Rise Across Texas Challenge
This is another guest post from my friend Jake Young, in addition to everything else, he’s also a guide for Trek Travel, and recently got the pleasure of guiding for the Rise Across Texas.
“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.”
There are not enough good things you can do in the world from the seat of your bicycle. Certainly, Steve Hicks must have recognized this when he hatched his ambitious plan to ride his bike nearly 900 miles across the great state of Texas to celebrate his 60th birthday and to raise money—significant money—for the Rise Schools of Texas. Had we at Trek Travel known just how new to the sport of cycling Mr. Hicks was, had we recognized that he had yet to purchase his own bike when we started nailing down details of this ride, we may have tried to talk him out of his plan. But I digress.
The Rise Schools consist of seven non-profit preschools that work with developmentally challenged children from 6 months to 6 years of age. They imbue love and knowledge into some of the cutest, biggest-hearted kids I have ever laid eyes on. And the parents of these special children have won the lottery to be in proximity to such a wondrous oasis of support that is the Rise School of Austin. Mr. Hicks visited the “school” in Austin, which actually is a series of converted shipping containers behind a large church just off just off of Highway 1. Every Friday, teachers dutifully strip posters from walls, and pack up pens, pencils, papers, books, games, toys, pillows—all of their teaching supplies over to their “office.” Every Monday, the process is reversed. The office is a steel contraption marked on the door by white, stencil-on paint: RISE SCHOOL OF AUSTIN. It is one thing for a non-profit to shirk extravagance and luxury, but quite another for there to be conditions that hinder teachers from doing their jobs to the fullest. Gratefully, Mr. Hicks recognized this as well.
It is not that there are no good things to do from the seat of your bicycle. I know of a few. My good friend, Dartanyon Race last year ambitiously began raising money for his first ever century ride with the LIVESTRONG Foundation, a feat he is repeating this year. Many are involved in the MS 150 rides all over the States. The Stinky Spoke ride raises money for the Little Bit Therapeutic Riding Center, a nonprofit that pairs developmentally challenged individuals with horses. (My sister, Naomi, volunteers at Little Bit, and informed me that they are so massively under-funded that the waiting list is more than 3-years long. Parents of children with developmental challenges sign them up as soon as and sometimes before they are born so that they can begin therapy by the time they are toddlers). There are other great causes as well: Trek Travel handles logistics and support for the Qualcomm Million Dollar Challenge–a ride from San Francisco to San Diego which raises money for the Challenged Athlete’s Foundation. In 2009 Trek Travel started working together with the World Bicycle Relief and World Vision to bring bicycles to impoverished villages, thereby enabling entrepreneurship, transportation, and jobs in regions where this is badly needed. The fund-raising culminates with a 13-day trip from Zambia to Cape Town.
But a two-week charity ride? Even for seasoned cyclists, this is a monumental commitment (not to mention the challenge of taking time off from work). Add to this that more than half of the group who completed this epic ride have been riding their bike for less than 3 months. This blows my mind. In fact, only two of the riders had ever ridden over 100 miles. One showed up with running shoes, having trained for this ride by attending two spin classes. Some thought that merely buying the bike (or borrowing it) was enough training. But very quickly, everyone involved began to see just how powerful a thing the mind dedicated to a cause can be. Even as muscles began to break down, saddle sores crept in, delicate areas became excruciatingly more so, and the landscape and weather seemingly worked against our group, the spirit and embodiment of commitment to the cause continued. And somehow, legs kept spinning circles. Wheels kept rolling. People continued to laugh at our comedic efforts of escapism. And riders continually turned down offers to join me my SAG wagon, obliging only when Mr. Hicks gave word that it was necessary.
Not to say that there were no hard days. Sometimes, the headwinds gusted up to 40 miles per hour. One day, the rain came down sideways, stinging faces and blurring vision. Unaccustomed to such an influx of water, roads became rivers, with their own series of tributaries, currents and eddies. Our narrow Bontrager tires cut thin slices through the gushing tide. An SUV arced the most beautiful barrel wave of water at me—I almost surfed my way through the tube, but it caught me toward the end, slamming my body like a competition wave in Hawaii (a wonderful 30th birthday gift). If only we had wetsuits! Sometimes, as hard as we tried to look past it, the roadside litter made it hard to spot the budding Blue Bell plants. Other times, the culinary and accommodation levels fell below our lofty Trek Travel standards (a necessary evil given the route option laid before us). Cell reception was nonexistent at times. And, yes, there were bundles of flat tires—21 flats on one early, soggy day. But oh the camaraderie that we experienced across the great state of Texas! The history, the charm, the friendliness, the unadulterated, open landscapes, the wildlife, the laughter—this really is a wonderful world in which we live.
The final night of our trip culminated at Lance Armstrong’s flat in the surprisingly artsy, hipster town of Marfa, Texas. On this evening, we experienced a wondrous deluge of love and gratitude. As a Trek Travel guide, I have been fortunate enough to encounter many Love Fests in my day. The sheer enormity of what was accomplished in the Rise Across Texas Challenge will likely not be recognized until the first day of school, as parents drop off their special preschoolers in the state-of-the-art Rise School of Austin, made possible only because of this event.
So this turned into a very inspiring trip for me, and though I hoped that would be the case, I recognize that I was taking a chance when I said yes to Texas. Before this, I had never spent any meaningful time in the Longhorn State. And I was not sure precisely what to expect beyond: 1) Everything is bigger there, and 2) Don’t mess with it. But my takeaway is that the generous spirit of everyone involved transcends geography, background, and any preconceived ideas I had about what it would be like to spend a month in Texas.
My hope is that this ride serves as an example to others. If only the world had more people who recognize a need and then do something about it. Everyone on this trip was willing to risk going too far, and in the process, each discovered just how far they could go, and just how much good in the world they could do.
And all of that good was done from the seat of a bicycle.
— Jacob M Young
Sooner or later, I’ll get make him his own blog [really we just need the name] and then he’ll have his own place to post, until then, I’m thrilled to host Jake here.