But YOU inspired US
If you ask any member of Team Bike Beyond why they wanted to join the team, you’ll probably get 20 different answers. And there is a good chance that you would get 20 different reasons as to why they kept getting in the saddle day after day, during the ride. For many of us, it started out more about the opportunity to do something cool, and prove to ourselves that we could take on this epic adventure, put ourselves out there and accomplish something amazing. And somewhere between two iconic bridges representing the coasts of this great country, the Brooklyn Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge, that motivation changed. Because we met YOU.
During the ride, we not only had the opportunity to meet and stay with some incredible hosts from both the Type 1 and cycling communities, but we got to meet families and individuals affected by Type 1 at events hosted by our hosts or Beyond Type 1. And these meetings made all the difference in the world. Every time we met someone new, it inevitably started out with comments along the lines of, “What you guys are doing is so amazing,” or “Thank you for what you’re doing; I’m so inspired!” But, here’s the thing … you all inspired us.
Yes, we did have the guts to sign up in the first place. But the view of a cross-country ride is a lot different from behind a computer screen. When you really show up and have to navigate your way across the Brooklyn Bridge, through downtown Manhattan and onto a ferry headed for Jersey with a group of strangers, that’s when you start to question what the heck you were thinking on that cold, December day when you submitted your application video seven months earlier.
Then, you came in. The people we met during the ride, at host events, Beyond Type 1 fundraisers or just while out on the route, were our inspiration to keep moving forward. Your stories of connection to the Type 1 world, of loved ones and friends and children and co-workers. Your verbalized appreciation for what we were doing. Your financial support. Facebook and Instagram messages from strangers. Snail Mail from followers. Good luck cards and photos and treats and personalized notes/drawings for everyone on the team. It was a continuous, and sometimes, much needed reminder for us of all those who were there following our journey.
When your typical schedule requires early mornings, hours of cycling, and then sleep, it is easy to get lost in the bubble that is your own little world. The focus goes from the ride each day, to the ride the next day, to the next day and the next. Opportunities to meet the people we were riding to support, or hear updates from outside of our little Bike Beyond world, were cherished. These moments brought us back out to the world continuing to move forward without us in it. When you leave jobs, school, children and general human responsibilities behind to cycle cross-country, it feels very surreal. Not real life. Connecting with humans at events dipped us back into reality and provided more moments of inspiration to carry with us. We all made so many personal connections and have different personal stories to share.
One of my favorite connections starts in Kentucky/Illinois. We were 30 miles in on a 100-mile ride from Hopkinsville, Kentucky to Eldorado, Illinois. I received a text from a number I didn’t know. It was Kristina, mom to Jaxon, 10 years old and diagnosed just eight months prior. She wanted to know when we would be coming through Eldorado. “Well … umm … today.” I connected Kristina with our van support team for the day so they would be able to coordinate details. When we arrived in Eldorado, Kristina, Jaxon, her husband and daughter had made the 45-minute drive from their home and were all waiting to meet the team, while cheering on the arriving riders (along with a couple other amazing families ready to greet us). After a long day, it was incredible to see such wonderful support and encouragement.
After chatting with Jaxon and his mom, we learned they were looking into starting to use a pump and that Jaxon had worn a Dexcom for a little bit, but didn’t want to wear it all the time. Hey Jaxon — we GET IT. We showed off all of our CGMs and pumps and pens — all in different locations, different brands and styles. Some covered in decorative stickers and some covered in RockTape. The interaction was very positive and when we rode out the next day, we had another little boost of inspiration to continue on. Hopefully Jaxon would feel more comfortable with Type 1 after seeing that we all go through the same things and it’s okay to wear robot parts — or not.
In Colorado, the team made the physical trek over the Rocky Mountains and an emotional trek through a hot and elevated Utah. We had been on the road for 60-ish days. Aside from a couple extremely supportive cities (I’m looking at you Fallon and Carson City), Nevada meant a lot of camping, little cellular service and minimal interaction with people from the cycling or T1 communities. Four days into Nevada, and after a long day of climbing, we rolled into Austin, Nevada early afternoon. As the daily ride groups rolled in one after each other, we all met back up at the one small diner in town for a hot lunch before heading to our accommodations for the night.
It was here that I received a text from Kristina: “I want you to know that your ride and stopping in small towns along the way has made a difference for at least one family this summer. We met the team in Eldorado, Illinois. Our son, Jaxon age 10, had not been wearing his Dexcom and wasn’t sure about a pump. After meeting you guys and following your ride on social media, we have had many talks as a family. He decided he really wanted to try the Omnipod. We went for a training and he received it last Friday. He also put his Dexcom back on. Things are going very well! He is more willing to try things to help him manage his diabetes and is beginning to talk a little more freely too. Thanks for taking the time on a hot summer night after 100 miles to talk to a family in small town America!”
I just sat there for a moment. If that doesn’t give you ALL THE FEELINGS, she included a photo of Jaxon wearing both devices. I immediately shared the message with teammates Amanda and Silvi and WE CRIED. Seriously. That night I shared the message with the team during our team meeting. They definitely remembered meeting Jaxon. And this note was exactly what we needed to keep moving forward. The next day would be our last 100+ mile day. We sent back photos of the team ready to roll out and showing off their Omnipods and Dexcoms. It was a hot and challenging day, but everyone riding completed the ride feeling strong.
See? You inspired us. Thank you for sharing your stories and your time with us throughout the summer. We really couldn’t have done it without this continued support.
Read Cycling Cross-Country: T1D and Tubeless by Abbey Brau.