Published: Mar 12, 2013 07:00 PM
Modified: Mar 08, 2013 06:37 PM
This year I returned as a cyclist with Spoke ’n Revolutions Youth Cycling for a summer trip. We cycled the Lewis and Clark and Pacific Coast Highway routes. We faced different terrains, weather patterns and above all, history.
From the start to the ride home it was interesting to ride through mountains, deserts and grasslands. I complained about how flat Iowa was and how I needed to see something besides fields and fields of corn. Once we hit rolling hills, I started to miss those flat-road days!
But it was nothing we couldn’t handle after mountain passes. The best part of those passes was reaching the top after suffering the ride up and looking straight ahead to see the most beautiful downhill view you’ve ever seen. I LOVED going down the hills because if felt like a rollercoaster
As we noticed the changes in our surroundings, we also noticed how we were changing, mentally and physically.
This tour challenged us to work as a team and be more open-minded, an important skill in any environment. I took the opportunity to grow friendships with more people than just my sister, who is also part of the group. We cycled and encountered other solo cyclists who joined us for a few miles to a few nights.
We met Balthazar, an English professor in New York, had flown to Seattle, bought a bike from a shop very much like The ReCYCLEry and begun heading east. Rob, who stayed with us for three days, was extremely nice and even played Apples to Apples with us. Last, but not least, was Michelle who cycled from Chapel Hill to Portland, Ore. We had a chance encounter with her in Yellowstone as she was heading west ALONE. She joined us in Portland and rode the Pacific Coast Highway with us. She’s definitely an inspiration!
The historical aspect of this trip gave me opportunities to learn the history of the Native Americans. In school we sometimes cover the mistreatment of them and how they were forced onto reservations, but we never actually focus on how that has affected their lives today. We biked through some of the reservations, and you could tell when you were in one. Some neighborhoods were run down and the schools looked like they could use more support. We talked to local residents who were all extremely nice and shared their hope for an organization that helped their young teenagers to do better in school and in their lives.
I learned there were more than 200 known treaties between the Native American nations and the U.S.; every single one was broken. On July 4 in South Dakota, I got a chance to experience the effects of how the Native American identity has been transformed over the years.
We were running errands and a Native American man came up to a few of us and asked some questions. He seemed nice but what caught me off guard was his last comment. He said he was Native American and “not worth anything.” I was shocked to hear someone say that about themselves, but it shows the harsh reality in which many people live and how it can affect how you view yourself.
This will always be an unforgettable journey for me. Even though most of the group is getting ready to go to college this fall, I know that the friendships we made during the summer will go on. I enjoyed being part of this group and feel extremely lucky to be getting the opportunity to do this again next year. And, knowing Kevin and Mrs. Sue, they will not let me down and will plan another fantastic tour.
It’s amazing to say you’ve cycled the Lewis and Clark and Pacific Coast Highway routes, but even more rewarding is the fact that you did it on recycled bikes with a group of friends that helped create some of the most memorable moments in time.
If you’d like more information about Spoke ’n Revolutions Youth Cycling, look for us at spokenrevolutions.wordpress.com/
. Jeimy Salazar is a senior at East Chapel Hill High School. She has been a member of Blue Ribbon Mentor- Advocate for nine years and an active member of the Youth Leadership Institute for four years. She is currently deciding where she will attend college next year.
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