Looking back at my summers during elementary, middle, high school and college, it seems like my pursuits were primarily of the intellectual or productive variety. They included classes ranging from advanced mathematics to electronics, and working as an office assistant and laboratory engineer. None of these required much physical activity except for a two-week stint as a camp counselor, but I was perfectly fine with that and don’t particularly regret being prepped for a good future ahead of me.
But I can’t help but feel a little bit of envy—and definitely a lot of admiration—for some of the opportunities youngsters are taking advantage of nowadays. Take, for example, my buddy Dan Y. When he was a student at the University of Texas at Austin seven years ago, he and a couple dozen other undergraduates spent one summer cycling from Austin to Anchorage, Alaska to raise cancer awareness as part of the Texas 4000. This year, Dan and his fiancée Kiri opened up their home for UT undergraduates doing this 4000-mile bike ride. At their evening party for the riders, I got to meet and talk with a few of the participants.
I especially enjoyed talking with Trudie, an avid runner; Austin, an aspiring engineer; and Stephanie, who seemed so bubbly and inquisitive. All of them were passionate about cycling and their cause. Together, they usually cycled 75-100 miles a day—including scenic detours such as Rocky Mountain National Park. At the end of each day, they made short presentations about cancer to people like myself.
During the presentation I attended, one point they touched upon was how 10-15% of all cancers are genetic or hereditary, implying that environment and lifestyle play at least as much of an important role. I do wish they talked more about what could be done to prevent cancer through diet, chemical avoidance, and other lifestyle choices. But I think the audience was thoroughly inspired by the journey they were taking. I sure was.
At the end of their presentation they had a short question-and-answer session. “How many flat tires have you had so far?” I asked. One person already had six in the 1200 miles they had cycled so far!
Regardless of the punctured tires, what they were doing sounded like one of the coolest college-sanctioned summer activities ever, something I wish I had done. Well, I guess I still can do things along those lines.
Seize the day (and summer), folks. And best of luck to the 2014 Texas 4000 riders.