Written by: Naomi Reyes
Where do I even begin. This journey has held nothing back. Coming in with zero experience on a road bike, I was so nervous. When I arrived at the Santa Barbara church, I muttered under my breath, “What am I even doing here. I have no idea what I’m doing.” I felt unsure about everything I knew about myself and my mind just started racing between thoughts of, I won’t be able to do this, people will think I’m so dumb, I do not belong here. Regardless, I unpacked the car, alone, dragging out the time before I had to finally commit.
One of the other riders, Pete, was making a call outside, and he was so nice in helping my dad find the bathroom and places to put my stuff. When I was searching for people I ran into a Lori, the most welcoming, comforting woman—exactly what I needed in that moment. She calmed my nerves and made me feel at least somewhat more secure in this journey.
How did I get here? I had initially searched something along the lines of “bike across the U.S.” a couple of years ago on Google; fortunately one of the results was the Fuller Center Bike Adventure. I didn’t have the time to ride that summer, but I kept it in the back of my mind. Going into my senior year of college I wanted to do everything I had put off. So, I signed up for the last segment of the West Coast ride, three weeks before the ride began. I didn’t have a road bike. The only training I had was my love for spin classes and biking around my college campus. When I saw that the Fuller Center had a mission of providing for those in need and that I could also strengthen my relationship with God around other people of the same faith, I knew I had to join the ride.
When I met the Fuller people on the first day, I was immediately warmed by their sincere hospitality and familial aura. I knew I had made the right choice when everyone brought me in; to this day I could not be more grateful. I had so much fear that I wouldn’t connect with anyone, or that I had no idea how to really ride a bike. It was terrifying, but they all took me under their wing with kind and generous hearts.
All night long I met everyone and started listening to their stories; throughout this week I have become tremendously humbled to be a part of this journey. Initially I entertained the idea of using this experience for my senior thesis, but after a few days I realized there was no way I could do what I had initially suggested. These bikers were not meant to be a part of a research thesis. They were meant to be seen, appreciated, and loved. Though the other riders on this ride may not realize, every small thing they said to me, every small gesture of kindness, simply their being—has made me remember parts of me that had been lost in the swing of life and has made me appreciate those that have a resemblance of character from back home.
The riding is hard—don’t get me wrong! I value every second on that bike because the whole experience has just made me grateful for the concept of cycling that much more. But it’s really the people, the experience, and the motivation behind this journey that make me love what I’m doing, and it could never be adequately described in just words. It has to be experienced. It’s a sensation. It’s a rush of everything good in life. It’s something that makes you feel—hard. I am so glad that I put my fear aside and walked into that church because this is life-changing.