several times during the ride I would turn a corner and see more climbing ahead. How demoralizing. We didn’t know when our legs would give out. At certain points while I was ascending I considered falling to the side and pretending to go unconscious. I wanted to quit but knew I couldn’t.
When we ascended the second peak, we were met with snow, intense wind chill and below 40 temps. I got into a van at the peak, seeking temporary refuge from the elements. 15 minutes passed by and staying in the van seemed a lot more desirable than riding any longer. We got out of the van and back onto our bikes because we had people in Tahoe waiting to welcome us.
When we descended it was absolutely magnificent. Skiing is probably my favorite activity and for a short period of time, biking rivaled it. Of course, the biggest difference with skiing is the chair lifts unless you’re ski mountaineering or getting into some backcountry. If I had to bike up Vail I probably wouldn’t enjoy it as much either.
Coasting down these mountain passes was so freeing. Like everything I just put myself through became tangible. We were zipping down the mountain and I managed to hit 50 miles per hour during one particularly steep stretch. It was the fastest I’ve ever gone without the help of a motor. And on two wheels.
Then we had a scare when the wind almost knocked my friend off his bike while he was cooking 40+ miles per hour. We rode our brakes pretty hard after that.
The ride was filled with doubt, awe and satisfaction. It made me feel like I made the right decision with my summer. I need these kinds of challenges to push me. They help me to realize my potential.
I could’ve just quit, but I knew this was one of the most difficult rides. If I quit here, then what would stop me from quitting the next ride. What would stop me from quitting other difficult challenges ahead in my life. I needed to do this.
Riding into Tahoe was one of the most satisfying moments of my life. I had accomplished something I never would’ve dreamed possible. The only obstacle that could’ve stopped me from finishing is me. I was the only one who could choose to get off the bike and ride in the van. I didn’t and it was an amazing way to help me realize how far a little determination can take me.
I look back at this ride when I encounter difficulties in my everyday life. If I can climb 11,000 feet up different three mountain peaks over the span of 100 miles, then I'm pretty sure I can pull off an A on my History of Jazz test.
Here’s some of my Strava stats from the day to help illustrate what we all went through.
The Journey of Hope was filled with experiences that helped me to become a better version of myself. I did something that once seemed impossible to me. I also learned positivity in the face of adversity. We encountered people along the way that changed how I perceived my life. I met men and women unable to speak or walk. They still managed to maintain a more positive demeanor than I frequently do on (seemingly) difficult days.
I believe that many of the values that JOH instilled in me are central to what Bighorn stands for. I had the opportunity to explore some of the most beautiful places in the country. I developed myself with the help of hundreds of individuals who I set out to help. It's clear now that they helped me more than I ever could've helped them. These experiences helped shape me into the person I am today.
Written by Mike Krohn Marketing Manager
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