As the days quickly tick away, it is becoming real that our amazing journey is coming to a close. Now that we are nearly at the end (we are a mere four days away from Seattle!), I have started thinking about the changes that have happened to me and my fellow riders during this trip. We have all experienced so much together since we began riding in Providence. We have seen crazy changes in the weather, the landscape, our bodies, the locals, our attitudes, the churches that host us, our moods, the elevation, the houses we are working on, and the way we are recieved throughout the country (to name a few). And we have literally been in constant motion for the past 66 days (55 ride days, 9 build days, 2 days of orientation) as well. As I rode today, I kept thinking about change, and also about growth.
Last night six riders gave a presentation about Bike and Build to our host, and at the end of the presentation Dustin spoke about how strong everyone has become. He reminded us all of one of our hardest days–our ride into Roscoe, NY. It was our first 70 mile day (then a long day, now a shorter day), our first day dealing with heat, and a ride that involved heading over two mountains. It was the first day I got vanned and did not complete a ride. Everyone suffered that day.
Dustin then reminded us all of Teton Pass–a day not too long ago. We climbed to one of our highest elevations with a very short four mile ascent, meaning the grade was really tough! The days have gotten harder since Roscoe, but we have gotten tougher as well. Even the biggest challenge of the summer felt no where near as painful as the days starting this ride. We simply don’t suffer as much as we did on that day into that tiny New York town.
Dustin’s story gave me food for thought. I have been given the amazing priviledge of seeing 30 other people turn into cycling machines. My Bike and Build family has become ‘tougher than a pine nut’ both physically and mentally. I have been able to witness the insane changes in our bodies–muscles growing, weight dropping off, breathing becoming steadier during climbs, and speeds quickening. Providence to Seattle has become a trip of real endurance athletes–a trip of cyclists that know a thing or two about cycling.
Today was one of our shorter days–a tiny 55 mile ride. We started in Grand Coulee (the town that gets to live in the shadow of the great Coulee Dam) and headed to Omak, Washington. The first part of the ride, away from the dam, was spotted with strange rock formations. Huge boulders looked as if giants had gathered up smaller rocks and rolled them together with mud into bumpy playthings–and once they were sick of their homemade balls, they discarded them haphazardly on hill tops, precariously placed stones ready to roll any moment.
During the middle of the ride, the landscape changed back into the arid desert we experienced in eastern Wyoming. It was so dry, and so beautiful. We went up and down hills at the foot of the Cascades, winding closer to and farther away from the deep blue Columbia River. Sage brush ruled the land until the desert gave way to Omak Lake–a gorgeous, huge, blue lake lined with white sand. It was a ride that filled me, again, with awe. I still can’t believe our country is so beautiful.
Along the way, I again was reminded of the huge growth of myself and my friends. I think that all of us have started thinking in ‘we’ instead of ‘I’. At the beginning of the trip, I found myself riding alone and looking at the road as something to tackle by myself, for myself. Now, at the end of the trip, I find myself riding with others–wanting to know how their rides are, and how they view the country. We never tackle the road alone now–we all rely heavily on the support of others. We also, in getting to review and fund the grants that affordable housing projects across the country applied for, are more aware of need in the places we ride through. I think that all of our eyes have been opened to the vast amount of service this country requires.
I believe we all have risen to the need this summer, and will continue to think in terms of service, rather than self, in the future. Bike and Build has completely changed my life, and I see the amazing change in my fellows as well. I am so proud of all of us, and so thankful for the chance to spend these 65 days with such an amazing, strong, caring, and thoughtful group of young adults.