Most Staples High School athletes prepared for this fall season by running, working out and attending camps.
Charlotte Rossi biked 3,250 miles — and over 3 mountain ranges — from Charleston, South Carolina to Santa Monica, California.
It was the 3rd bike trip she took with Overland Summers. But compared to this, her others — a 250-mile, 2-week journey Vermont journey and a 1,000-mile, 4-week trek from Seattle to San Francisco — were strolls in the park.
Charlotte — a Staples soccer captain who attributes her love of biking to her parents, Paul and Marguerite (and who also serves as Staples Players senior manager for the front of the house, plays French horn in the band and volunteers with the National Charity League) — wanted to do the cross-country “American Challenge” last year. She spent it instead going to soccer recruitment camps for college.
Last February — the day after she committed to Fordham University — she called Overland Summers.
The organization sends out training regimens. But at the end of April Charlotte sprained her ankle — playing soccer, of course — and for the next 5 weeks wore a boot.
It came off a week before the trip. Charlotte did only 5 20-mile rides. “I thought the South was flat, and I’d be fine,” she laughs.
The biking on this trip was far more intense than her previous 2. To beat the heat, the group rose every morning at 4 a.m. They covered 70 to 120 miles a day. There was no support van, so each person carried 50 pounds of gear.
The dozen teenagers and 2 leaders camped out often. Other times they slept in churches, rec centers and private homes.
With no cell phones, everyone spent time actually talking as they rode. Charlotte discovered “the importance of conversation. We didn’t check each other out on Facebook. We actually got to learn who each person was.”
She also learned how to talk to strangers — the many folks they met who took time to ask the riders what they were doing, and why.
But some parts of the trip were unexplainable. As one leader said, “This is the only group of people who will ever really understand what you’ve been through.”
Charlotte adds, “I could not have gotten through the trip without this group. Whenever someone didn’t want to get on their bike, someone else said, ‘You can do it!'”
That encouragement meant everything. Riding across America, Charlotte saw places she’d never otherwise see — like the tourist town of Eureka Springs, Arkansas and the very friendly stopover in Scott City, Kansas.
The hardest days were the ones crossing the Ozarks, Rockies and San Gabriel Mountains. But the views — particularly from Durango, Colorado — were “unreal,” Charlotte says.
The California range was especially memorable. The group spent their last night at a campground, reflecting on the previous 6 weeks.
The next morning, they still had 20 miles to climb. After all they’d been through, it was a snap.
Then came a long 10-mile descent. Suddenly they saw Los Angeles: civilization!
When they reached Ocean Boulevard, most sobbed with emotion. There were banners and flags — and, waiting at the bottom, the Overland support team and the bikers’ parents.
A large crowd had no idea what they were cheering for, but they urged the group on.
At the beach they threw their bikes down, took off their front wheels, and sprinted to dip them in the Pacific.
Back in Westport, Charlotte found herself in great physical condition for the new soccer season.
She was in even better mental shape.
“Whenever I had to do something hard in training, I told myself I’ve just done something much harder,” she says.
As a captain, she’s learned the importance of supporting teammates. “Just a little high 5 or word of encouragement means so much,” she explains. “I know how much it meant to me this summer.”
So — as she looks forward to a great season, and then Fordham — does she plan any more bike trips?
“I hope so,” Charlotte says. “I really want to be a leader for a bike company. The ride is a real challenge for them — plus they’re responsible for 12 kids.”