Below is a cross-country bike tour from 2012, with 33 riders, aged 18-26, raising money and pedaling for affordable housing. In 10 weeks, through 13 states, 3897 miles, and 13 building projects later, loaded with 200 lbs of peanut butter, 300 energy bars, we are quite the bunch. Together we have raised over $145,000 and will have donated over 3700 hours to Habitat for Humanity, Rebuild together, and other Affordable Housing projects. And as a whole Bike & Build this summer will have raised nearly $1 million dollars and donated over 900,000 hours of labor to affordable housing projects. Time to give up comfort of a bed for a summer, sleep on some church floors, live out of a duffle bag, and in padded spandex. Sometimes you have to give up a little to get a little. And sometimes it’s when one leaves everything behind, reevaluates the situation of our lives, and the lives of those around us, that everything becomes a bit clearer, a bit simpler. To meet new people and make friends with strangers; to push our comfort zones mentally physically and emotionally; to put yourself second and someone else first. Isn’t that what life is all about? Learning growing exploring, helping and loving.
A few years ago a pretty steal framed celeste colored bicycle of mine made it’s way into a box, flew ½ way around the world, and took me around a country of unfamiliar people, beautiful blissful roads, and many many nights in tents, rain, bellies stuffed of kiwis, and an appreciation for people I had never had before. People opened their doors to me when standing in the pouring rain about to cry, lost and hungry, fed me homemade hot coco, gave me a bed, and asked for nothing in return. Pay it forward is all I could take away. Now somehow 2 years later, here I am leading a bike trip full of youngster wanting to make a change in this world and in people’s lives.There is something about seeing America by the two wheels of a beloved bike, with a semi sore butt, but self-propelled on just simply metal, cloth, and a bit of plastic. It is when the sun sets to your right over a barren desert as though a paintbrush full of color brushed the sky, to swim in the rivers that craved out our canyon lands that we flock to, to find what surreal really means outside of our daily lives. When something becomes beautiful about the repetitive monotony of the Midwest cornfields, their yellow tassels dangling beneath the bright blue sky. Lumpy furry green hills, and jetting brown mountains; this is not a tourist’s tale, but a travelers, trying to find the real side of real people and who inhabits this scenery in which we live, finding adventure in seemingly nothing. To find a love for this country that many times gets me down, drives me nuts, make me want a divorce and to have walked away having made a lasting impact for the better.Thank you everyone who has supported this cause. Mikes Bikes, Honey Stinger, Phillips Spallas & Angstadt LLP, Shamrock Holdings, Giant Bikes, BTG Advisors, Earth Balance, LifeCycle Adventures, all the churches and community centers that have opened their doors for us to lay our tired legs, and all the friends and family who encouraged us to service others while following our dreams. So that’s the start, you only live once, get up and go! This is a tale, of 2 wheels, good people, and a side of America not everyone sees. What follows below is 69 days of an undiscovered country.
The van rolls up, pilled high with 14 early riders needing coffee. Too bad. One upon a time in 1905 there stood an old fabulous deep red brick nunnery, high above the old withered giant shady trees and black staked fence that encloses this treasure. It was like walking into a story book, reading page by page as you pass through the gutted rooms. This was our build project today. The Catholic School still stands strong across the street, in operation from August till June. The last set of white and black dressed nuns moved out of this building in the 2005. Sold to Habitat in 2009, 107 years later this historic stacked set of bricks of the golden olden days in Massachusetts was going to transformed into a set of 10 Affordable Housing units.
Here what is looks like:
- 10 X 30 inch tarp
- everyone's shammies, sweaty gross disgusting I dont want to know what, like a heaping mess you'd find after a high school football game in 100 degree weather at the locker room.
- Roll it up like a burrito. It's heavy, like 100+ lbs heavy. 8ft X 3 ft. (thats a big burrito right!)
- Ridiculously get it somehow in the van.
- Drive to laundry mat
- Haul Burrito Laundry out, yeah we look ridiculous, and lots of people want to talk to us.
- 10 loads
- Dry on HOT HOT HOT if you can imagine why.
- 2 hours later we are using up 4 parking lot spaces. The trap comes out again, clean clothes go on, then burrito roll once again.
- Drive back to host site
- Tell riders they have clean clothes and suddenly all the worries go away.
Weather: 103 and "see below"
First, we have to backtrack to rodeo night because oh boy oh boy. I have officially meet my first true cowboy, yes their wear real leather boots with spurs, straw hats, american leather belts steel belt buckles, plaid shirts, and straight blue jeans. I was told that to have this fine straw hat I'd also have to take the cowboy. Rodeo is what the kids play here, no T-ball in sight.
5 times a year this show is held and it was our lucky night. No on really gave a hoot we were there, but we all stood stunned smiles wiped across our face. Texas, I really want to like you simply because you are different and fearless to show your flare, but I can't say I'm happy to see baby cows get lassoed or 72 oz steaks on a menu.
4am rise, 5:15am we are riding under Venus, Jupiter, and the entire starry sky. The sun rises and we into a vortex wind tunnel heading the wrong direction in slow motion we went. To put it in perspective we usually ride at an average of 18mph. 2 rows of riders, totaling 16, pacelining down hwy 152 west could barely break 11mph. Daring to check the weather, we find the wind mph hits 25. And that was our headwind from hell. To make matters worse, we hit the roughest road we have been on. No other day has topped the mental physical challenge of today. In fact no other ride/race, not even the famous 112 mile, 9000 ft of climbing women's Rapha prestige Time trial that tested my limits this past April. The heat of the day was nowhere to be found, the wind blowing it right between our magic school bus paceline. What was to be found, riders in tears still in pedaling motion while others vomited on the side of the road over something funky for lunch.
To make matters worse, playing with Josh's new illegal knife toy this morning, I gashed my finger. What do you think of stitches, Coach Collin questions me as we search for gauze with a blood dripping hand in a dark van at 5am. One finger down, 100 miles to go. Stitches can come later.
At mile 50, we had accumulated a pace line of nearly 2/3 of the group. 20 riders in, our dreary day became despite the hardest one of the most memorable. At mile 70 buggy caught up to us and joined the party, pulling the pack for 5 miles, cutting through the wind turbine like a rock of steel. We were a fearless codependent pack. Nothing could break us down, not the 4 flats or tire patched with cliff bar wrappers. When one rider starts to bonk, the 19 of us pull out bars of every flavor.
Mile 95, we rename ourselves wolf pack and howl our way into the town of Amarillo Texas for the remaining 10 miles. We hit mile 100 with a total ride time of 13.5 hours.
And now what? We are in the city of the world famous steak eating competition, and josh, who is the contender, has been sucking down only GUs for 100 miles, has arranged a donation of 2 limos to take us all to see this 72 oz steak, salad, shrimp cocktail, and 1lb potato be devoured. If completed Bike & build with be engraved in the walls of Amarillo.
Day 50. Rocky Mountains Extend Westward