The student life director at M-State in Fergus Falls started cycling in earnest in January to prepare for a 2,500-mile cross-country bike ride from Huntington Beach, CA to Jekyll Island, Geo. He’ll start the journey in Calif. on May 13 and plans to complete it in 15 days.
He’s not making the trip for himself, Jensen said. He’s raising funds for a scholarship he’s named the “Dream Big Scholarship.”
“I hope that students will see, through my bike ride, that they can dream big and accomplish their goals,” Jensen said.
To prepare for his trip, Jensen has been riding his bicycle everywhere battling wind, cold and plenty of snow.
“People identify me as the crazy guy who is riding his bike in January when its 20 below zero,” he said with a smile.
The snow doesn’t seem to bother him. In fact, he finds it easier getting around town.
“It’s much easier getting a bike out of a snowdrift than a car,” he said.
Distance isn’t a problem for Jensen. He’s taken his bike on short trips, from his home to the college, and a longer treks like a college recruiting event in Elbow Lake and then to Detroit Lakes for a meeting.
He’s no stranger to exercise. Jensen was raised in a family where physical activity and healthy eating was a daily routine. But his enthusiasm for cycling came in the midst of college in 2005. Jensen was taking part in a one-year internship at New Life Church in Colorado Springs. He purchased what he said was his “first real bike” there and started cycling in the mountains.
When he returned to Minnesota in 2006, Jensen continued his college courses at Northwestern College in the Twin Cities. He had planned to play soccer for the school, but he pursued running and cycling instead. He was part of Northwestern’s cross-country team for two years and cross trained with his bicycle.
His first attempt at a long distance ride came in 2006 with a planned trip from Minneapolis to Fergus Falls.
He came up short.
“Even though I was very fit at the time, I had very little knowledge of long distance cycling,” he said. “I had to phone home and call for a ride.”
He shied away from long distance rides, for a time, but became interested in racing and entered several local triathlons.
By 2011 he was ready to give long-distance biking another crack. Duluth was the destination. He made it.
“This time around, I planned it a lot better and I was a more experienced rider,” he said of his success. “I made it. I made it in one day.”
During his ride, Jensen hit mental walls usually after riding for 20 miles. He’d feel exhausted but he kept going and was rejuvenated until he’d hit another one.
“I equate it to life when you hit walls,” he said. “You have to pick through it. If you press through, there’s relief around the corner.”
With his accomplishment, Jensen knew he wanted to try another cross-country trip but he didn’t want to do it in Minnesota. He wanted to go across the entire country.
Timing the ride would be important, he said. He couldn’t be gone for a long period of time with his church and school commitments. Jensen put the idea on the back burner for a couple of years, but, in late 2012, he gave it serious thought.
He put some of the details together as he taught a spin (cycling) exercise class at Phatty Nattie’s. Jensen could fit a ride into the 20 days of vacation he receives through work.
But he wanted the ride to have a bigger purpose. Jensen’s thoughts quickly turned to the college.
“I wanted to do it for something that I feel more passionate about and that’s helping young people achieve their dreams through education,” he said. “I work hand-in-hand with college students and, when I see them achieve their dreams through education, it’s a great feeling.”
The college’s administration was very supportive about his ride when Jensen explained his plans. The crew at Central Lakes Cycling in Fergus Falls became a sponsor for the ride when Jensen described his trip to the staff. Soon other businesses joined the effort.
He is half-way towards his $20,000 goal for the scholarship and hopes to raise the remaining funds before the May 13 start.
Jensen is chronicling his effort, from training to the trip, through a blog. He plans to make daily videos once he starts the ride.
He won’t be making the journey solo. Aaron Christensen, an M-State student, will be his support driver. Although he won’t be following Jensen mile for mile, he will be with Jensen as he starts each day, make contact with him during the ride and set up for the evening once Jensen reaches the day’s destination. Christensen is also a medic. Jensen smiles as he says he hopes those services won’t be needed.
For more information, check out the blog at DreamBigTour.net.