When I was in college I interned for a large church in the DC area. One of their summer traditions was a bike trip from Washington, DC to Nags Head, NC. We had practice bike days for weeks leading up to the 400 mile trip. 400 miles. On a bike. Talk about a sore backside!
Ok, the thing is I hadn’t ridden a bike since my childhood one that you peddled backwards to engage the brakes. And I had no idea what to do with these new-fangled inventions called “gears.” But I borrowed a bike with hand brakes and peddled around the parking lot, narrowly missing a curb and shrub, before heading out on our first practice day. I started out somewhere in the middle of the group, but it didn’t take long for me to end up in the back. And by “in the back” I mean the very last person. Who couldn’t even see the rest of the people in front of me. A couple other staff stuck in the back with me, but by the time we reached our lunch break I was done. Like, forever. I loaded my borrowed bike in the van and and happily adopted my new role for the trip.
With 100 high schoolers riding bikes on busy roads for 400 miles, somebody has to sacrifice and drive the van. So I drove. I drove from the back of the group until I got to the front of the group. Then I turned around until I hit the back again. To the front, to the back, to the front, to the….you get the idea. I’d pick up stragglers, ones with flat tires and scraped knees, ones who just needed some time to catch their breath.
And along the way I would shout with windows down, “Keep going! Keep peddling! You can do it. Almost there!” And they’d glare at me inside the air-conditioned, seat-cushioned, gas-powered vehicle. I was, however, immune to their glares precisely because I was inside an air-conditioned, seat-cushioned, gas-powered vehicle. But sometimes my back got really sore and my legs got tired from sitting so long! Sometimes my throat got hoarse from yelling so many encouragements at them!
The last day brought a “century” ride ending by crossing the bridge into Nags Head, the beach stretching out in front! For those of you who aren’t up to speed on biking lingo like me, a century means 100 miles. 100 miles in a single day! Just before the bridge I pulled over for a flat tire. Joey Shoemaker. He’d led the group for most of the trip and was only in the back because he’d marked the last turn. He searched for the correct needle (valve?) for his tire and it was nowhere to be found. I finally had to load his bike on the back of the van and he crossed the finish line from the front seat. He was devastated. When we arrived at the end and he fixed his tire, he rode circles around the parking lot for miles to make up the difference.
He knew what it meant to keep his eyes focused on the destination, on what was up ahead, to “keep peddling” at all costs. And he wasn’t interested in a shortcut to get there. He knew the destination was all the more exciting because of the work he put into making it.
What about you? Do you need to turn around and remember the destination you’re headed towards? Or are you looking for a shortcut to get there?