L-R, front to back: Judith Marklin, Tim Schmell, Chaz Ormond, Joanna Friesen
L-R, front to back: Judith Marklin, Tim Schmell, Chaz Ormond, Joanna Friesen
Author: Michelle [Shelly] Hillman

Graduating from college is a time of new beginnings, the first steps into a new chapter of life. Students snap photos with friends and family and leave campus to find work, prepare for graduate school, or take a well-deserved break after four intense years.

Or they can bike nearly 3,000 miles on a coast-to-coast adventure.

Such is the case for Joanna Friesen and Judith Marklin, who will finish at Houghton on May 13 and set off within a week across the country with Chaz Ormond ’16 and Friesen’s fiancé, Tim Schmell.

What began as a joke quickly snowballed into a reality. Friesen was interning at Bike and Sol, a nonprofit bicycle shop where abandoned bikes are refurbished and find new life and homes in the community. There she developed a new interest: cycling. The encouragement from professors, community members, and friends was invaluable in empowering the group to take a chance and a leap of faith to try the unexpected.  

Several of the group members are long-distance runners, always pushing themselves to go the extra mile and take on new challenges. Naturally, the prospect of an entirely new endeavor that would also require endurance was too good to pass up, and the ability to represent the very institution where their intertwined journeys began sealed the deal. In Ormond’s words, “we all found this trip as a common goal to take the adventure of a lifetime.”

Not only will the team take to the open road for the pure challenge of it, but they’ll also witness some of the natural and historical wonders of the United States. They plan to see the Badlands, Yellowstone National Park, the homesteads of former President Ulysses S. Grant and author Laura Ingalls Wilder, Mount Rushmore, the Mississippi River, Lake Erie, the Pinelands of New Jersey, and the Appalachian Mountains.

Along the way, they’ll connect with Houghton alumni, churches, and some new faces, some of whom will ride along for a stretch, house the cyclists, or engage in fellowship.

"Above all, this trip is about community and discovery,” remarks Friesen. “It is because of Houghton, our families, and the support at Bike and Sol that we are able to take this trip, and have the confidence to try this. I am excited for the road-community of these four friends, and the ways that we will grow together. I am also looking forward to discovering this continent from the two-wheeled vantage, and getting a glimpse of the people, towns, and churches across America."

Be it camping under the stars in a national forest, feeling the rush of the wind against their faces as they ride across the Midwest, or gathering in daily devotionals and prayer, the experience is bound to be transformational for all four riders. And they’re ready for it.

Follow the team blog’s at http://hcbikeacrossamerica.blogspot.com or on Instagram as @hc_biketeam.