by Kelsey Bjorkman
Special to the Star News
Sunday, June 5, 2011
And we’re off. I left Burnsville, Minnesota, with the four guys from our team, Karl Feller, Tim Shaw, Dustin Burkhart, and Jeramy Wheeler, and another Venture staff member, Erin White, to drive out to Seattle, Washington, in our support van. Our trip began with adventure as we sat on the shoulder of the highway in the wind and hail waiting for the tornado to pass five miles ahead of us. We arrived at Sammamish Presbyterian Church in Sammamish, Washington, on Wednesday afternoon. The drive was a bit long but made enjoyable by the company and conversation as well as a stop at Glacier National Park on our way through. The rest of the team, Samantha Gonzalez, Riley Johnson, Jessica Mahoney, and Rebecca Cunningham, flew in on Thursday morning from Texas, Idaho, and Louisiana respectively. It was so strange to finally meet these people in person, people I had only talked with online but that I feel so close to already. People I am going to spend the next eight weeks, sharing every trial, triumph, frustration, and joy.
We spent our time from Thursday to Sunday in training for the trip. We learned how to assemble bikes, change flat tires, bike maintenance, bike safety on the road, hand signals, and the like. On Saturday we went on a training ride to Seattle, approximately 34 miles. What a delight it was to finally get out on a bike with the team. We were challenged as we strove to figure out the logistics of group riding, how to simultaneously use hand signals and steer without wiping out, and whether our training was up to the challenge. We were rewarded at the end of the ride by the most beautiful skyline of Seattle, complete with Mt. Rainier in the background thanks to the ideal and un-Washington like sunny weather. It was a hard ride up the hills, those will certainly be the most challenging part for me physically, as I learned again today.
We just completed our first day on the road today, approximately 32 miles from Sammamish, Washington, to Sultan, Washington. It may have been the most beautiful stretch of road I have ever gone down, though I wouldn’t be surprised to find myself saying that about every stretch of road on this trip. The hardest parts were the hills. You see them coming ahead of you and try to gain as much momentum as you can going into them. You shift to the lowest gear, trying to give yourself everything you can to get to the top. It is inevitable that no matter how fast you are going and how low of a gear you are in, however, there will always be a hill that uses up the steam you had before you have reached the top. How like life that is. We can often see trials coming. We see them looming ahead of us, we do everything we can to prepare. But so many times ‘everything we can’ is not enough to get us to the top. So where do you turn when that happens? Where do you find the strength to push on? For me it comes from several things. I find strength in my own stubbornness, my refusal to quit and to be defeated by something I know I can beat. I also find strength in others. I do not know exactly how but to hear the voice of a fellow rider behind you, encouraging you, pushing you on to reach to top, somehow it gives you the energy you need. Somehow, knowing that you are not alone in the fight, that there are others struggling along with you, willing you to get to the top as much as they are willing themselves, it gets you through. But more than anything else I find my strength in the knowledge that I am exactly where God wants me to be. He does not promise that it will be an easy road, but He promises that He will get us through when we are faithful to follow Him.
I have a choice. I could choose to give up, I could choose to walk away. But when I think that way I also remember why I am riding. I am not riding for myself, it is not about me. It is about the millions around the world who do not have a choice. The refugees in Burma, victims of a 60 year civil war that has ripped their country apart and destroyed thousands of lives and families. The children who are being forced into prostitution and other atrocities around the world. And so I press on.
Tomorrow will be a test of everything I am. Our ride will be just under 80 miles, the entire first half of which is uphill as we cross the Cascade Mountains. It will be unlike anything I have ever done in my life and, I have no doubt, it will be phenomenal and ridiculously difficult. But we’ll make it. Each one of us, as a team, we’ll make it.