The Extra Thousand Miles

When four high school Campaigner boys chatted with their leader one day about taking a road trip, they thought it was just a crazy idea. Luckily for them, Jason Rinne, the Flagstaff, Ariz., area director, is a big fan of making crazy ideas happen.

After an amazing week at camp last summer, a group of guys from Sinagua High School wanted to keep the adventure going. All avid skateboarders, the kids dreamed up a trip around California where they could skate, surf, camp and just be together to enjoy their final summer as high school students.

“In Young Life, we’re always trying to find ways to be with kids. I encourage my leaders to find something they like to do, and bring kids with them. It’s natural and pretty easy to hang out when you’re all doing something you enjoy. And that’s what I did with this trip. These guys wanted to go on a skateboard road trip. I love skating, I love them; it fit perfectly,” said Rinne, who the kids refer to as “J.”

“When J told us we were going, I couldn’t believe it,” said Kyle, now 19. “He made it happen, and it was one of the best trips I’ve ever had.” Day one actually lasted until 2:30 in the morning. The group of five stopped to skate once, then drove north throughout the day before ending up in Las Vegas, where they skated in three more parks. “Four parks in one day was pretty intense,” admitted Rinne, “but it was definitely worth it. It was a big day for everyone.”

The next few days were spent along the coastline of California. In San Clemente, they won a raffle and were awarded a beachside campsite. Nightly campfires with front row seats to the sunset proved to be a perfect stage for conversations. “We talked about anything and everything,” said Kyle. “It was like ‘cabin time’ [at camp] but longer and better. It was really cool; we were totally honest and got to talk about whatever we wanted. Those times were my favorite part of the trip.”

Not surprisingly, these Arizona boys had little surfing experience, so the day in San Clemente was special. “They picked it up pretty quickly and we spent the whole day in the waves,” said Rinne.

“Just chilling in the water was super-rad,” said Kyle. “We’d surf then talk, surf then talk … all day.” And the conversations didn’t end there. From the car to the waves to the skate parks to the beach, the conversations continued, naturally and comfortably. “It was like they never really ended, we just picked up where we left off,” said Kyle.

In other stops, including San Diego, most of the time was spent scouting out and skating the parks along the route. “It couldn’t have gone better,” said Rinne. “We had an unbelievable time. This is now a trip that’s permanently on my calendar.”

Kyle, now a leader at a high school in San Luis Obispo, Calif., reflected on how the trip changed him: “I really learned what it means to live in community, and live life alongside one another. To know that you can just be yourself, and be with your friends, and that all those things please God — that’s cool.”

“Because of Young Life and my friendship with J, I’ve learned a lot. I don’t even know where to start — Jason has taught me so much. He’s one of the most influential people in my life. The thing about J is that he’s always excited to see us — he lights up. He puts down whatever he’s doing just to find out how our day is. That there’s an adult who respects me, a kid, that much, and cares that much — that’s an incredible feeling.”

In all, Jason, Kyle, Aaron, Mike and Tyler traveled more than 1,000 miles in five days, playing, talking and simply living life together. “It just doesn’t get any better than that,” said Kyle.