A ride to remember [UPDATED]Published 10:51am Thursday, June 6, 2013 Updated 11:07am Thursday, June 6, 2013
Ninteen days. Nearly 2,500 miles. One rewarding experience.
M State-Fergus Falls’ Student Life Director Dave Jensen completed a cross-country bike ride from Huntington Beach, Calif., to Jekyll Island, Ga., in support of the Dream Big Scholarship at the college.
Cruising through hot California heat, dry deserts, mountains and rural Southern towns, Jensen was able to view the country from the seat of his bike, creating memories and collecting stories along the way. What Jensen didn’t realize is just how life changing the ride was.
“It was everything and more than I expected it to be. The challenges were more challenging and the awards were more rewarding.”
After preparing himself for the cross country journey, Jensen realized that his expectations and the obstacles he thought he would encounter did not compare to what he actually faced on the open road.
Jensen overcame 19 flat tires in the first 500 miles of the trip, but did not experience another one for the rest of the trip. His longest ride saw him travel 211 miles from Cloudcroft, New Mexico to Seminole, Texas. With great tail winds, Jensen was able to make the descent from the town with a altitude of 9,000 ft. to a city of 3,000 ft. But that is when the rode got tough.
Leaving Seminole, Jensen would encounter 30 mile an hour head winds the rest of the trip. The next two days hardest days of the tour as he battled through Texas, fighting the wind at every turn. “I got so angry that I actually yelled at the wind.”
Jensen’s misfortune wasn’t quite over as he faced a huge disadvantage in the closing days of the ride. His cell phone, which he had been using for navigation and to keep in touch with his lead driver, Aaron Christensen, short-circuited. Choosing not to buy a new phone, forced the rider to sketch out maps the night before next day’s journey and agree on rendezvous points with Christensen. This is where trouble hit.
In Montgomery, Alabama, without navigation, Jensen was set 30 miles off course due to poor directions. After back tracking to the original point, he got back on the right trail but was now behind schedule with Christensen waiting for him further down the road. Without communication, Christensen had assumed that Jensen had made great time and decided to drive onward looking for cyclist.
“It was getting so late and I really had no way of communicating with Aaron, except for hope that he would find me,” Jensen added. “By this point it’s nine o’clock, 10 o’clock at night, the sun going down and I was hoping he was back tracking, looking for me.”
By a stroke of luck, Jensen would be able to flag down someone to use their phone and was able to reunite with his driver at 11:30 p.m. They got back to their hotel around midnight and discussed a better course of action for the remainder of the tour.
But there was also inspiring times on the trip.
One of the most enjoyable moments for Jensen was when he spoke to a 20 year old in Alabama. The man had recently dropped out of school, feeling that completion of a degree was too daunting. When Jensen told the man what he was doing for the students at M State, it inspired the man to reassert himself and go back to school. “He vowed right there in front of me to go back to school and take charge of his life and set on a new course. I told him that I didn’t know if I could bike across America, but the only way to do it is get out there and believe in yourself and make it happen.”
With 180 miles remaining on the tour, Jensen left Albany, Georgia on his final leg of his adventure. Every part of his body hurt as the 19-day bike ride was coming to an end. “The last 65 miles I relied on sheer adrenaline as I did not have an ounce of strength in my body.” But like the final scene in award winning movies, Jensen picked up his bike, ran into the Atlantic Ocean and celebrated the completion of his ride.
“I was fortunate not to have any serious injuries. My knee started to act up, I had shin splints, but what has been the biggest problem returning is my hands. They still have some numbness, so tasks like tying my shoe are slightly more difficult,” Jensen chuckled.
Jensen returned to Fergus Falls late Sunday evening, after a 28 hour drive from the tour’s finishing point. For most travelers, the next day would be full of rest and relaxation, but Jensen is unlike most people as he walked through the doors at M State – Fergus Falls and sat at his desk for a full day of work.
“I wanted to be back here. I wanted to see people and celebrate. I think people were shocked to see me walk-in, but that is the kind of person I am.”
M State will host a welcome back for Jensen Monday at 7 p.m. in Legacy Hall. Jensen will talk about his experience, while Foundation Director Carolyn Glesne will talk about the impact of the Dream Big scholarship on future M State students. Jensen’s ride help raise $22,000 toward the scholarship, $2,000 over the projected total. The event is open to the public and there will be a ice cream sundae bar for those in attendance.