This past week, I traveled to Austin for Spring Break. Savannah had planned a bike trip to Pace Bend for the three of us that would serve as our trial run. Since Grace hadn’t bought her bike yet, she borrowed a Schwinn bike from straight up Wal Mart. Nothing against Walmart. We, as broke college students, appreciate your low prices and the great value brand. But the bike was a million sizes too small for Grace and the tires had the same circumference as a wheel of Babybel cheese (nevertheless, we are very appreciative that our good pal Avery let us borrow the bike. Shoutout to you Avery).
Savannah and Grace got back from class and work at 2pm, so we got everything together and hit the road around 3pm. After mapping our route, we projected a 3.5 hour trip for 37 miles, so we would arrive right as the sun was setting. Perfect. Before the ride we had bought these amazing freeze-dried backpacking meals for dinner (the brand is Good to Go and the woman that started them won Iron Chef with them so YUM!) and plenty of snacks for the ride. We also stopped at places around Austin to buy bike racks for our panniers, found an external phone charger, and printed out the route for the way there. We were absolutely convinced that we had over-prepared and left Helms St. in high spirits.
Besides Grace having to pedal for her life to get the Walmart bike movin’ and a few steep hills, the first two hours of the trip were smooth sailing, but when we stopped at a gas station around mile 15, things began to go south. Savannah made a comment about her front wheel looking flat, so we googled the nearest bike shop to stop by and see what was wrong. We turned into the parking lot and Sav’s front tire practically fell off her bike because it was so flat. Sure enough, we were informed that the tube was leaking. In case you don’t know, a tube is just the inside part of the tire. It’s the part that you pump up (don’t sweat it, I didn’t know what a tube was until last week). After spending about 45 minutes learning how to change a flat, we still had about 27 miles to ride with a 2,700 foot elevation gain and only 2 hours before sunset, so I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous.
To be honest, Savannah had warned Grace and I about the total elevation gain for our trip, but at the time we didn’t completely understand the severity of the number, so let me create some perspective here. The tallest building in the world is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, standing at 2,710 feet, and the total elevation gain for our trial run was 2,700 feet. So basically, we biked up the dang Burj Khalifa and our thighs felt every second of it.
*According to our Pacific Coast Adventure Cycling Maps, this won't be the last time we come face-to-face with quadruple-digit elevation gain, so let the training begin, ladies.
We keep riding. And riding. And riding. Our supposed 3 hour trial run turned into 4 hours and then 5… and then 6. One of my favorite things about Savannah is her absurd positivity, but at mile 25, as I watched the sun drop below the horizon and realized we only had one set of uncharged bike lights, I threw the “glass half full” mentality out the metaphorical window. Because we were completely unable to be seen, the three of us created a formation - Grace on the end with the rear light, myself in the middle, and Savannah in the front with the headlight - in a last ditch effort to be seen by cars on a pitch-black backroad.
It's 2 hours later, we finally make it into the camp site, remembering that our entire motivation had been the moment we would sit down and cook this, for a lack of better words, dank backpacking meal that I mentioned earlier. The moment my cheeks hit the bench of our campsite I heard a gasp from Savannah as she follows up with “I forgot the matches.” Only 2 minutes later did we realize that our external phone charger only worked for an iPhone 5, so with one cell phone on 15% and no navigation for the trip home, we humbly called Savannah’s room mate Ellorie to come pick us up. When I saw those headlights pull into the campsite I felt like Andy Dufresne at the end of Shawshank Redemption.
“I told ya so.” Go ahead. I’m giving you full permission to say it before I make my defense.
We made all the way to Pace Bend and WE LEARNED SO MUCH. How to replace a tube, how to fix a bike chain, how many things a handy dandy multi-tool can do, that we should probably have an emergency repair kit and that the right phone chargers would be nice too. I can honestly say that we also have a very realistic perspective on daily mileage for the trip and definitely need to amp up our training schedule.
We are ordinary people. We are not bike experts. We are not wilderness guides or Olympic athletes. We are simply three women who have chosen to dedicate ourselves to doing something crazy in order to create a platform to share our hearts for the eradication of modern day slavery. We’ve got a long ways to go, but we are more prepared every day and are choosing to look at our trip as a victory! And for those of you wondering, yes. We are still pedaling the pacific.