As I write this, we’re having our second rest day (thank goodness) and we’re on day 12 of this ride. We’ve covered over 400 miles and are finally feeling like we’re getting the hang of it.
Any alumni will tell you the first days are your biggest challenge. Phew, were they right. The first few days truly felt like we were just surviving. I felt as though the cause was slipping through my fingers as I was trudging along each day, pushing my body and mind more than I ever have. With every road came fear, with every hill came pain, and with every night came another morning where I had to get back on the bike the next day.
It seems as though little angels are placed so perfectly when we need uplifting. An honorable mention is a woman I met one morning. It was the day after having a flat fiasco (5 flats for Emma in 24 hours). I was parked in a pharmacy parking lot when a woman walked to me with a mission. I rolled down the window and she gave me everything I needed to get me through that day.
She was an author who had just finished writing her book, a memoir about her survival as a child. She explained she was on her way to take her book to her publisher when she used the pharmacy parking lot to turn around.
She saw our van (plastered with the words “Cycling to Fight Sex Trafficking”) and had to come tell me her story.
She was trafficked at 13 in this small little Oregon town. At the time, that 13 year old girl was blamed for her trafficking. The police officer she spoke to pretty much victim blamed by the book. He essentially made this child feel as though it was her fault. He then invited her to his hotel room to share a glass of wine.
Moments before she was talking to me, she explained she went to the police station to tell him she wrote a book about him.
This was a woman in her sixties. She has had a whole life apart from her trafficker, apart from this police man, and yet, at 60, these are pieces she can’t let go. I write that, not to put a timeline on grief, but to emphasize how long survivors deal with these thoughts.
Trauma seems a polite word to use when talking about what happened to these survivors. I will forever think about this 60 year old woman, still fighting for her 13 year old voice to be heard; the woman who thanked me for simply knowing about the issue and doing something about it.
She left me with a feeling that day that I don’t think I can put into words. Passion, maybe. Drive, maybe. Those sound too weak. But I think that’s the beauty of it. I was simply sitting in a van with words on it. I can’t imagine how many people we’ve touched or inspired along this big, scary, hard thing we’re doing. This all is so much bigger than I think I will ever know.