On one of the many nights I spent in bed with my laptop trying to wrap up my senior year of college, I found a blog about a guy riding his bicycle across America. Next thing I know, I was filling out paper work to take part in The Ride Well Tour. It couldn’t hurt, right?
I thought I was venturing into seeing America for selfish reasons –i.e. putting off getting a job and having alone time on my bike-, but thankfully it grew into much more than that.
The Ride Well Tour was created to benefit Blood:Water Mission, a nonprofit dedicated to clean water initiatives and HIV/AIDS treatment facilities in Sub-Saharan Africa. While riding across the country, participants would share the story of this nonprofit and fund-raise toward the $40,000 goal.
The interviewing process passed in a blink and I began training and raising the $5,250 needed to ride my bike from San Diego, CA to Myrtle Beach, SC.
The nine members of the team gathered from all over the country in California. After three days of learning how to public-speak, ride on highways, change flats and fight off dogs, we were out to conquer the Rocky Mountains.
Day one saw us climbing 7,000 feet, which made me feel pretty sure I had made a terrible mistake sign up for the tour. Words of discouragement filled my mind over and over. It took two more weeks of riding through the mountains and the Arizona deserts to gain confidence. I made it through my weakest moments reminding myself of the people across the ocean who walk miles and miles just to get water to survive. People in impoverished countries who skip class or work so they can travel far enough to find water for their families.
It’s not about me. I realized, and then everything shifted. No longer was it about me biking across America and making a name for myself. It was about raising as much money as possible so people in need could have a better quality of life, and I had the power to help. Soon enough my communications degree was being put to use for the betterment of society and I was making drafts of effective points to hit when talking at churches or to strangers at gas stations.
We biked and we biked and we biked across the country, sharing our message. An average day consisted of about 80-mile rides with around 100-degree heat. It was just like waking up for work every day, just a little sweatier!
Tennessee was filled with beautiful green mountains but when we hit Texas, grasshoppers were flying at us from all directions and chip sealed roads shook our bikes until our hands were numb. Arkansas welcomed us with dogs ready to rip us apart. I could live in fear or let go of the fact that I couldn’t control anything but myself and how I rode.
When we finally pulled onto the beach of the Atlantic Ocean after 3,000 miles, I was completely overcome with emotion. I looked at every single one of my eight teammates and could fully recognize how each one of them helped me get through the trip. It wasn’t always fun being around the same people every single day, but we learned to love and appreciate each other and those relationships will remain dear to me for life.
The Ride Well Tour taught me that when you work together towards a common goal that benefits others, you discover something in yourself. So ride on and ride well!
I graduated from Drake University with a bachelors in marketing and public relations. I currently serve in AmeriCorps with Rebuilding Together, a nonprofit that provides safe and healthy homes to low-income homeowners. I enjoy reading, blogging, exercise and spontaneous adventures. Find me on twitter @emilyboyd12 or read my personal blog: www.midwestmusings.tumblr.com