We’ve done it again! Spoke ‘n Revolutions Youth Cycling has managed to have another successful cycling tour. This year, as a returning cyclist, I expected somewhat of the same conditions we had last year but boy was I wrong! Cycling the Underground Railroad was nowhere close to cycling the Lewis & Clark and Pacific Coast Hwy routes. We faced different terrains, weather patterns and above all, history.
From the start of the trip to the ride home it was interesting to see us cycle/ride through mountains, deserts and grasslands. I remember complaining of how flat Iowa was and how after a while I needed to see something else other than fields and fields of corn. Once we hit the rolling hills and grasslands I started to miss those flat road days. But it was nothing we couldn’t handle, especially now since we have gone up some of the toughest passes in the mountains. The best part of those passes is when you finally reach the top after suffering through going up that hill and just looking straight ahead seeing the most beautiful downhill ride view you’ve ever seen. I LOVED going down the hills because if felt like you were on a rollercoaster! It gave you an adrenaline rush and only lasted for a few minutes. The only part I didn’t like were the sharp turns because they would freak me out and I’d have to ride my brakes so I wouldn’t crash into the woods or rocks (poetic license in use here to add more drama).
Not only did we do lots of cycling this tour but we did our fair share of hikes, as well. We climbed (hiked) around in the Badlands, Redwoods, the trail to Jerry Johnston Warm Springs (outside of LoLo, MT), Grand Canyon, beaches, Yellowstone, and so many more places. We were able to see things we’ve never seen before like Banana Slugs (haha), elk, prairie dogs, bison (buffalo), hot springs, national monuments and national parks! I find it incredible how we managed to visit so many places in so little time. Doing this has definitely inspired me to continue doing this in my future. I really wouldn’t have changed anything about this trip. It was fun and we got to meet so many new people and see new places.
Well, there is one thing I would change, or should I say be more prepared for, and that would be next time packing more longsleeve shirts and sweaters because it got extremely cold (to me) when we got to Yellowstone National Park and most places west of there. Those that know me understand that I do not favor the cold. During the cold nights I would sleep with my fuzzy PJ pants and sweatpants. If I still got cold then I would do the next best thing and go ask my sister if I could get into her sleeping bag. When we got closer to Nevada you could immediately feel the heat. The tables on the weather had definitely turned. In our in Las Vegas the temperature was 103* outside (it was a “dry” heat) and I couldn’t stop thinking of how much I wanted that cold mountain weather. Because in the cold you could always put on another layer (if you had it) but as a woman you can only shed so many layers before your image changes (haha). Anyway, the one thing I will take from this is to always pack appropriately and check the WEATHER beforehand to know WHAT to pack.
In addition to noticing changes in the weather and our surroundings we began to notice how we all were changing mentally and physically. If this tour does anything it would be the fact that it challenges a person to work as a team and be more open-minded. A very good skill to have in any environment. I know that I have learned to become more open socially and took the opportunity to grow a bonding friendship with more people than my sister. The skill to become more open socially came in handy as we cycled and encountered other solo cyclists who joined us for a few miles to a few nights. We met Balthazar who is an English professor in New York. He flew to Seattle, bought a bike from a shop very much like The ReCYCLEry and began heading east. We met Rob who stayed with us for about three days. He was extremely nice and even played Apples to Apples with us. Last, but not least by any stretch, is Michelle who cycled from Chapel Hill, NC to Portland, OR. As you know we had a chance encounter with her in Yellowstone as she was heading west ALONE. She joined us in Portland and rode the Pacific Coast Hwy with the SnR group. She’s definitely an inspiration to all of us!
The historical aspect of this trip granted me a lot more opportunities to learn the history of the Native Americans. In school we sometimes cover the mistreatment of them and how they were forced onto reservations but we never actually focused on how that has affected them as a people and their lives today. We got the chance to bike through some of the reservations and you could always tell when you were in one. Some neighborhoods wer run down and the schools looked like they could use a little bit more support. The times we did talk to local residents they all seemed extremely nice and always commented how they hoped they could have some organization that helped their young teenagers to do better in school and in their lives.
When you actually think about it their tragic story of demise began shortly after the end of slavery and is just over 150 years old. Something interesting that I learned is that there were over 200 known treaties between the nations and the U.S.; not one was honored. Every single one was broken.
On the 4th of July in South Dakota I got a chance to experience the effects of how the Native American identity has been transformed over the years. We were running some errands that day and a Native American man came up to a few of us and asked some questions. He seemed nice but what caught me off guard was his last comment. He said that he was Native American and “not worth anything”. I was shocked to hear someone say that about themselves but is just shows the harsh reality in which many people live in and how depressing it can be.
Overall, I really enjoyed getting a chance to be on this tour. I had many unforgettable experiences. For example, I will most definitely NOT forget my big accident where, even though I literally flew into the air, I got no major scratch on myself. This is the day I realized how much we all cared for one another. I did have a major headache the next day and some whiplash (muscle strain in my neck) but nothing I couldn’t handle. It is something I can cross of my list of “must do’s” on a cycling tour, just like being getting interviewed by a little kid.
When we were in Seaside, OR we took a short break at the beach to take a picture with a statue of Lewis & Clark. There a little boy, no older than 11, came up to me with his family and started asking hundreds of questions about what I was doing. After the deluge of questions was over (interrogation) I asked him if he would ride his bike one day. At first, he said no but after I told him it would be SO much fun he changed his mind and said YES. That was one of my favorite moments. Getting the opportunity to talk to a kid and maybe get him interested in riding his bike, too.
This will always be an unforgettable journey for me. The chance to see several National Parks and monuments in such little time while exploring another part of our vast country. Even though most of the group is getting ready to go to college this fall I know that the friendships we made during the summer will keep going on. I enjoyed being part of this group and feel extremely lucky to be getting the opportunity to do this again next year. And knowing Kevin and Ms. Sue they will not let me down and will plan another fantastic tour next summer. It’s amazing to say you’ve cycled the Lewis & Clark and Pacific Coast Hwy routes but even more rewarding is the fact that you did it on recycled bikes with a group of friends that helped create some of the most memorable moments in time.