Have you ever been looking forward to something so much, that you overlook what otherwise would seem like common sense? I can't say that I've made a habit of this. In fact, I would like to think that I'm fairly thorough in planning, and careful at executing just about anything. I think my military background helps me in this area.
I began the brainstorming phase of this journey in late March 2016, and immediately began planning the specific routes, the supplies I would need, and the budget of this journey. As I set my course and began to condition my body to the exposure of riding day after day, I was convinced I could do it on my own with zero support. My friends and my family expressed their concerns, yet I felt I was capable. I thought to myself, 'What could really go wrong?'
A few weeks before the commencement of my ride across the big and hot state of Texas, my family and friends all volunteered their personal time to shadow me in a support vehicle on this journey. I was never more grateful for that, than on day two. I realized then, that I had been wrong.
Thirty minutes after leaving Ft Hancock, I was forced to leave the roadways and enter the Chihuahuan Desert. The first section was twenty-nine miles. It only took a few hundred feet for me to realize I was entering a world of hurt. What was marked on the map as a service road turned out to be a sand pit of pain and suffering. Every single pedal stroke had my front wheel going in one direction, and my rear wheel spinning and pushing in the opposite direction. It was almost as if the desert wanted to throw me off of my bicycle. It was intense. Staying upright and not falling off of my bike, took every ounce of energy I had within me. There were stretches I could not pedal through and taking up my bike walking was the only option. This was a really tough mental ride. Throwing in the towel crossed my mind so many times, but I kept pushing. I reminded myself of my mission and realized it was too important to walk away from. Using the excuse that it was "too hard" was not an option for me. As I rode on this stretch of desert, I started to quickly realize that my stubbornness and ignorance could have caused me severe injury, and maybe even death if I had not accepted the assistance of my family and friends.
I have the luxury of a shadow vehicle fully equipped with water, energy drinks, and nutritional items to keep me fueled. Without this aid I would not have made it out of the desert alive. Cycling for Freedom, would have ended much different. There is no amount of training that can prepare you for spending extended periods of time in these desert conditions. I immediately became grateful. I made it through that day. It was not because I was able to endure the physical and mental strain, but because I had a support system in place to ensure I made it out alive.
Victims of human trafficking do not have the luxuries I have on this journey. I am able to finish my days replacing lost calories with food, and drinking all the water my body can handle. I end my days knowing that I have a place to rest to regain my strength.
My journey to cycle across Texas is my choice. No one has forced this upon me. Every pedal stroke I take, I choose to put myself through temporary pain in hopes that this story will start the conversation, and pave a path to ending modern day slavery. Those being held against their will need us to act. The silence surrounding this horrific crime needs to end.
I challenge you to start the conversation with the words of a holocaust survivor below-
We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.