“I’M GONNA FALL I’M GONNA FALL I’M GONNA FALL I’M GON-”
Crash. And then, to my surprise, two more crashes behind me. I spun around to see a couple of my teammates laughing on the ground, tangled together with their bikes on top of them. Yikes.
Apparently I was a bad influence. They had been racing over trying to catch me before I wiped out and wound up becoming personally acquainted with the pavement themselves.
To be fair, this wasn’t entirely my fault. This was my first long distance ride with bike shoes, nifty little contraptions that clipped into my pedals to make my pedaling more efficient. And also, to try to assassinate me. As we all cleaned up and hobbled off to nurse our wounds for a bit and regroup, I found myself thinking of a book my mother mentioned in my childhood more times than I could count: The Blessing of a Skinned Knee. Conservative estimates count it among several billion guides on how to raise successful children, though among today’s popular trend of snowplow parents, it might be an outlier. It has a simple message: let your kids miscalculate, screw up, and move on; it’s good for them. I have been collecting many blessings lately.
That hasn’t stopped my parents from worrying though. Or in my dad’s case, placing bets on when I’ll drop out. Meanwhile, my mom has pledged a hundred dollars to my fundraiser on the condition that I come home with no broken bones. And maybe it’s the warm weather causing cyclists to be more active, or maybe I’m just paying more attention than I used to, but there have been an awful lot of horrible stories about bike crashes on the news lately, and I assure you: Mom has seen every. Single. One. I get it — Oregon is a heck of a long way away, and I didn’t exactly distinguish myself as an athlete in my childhood. I mean, we’re talking about the girl who did four years of marching band in high school because National Honors Society required sports involvement, and that was the only option that didn’t involve cardio.
This cross-country bike trip with The Dream Project is a giant leap out of my comfort zone, but it’s absolutely worth it. My teammates and I have each committed to raising thousands of dollars in support of Elijah’s Promise, a local soup kitchen that provides healthy meals and community outreach to a great many New Brunswick citizens. They provide job training, a community garden, long-term outreach for the homeless, and low-cost nutrition education for children and adults, and nearly $40,0000 will help them do a lot of good. For each of us, it’ll be $3,500 dollars raised, and 3,500 miles biked. Daunting numbers to be sure, but not impossible.
Fortunately, if today’s ride with the Dreamers and Kevin & Chris (our wonderful, patient partners from the Central Jersey Bike Club) was any indication, I’m feeling pretty good. Not because it went well — on the contrary, just about every disaster you could imagine came to pass. Two miles into our thirty mile ride, I discovered that I was completely unable to shift gears on my bike… and I was stuck on the very highest one. I wiped out not two, not three, but four times. Oh, and I discovered that apparently I get asthma attacks now! Super fun.
But through the whole ride — hills included! — I more or less kept pace with everyone. I got more comfortable sharing the road with some very grouchy automobiles, and I learned how to just grit my teeth and keep on going when my legs were screaming at me to stop. Because come on, you’re in the middle of the street… what elseare you gonna do? Most importantly, I got to know my teammates better and enjoy the trip as part of a group. Marching band notwithstanding, I’ve never been part of any kind of athletic team, and I have to say, the camaraderie is great. Pushing your body past its comfort zone sucks, but doing it in the company of friends with the same goal and grinning as you coast to a satisfying stop at the end is a pretty amazing feeling. I’ve got a week left till we pack up our wagons and get going on our very own Oregon Trail, and I’ve got just one thing to say. If you think I’m not gonna see this trip through…. Dream On.