Sweet Sixteen and Never Been Missed… Some kids start going to out-of state overnight camp as early as third grade. Not me. I waited until the summer of my junior year to make the break. I applied for a scholarship and was accepted to a Wilderness Ventures Tour; 16 days of mountain biking and camping in Colorado and Utah. Although I do consider myself a decent cyclist, and I was eager to explore my independence,I was still nervous about being away from my family…and from bathrooms, electricity and cell phones..for over two weeks.
The night before departure, I received a phone call from the airlines announcing that my direct flight to Denver had been cancelled. Deep breaths. Two hours later we rebooked the only alternative, a connecting flight. So off I go, only to discover that my connecting flight was now cancelled, leaving me stranded, SOLO, in Dulles. Trying to coordinate a new flight, my phone died. Practical tip: Remember your cell phone charger, even if you sign up for a camp where your fully charged phone will get confiscated upon arrival. I was lucky that my parents could Fed Ex my charger to some tiny bike shop in Utah to be sure I could navigate my way home through the airports.
Finally, I arrived in Denver, but discovered that my luggage would arrive a day later. No problem, I was excited to be in Colorado, meeting all the other Lance Armstrong wanna-be’s, and relieved to have survived my airport misadventures. It didn’t take long to do the math and see that there were only two other girls and TEN guys in the group! In high school, this ratio might seem appealing, but in a cycling and camping scenario, solidarity counts.
We played lots of “get to know you” games. I was pleasantly surprised that the games weren’t the familiar cheesy stuff, so we soon bonded and loaded into the fifteen passenger van, where we truly stuck together. For 16 days. Sweat-style. Thank goodness for citrus scent Febreeze, clearly our most valuable toiletry. We first headed to Breckenridge, arrived at 10pm, set up our spacious 5‘ x 7‘ x 4′ tent for three girls, made a delicious chicken alfredo dinner, and crawled into bed.
For the next fifteen days, we cycled in Carbondale, Telluride, Fruita, Moab and Park City. My first ride was quite challenging with the distance and altitude (beware asthmatics) and the fact that my Camelback was still in my missing luggage. But the beauty of the Rockies, the good counselors and the generally great Camp Cuisine (except for those baggie omelets at dinner) kept me inspired. In Telluride, we experienced the thrill of biking down a mountain. In Fruita, we followed long rides with hours of Ultimate Frisbee. A small lake near our campsite was home to our “Chicken Fight Championship.” I was partnered with a 160 pound wrestler, and we somehow won …even with five foot me on the bottom! In Moab, we woke at 4:30am to beat the heat while cycling on the slick rock. I even forgot about the “no electronics” rule (yes, no Facebook for 16 days) because I was having such a fun time. I gained confidence, independence, great cycling skills, life-long friendships and even a fabulous recipe for Cajun burgers from one of the guys from New Orleans.
I can truthfully say that because of this trip, I will always remember the Summer of 2008. Did I miss my family? Sure. But my advice remains: Kids, don’t wait until you’re 16 to have the summer of your life.
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