Why take on a challenge like the Monumental Loop in your final semester? Because there’s no time to waste.
It's the end of day five of a weeklong bikepacking trip over spring break, and Lindsay Dube is about to give her happy and crappy.
The route Lindsay Dube has been on these past few days is part of the Monumental Loop, a daunting trail through the rough terrain of New Mexico's Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument.
Day one was a climb up White Gap pass and a slow descent down the other side. The path down is brutal. So bad, in fact, Jerod Foster and Justin Keene – the professors leading this merry band into the wilderness – have the students dismount and walk their bikes, full of gear and supplies, for a large part of it. Riding would be too dangerous.
Day two was easier. The group covered nearly 30 miles of descending trail, and then they slept. Day three brought burritos and civilization, a welcome reprieve from the wilderness, but day four is back on the trail. Up and down. Nearly 17 miles through the mountains on trails of rock and dirt, stopping to fix flats and rest weary legs along the way.
Day five was a monster. The last full day on the route. The group covered more than 45 miles of mostly flat ground on gravel roads, with rain rolling in just to make sure it wasn't too easy.
Dark settled on the riders while they were still on the road, but camp is set for the night. The group is all together. This is the nightly ritual.
The class is called Adventure Media, and this is part of it. They gather and share their happies and crappies for the day in front of the group. This is a media class, so it's all documented.
The exhaustion in Dube is easy to spot as she starts sharing. Her opening line is, “You were right, it was a slog out there.” The word slog is drawn out in four syllables, emphasizing just how rough it was.
“The second half of today was tough for me,” she continues with her crappy. “I probably told a bunch of y'all, but I felt pretty fine all week, kind of holding my own. But the day we get on flat gravel, my legs were like fudge. I don't know, something was crazy.
“I was struggling in the back, mentally. I was giving it everything I had, and people were still passing me. That'll do a number on you.”
She barely skips a beat before breaking into her happy.
“My happy is riding those last five miles in together,” she tells the group, who all came together to finish the ride after the sun went down. “We all grouped up and decided to do that together, and I think that was really, really important.”
She slows for a minute, takes a deep breath. It's clear in her eyes there's more coming. Day five has been her hardest yet. She's exhausted, both mentally and physically, but there is a joy of sorts creeping around the edges.
She starts again.
“I'm just really proud of myself, because I know that there will be a day…” she breaks the thought to give the group context and insert a bit of chuckle before continuing. “I've talked about this before, so this is not like a mic-drop – I have muscular dystrophy, and I know that there will be a day where I cannot do this.”
In her final semester at Texas Tech University, just weeks away from graduation, Dube is on a trail in New Mexico, testing herself and her body in a way most people struggle to imagine, on a course that even the fittest of students find challenging.
She's not here because she needs this academically. Sure, she'll pick up some valuable skills in the Adventure Media class. But Dube is an exceptional student. She's already been accepted into graduate school. She's an intern with the Office of Advancement at Texas Tech and has been so impressive there she has a job waiting on her already.
She's on this trail in the middle of nowhere because she sees an expiration date on these types of experiences, and she's not going to wait around for that to come.
“Doing this class, I knew that it was going to be really physically demanding, but I knew there would be a day – hopefully 20 or 30 years from now – where it would take a toll on my body and I might not be capable of doing something like this,” she said looking back on the experience weeks later.
As Foster describes it, Dube exudes an old-school grit. She's the type of person who just goes out and gets the job done. She didn't talk about her disease in terms of how it was limiting her, but in terms of how proud she was to be overcoming yet another challenge.
“That wraps up who she is,” Foster said. “She could be harping on this the whole time. She could really be blaming this, but she's not.”
Dube's story is one of inspiration, perseverance, grit and joy. She's equally comfortable in a bike helmet on a trail in the New Mexico wilderness and in business attire at a conference table in the Administration Building.
The story of her life has many chapters left to write, and this is just a small part of the story of her time at Texas Tech. As graduation nears, we'll tell more of it, and we hope you'll join us as we continue to celebrate another Red Raider who embodies the best in all of us.