By Kimball Vaughn
Mar 11, 2018

500-Mile Bike Ride Forever Changes Scouts Spiritually and Physically

Picture this, it’s the year 1992, you’re 14-years-old, and you are a Scout/member of the Teacher’s Quorum. Now imagine that you and your Troop/Quorum just decided that you are going to participate in a seven-day bike ride spanning 500 miles. On that 500-mile bike ride, imagine that you will have to brave ferocious headwinds along a mountain pass, pedal up a 10,200-foot mountain, and speed down a mountain at 58 mph. That sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Well, 26 years ago, an ambitious group of 14 and 15-year-old Varsity Scouts from Orem, UT did just that.

Ultimate Experience – Summer 1992

 

It all began in November 1991, when team 30 from the Lakeridge first ward met together to plan out their next year. After much back and forth between the boys, they eventually decided that they wanted to complete a 500-mile bike ride the following summer.

“When my son, Johan, came home and reported that they were planning a 500-mile bike ride, I was not very convinced, and didn’t really take him very seriously. I was sure they were dreaming and would come to their senses eventually.”

Dubbed Ultimate Experience – Summer 1992, the group decided that this bike ride would be much more than an adventure. It would be an experience of a lifetime. An experience for them to be tested physically, to grow spiritually, and to marvel at the beauty of the western United States.

In the outline of this experience they wrote, “This bicycle ultimate experience may be compared to life and how prepared we are for it. Like life, we will experience many ups and downs during the trip. How we handle these ups and downs will determine if we will fail or succeed. We will have to listen to those with more experience to help us prepare to meet the challenge of the trip. By finishing the 500 miles we will know that we can accomplish anything if we prepare for it.”

Although the boys were determined to complete the journey, not all of the parents were convinced their sons would actually go through with this.

Brother Rowley, the father of team member Johan Rowley, recounts, “When my son, Johan, came home and reported that they were planning a 500-mile bike ride, I was not very convinced, and didn’t really take him very seriously. I was sure they were dreaming and would come to their senses eventually.”

Ultimate Preparation

But the team did take their task seriously and began training within three months of their planning meeting. The diligent boys started their first day of training with a 12-mile ride. Eventually, they worked up to a 100-mile ride in order to prepare for the grand journey that lay ahead. And that’s not all, the young men spent time planning the trip, building a budget, and creating guiding spiritual principles.

And that’s not the only preparation these young men did. The group also spent time planning the trip, building a budget, and creating guiding spiritual principles.

The trip would last six days across four states, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, and Utah. To ensure they were prepared, they created a packing list requiring the following items:

  • Scriptures
  • Journal material
  • Bicycle
  • Bicycle helmet
  • Sleeping Pad
  • Sleeping bag
  • Bicycle mounted water bottles (at least 2)
  • Bicycle repair kit
  • Change of shirts
  • Change of pants
  • Extra socks (at least 8 pairs of socks)
  • Extra tire tubes for your bicycle
  • Personal hygiene material
  • Eating utensils including plates
  • Towel (at least 2)
  • Duffle bag
  • Warm Coat
  • Jacket
  • Personal medication

Everyone decided on $80.00 as the necessary budget for the trip. Each member of the trip would help contribute. Meals would cost $6.00 a day, gas for support vehicles would cost $30.00, campgrounds would cost $5.00, and miscellaneous expenses would cost $3.00.

The team used D&C 89:18-21 to create overall guiding spiritual principles, but they added the words “ride” and “riding” to the scriptures.

18. And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking (riding) in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones;

19. And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;

20. And shall run (ride) and not be weary, and shall walk (ride) and not faint.

21. And I, the Lord, give unto thee a promise; that the destroying angel shall pass by then, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. Amen.

For a full list of the principles, click on one of the images below. (These images came from the original plan created by Varsity Scouts team 30).

Arriving at West Yellowstone

After months of preparation, the team headed off on May 30, 1992, toward West Yellowstone, MT. Once they arrived, the team set up camp and spent the day enjoying the beauty of Yellowstone.

The following day, the boys helped prepare the sacrament at the West Yellowstone branch. Ironically, it just so happened to be fast Sunday for the branch, but no one complained. The boys split up after

church so they could take some time to ponder and write in their journals about their experience. Hours later, at 8:00 PM, the group headed back to the church to help with the later sacrament service that was held. After the meeting concluded, a miracle took place.

Brother Rowley writes, “That night, after returning to camp, we encountered our first difficulty. My son, Johan was complaining of a severe sore throat and could hardly swallow. The pain was so bad that he could not constrain the tears, even front of his peers. He asked me if I could give him a blessing and I immediately understood why the spirit had prompted me to take along that small bottle of oil from my dresser drawer.”

He gave his son a beautiful blessing of healing. Additionally, before bed, the quorum prayed that Johan would be healed–his illness was gone by morning.

Beginning the 500-Mile Bike Ride

On Monday, June 1, 1992, the Varsity Scout team began the Ultimate Experience – Summer 1992. The bikers headed toward Old Faithful. During their journey, they saw elk, buffalo, moose, wolves, and beautiful scenes of nature. They pedaled up steep mountains and tallied 99 miles by days end.

As the day concluded, the group met up at Colter Bay for a hearty meal of spaghetti. Lucky for the boys, the support vehicle team was in charge of the meals, which allowed the boys to focus completely on biking.

The next day proved to be the longest day of the entire journey. In total, the team traveled 132 miles up and down the mountains. While traveling down the canyon along Snake River, the group encountered heavy headwinds, preventing them from going beyond 18 mph. Soon after that, the boys rode through a lightning storm and were doused in rain. The day ended with the boys speeding downhill towards camp at 55 mph.

24 hours later, the young men were blessed to experience a much less difficult day (this was much needed because Thursday was by far the most challenging). The boys traveled 72 miles taking them through Idaho and into Utah. The group checked into to camp around 2:00 PM and relaxed for the better part of the day.

Pedaling Through The Refiner’s Fire

Although Wednesday had been a relaxing day, Thursday was the polar opposite. The journey began with the team traveling to Wyoming and back to Utah. But the boys spent the day battling severe headwinds. The conditions became so difficult that they got off their bikes and began walking them along the dusty roads. Morale began to decrease and everyone became incredibly discouraged.

The conditions became so difficult that they got off their bikes and began walking them along the dusty roads. It seemed like the day would never end.

But these boys had prepared physically and spiritually for challenging times like this. They knew that they weren’t alone on this journey. With faith in his heart, Varsity Team Captain Jason Burr invited everyone to call upon the Lord for help. The faithful members dropped to their knees and petitioned the Lord to change the headwinds.

The faithful members dropped to their knees and petitioned the Lord to change the headwinds. The team mounted their bicycles and headed off again with faith that Heavenly Father would bless them. He did. Minutes later, the winds disappeared and were replaced with strong tailwinds.

This heavenly help enabled the boys to push through the refiner’s fire and on to the next destination. Before heading to bed, the young men offered a prayer of gratitude and thanks to the Lord.

Completing the Ultimate Experience

The morning after, the group was in for a real treat. It started off with a tough 20-mile uphill climb to the top of Bald Mountain Pass (10,200 ft in elevation) and ended with a 20-mile downhill joyride. Everyone had a blast, reaching blistering speeds of 58 mph.

“It was a picture-perfect example of Scouting at it’s best with a Priesthood Purpose behind every move.”

Since it was a much shorter ride, the group reached camp by noon. Additionally, Friday happened to be the same time as the annual Aaronic Priesthood outing. The group gathered with several fathers, brothers, and sons from the ward.

The enlarged group had a wonderful time together sharing stories, listening to spiritual messages by their inspired leaders, and eating some delicious food.

When Saturday had arrived, everyone was ready to complete the Ultimate Experience and get back home. Pedaling furiously, the team arrived home and dropped to their knees yet again. They offered another prayer of thanksgiving to their Father in Heaven, thanking him for all of his assistance along their journey.

Just like that, the team had completed 500 miles. They had grown physically, spiritually, and mentally. According to Brother Rowley, “It was a picture-perfect example of Scouting at it’s best with a Priesthood Purpose behind every move.”

Complete Your Own Ultimate Experience

Traveling 500 miles is daunting, but if it’s something that you and your troop or youth would be interested in check out the link here.

Contained is a 20-page document with the entire plan this faithful group followed to complete their experience of a lifetime.

We would love to hear about your Ultimate Experiences! Feel free to share them in the comments section below.

 

Author: Kimball Vaughn | PR Marketing Associate, Utah National Parks Council

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