Conquering the mountain: Kelsey Bjorkman’s journal, week 3
by Kelsey Bjorkman
Special to the Star News
June 12, 2011
It feels like it has been so much longer than a week since we started our trip last Sunday, June 5th. We have already entered our third state, climbed two mountains, and, as of today, the 12th, have biked a total of 446.6 miles.
Some of the highlights of this past week include: speeding on my bike outside of Douglas, Washington (I was going 39mph in a 35mph zone); reaching 45mph between Leavenworth, Washington, and Coullee City, Washington; having a 20mph tailwind on our way to Coullee City, Washington; but most of all it has been meeting all of the people along the trail.
We have had the joy of meeting such a diverse range of people along our road. Some are from the churches that are hosting us, some are the families we are staying with, and some are simply people who see us on the road or trail and ask questions about what we are doing and why. Everything from Ty, a 23 year old who is about to get his masters in clarinet performance; to Niki, who biked from Virginia to Oregon in 1985; to Pastor Eric who started a ministry for Burmese refugees 13 years ago; to five-year-old Becca who just learned to ride her bike without training wheels. I am seeing the country in slow-motion and experiencing every detail it has to offer me.
By far the hardest day this past week was Monday, June 6th, when we crossed the Cascades through Steven’s Pass. This was my journal entry that night:
June 6: “Our trip today was through Steven’s Pass which has an elevation of 4,061 feet. We biked every inch of it. When it first began it was not too steep but it was a constant incline that just wore on you. We had, in our team meeting, been warned that today would probably be the hardest day of our trip. As we went I honestly felt they had exaggerated. The incline was long and wearing but wasn’t that steep. At our second water stop we were told that the next five miles would be the absolute hardest as we would climb over 1,000 feet in that distance. They were not exaggerating, by any means, in their assessment. That five miles was absolutely the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I crawled forward at about five miles an hour, stopping every four minutes or so (less than a ¼ mile) to stop and breathe for a bit.
I had set off with Riley and Jeramy. Riley quickly out distanced us. I don’t blame her as she was able and it is so hard to go at another person’s pace on such a climb. Jeramy stayed back with me and kept me going. We began between mile marker 59 and 60. At mile 62 I started hitting a wall. I could feel myself sliding into the ‘ditch’ of crying and giving up and all of that. I warned Jeramy that I was going to start crying at some point and not to worry about it and that’s just what I did. Eventually the sweep (last riders, appointed to always stay in the back that day) caught up with us. Jeramy went on ahead and I pressed on with Tim, Samantha, Rebecca, and Dustin.
The worst part of the entire thing was in my head. Mentally I just couldn’t grasp what I was doing enough to make myself do it. There is absolutely no way I could have done it without my teammates; without the tribe around me. Isn’t that always the case in life? We are made to be interdependent beings. We are made to need each other and to be needed. We are not made to be alone.
I reached the top, by the grace, mercy, and power of God and through the support of my teammates. I got to the top and stood looking at the sign.
“Stevens Pass Elevation: 4,061.” Four simple words that represented so much to me. I made it. My body did what was impossible in my mind. And so it begins. I can do anything. With the guidance of God, the support of other people and the stubbornness to keep pressing on. I can bike up a mountain. I can touch those around me. I can change the world.
Almost the entire ride up was lined on either side with outcroppings of granite. When I got to the top I searched the parking lot until I found the perfect one and I kept it. I plan to use it as a marker, a reminder of what I have accomplished here today, of the fact that I can do the “impossible.” (end June 6 journal entry)
I find it fascinating how so many aspects of doing this bike tour apply to other areas of life and, if I let them, are teaching me so many lessons.
When we left Coulee City, Washington, on Thursday, June 9th, we had a bit of a head wind. It wasn’t a horribly strong head wind but it was enough to wear on you after awhile. It was the perfect opportunity for us to learn how to draft.
Drafting means that you are within three to six inches of the back tire of the bike in front of you. This enables the person in front to break the wind for you, lessoning the effort you have to put forth to maintain your speed.
We took 10-20 minute turns being in front and breaking the wind before moving to the back of the line to rest.
Although drafting is incredibly helpful, it is also very challenging. It requires great amounts of communication and trust from every rider involved. If the speed of the person in front of you changes just slightly you can run into their back tire, causing both of you to wipe out. Communication is key to the success of a drafting line. Every time there is an obstacle in the road and the lead biker has to alter their direction slightly it must be communicated down the line. The same when the leader is stopping or slowing. The rider in the back of the line must also communicate about cars that are coming from behind so that they do not sneak up on the draft line. Each member is responsible for passing the messages down the line either direction to ensure that everyone is informed. It is such a beautiful picture of how it should be. To have people working together, communicating, relying on each other, doing their part, and accomplishing the same goal.
Related to that topic is one of the things I am loving about this trip. That it is allowing me to see the body of Christ working the way it is meant to work. So far on this trip we have stayed in five different churches, from five different denominations. But all share a passion to serve, a desire to give and enable others, a fire for sharing the gospel. It seems that at each church we stop at I am seeing a different facet of the body of Christ. I am seeing a different facet of God’s love and a different form of how He chooses to bless His children and show His compassion towards them. It is inspiring and challenging. These churches are stepping out in faith. They are focused not on themselves but on those around them, the people they have been called to love, to serve, and to shine Christ to. They are opening their doors to a group of sweaty, smelly bicyclists from around the country, serving them hot meals (usually homemade), getting them showers, giving them places to sleep, blessing them in immeasurable ways.
We are often sent away with more food than we came with, but beyond the physical things we are sent away with our hearts and minds filled. We are strengthened in our journey, encouraged in our cause, built up and reminded that we are not alone in this fight. Indeed, this fight is far too great to be won by any single person.
No one person can solve the problem of human trafficking and oppression around the world. However, if every one person was willing to stand up, to take a step of faith, and to come beside those people who are already working to fight this injustice, we could bring about change. “A cord of three strands is not easily broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12). And so I challenge you: take a stand, find others who are fighting and join them. It may only be something small, but if enough people do enough small things, it will make a big difference.
In Spokane, Washington, we stayed at Jacob’s Well Church, a small downtown church with a focus on reaching Burmese refugees in the area. Talking with the pastor, Eric Blauer, was inspiring as he shared his passion and views of the world. One of the things he said that really stuck with me was “Everybody, if they can, should engage in something that takes them outside of home.” And it is so true. We all get so comfortable and complacent within our own homes, but we are called to change the world and make a difference. Doing that requires stepping out of our comfort zones and into the unknown. As I am learning, it is so worth the risks and fears!
I challenge you to get involved as well. I invite you to visit www.ventureexpeditions.org to find out more about the Just+Hope Campaign that I am riding for this summer, and about how you can get involved in this fight against oppression and injustice.