One Bump At a Time

January 19, 2009
This past summer, I biked 800 miles around Lake Michigan. Although a larger camp organized our trip, for the most part we were on our own and had to work together as a community for our survival. We had to camp every night, our friends and family were not able to contact us, and we did not have normal luxuries. Before I left for this trip, I always tried to compare myself to others. I never thought that I was good enough or strong enough to do what I really wanted in life. During those 800 miles, I began to realize that I could actually live up to my personal goals of being able accomplish something meaningful and feel good about myself at the same time. I did not have to worry about what others thought of me because I was proud of myself.

The week before we left for our trip we had a training week. Every morning, we would go for a nine-mile bike ride and go up three bumps in the road. At the time, the other kids and I all thought that these bumps were giant hills, but really our counselors explained that they were mere bumps. The last one always seemed impossible and the first few times we had to stop at the top to catch our breath. I thought that this was all I was capable of doing. Luckily, one day, I proved myself wrong and realized my full potential. I learned that I could complete something so rigorous that at times I was scared for my life. The day I learned this was the last day of our journey and I was able to break away from my preconceived thoughts of what I was capable of achieving. It was the first and the last little bumps in the road that made me realize everything that I wanted in life and could do.

When we left for our journey, I cried the first few days. I didn’t think I was capable of riding 800 miles and supporting myself physically and emotionally for three and a half weeks. As time went on, I got stronger. Every night I would look at the stars and I would think of everything that could happen in this universe. I was amazed that something so beautiful was always over our heads. During the long days when I had nothing to look at but the emptiness of the Upper Peninsula, I would reflect on everything I had done wrong over the last year. Not only that, but I felt regret for the things I had been too scared to let myself succeed at.

As we got closer to our final destination, the camp that we had left three weeks before, I began to wonder if this experience would really affect me or make me a stronger person. On our final day of touring, we all woke up at 5 a.m. and were on the road by 6 a.m., just as the sun was coming up. We were all so excited to get back to camp. I was not only excited to get back, but I was more excited knowing that we were going to be going over those same bumps that we had gone over our first week at camp. The first time I had seen them, I thought they were the biggest hills in the world. After weeks of going up two-mile hills that kept winding and turning, with every pedal like a stab through my leg, those bumps felt like nothing.

As we approached the final bump, the one on which, not so long ago, we all had to stop at the top, I began to peddle fast, and I could not feel my legs. Before I knew it, I was flying up the hill. I passed my group and I was already at the top of the bump. As my friends caught up with me, we all rode down as fast as we could and pulled over at the parking lot that we had left three weeks ago. My friend Molly and I ran together and we dumped water on each other. We danced and laughed in amazement at ourselves. Molly and I had had the most trouble in that group, and both of us had issues that we worked out throughout our journey. We sang all the way back to camp, still celebrating everything we had done.

That night, as I lay in a real bed, what we had done sunk in. I kept replaying memories in my head, such as the skunk that decided to visit us one night. There was the first time that we saw Lake Michigan on our trip, and we all ran into the water laughing and screaming. One of my favorite memories is the time we tried to buy a baby duck for $5 and name it Bonquiqui. Despite it all, the sights we had seen, the dunes we climbed, the friends we had made, and even almost seeing Madonna, it was the moment when I rode down the bump with my head held high that gave it the perfect ending.

When I returned home, I seemed to be in a different world. When I had left for camp, I did not think of myself as being capable of doing something so challenging. I had once compared myself to others, hoping I could be like them. I have realized now, however, that I do not want that anymore. The change occurred on that last bump in the road. I learned that, when the situation presents itself I could face it, maybe with a hint of fear, but with a whole lot of confidence too. It is amazing to me that humans take for granted simple gifts, like a large mound of dirt, which taught me to look beyond my exterior and learn from the mental and physical strengths I never knew I possessed.

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