• Alum Shares Story of Cross-Country Bike Trip

  • BLUE HILL — Bella Cimeno, a 2017 graduate of George Stevens Academy, returned to the school on Oct. 17 to speak to the student body about her extraordinary gap-year experience.

          In August 2017, the then-19-year-old embarked on a 68-day, 4,210-mile bike ride from Astoria, Ore., through Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois and Kentucky to Yorktown, Va., where she dipped her tires into the Atlantic and went for a swim on Oct. 31. While traversing thousands of miles over the Cascades, Rockies, Ozarks and Appalachian ranges, and across deserts and the plains, she encountered wildfires, a rodeo, plenty of dogs, and the kindness of strangers.

          There are a lot of bad people out there, a man warned her, but, she told him that there are a lot of good people out there, too. She was helped by many of them along the way, and often was offered shelter at churches and fire stations.

          During the trip, she told the students, she grappled with whether fear, comfort and discomfort, and other feelings and thoughts, come from within or are imposed by society. Some of the men she met during her trip were surprised that a woman would take on a solo trip like this, but Cimeno insisted that being female should not limit what she can do.

          Her efforts raised $5,000 for the Maine’s Women’s Fund, which supports women’s education, health care, leadership, and safety across the state.

          During her talk, Cimeno also detailed a later trip across the Southern Tier of the United States, which started in February 2018. Her gap year behind her, she is now enrolled at Warren Wilson College in Asheville, N.C.

          Cimeno’s presentation was part of the Lilla Bowden 1904 Memorial Speaker Series, established by Rebecca Wanbaugh ’41 and her husband, Robert.