When life gives you lemons, take that lemon on a bikebacking trip across New Mexico.
It's the end of day five of a weeklong bikepacking ride over spring break, and Lindsay Dube is about to give her happy and crappy.
The course 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.
Day one was a climb up White Gap pass and a slow decent down the other side. The path down is brutal. So bad, in fact, Jerod Foster – the professor leading this merry band into the wilderness – has 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 trail. The group covered more than 45 miles of mostly flat ground on a gravel trail, with rain rolling in just to make sure it wasn't too easy.
Dark has settled and 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 drawn 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 says. “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 dress 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 in the best in all of us.
There's a brick just outside the Frazier Alumni Pavilion with “The Dube Family” inscribed above the year 2006. The word “perseverance” sits just below the year.
Perseverance is a family motto, one Lindsay's parents, Travis and Michelle, hold to dearly.
They are proud Texas Tech University alumni. The brick is theirs, though the motto is one shared by the entire family. The Dube family, Lindsay and her younger brother Cooper included, is a living embodiment of perseverance.
Travis, like Lindsay, has muscular dystrophy. The genetic disorder passes from mother to son and father to daughter. But that is just part of the family's story of perseverance. Michelle suffers from Crohn's disease and has fought battles with her own body.
They don't talk about their health much. As Travis tells it, the diseases are not something they care to draw attention to and certainly not something they're letting stand in the way of living their best lives.
In fact, Michelle's battle with Crohn's only comes up when they're explaining their family motto and their love of Texas Tech, and then only because it's a key element of the story.
During Travis and Michelle's time in graduate school they faced a health crisis. Michelle was losing weight rapidly and had to be hospitalized. At the time they didn't know why, but she dropped nearly a quarter of her weight in a matter of weeks.
They were sure it would force them to withdraw from school.
“I went to our professors at the time and explained to them that Michelle was really sick,” Travis explained. “The doctors diagnosed her with Crohn's disease. She's going to be in the hospital. Could be two weeks, could be a month. We weren't sure at the time, and she was going to need to withdraw. We were going to need to drop the classes she was in. Probably drop the program. And then I was probably going to have to do the same thing.
“And the professors, without question, without batting an eye, said, ‘No, you're not going to drop. You and Michelle are going to get through this. We're going to get you through this. She can do all of the coursework from the hospital however long that may be, and then you're going to continue to come to class and we're going to work with you.' And they did.”
Travis and Michelle made it through the program together.
“Texas Tech did not have to do that,” he said. “The professors and the university chose to do that. I guess they saw something in us. I don't know. But they allowed us to continue the program and we both graduated with our master's degrees from Texas Tech. And so, we as a family persevered through that. That word perseverance has just stuck with us.”
Travis and Michelle are both successful educators. Travis teaches ag, and the family still runs cattle on its farm. Neither Crohn's nor muscular dystrophy does much to stop them from living life. It's not the family way.
There are limits, of course. There's a level of care taken not to over-stress muscles. Nutrition is a big deal. But, if anything, the limitations have brought the family closer.
“You know, any challenge life throws at you, you just have to persevere,” Michelle said. “It doesn't matter what roadblocks are ahead of you, you find a way to get around them. And as a family, we persevere, and we've taught our kids to do that.”
It's easy to spot the resilience in Travis and Michelle. There's no quit here. No excuse to be made. If there's a job to do – be it running a farm, educating students or raising children – the Dube's will find a way to get it done.
It's a trait they've clearly passed down to Lindsay, but it's not the only thing they've passed along.
“That child came out of the womb with her guns up,” Travis said with a laugh. “She knew that she wanted to come to Texas Tech as a small child. Was there some brainwashing that took place? Probably, a little bit.”
Michelle picked up the thought: “Did she wear more red as a baby? Absolutely.”
“On laundry day the red and black stacks of clothes were real in our home,” Travis continued.
“We were, you know, an hour away from Texas A&M,” Michelle said. “There was very little maroon in our life.”
But their love for Texas Tech extends well beyond their own experiences here.
As teachers themselves, Travis and Michelle firmly believe Texas Tech does things the right way and wanted their children to have the kinds of experiences this university provides.
“Tech pulls kids in,” Michelle explained. “They don't just let kids sit in an auditorium listening to their lecture and walk out. They go and try to make those relationships.”
“As an educator, sometimes you've got to you see potential in somebody,” he said. “And you grab them by the sleeve and say, ‘Hey, come with me. You're going to be really good at this. You may not know it right now, but you're about to be a changed person if you follow the direction I lead.'
“Tech does that with kids. They have opportunities for kids, create opportunities for kids to do more than just the day-to-day classroom. There's so much that goes on outside of the classroom. It's part of the learning environment.”
Little did they know how well their daughter would take to the lessons taught outside the classroom. She's tested herself to the fullest, even to the point of being on a bike-packing trail in New Mexico during spring break, just weeks before her graduation.
“The hardest thing that educators have to face day-to-day is students that have a tremendous gift from God that don't capitalize on that,” Travis said. “I think Lindsay is one that has capitalized on all of her strengths, from her academic, scholastic aptitude to the ability to do this bike ride.
“There's nothing that she hasn't done that she wanted to do. So that would be my message to others, to take the gifts that you've been given and maximize that.”
They're proud parents. Proud of the daughter they raised and the astonishing young woman she has become.
And there's as much pride in how she got there as there is where she's gotten to.
“She's made our life easy,” Michelle said. “It's awesome to see her grow and flourish and it's hard to believe that she's getting ready to graduate when it seems like yesterday we were bringing her home from the hospital.”
Outside the Frazier Alumni Pavilion another brick bearing the Dube name has been added.
Lindsay bought it this year. She had it inscribed with her name and the word “Thrive.”
It's not the old family motto. It's a building block from it.
“To me, it's like they had to persevere so I could thrive,” Lindsay said. “So that's what I'm doing.”
As a high school student Lindsay Dube's parents pushed her to try new things.
“We always taught our kids to try it,” Michelle Dube explained. “You may not like it, but even if it's eating vegetables, in five years you need to try it again because your tastes change.”
Being from a small school like Thrall has its advantages, and Lindsay took her parent's teaching to heart. She tried everything.
Though not much of an athlete, she tried sports. Band wasn't really her thing, but she was part of the color guard and learned how to play the cymbal. She says she was part of every club the school had to offer, but she found her best fit doing media work.
“I was in high school when I got super involved in yearbook and journalism,” Lindsay said. “I was involved with FFA in the agricultural communications contest.”
The contests brought her to Texas Tech University a few times and she fell in love with the agricultural communications program.
By the time she graduated high school she was ready to work in communications. The yearbook at Texas Tech was a natural fit, and Dube got involved there early in her career, but it was just the first of many projects she would be a part of.
Early on in her college days, Dube caught the attention of another Lindsay: Lindsay Kennedy.
Kennedy is an assistant professor of practice in the Davis College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources. She is head of the Matador Institute of Leadership Engagement (MILE) program and teaches The Agriculturalist magazine production course.
The MILE program is a development tool for undergraduates across Davis college, helping them grow their professional skills and exposing them to key issues impacting local, state and national agriculture policy. The program enlists 14 students in each cohort and takes place over three semesters.
Dube applied to be part of the second cohort. She was a first-year student, but she was impressive enough during the interview process to earn one of the coveted spots.
“Lindsay was one of two freshman we put in that cohort, and a lot of it was because she presented a maturity beyond her age,” Kennedy said. “She was very sharp and came across as somebody who was very eager to maximize her opportunities at Texas Tech. That's the kind of student we're looking for.
“We always have a bunch of agricultural communications students, but we try to get representation from all the departments in the college. But she really stood out in that interview despite her youth. We try to get students in the middle of their college experience so they can kind of absorb that program to the best of their abilities.”
Dube grabbed the opportunity and ran with it. She joined the MILE program in January 2020, and Kennedy quickly became a mentor she relied on.
“I was in the second cohort, which is when COVID hit, so we didn't get a lot of those experiences that we wanted,” Dube said. “We had to adjust and do things virtually like everybody else in the world.
“But walking through all of that with her leadership was really impactful. She's always just been in our corner and that's the best way to describe it. She cares a lot about her students and has really shepherded me and helped me flourish during my time at Texas Tech.”
Flourish is exactly what Dube did.
Along with the MILE program she was working for the yearbook and the alumni magazine, all while maintaining honors-level grades.
She followed that by taking on the role of editor for The Agriculturalist to cover arguably the most important story in the college's history: Gordon Davis' historic gift to Texas Tech and the renaming of the College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources was the natural cover of the magazine.
“She was in our ag communications block in 2022, and I chose her to be the editor of that publication,” Kennedy said. “I believe that magazine was 148 pages, so it's a massive issue. That class, through the block and through the magazine production process, they write, they photograph, they sell the advertising, they do the layouts. It's a 100% student-led process, and as the editor she was chosen – again through an interview – to lead that process.
“She and I worked together well after the school year was over to see that all the way to print. She's someone I trust, and someone I knew had it in her to carry this thing across the finish line. I also knew it meant a lot to her. When she says she's going to do something, she does it.”
Aside from being the editor, Dube wrote the cover article. The title: “It's Okay to Win.”
The quote is from the article, from Gordon Davis, but it fits Dube well.
“She never expects anybody to accommodate anything,” Kennedy said. “She never expects special treatment. She's just purely there to get the job done.”
With the magazine finalized and Dube pushing ever closer to graduation, she decided she needed a few more challenges. Already a double major in creative media industries (CMI), part of the College of Media & Communication, and agricultural communications, she took on an internship with Texas Tech's Office of Advancement.
“I started working for the Office of Advancement back in October,” Dube said. “That office is responsible for a lot of the philanthropy that goes on at Texas Tech, stewarding donors and making sure that we have resources to work with.
“I'm kind of assisting the executive team members in a lot of communication pieces. I'm helping put things on paper for them, kind of serving as a little bit of an assistant slash multimedia specialist working on internal communications and things for future projects. I really just help out wherever I can.”
Around the same time, she applied for CMI's adventure media class, a physically demanding bikepacking and natural media experience. Like with The Agriculturalist magazine, the class required an application and an interview process, but Dube was a shoo-in.
Foster, one of the professors for the adventure media class, had known Dube for a few years. He had taught her in photography classes, seen her work with the alumni magazine and knew she would be a good candidate.
“When her name came across the applicant pool, I just knew she was a slam dunk,” Foster said. “I didn't tell my teaching partner that because I didn't want to paint a picture for him that was unfair to anybody else. But it was clear during the interview.
“She was driven. She is more mature than a lot of students in terms of thinking ‘How is this class and how is this experience going to benefit me?'”
And that's how Lindsay Dube ended up on a trail through the New Mexico desert weeks before graduation.
“The adventure media class has always been an extremely physically demanding class,” Foster said. “This year's course – because we decided to take on half, and really the most challenging parts, of the Monumental Loop outside of Las Cruces, New Mexico – was easily the most physically demanding and challenging course we've put together.
“The distance the students covered was nearly double the typical amount we have to do over every spring break. The terrain they were crossing was much more challenging, much more rocky, technical, drier – very little water on this course.”
For a student working multiple jobs and taking on extra projects left and right, it seemed like an odd decision, but for Dube it was an opportunity she couldn't pass up.
In 2019, when Dube was diagnosed with muscular dystrophia, her parents were leery about getting her tested. They didn't want it to impact the way she made decisions or the chances she was willing to take.
“We didn't want a diagnosis to change the way she pursued life,” Travis Dube, Lindsay's father said.
If anything, the diagnosis pushed Lindsay to follow her parent's advice and try even more new things.
“I think it's made me more adventurous only because I have to do things now when I can,” she said. “I can't wait for a better opportunity because this is as good as it's going to get. I think taking the opportunity to push myself now when I'm young and it really hasn't affected my day-to-day life like I've seen it affect my family as they've gotten older is important.”
As with everything else Dube does, she pushed herself to succeed even when others might have thrown in the towel.
On one overnight trip to Caprock Canyons State Park, early in the semester, Dube's mentor Kennedy joined the adventure media class for a ride. She wanted the experience herself, and since she and Foster are colleagues and Dube was involved in the class, she thought she'd tag along.
Kennedy has her own outdoor educational program and is no stranger to strenuous activity. But the final climb on the ride at Caprock Canyons was grueling
“I've done a lot of hiking and backpacking, but this was my first time bikepacking,” Kennedy said. “The very end of that day – there are a lot of physical challenges throughout the day – but at the very end there's this big hill. It's paved, but it's big. And I found out really quickly that I had put way too much weight on my bike, so I was on foot pushing it up the hill pretty early on.
“Then Lindsay comes up from behind me and she's riding – I mean she's going,” Kennedy said with more than a little bit of pride in her voice, “and I'm pushing my bike and cheering her on. She's one of the few students that rode her bike from the bottom of that hill to the top at the very end of that day. And it was just this cool moment at the top where you could see she was like ‘I can do this. I did this.'”
For Foster, the class just exemplified the student he knew would be a slam dunk early on.
“I don't think Lindsay had any sort of real expectation that she was going to be blowing people out of the water physically,” he said. “But what you see about people like her is where she starts is not where she's going to end up. Every time she's on the bike, she's getting better. Every time she's behind the camera, she's getting better. Every time she's thinking about stories, she's developing her skill set and her aptitude for growth. All the way through it was like that for her.”
The Next Step
In the first part of this series, we mentioned that Lindsay Dube's story was just getting started, and in many ways it still is. Texas Tech is part of that story, certainly. But with her graduation last week the next chapter is ready to be written, and it won't be written strictly in Lubbock.
For Dube, the next step is graduate school down south. She was accepted into a program at the University of Texas and Kennedy helped guide her to take on yet another challenge in a new environment.
“I would have loved to have kept Lindsay here for grad school,” Kennedy said. “Our department faculty might have had a fight over who got to have her, and I would've been right in the middle of it.
“But I wrote her a letter of recommendation for that program, knowing that she could compete with anybody, and I think it was important for her to know that she was capable of that.”
But even as she leaves Lubbock, she isn't really leaving Texas Tech behind. While she's in graduate school she'll be working for the Office of Advancement remotely, continuing to help on a major project she's been involved with from the beginning.
“We began working on a pretty significant project for the university and saw an opportunity for a student to assist us at a very advanced level,” said Erin Hornaday, a senior director in the Office of Advancement. “She's been able to jump right in and pick up on the many complex layers of fundraising for the university from an administration side. She's been a dream to work with – she's got a great intuition and ability to see the bigger picture, and that really enables her to know exactly what needs to be done without needing a lot of direction.
“When her graduation appeared on the horizon, we knew we couldn't let her get away. It was an easy decision to ask her to work for us remotely while she starts this next chapter. I'm excited to see how she applies what she absorbs in grad school to this job. And I hope it provides a good testing ground for her skill sets as a professional.”
Dube isn't a typical student. the week of graduation she finally got to see what it was like to have just one job and no classes.
“I don't like not being busy,” she said with a little bit of a laugh.
The rest of her time as an undergraduate was spent working multiple jobs, picking up projects she didn't have to work on and testing herself in every way she could find.
“The best thing to me is she's setting this great example,” Kennedy said. “From the time a student comes in as a freshman until the time they leave Texas Tech, if we've done our job and they've done their job investing, they shouldn't be the same person.
“It's really cool to see her evolve that way. And when we see students come in that may be like a feather on the breeze, we can point to a student like her and say ‘Don't let anything hold you back.'”
The next step, the next set of tests, is just around the corner. She'll start her graduate program in the fall.
But there's little doubt from anyone at Texas Tech that she'll make the most of it.
“She embodies the opposite of what a lot of people typecast her peers for,” Hornaday said. “I dare anyone to hear her story and say she isn't up for a challenge.”