I tried to take full advantage of this summer. The Spring semester of school was exceptionally difficult. I was totally burned out & exhausted by the time it ended. So, I made sure I did everything & anything that was offered to me, even if it was something I was afraid of (like riding in my boyfriend's race car with him at the track). I faced fears & became more brave. I spent more time with the people I love & that love me while weeding out toxic relationships from my life in the name of self-preservation. I left Pennsylvania a few times to visit the ocean, ride bikes, table zine fests & spend time with far-away friends. I went camping for the first time ever & I was a mentor at a mountain bike camp for girls. I also celebrated six years sober this Summer which is the catalyst for all the good things in my life. I know the start of Autumn means eventually Winter will be here & I'll have less time to ride my bmx bike but it helps that I'm psyched about the Summer I had.
Last week I spent my mornings mentoring a group of girls between the ages of 8 and 11 at Little Bellas, a mountain bike camp for girls which took place at Lake Nockamixon. It was by far, the coolest thing I've done all summer. Little Bellas was started by Lea and Sabra Davison, two sisters from Vermont who fell in love with cycling at a young age and fellow cycling enthusiast, Angela Irvine. The program was created to "help young women realize their potential through cycling", something that I've experienced this past year and half since I started riding bikes. I got involved because I wanted to be a part of that journey for other girls.
We spent the week riding the trails at Nox working on becoming more confident riders, supporting each other through teamwork and encouragement, and creating friendships that will hopefully last a long time. We played games and ate snacks. We sang songs and learned the different parts of our bikes. The entire week I woke up excited for camp. I woke up excited that I got to ride my bike with other girls who were psyched on bikes.
These young women had varying levels of abilities. The first day I was placed with three of the younger girls, the girls who were a little more nervous about riding trails, the girls that reminded me of myself. Over the course of five days I watched those three girls improve more than I could have ever imagined. A girl who was afraid to ride across a creek crossing on day one was riding log-overs by day five. A girl who was falling off her bike every twenty feet on day one was leading a large group ride on day five. A girl who stopped to walk across any section of trail that wasn't flat on day one was riding across a wooden bridge on day five. It was incredible to witness, to be a part of. To watch the confidence of these young ladies grow as they became more comfortable on their bikes and with each other made waking up before the sun totally worth it.
Programs like Little Bellas are so important to help young girls see that they are capable of incredible things, things that they may be hesistant to try simply out of fear or self-doubt. To work with these girls in a constructive environment and see them achieve goals they set each morning was a gift. I hope to continue being involved in the Little Bellas program and hope you'll consider it too. Be prepared to spend an entire week being totally stoked! (Also, I may have got teary eyed more than once.) Thanks to Lisa at Cutters in Bethlehem for making camp happen and thank you to the fine folks at Fitness Central Bike Shop in Schnecksville for hooking me up with a sick bike for the week so I could keep up with these little rippers. The bike community in the Lehigh Valley & Upper Bucks has proven to be some of the best people.