Welcome to a story, or stories I should say. A compilation of adventure tales. An ongoing itch to see, smell, and touch the world, or at least the deserted roads and rarely trampled mountains of America. Characters within the descriptive paragraphs of these stories carve out the coming and going companions in life; vital life people and pieces that parallel a universe for moments, days, years. And then spear off, leaving granules of magnificent memories of magical places. They leave a lasting trace, a gained sense of courage to stand tall on oxygen deprived mountains and shout absurdities like: I love you Ralph! Ralph is a teenage reindeer stuffed of the finest synthetic polyester fiber poof; he says made in Indonesia but really tells me he is from the North Pole. Delivered through a chimney one December night 20 years ago, we instantly became cuddle buddies upon that morning's sunrise. He is the instigator. The inspiration. And the imagination. He breathes creativity. Laughter. His is a dear companion. And yes, at 4lbs he tags along atop a pack or strapped to a rack. In delirium of 107 degree heat, the small possession of material belongings gain a persona. Innate objects become friends of the road and trails. And as for the humans who accompany, their presence reads priceless. Without O'Reilly, a 29 year old New Hampshirian with superior taste buds, the mathematical six foot four inch tall German, or handful of organic peanut butter and 99 cent jam eating munchkins, there would be a lot less excitement. The encounters we make with our specie, encapsulating the world with their awkward ways and over consumerist love, somehow we have managed to become overly adored creatures. Their generous hearts restore a faith that goodness prevails in the upheaval of a sometimes lost humanity. As for myself, I'm just the navigator, paddling up the stream of life munching on Clif Bars, with an iPhone documenting the frailties and goodies underneath all the simplified complexities in the world we reside. So again, I welcome you to get lost and dream a little through this typed text and your imagination. My name is Kristen Gentilucci. I live in Berkeley California and I love dogs.


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 Maine in the Magical Forest

4am, the sun rises admist the beaming green trees. 7am we are on the road in search for furry moose and roadside wild blueberries on 2 wheels exploring the outskirts of Portland Maine. It is as though this state is right out of a Martha Stewart magazine. Sparkling white boxed double decker homes with red doors planted in a mist of bright green forest. It is the kind of place that comes out of hibernation in the spring. You can feel it and smell its sweetness in the air. The kind of place where strangers say hello to you and everyone is happy the sun is shinning. The roads here scream the Maine I imagined as a kid. Riding down Wanderers Way to Forest Road, then a right onto duck pond drive. Still searching for a fresh blueberry until our little posse of riders arrive on Saturday and we hit the road with no return and a trailer loaded with 3456 ounces of peanut butter.

29 Sitting In A Parking Lot
Flashbacks to high school. Standing in our host churches parking lot, riders, the kiddos we've awaited for 6 months arrive, kissed and hugged to suffocation by anxious mothers and fathers delivering their treasures to our hands. They all begin to mingle with that awkward fear of the unknown nerve if they will be like, if they will fit in. It was all too cute and hilarious at once. 30 minutes later I return to find that they had all self situated theirselves, sitting cross legged in the middle of the sunny parking lot in a large circle, boys on the left girls on the right. It was as though we were ready to play duck duck goose.

So in good news so far so good. We were fed heaping scoops of good cheesy overcooked pasta with fresh Maine blueberry goodness for dessert. Our cooks were three plump blubbly lady's who fell in love with us and somehow made me want to just smile and love them like they were my grandmother pulling fresh baked cookies from the oven.

My leader team is king of the world right now. I've started to love these strangers who I've shared rooms with for only the past four days.

Had to steal a few words from my lovely leader Scott's blog to introduce them.

Kristen: An avid cyclist and native Californian, Kristen is doing Bike & Build in order to get back home without burning any fossil fuels, which in the Bay Area are known as "The Milk of Mother Gaia." She is quite knowledgeable about all things sustainable, vegetarian, and organic, but seems overwhelmed by the foreign East Coast environment she finds herself in, most notably Dunkin' Donuts and people who don't compost.

Morgan: Fresh out of Grinnell College, Morgan is a retired varsity swimmer who is delaying her entrance to the real world by biking. Her passions include human rights, Iowa, and lifting with her legs. Her vision is immaculate and she is anal retentive to the max. She is in charge of organizing all our receipts.

Collin: At just 21 years-old, Collin is the baby of the group, but without question the best at backing up the trailer. Collin chopped his lacrosse flow in preparation for the summer so that Kristen wouldn't mistake him for a Republican. His post-trip plan is to work as a deckhand in San Diego for $5 a day - a significant raise from working as a trip leader.

Scott: Retired history teacher of misbehaved high school students in an isolated town of Bath Maine, Scott, 24, is ready to bike across the country for his second time. Hovering at nearly 6 feet 4 inches tall he never gets sick of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Tomorrow we start to build with greater Portland maines Habitat for Humanity. Ironically we are putting the final touches on a home that was started by last years Maine to Santa Barbara route crew. But more to come on that.

Day 1

61 miles
Portland Maine to Kittery Maine
Breakfast: massive farm fresh fritta with fresh baked bread from local cafe
Start: That Altantic Ocean in Portland Maine with the Mayor and Channel 13 news.
Here we are making the news!

After pouring over a ton of cememt on our build site yesterday in Freeport Maine, it's all becoming more clear what we are doing this all for. We put the final touches on a home for single Somalian mom of 5 kids.

And we were off, coasting down the coast on Maine 33 riders on two wheel, freshly fueled, loaded with water and eager to pedal, to finally start this amazing summer we have been waiting for for nearly 6 months. We flew down the route splitting off into cycling groups based on speed. 30 miles in, lunch time.

Here I will introduce rider Taylor Burdge, fresh out of high school and tampa florida, a nearly pro rower headed to Stanford in the fall on a scholarship. With nearly $12,000 raised, she doesn't let a sole pass her on the road and today she was my ride buddy. We wandered the streets of some small town of Maine, and found ourselves nessled in a cafe searching for something tasty. You see we kind of stand out, wearing all polyester spandex, sweaty, loud, a posse of 33, young, and hungry. We started to explain what we do, bike across the country to raise money for affordable housing. The old man, Bill, a regular here turns around and says, "I'll buy them lunch!"

Oh it was quite refreshing change to our everyday peanut butter and banana sandwiches. I haven't eaten a fresh veggie in 2 days. Ahh, real food. We talked up the old man for a while, who exclaimed he just came from the gym and that was why he indulged in a salad.

Back on the bike. Beauitful blue ocean on the left, blossoming green brush filling the right corners of my eyes.

Our host: Second Congressional Church of Kittery. Amazing. The kitchen table was stocked with every type of food I could imagine. We eat a lot of food as you could imagine. We have the whole church to stake our sleep spot. Wandering around an empty church seeking the most tucked away corner in the place, I knew it was needed with 60 miles down, a 6am rise tomorrow, 40 miles to go, snoring kidos, and 33 nagging riders asking about laundry day, showers, how to fix their bicycle, where lunch stop is, blah blah blah. They keep me entainted despite their obnoxious moments, eating raw live worms and all. So, my secret sleep spot, nessled beneth the pew of the chapel, under a holy cross. Sweet dreams!

Day 2 "the prank"

6am. Day 2, the van parked outside the church is gone, the keys in our hands, broken glass remnants on the pavement. Shit someone stole the van? Who in the world in a tiny town of Kittery would steal a 15 passenger van in front of a church! Ok what? Call the police I assume to start.

Little do we know northern route starts their trip 10 miles south of us tomorrow in NH and has grand plans to prank us. The glass, a broken bottle, the directors, with the 2nd set of keys, moved the van down the street, and the police confused, and we all breathed a sigh of relief. But the wars are on Northern Route!

Now back to the start of our day.
Day 2
58 miles
HOT 105 degrees

Good things: AC, brick buildings, hippy bakeries everywhere, used book stores, free strawberry banana smoothie, a strangers pool, a lady flagging us down to give is free ice cream, all the trees that blessed us with shade, and all the nicely paved quiet roads that guided us through the heat of the day. The amazing thanksgiving feast we had for dinner at the Webber's house. Chris Webber is the founder of Bike & Build who was hit by a car and killed a few years ago. His name lives on though and his family offered us a thanksgiving feast in June! No joke.

Sitting under a shaddy tree bullets of sweat like fresh water cooling on my skin. Telling good stories watching the cars roam by in the heat of the day.

Barker farm 1642, situated at the top of a big hill, 50 miles in, called my name to stop and eat strawberries. Oddly enough this is the second oldest family farm in the USA. Fun fact: the oldest is in new hampshire. Farmer fed me fresh baked bread and a cucumber. Refreshed!

Things that went wrong: the heat killed us like an egg in a frying pan. 4 riders vaned due to heat exhaustion, deliriously wobbling pedaled stroke by pedal stroke till we got them to the ice cold van blasting with AC. They lived long enough to eat thanksgiving feast.
Many lessons learned. Hydrate, eat, take naps under trees, swim in lakes and strangers pools.

Day 2 over!
Sleeping in a school library. Yeah! 

Red Brick Nunnery

Day 3
Build Day with Habitat of Andover M.A.

     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.
     We gutted the basement, cold and damp, chiseled cement off these ancient pieces of brick, jackhammered side steps, and wander this magnificent building lusting at what the stories could have been of our grandparents days. Gas heated at one time, with no insulation except for the solid bricks, this build stands 4 stories high and refuses to be demolished. 
     People love us wherever we go, so far that is. Subway must have donated over 100 sandwiches to us for lunch. Refueled we continued to work till our steam ran out. 
    Ok, now for Burrito Laundry story. You see, trying to work out all the kinks that could possible come up on a ride across the country with 33 riders and a budget of less than $125 a day things get tricky until routine is set. And things like laundry keep getting knocked down to the bottom of the priority list. Now riders stressed and underwearless, washing shammies in bathroom sinks, we attempted to make our first laundry run. 

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.
Tonight I sleep coved away between the shelves of an elementary school library surrounded by stacks of books about witches and flying horses. Once again, it will be sweet dreams. 

Day 4. Strawberries and the crash

Day 4
Miles 45
Weather: damn heat wave still hanging around strapped to our clothing. 100 degrees.

After rolling upon a you pick strawberry field and filling my mouth with the brightest red sugary triangle freshness I just couldn't stop. Sweetness soaked my mouth. Hydrated my blood. Wiping the remaining strawberry juice evidence off my face we through the farmers daughter a few extra bucks for all the strawberries already in our bellies.

Life was good. And then...our first crash. Suddenly i became a doctor, a therapist, a bike mechanic, a cyclist, and a skilled van and trailer driver over night. We tell the riders not to pace line, but do they listen? Did u listen when you were 20 and invincible.

Lauren suffered a concussion. Ok but beat up, we waited at the very entertaining and busy ER of Fitchburg. Interesting town Fitchburg is. The lady at triage says, "why would you ever come through a town like this. Stay off the streets, you know there are a lot of drugs out there." yes, fitchburg is odd. A once booming town of the paper making industry it now lays lined with abandoned brick buildings.

It was one of those day. Just to put the ice cream on the cake...the blue and red light flagged us down at 1am on the way home from the hospital for a busted trailer light. I couldn't do anything but break out into laughter. Was this really happening? He let us go and home to bed for a quick nap before the next day. 

Day 5. The thunderstorm

68 miles
Hail Lightening
Did the weatherman curse us? We are now ready for the blizzard to hit us in Texas.

There we were the 4 of us who decided to book it to the host just in time to dry off with a beer. We hit the mountains today, they tested our limits and drenched our souls. Their puffy green boubous humps in the distance. After lunch, at 6 miles in we hit rain and an incline that Satan himself personally created. Huddled tight in my rain jacket and cap I could drink the water pouring from the sky with the tip of my tounge. My glasses like a windshield kept my vision clear and we powered up thoes hills like we were kings and queens of the Appalachians. Yes, we were. And it tasted like sweet local brewed beer easing the machine of myself and team that carried us through the day.

Day 6 moose on trailers, guitars and wildflowers

A day of photos to fill in the blanks.
Sunny, 42 miles, gorgeous rolling hills of the Berkshires.

Western Massachusetts. A vortex of oddities. Brick monuments of ancient history mixed with midwestern barnyard townies. American flags full of pride drape the streets. Here we are, a trailer full of spandex with a moose on it. Life is simple. Bike eat sleep eat build ear sleep. Playing the role of van driver and lunch stop today, i catered a fancy menu of the famous once again PB&J. Cheering the riders on with the horn of the van, my legs itch to pedal too. Seeking out the perfect lunch stop in a brush of wildflowers I wait for hungry riders serenading myself with our guitars.

And yes, we are staying at the magnificent red church in the photo who BBQ us am amazing dinner. I sleep in the chapel staring at the moon gleam through the stain glass. Too hot for a down sleeping bag, I lay on the floor in boxers. Hope that's not a sin.

Day 7. Pittsfield Massachusetts

Build Day.
We are averaging now about 1200 homemade cookies a week. Many in the form of peanut butter cookie sandwiches. Life is good...Let me add lots of laughing to my list of things we do besides bike eat build and sleep.
Yes life is good despite the minor logistical chaos we come across such as the fact we broke the trailer. But the good news is we got the brake lights working again. The bad news ill leave for another day. But we can't just ditch out 3456 oz of peanut butter in it.
Rain, again. Eh. The angels bowled for us loud and clear. We cleaned and painted the community parks today while 1/2 of us sheet rocked a house. A house is simply a very big puzzle. You start with the edges and work yourself inwards connecting piece by piece.
Now there is band practice in the chapel and by golly, I'm listening to a full on concert echoing my veins. They are playing the theme song from The Dick van Dike show. It shakes and rattles the walls with excitement and glee. Stuffed full with a fantastic gluten free pasta dinner we set our alarms for 4:30am to hit the road in this never ending thunderstorm for our first near century day tomorrow.

Day 8 New York Welcomes Us

Pittsfield MA to Poughkeepsie NY
85 Miles
Weather: chilly and misty

5 states, 400 miles, and 8 days in. 8:30pm, time for bed. Enjoy the photos of the day.

Day 9. Port Jervis the weird town

Formally a relevant commuter town, Port Jervis is now a hopeless relic I wish to never return. We have been traveling through a Plethora of weird towns stuck in time, deserted with stragglers, filled with an erie smell.

Total Miles today were 63.
Weather sunny, 90 degrees, a headwind that would knock you off 2 wheels, and a zoo of road kill which included snapping turtles, skunks, deer, possums, squirrels, and a pigeon.

A day full of fun. Wednesday "merica" we now call it. Covering ourselves in 97 cent American patriotism of temporary tattoos. Free ice cream, a horrible headwind, a fabulous host named Frances, at 76 years old grey headed grandma, who solely cooked as all a baked pasta lasagna dinner and brownies with ice cream.

At 10pm 3 of the fearless leaders made there way to "Dad's Change of Pace" where happy hour lasts till 11pm, a man dropped his pants at the bar, and a wasted drag queen demanded to smoke. And The McDonalds is apparently the most hopping place in town at 11:30pm. This town is freaking weird.

Huddled inside our safe zone of the church we decided to prank all the exhausted sound asleep riders. 28 flat front tires for the morning! 

Day 10 The Mountain with Christmas at the Top

Miles 56
Weather: sunny and 80. Our first day the weatherman didn't curse us basically.

The days are starting to merge. We live in a bubble of Bike &Build lost in time and place. Morning feels like days ago, I have to ask strangers what day of the week it is and naps happen daily like an overexerted preschooler falling asleep in the back of a moving car.
7 states we've reached today. We passed through New Jersey so fast it looked exactly like New York and Pennsylvania. But our wheels touched it and so it counts. Mount Pocono with a population of 3,000 is a bit better than our former towns we've ended us in. Still stuck in a sterile standstill it does has a touch of character from the remnants of the ski town it is in the winter and the Indian influences that shine through the white mans infringement.
I have to say, this is a side of America I did not know. Towns that make my hometown of Oakland California seem like a different country high and elite on a pedestal. How is it that in some states it is illegal to not compost while others don't even recycle. Passing through one town after another ridden with poverty, drugs, and crime in the ruralist of towns, I had to stop and wonder is this our country that is so rich and famous.
So they said the hills would start in P.A. Yup, they were right. And what happens on top of a mountain? Thursday mail drops. We drove beige buggy (our infamous van) to pick up the mail. Rolled out in a gigantic mail cart, it was christmas in June, stuffed full with packages of goodies from moms and dads along with a hefty stake of envelops from almost every state of the USA. Hauling Christmas out of the van back at the host, the riders went nuts. Homemade fresh Banana Bread, homemade tuber-ware overflowing with granola, trail mix, boxes of sunscreen and floss, protein bars, candy, socks, and of course more homemade cookies for all.
Our host tonight is a lovely Methodist church cooking us copious amounts of a pulled pork feast with fresh corn and potatoes. And dinner is being call.

Day 11. Sleep sleep drink water and sleep

52 miles for the rider
Me: captain of beige buggy hauling lunch down the hwy.
Weather: freaking hot. Heat Wave #2. 95 degrees.

Pissssssssssst. The sound of the air rushes out of the air mat and you hit the ground with a wake up call. The problem with waking up at 5:30am to beat the heat is lunch stop is at 9am. We are averaging 5 meals a day right now. I am not a fan of the van or driving. You'd think it'd be a nice day off treating myself to sparkling water from far away lands, driving down the roads in the nice temperate weather of 65 degree AC, munching on animal crackers all day, and having a personal pop concert in buggy with myself.

Coasting with buggy into Berwick i saw more churches than i could count on 2 hands. Greeted by Margret, a lady in her 70s, draped in her apron, at noon was spending her whole day in the kitchen for us. She talked walked smelled hugged and cooked like my grandma. As the riders poured in drenched in salty sweat she fed us a never ending bowl of oranges that kept magically refilling itself as though the orchard was out back. It is theses type of people that talk your ear off and you don't want it to end. Stories of the 1890s when mothers had 15 children and kids died of sunstroke.

This hard day required a 3 hour nap on my part which could have lasted till 5am tomorrow. 

Day 12. 100.21

Miles: 100.21
Weather: 95 degrees cloudy and humid
Feet climbed: 4300
Average speed: 15mph
Destination: State College P.A.

The miles are wearing us down. Fresh wild raspberries brightened our eyes and our taste buds. It was mile 40 and hot.

Then we hit the state Forest. Up up up this massive hill we trudged, tired and beat. The beauty was spectacular, but days of miles behind us our had worn our bodies and legs.

My face was radiating heat and then, lake comes to view and we dip in. Refreshed we took off up and down the deserted mountain. Coasting along at 23mph we hit Amish land. It opened its front doors and called our name. Wide open space, there we were on the only sight of civilization, this smooth rolling paved road ahead. Creviced between two deep green mountains, we flew past bright barn houses, clothes lines hung speckled with pastel colors of the rainbow. There passed a horse and buggy, trotting down the hwy. Did we just step back in time? There goes a women tending to her garden in a bonnet. This is spectacular, like a world I didn't know still existed, and in my own country. Town after town we roll through cruising along at a happy 17 mph mile after mile. I think we all forgot how tired we were. The spectrum of all the shades of greens on our left, wheat fields of a golden yellow to our right.

We roll into state college at 99.24 miles. 3 times around the church and we hit 100.21 miles. Over 3/4 of our riders road their first century of their lives and yet exhausted they still rattled their hats as they approached the church for a final extra 3 laps. State College, this town feels much more of the country I know. Yet nestled so close to a far away world that blows my mind it still exists. We toast put beers to a good day and sleep with another near 80 mile day of hills and beauty ahead of us tomorrow.

It all became clear as vast as the high sky was today. If you have a dream live it, you have nothing to lose but regret.

Day 13. Hike and Build

Miles 77
Weather: 96 hot humid basically miserable
Feet climbed: 5800

Cranky riders this morning. There is a key component to this we are missing, it's called sleep.

If anyone ever tells you Pennsylvania is flat, I will need to have a word with them.

The hills were killing us all. 14% grade 7 miles up hill at mile 50 in our ride. They said today would be bad, the alumni said this was there hardest day of the whole summer, and our host warned us of the 17 mile climb, the highest ridge east of the Mississippi. Mentally exhausted and physically at my breaking point all one can do is pedal onwards and never give up. I worried of the heat beaten riders at the bottom of the daunting hill but had no juice to ride back down and check on them. They would make it, or beige buggy would have to come to the rescue. (they made it after calling our team today Hike & Build). Each pedal stroke further my mind was filled with: this scenery is so spectacular I want to pockets it, then the thought fluttered from my mind and was replaced with the biting desire for a bread smothered with chunky peanut butter and all the high fructose corn syrup jelly that would fit. Ahead a quarter mile from the top, buggy and trailer came to the rescue. I inhaled my bread soaked honey nut snack before I could get the two pieces of bread together. Ok hill, bring it on.

Nick and I killed it up to the top. Nick Wimer is a fun rider, the daddy of the group he worries for everyones safety all the time. Also a bicycle racer with massive thighs and pretty calves, he is 22 and a senior on the road to a career coning all the guys into shaving their legs. Stupid hill; at the top I felt the honey run through my veins like a feeling of black coffee in the morning hitting the tongue. I took off down the backside of the mountain, the sound of the gears gasping for air. Nick followed hot on my tail. Careening down that mountain, passing though the forest at 41mph for miles and miles pedaling my heart, soul, and legs out. This mountain will not win us over. And i tasted victory with a salty lick of the lips so drenched in salt and sweat you'd think we just drank margaritas. For every reason I ride a bike, this hill down had affirmed it all.

An ancient beautiful oak and brick building, 4 stories high hosts us tonight and I think we ate all more in weight of pasta than we would be combined. I don't really know what will happen tomorrow, another 88 hilly day ahead. I can only think now of my lovely thermarest calling my name.

Day 14. 780 minutes

Miles: 83
Weather:102 degrees
Feet climbed: nearly 5000

I never really drink coffee. I am more one of those would prefer some coffee with their milk type. Yet after 4 hours sleep and another 80 mile day of hills and heat ahead, I was searching for the blackest cup of joe around. At mile 12 we hit Papa pizza and milk shake joint. My taste buds cringed at the thought of what this cup might behold, but my brain soaked it up like sweet candy.

Today I played the role of sweep. Yes, like the street sweeper we trail behind riders swooping them up fixing tires, finding lost riders and towing them along with us to the final destination.

Mentally at breaking points, I sat by the side of the road with a defeated rider, who bawled in the hot sun wanting to give up and quit. I could only say "you're never going to make it up that hill with the look of defeat in your eyes. No one said this was going to be easy." Reality is setting in, we are biking across the country and yeah, it's definitely a task testing every ounce and soul, but without one ounce of regret.

The ride today was brutal. I spent 13 hours on the road, my toosh worn raw, but in good company. Sweeping with lovely Erin Kewiel, she requires precise 15 minute pee stops, raspberry vanilla milk shakes, fills my time with a laugh so bubbly you'd want to pocket it. At mile 20 we were joined by Alyssa, a 23 year old lively preschool teacher who's friends and family dominate mail drops with fresh baked gluten free banana bread. We host 80s pop concerts on the side of the road, gossip about long old teenage crushes on boy bands of our day, and convince whole foods to donate 2lbs of grapes to our bellies.

At dusk we arrive at the top of the final climb to be swept away by a breathtaking view of Pittsburgh. Wowers, 1/2 delirious from heat, my butt sores, my legs, and 80 miles behind us, it was as though we flew into the valley laughing and cheering about this beautiful sky scraping men of knights city filled with ancient brick towers cobblestone roads and the perfect mix of diversity, culture. As if Boston was to makes babies with Oakland CA, Pittsburgh is what it would be called, cement landscape broken by two powerful rivers diverging and a sunset the color of cotton candy.

Our host, a stone castle methodist church centered in the heart of the city's financial district and home to Heinz ketchup factory and Andy Warhol, stood aged and giant above our tired bikes and legs. Home sweet home.


Enough said.

Day 16. Mericadonalds

Miles 82
Me: pilot of Beige Buggy navigating solo gravel roads through thunderstorms bumping Christian country music.
Weather: as humid as a warm washcloth 102 degrees

Did I say I hate the van yet? I have a class C drivers license not a semi truck driving background. Beige buggy is a 15 foot van towing a 10 ft decorated trailer with no brakes or break lights. He doesn't like sharp turns, steep hills, or one way in no way out roads.

The plan: breakfast in P.A. Lunch in West Virginia, and dinner in Ohio.

After sending our team off into the streets if Pittsburgh i headed to pick up 50 bananas, 30 apples, and 10 oranges. That is always a classic picture at the check out stand. Then off to seek out the perfect lunch nook.

I only know that from getting lost 3 times and driving buggy up a massive gravel seemingly tiny 5 ft wide road that the riders were in for another ruff day. Blasting Christian Country music, I like to drive through states with their radio theme songs, suddenly interrupted with my sing along by a "severe weather warning". Yup hail, rain, lightening. I can already see the flashes in the distance. The rains started and cooled the pavement like steam rising from a boiling tea pot.

The riders all made it safe and sound, beaten and hungry, they burst through the church doors as late as 8pm like scavengers on a mission for showers and AC. It's the 4th of July so of course, we make tacos and head to McDonalds for the most American thing we can get. French fries and ice cream.

Our true tan lines are starting to really make us proud. Ring tans, sock tans, helmet strap tans, sunglasses tans, they are our badges.

We are in the town of Cadiz, a tiny town of 3000 people. An almost ghost town, there stands a McDonalds a gas station a hardware store and a Chinese take out hut. No fireworks here. Once a town for steel miners it is now, like so many towns we pass through, poor, historic yet ghostly, and an isolated sad abandoned center of a once booming industry.

Day 17. Drive thrus, light switches, and lily gardens, and electric can openers.

Miles: 66
Weather: as muggy as the vietnam jungle; humid enough to take a shower with air.

Wide open lakes with lily pads so big and round, so perfectly asymmetrical, their flowers jetting skywards. Millions plummeting vertically across the still body of water.

We passed another Amish town and stopped at their local market. Walking into handmade land, it was dark and I searched for a light switch to not be found, duh. Goodies so cheap you'd think we were in another faraway country. Cliff bars at 33 cents, we bought out their entire rack. 4 hours later farther into eastern Ohio we discovered 75 cents soft serve from Dari Hut. I guess it's official, we have hit the Midwest, heartland of America.

Oh Ohio, drivers yelling faggots at us, you did finally bless us with some flat roads we haven't seen since Maine.

Riding with Scott today, I discover he has a set of animal voices up his sleeve, perfectly replicating cows elephants and donkeys. I am also starting to question the concept of drive thrus as well as electric can openers. The things you think about on the road...

Almost 1000 miles in and already almost to middle America. It feels like we are cruising, almost at the other side. This country all becomes that must more feasible, tangible, and that much smaller. It's as though you know your own backyard, how the land is laid, when and where the flowers bloom, where the dog likes to sleep. It's like that, but my backyard is now 1/4 of this country!

Day 18. Frappuccino's at 107 degrees.

Miles: 81
Weather: 107 with humidity that can't be explained.

"There are never any bad days on Bike & Build, some are just harder then others." That was the start. The day dragged like pulling an Amish carriage. It wasn't till mile 40 that my legs wanted to spin around and around.

Today looked at lot like, hill, corn, soybeans, corn, soybeans, hill, flat, ice, free Frappuccino's, arrival, eat eat eat.

Many oddities on the road today. In the boonies we ran into a Mobile Bike Shop. A man in a pimping van rolled up to us at our lunch shop ready to fix any ailment. Was this happening? Or are we on the movies. Searching desperately for ice to cool down my 107 water we met a gentleman who not only stocked us full of ice that lasted one minute once we stepped out of his AC general store but also donated baggies of dried figs and strawberries. Talking to Amish men about life on the prairie. Passing peach orchards I downed 5 peaches that were graciously handed my way.

Don't have much to say about the heat. It was hot, makes your skin sizzle, but what are you going to do? Onward we go.

Meg, a 23 Vermont transplant, who was the first to bonk from laughter on our trip, is staring her own talk show for us Bike & Builders. Today's podcast, Meg's food corner. The translator will type this one up for tomorrows entry.

Hosted by generous alumni who routed our journey last year, they feasted us with corn and beers.

Day 19. They call me grandma

Columbus, Ohio. I wanted to say I've never been happier to be out of the beaming sun on a 105 degree day, but I am not sure if building a house is much better, especially in a 1/2 insulated attic.

Habitat of Columbus will build 23 houses this year. 49 years old Jay from Africa, a father of five, aged 4 to 14, the recipient to be of this house worked side by side with us all day. No need to pee here, all liquids just pour out our skin and veins. We tried not to leave puddles, but that was tough. With 2 days building here, progress is visible.

After thrift store mania and laughs over dinner with grandparents it was time. Time to take antsy Alex out for her first legal cocktail. I must be too old for this, 6 years ago, one too many hangovers, i wanted to tell her, its not worth the hell of tomorrow. But with 32 of us buying her 21st birthday drinks i doubt she'd remember that. I'm old, too old for this, but in a good way. After 3 beers I jumped on the idea of ice cream and bedtime with the youngsters of the group. Bored of watching people drink, the underagers and I headed over to famous fabulous Jennis Ice Cream shop where there must have been a cow out back. As fresh as the raw milk I used to drink, they flavored their frozen milk with everything goat cheese red cherry, whiskey pecan, salted carmel, to wheatgrass pear and vihno verde sorbet. I love bring old, you can really say, been there done that with pride. And sleep soundly. They call me grandma. I take it as a compliment. 

Day 20. Oh Oh Ohio

Build day continued with Columbus Ohio Habitat For Humanity.

Columbus you are quite the town I imagined. Suburban streets lined with track housing, deeper into your heart lie rows of abandoned boarded houses, shackled with stories of poverty and crime, yet hitting the center the hipsters migrate on bikes, in converse, at vintage stores, and hip upcoming cafes.

Dave, our habitat coordinator, aged yet young, intelligent, and friendly at heart, the kind you always imagined your high school history teacher to be, shooting out bits of life wisdom at you, donates his time 6 full days a week to oversee this house be puzzled together.

Installing insulation is kind of like a teddy bear factory. Incasing the wooden frame silhouette of the house in a light fabric "netting" we then insert a large hose between the two into the casing, turn it on, and vroom, poof, side of the house is stuffed full of fluff. Not quite huggable, but toasty warm and comfy in the frigid winter months.

Dinner. So my partner in crime, co-leader Morganizer and I decided we would try to get free dinner for everyone tonight and spent our afternoon roaming up and down 5th ave stopping at franchises in hopes of some donations. We stopped by Five Guys burgers and fries.

"is your manager there?"
"I know this is totally out of the blue but we are looking for a food donation for 33 riders, young adults working with Habitat and biking across America."
"yeah sure bring them in"
Morgan and I burst out laughing.
"you see there are 33 of us," thinking he didn't understand the quantity of us and the never ending pill of food we can eat.
"yeah yeah bring them in" he said again, "I love Habitat, sounds like some good work you are doing."

Beaming with joy and excitement we decided to keep it a secret and surprise the riders today. I returned to them all napping at the host trying to hold the words that would ring like music to their ear deep inside. It was hard not to just burst out with glee. Their eyes exploded as we pulled up. Hug thanks to manager Tom from Five Guys Burgers and Fries.

Day 21. Beautiful day toped with hippy "paradise"

Miles: a meager easy 58.
Weather: gorgeous! 85 degrees and bright blue sky's smeared with a few white painted clouds

Columbus to Yellow Springs Ohio. 58 of the easiest smoothest miles ever. It was a quite day on my part, 20 miles sailing down an empty bike path, not a car in sight, not really wanting to converse, I stared at the bright blue sky over the barren fields of tasseled corn and stalky deep green soybeans mile after mile. We have hit Monsanto land, a farmers hell, americas pathetic staple and corrupt governing pillar. Then we hit Yellow Springs Ohio.

Hippy land is what we were told to expect. Yea that pretty much nails the the yarn to the tree. Literally, trees dressed in colorful crocheted sweaters, lavender painted picnic benches, fun galleries, local artists, organic smeared all the walls, and cars with every liberal bumper sticker you could imagine. Wouldn't want to get in a political debate in this town, they just might throw you out if it wasn't in their opinion. This tiny town of 3000 was a bit thrown off by 33 stranger waddling around town with reflective safety triangles looking for post cards, ice cream, and a beer.

We are staying at Antioch College tonight with the luxury of BEDs for all. Greeted by the facility and students we were handed pens to sign papers and forms about sexual consent, stating we would not engage in any sexual activity without verbal consent of the partner. Because you know, the 33 of us who live in a biking vortex together would rape one another. I then discover this college has a whopping student body of, are you ready for this? 33! I guess that explains this town just a smidgen more. 

Day 22. We roll into Indiana

Miles: 106
Me: buggy pilot
Weather: 85 degrees nice and warm

There is never much excitement that comes with driving the van. I watched dying draught stricken corn fields go by for 100 miles and riders chop down 4 full bagels smeared high with cream cheese at lunch stops in one sitting.

It is either feast or famine here. Today we are loaded with enough to feed the entire line up rider for the tour de France. I would estimate over 150 bananas, ripe and ready, along with enough ham that one could piece together a hog and enough cream cheese to swim in.

I didn't want a day off driving lunch around the states of Ohio and Indiana. Driving days aren't so much a day off as much as a logistical headache. Sometimes it isn't all the fun being a leader and having to follow all the rules you set. Once again, the van is my one dislike of this summer even when it treats me to pop music and AC, I'd still rather be on the barren roads.

Rushville Indiana is where we pulled into. A quite Midwest town with a deserted western vibe. They say 6000 people inhabit this neck of the woods, but where are they I could only wonder. Our host was too ecstatic to meet and great us, so I was forced to pump up my saddened van day mood. They stuff us full of gatorades and cookies upon arrive and a magnificent potluck feast from the local community. Alumni say Rushville is the day of feast and fantastic people. They are quite right. We heard the words of bacon and pancakes for breakfast.

Day 23. "on track"

Miles: 87. 101 for a special few.
Weather: perfect at 8am, 95 the rest of the day.

After being vanned yesterday I was fresh and eager to get on the real road with the wind blowing in my hair. Today looked a lot like corn corn, more dying corn, then out of nowhere a state forest. We got harassed for using too much ice from the soda fountain at the general store and took a detour to Columbus Indiana to discover a town full of fun shaped buildings and colorful splashes of color which scattered the city.

But the best part was yet to come at mile 91. You see, there is this movie called Breaking Away, a favorite of mine, a true story from the 70s of a bicycle race called the Little 500 in the town of Bloomington. Here we were rolling into Bloomington, at 91 miles, I was on a mission to find the track and complete this day with a century it black gravel.

Searching high and low for this track we found it nestled in the woods of Indiana university. Gated and locked off, we hoped the fence shamelessly on a mission. If the police showed up, look at us officer, we are 4 guys and a girl dressed in filthy spandex, decked out with enough water for grow a farm and plastered in red white and blue. At 91 miles into the day we definitely weren't here to cause trouble.

We trekked down to the track. Was this it? Gravel so thick we fish tailed around. And then we started, Mr. Wimer and I, propelled ourselves round and round on the famous dirt track laughing and cheering pretending we were in the movies. Holland on the sideline cheering and camera crew, Josh M. snapping the shutter away as we chased each other down. At about lap 20 I was losing steam. My team wanted to leave and I still had 20 more to go to hit 100 miles.

Mile 95, I'm starving, tired, hot, and being begged to get off the track and home to our host.

Mile 99.5, we arrive at the host. 3 laps around the parking lot and my mission is complete.

We are staying at the Disneyland of a Church, so big we couldn't find our own posse of of stinky noisy selves. We all about passed out on the hallway floor, spandex and all, bonking in out naps, until the van arrived with our minty fresh shower kits, clean undies, and pile of brownies.

Dinner was fabulous, thanks to Morgan's aunt. The corn here is my new favorite food. Yum yum yum.

Day 24. Up goes the house.

Build Day Bloomington Indiana.

I cased down the word called sleep this morning. Now up to par with 8 hours under my belt, I awoke on a mission to find good espresso and build a house.

Revolution bike and bean hit the stop. Huddled in the neat town of Bloomington, it was bike shop marries coffee shop. Indiana I like you more and more each hour.

It take about 3500 nails to build an average size house. Today everything came together, literally the house we worked on, our understanding of how a house is built, and why we are here pushing wooden beams skywards and pounding steel into the earth. 33 people in 8 hours lifted all the exterior walls and 1/2 of the interior walls of the Rockport Rd. house today. It was truly a tangible feeling to see this project stand upright at the end of the day and the potential of what 33 really can do if they want to make a difference. I dont think any of us wanted the day to end. Someone told me today, when you give you life away is when you find your life. Put nicely I thought.

My fantastic build was crippled with bicycle problems, too many trips to the bike shop, and an outbreak of poison ivy spreading like the plague. I'll leave the details out, but Giant Bikes has left many riders vaned for days due to broken pieces with such specific parts that hopes of repairs stretch to only major towns aheads. Kind of like our trailer too. Is it us, or cheep corporate America that is giving me this head ache?

But the night became complete when we all cozy up, sleeping bags and all, like a middle school slumber party. We plopped in "Breaking Away", our last night in Bloomington Indiana with the movie that made this town famous to us.

Back on the bike tomorrow to erase the logistical chaos that bogs my mind right now, and to just and the road again, all the way to Illinois.

Day 25. A day full of Love

Miles predicted: 89
Actual miles: 101
Weather: 95 and cloudy

How do you toast enough bagels for 33 people? A church toaster oven on steroids. And that's how the day started.

Today, epic. Where to start? Some days your bike just doesn't want to be friends with you. In this case, adventures are a necessity. Free smoothies at Dairy Queen, free ice cream at McDonald's topped with being the talk of the store, eating non edible corn from fields, finding a huge american monument and getting an hour personal history class on roger Clark. We went back in time, gained an hour at 2 in the afternoon while crossing into Illinois. Then, discovering my first pawn shop and finding out how easy it is to buy a gun, getting lost in a state forest and traveling down a rock road for one too many miles. In the mist of this, we biked 100 miles.

We found out today we know we are living in our bubble vortex when, burritos stuffed with trail mix and peanut butter seem normal, and we submit to bets and dares to run nude around a church parking lot at 2am.

Pulling up to our host, we could see from miles away they were excited, filling the streets with mini billboards shouting our name. Rolling into Sumner Illinois, desolate, a ghost town with the only operating sign of life, an ice cream shop and Casey's gas station. 1200 people populate this town, but where? At the church sure enough. Rooms full of snacks, personal chauffeurs ready to load our stinky bodies up for showers back at the park, and a huge feast that made me want to cry with glee. And refused to let us help clean up.

Jeff was a character, who drove me to showers. He had a hat full of questions, and the answer was always, yeah I think ive meet almost ever character in the book thus far.

A tent oddly standing in the church lobby, I staked my spot. Oh sleep you taste like candy.

Day 26. No where to no where with lots of friendly honks

Miles 61
Weather 95 and rain

For the first time in my life I biked 60 miles in a straight line. Cue sheet today held the list of 3 lines, left out of church, left on hwy 50 (for 61 miles) right onto Washington street. Salem Illinois, where the bar told us we all had fake ids and wouldn't serve us alcohol and despite the fact it was 95 degrees outside we were huddled in the freeze box of beautiful Graces Methodist Church in all our layers of fleece and long pants due to the thermoset set at 60 degrees.

It's rained and rained this morning drenching our jerseys cell phones cliff bars and chamois. The rain is peaceful, the chatter of riders dwindles and we all just ride, and stop for hot cocoa.

I couldn't tell you a thing about what is going on in the world, but after spending 15 minutes on the side of the road changing a flat while being conversed by a friendly farmer and his wife, I can update you on the entire draught story of the Midwestern farmers. After 48 days with no rain, the cornfields of Indiana and Illinois are ruined, dried up and skeleton like, leaving insurance companies to pay for a seasons lost crops and wages. Despite the gravity, passers bye honked friendly hellos all along the road.

Midnight approaches and I am cue sheets behind schedule, and a too long to do list. You'll have to wait for the excitement in St. Louis tomorrow.

Day 27. A sore butt and a comfy van seat.

Miles: 82
Me: transporter of lunch and farm fresh Illinois glass jug chocolate milk.
Weather: 95 and humid

Van and buggy, I've never been more happy drive you. It's called a saddle for a reason, the bicycle seat that is, and although you treated me well at first, nearly 1500 miles in, day after day, you rubbed me raw and made me hate you. As rider Erin K., a suffer of the same fate put it, "you were as though I sat on the fire of a thousand angry suns." I want to erase you from my mind, until the next near 3 days of 3 near centuries ahead, which we better become friends or you will be left on the side of the road to be exposed to the deadly summer heat and bone chilling winter frost. So thank you van, for offering your fluffy plush seat to rest my tush for the day. St. Louis here we come.

Besides the rough seat situation, my gifted Giant bicycle and I have finally formed a relationship. We weren't fond of each other at first, having to leave behind bianchi and precious dale, to show this mystery Giant the country I was born in. But now, decked out in pink and blue, Giant has been named. After miles upon miles of trying to think of the perfect suitable name, today it came to me while passing through a town that I just seemed to really like the name of. Odin Illinois it was called, there wasn't much there but a wooden sign leading us in. And so it was, Odie, just suits her right, roped with turquoise water bottles. And so more adventures to come with Odie very very soon.

Best part of the day: planning Christmas in July, full of secret Santas with power bar wrapped presents on the 25th.

Worst part of the day: seeing riders come in with success, hunger, and joy of 82 miles of scenic roads behind them and knowing I personally walked maybe less than 50ft the whole day and inhaling 20 pizzas.

Day 28. :(

Build Day with Habitat St Louis

Streets lined with abandoned brick houses one after the other, a seemingly never ending row of one a booming city without an inhabiter in sight. Gosh, sounds like too many other towns we've come across. The population of this town, St. Louis, has been on the decline since 2000 and it shows. In 2005 a striking 10% of the homes were abandoned, boarded up, and home to squatters, homeless, and drug addicts. At 8am, there was no rush hour traffic and the downtown remained as empty as it did on the prior dats Sunday afternoon.

Yet despite this, Habitat St Louis heads the pack in building LEAD (green building talk) certified houses of all habitats with winter home energy bills as low as $45.

Our build site was not quite as exciting as these statistics. Hauling around piled trash, I've never moved so many toilets in my life. This was definitely the hardest physical build day yet.

I want to tell you how after a days hard work, I toured the city, to find the lovely arch welcoming all, the famous art museum, adult jungle gym, and the unlimited drinks at the Budweiser factory.

But no, 4 of us awoke to a head cold from hell, unable to enjoy anything but our thermarest and pillow. After staying clear from the traveling ring worm, poison ivy, and rashes going around, i couldn't beat this mucus infesting bug. It spreads like the plague here, like anything that would attach itself to 33 body's sharing every ounce of space, clothes, silverware, and water bottles. We loaded up the coolers up with 60 oranges and 2 gallons of OJ for breakfast. We will trudge ahead like the pioneers of the past, 3 centuries ahead of us, and heat to top it. They call it misery M.O., but I'll give it it's fair change first.

Day 29. The sign read 114 degrees.

Miles: 101
Weather: the bank sign read 114, And as much as I want to boast it was true, I would guess 103 not including heat index.

They say this is the hottest driest summer in the Midwest in a whopping 24 years. Go figure. it feels like it.

5am. Wake up. Shot of DayQuil for the road, 3 oranges, a bowl of chocolate cocoa puffs, and a water bottle full of OJ. There are some things in life I never wanted to do, such as ride a century with a full blown head cold. And then there are times in life, when, I never want to do it again. Today was one of those days.

Mile 40: After refreshing with a discount store find of 25 cent power bars, I loaded up my pannier with over 35 bars for the group. This got my cheer and excitement up.

Mile 45: lunch. So excited about my find, and refueled on chocolate powerbars and tomato and mustard wonder bread sandwiches, I decided to trudge onward till second lunch.

Mile 63: DayQuil wears off, heat sets in, and I start trailing off the end of my group. Waiting for the van to pass us on the way to second lunch, the same van I once despised, we hit mile 68 to hear that the van had had an injury, delayed by a flat. What really happened was a bit of a different story. The van and buggy had a mishap with a yellow car and lady. Everyone was ok, except the trailer. On the good side, we got the brakes fixed on the trailer this morning. On the lesser note, we don't have a trailer anymore.

Mile 74: without food or cold water, we wandered into subway to steal all their ice and order sandwiches like wild bores. Then we drew a tree of shade on the hwy, for no reason at all. So that was that, I was biking a century if I wanted to or not.

Mile 86: we find a manmade swimming hole to cool down in with a bunch of red neck teenagers who without hesitation made fun of us for 15 minutes straight. I hit a new high today, being mock for my farmers tan by a redneck.

Mile 89. The van pulls up!!! Your back, working, alive, and I am 11 miles from being done. I waved it by. Peter, a sweet quiet blond from NY who is a fun riding buddy, pulled my tired body and bike the remaining 11 miles. Legs full of heat rash, 130 ounces of water later, and feeling like I had a 104 degree fever, I think I sweated this cold right out of the pores of my skin.

The good news, we are all in bed by 9:30pm, everyone is eager to wake up at 4am to hit the road before the heat of tomorrow sets in, and the trailer, after a few hundred bills, will be fixed and ready to save us by tomorrow afternoon second lunch stop.

The cue sheet quote of the day read, "Some people never go far enough on their first wind to find out they have a second." Rightly stated whoever said that.

Day 30. Sunrise to sunset.

Miles: 87
Weather: 105, 107 with heat index.
Terrain: up and down every rolling hill possible till we hit the lake, Lake Ozark. A lake with more coastline then the state of CA.

The sun rose over my right shoulder this morning and set right in front of my eyes. It was a hazy glow at 5:45am. That split moment when the beauty of colors is so vivid, majestic, the peaceful bliss of dawn, and then the sun rose and the heat of the day set in.

I didn't dare tell anyone, but I was nervous about the day. It was hot, too hot, we were van less, and there wasn't a water stop till mile 50. Little did the riders know I re routed the cue sheet tacking an additional 30 miles on to get them off the hwy of death, which they called it last year. Loading riders with 2 peanut butter honey sandwiches each, along with power bars and gaterade i could only pray these roads would treat us well, the sun wouldn't shine too hard, and water would be found.

And now, said and done, it all turned out ok despite 2 riders vaned due to heat exhaustion. Today was the reason I ride my bike. To see things of natural beauty that I didn't even know existed in my own country. Deserted roads winding miles through furry shaded yellow hills. As though a grey carpet was rolled out over the rolling hills of the Ozarks. Missouri is absolutely gorgeous, despite it's oddity of people I am still searching for.

At mile 72, our group called nap time, we found the perfect tree, and conk, with the background music of ice cream queen Taylor chatting nonsense about the distant lake and who knows what else, the sounds trailing into my nap dreams. Nothing quite like waking up under a giant tree shading you from the vicious sun.

We made it to the lake after a feverish climb and fast decent on the wide shoulder of the hwy. The large arches of McDonalds ice cream called our name .5 miles from our host. Cautious Conley, aka Peter, devoured 5 cheeseburger, Taylor slurped down 3 ice creams, and I too licked my heart out at 2 ice cream cones. Day completed.

Our host, a generous church brought their whole community out to meet us. They even got us in the morning paper. Guess that explains all the friendly honks as we came into town.

Day 31. Birthday!!!

Miles: 93
Weather: 100 degrees and partly cloudy
Terrain: giant rolling hills

There is officially never a better way then to spend your birthday with 32 other radically awesome inmates.

The day started with 80s pop music blasting through the doors of the church that was followed 27 mini muffins light with candles at 5am. My day would have been complete with just this. But it continued on all day. At lunch stop I was handed not only enough black licorice to feed the army, which no one ever wants to share with me because rarely does anyone else have a love affair with it. Also loaded up with a fatty, creamy, a never to be seen item on bike and build avocado, and...drum roll please... Temporary tattoos!!! A team absolute favorite. Now my day we really complete and it was only 9am.

But the day continued to see chalked all over our route "happy birthday, we love you Kristen" to finding an active sprinkler at mile 91 an hearing a lady yell, "yo sister, come and use our pool." With a body temperature soaring upwards into the possible hundreds, the crisp sky blue cold chlorine filled water of heaven was absolutely a feeling comparable to refreshing feeling of working a 9-5 and knowing its Friday 4pm with a 3 day weekend ahead.

Of course I could tell you about the giant hills of yellow, how the "prescott" riding team kicked my butt all day as i tried to chase them up and down all the hills, and nourished by black licorice come memories of the olden touring days of New Zealand and Bianchi.

Christmas mail was today and loaded full were packages of pickles, licorice, candy, popcorn, more licorice waiting for me upon arrival. Black licorice and I are good friends if you haven't caught on.

A local and alumni took us to the perfect joint, a bar remnant of an old western ballroom of the 1920s stocked with my favorite Whiskey and local beers. 10pm hit and the grandma in my was headed home for bed. It was finally topped with a happy birthday song from the local band at the bar and a full temporary sleeve of every animal Planet Character alive. Springfield MO an interesting mix of hipsters and poverty, kind of like my hometown Oakland, CA. I approve of you and once again Missouri, you are making a quite handsome impression of yourself. Thanks all for one of the best birthdays ever.

Day 32. Building Sheds in Springfield MO

Build Day with Habitat of Springfield.
Weather: 100 Degrees

West Volunteer Way was literally the name of he street we headed to this morning for our build site. Springfield Habitat is a smaller chapter but full of some inspiring people. They amazingly just built 6 homes in 66 days solely with volunteers this May due to a grant with deadlines they received. We were putting the final touches on the homes, building sheds. Hammers, nails, and an education on tornados, the heat barred down on us like the hundreds of steel nails we drove into the planks of wood. Games of how many hits to get the nail in were played, as well as how many bent, sideways, crocked nails we numbered. They treated us well though, with ice water, pizza, oranges, and cream soda, and even many mini shade breaks.

The last half of the day was spent exploring historic Springfield by bike, finding hot pink trash cans, hipsters in all the nooks and crannies, live music is the downtown square, more hipsters, an appreciation for good coffee and food, lots of bike lanes, vintage stores galore, and a town that seems to have pulled itself anew with a fun mix of old history and new spunk.

The night was topped off with a delivery from a natural foods store in town, excited about what we were doing, fed us real food which we probably wouldn't see again till California. Tomatoes that tasted like the vine was just outback and flavors that we must have forgotten existed. The riders licked their plates clean and jetted out to watch Batman fly across the movie screen.

Day 33. Sleep cycling and goldfish pesto pasta

Miles: 80
Me: yellow 1970s lawn chair lunch girl
Weather: 100 degree with a breeze

Waking up at 4:30am to hear that Tender Tim, a character of sorts who if fails at his underwater trash remover invention would make it famous being a comedian, had been sleep pedaling through the night inside his down sleeping bag while dreaming of pace lining.

Finally, a day of physical rest, vaning lunch around, I could finally kick this left over snot sickness out of my nose.

Lunch was found at a conservation area with shade, toilets, fresh made pesto pasta, overnighted to us by Fabulous Amy's mom, which riders topped with cheddar goldfish to make it Bike & Build complete. Our $7 relaxing yellow white and green plaid lawn chair laid itself out for me luring me in with Bill Bryson's book about traveling the Midwest, all too clique.

Passing signs of, "Can't be Christian if you vote Democrat. Read the bible," the spice girls of my early teens rocked the van. We still are questioning how that got into the stereo player. We are definitely are in the bible belt land, dear god! Pathetic signs about God litter the hwy left and right.

Coming into Joplin was a whirlwind of tragic disaster. May 20, 2011 Joplin was hit by one of the biggest tornados in history leveling miles of homes and hospitals, killing 160 people, and destroying 3,000 homes. Driving into town over a year later one could still see the disasters direct path, remnants of steps and foundations, pieces of roofing still laying in baron wasteland. A sole standing painted tree remains the only thing standing in sight for miles, colorfully painted to remember those who died in the grocery store that once stood in this lost community. Google mapping the post office I arrive to find nothing but a plank of concrete with weeds creeping through. Almost to the host, the streets were deserted, the land flattened, my gosh was the church we would call home for the night still there even?? Everyone here has a story and it's not pretty.

Our host was there in almost full form, although in rebuilding phase still, hit hard by the twister. I think we are all wondering why we aren't building here. However Bike & Build has given a grant of almost $10,000 to the blitz build week they hold in August here this year.

Day 34. 2 states, 1 day, before 9am

Miles: 60
Weather: 102 and i think, Ive never been happier to report we have passed into territory of DRY heat!!

It was one of those days, I just woke up on the wrong side of the bed. All I had to do today was ride my bike and despite this very simple task I love unconditionally, somehow everything seemed made my skin want to crawl with annoyed angst. It was nothing or no one in particular, maybe the miles after mile, lack of sleep, the side of the road laced with a never ending line of pro life billboards, the fact I couldn't stomach another apple cinnamon Honey Stinger energy bar, or that we were headed to a town called Vinita Oklahoma that was know for its once largest McDonalds in the USA. Cause, me being an animal lover and local food activist, that was definitely on my life list of things to see. A headwind so strong that we must have hit an invisible wall on old route hwy 66 didn't help. Even the crispy corn fields were annoying me.

We hit Kanas at 7:30 and not much further down the road Oklahoma at 8:15am. I guess mooning the Oklahoma sign sparked my mood for a few minutes.

The good news I guess is that we can now change up our lunch menu since the asphalt is now so sizzling hot from the days after days of absurd heat and dryness that we can now prepare gold brown grilled cheese sandwiches in a mere 3 minutes on the worlds longest frying pan.

My twin Alyssa was a trooper and tagged along with me and my bad attitude that I just couldn't shake all the way from Joplin to Vinita. At about mile 45 we were both sick of this day and decided to book it. We took off like a plane on a mission, averaging 25 mph the rest of the way. The miles flew by and we left our pathetic moodiness behind. We ended the day in Vinita to an unexpected American famous restaurant thanks to the Food Network. Like I said, it was one of those days, the only vegetarian dish a side of green beans, iceberg salad, and mashed potatoes. With everyone else eating free famous chicken fried steak, I chomped my last chocolate power bar with a frown.

Our church host treated us like king and queen eating champions, which we are now. I don't know what they put in that delicious meal but suddenly the room broke out into laughter, so hard tender Tim was bawling chuckles of tears from his eyes. I laughed so hard my collar bones felt like snapping and puddles of happy tears ran down my cheeks. For 15 minutes this went on for till our cheeks and stomachs hurt more than the laugh was worth.

Tomorrow we head to civilization again in Tulsa Oklahoma and tonight I sleep between the pews of an aquatic blue carpeted chapel in peace.

Day 35. Bicycles of Tulsa

Miles: 82
Weather: same as always 102 degrees with a headwind from hell.

Today was like finding a shady apple tree on a relaxing warm summer day sipping ice cold lemonade, as in awesome. Cocoa puffs for breakfast, an early rise to see the sun wake over the hay barrels and barn homes, a fast pace, the scenery flew by, but we were headed straight to the saddle hut, aka the bike shop that would make life actually enjoyable in the bum region. I have fallen in love with wonder bread, the colorful dots packaging, white fluff of nothing but chewy sweetness carbed gluten that demands half a loaf to satisfy a hungry tummy.

Tulsa, despite your large cement sprawl, zooming around zipped up in your AC gas guzzling 4 wheeled monsters, your people at the shop of bicycles were all too lovely. Talking my ears off for 1.5 hours I found, I prey, my saddle of heaven and a criterium bicycle race to attend tomorrow evening for the grand prize of cash and energy bars. My bones have been itching to get back into the racing scene, and I have a posse wanting to follow with a crowd of 30 family members.

We were treated to pizza, and all you can eat broccoli for dinner. 3 birthdays tonight requires a party, and I sit blogging in the corner sipping white Russians and local farmhouse beers listening to my counter parts talk up the bartender with Australian accents for free beers. And in bets with bartender Danny we find out Tulsa has the most millionaires per capita than any other city in the USA. Onto bar # 2 we demanded the open mic performer to sing Wagon Wheel and after what must have been 50 denials, Holland, the singer song writer of our posse stand us and we all accompany him in perfect tune.

Day 36. A day at the races.

Build Day Habitat of Tulsa
Miles: 43 (12 to the race, 8 warm up, 10 racing, 13 to pizza and home)
Weather: 95 and breezy!

One thing I truly admire about Bike & Build is the ability to sleep anywhere at any time of the day. This includes 11am on a dusty cement floor with power saws and chatters rattling the walls. 4 hours of sleep was well worth the early wake up for our publicity on the morning news channels of 3 stations until about 10am hit.

I wish I could tell you more about our build day, but after caulking and siding a house for 2 hours I had to take a break which turned into one of these naps that just happen as though a conscience didn't exist. Right there in the dirt, i was out cold for at least an hour. This nap was then continued at 3pm until it was time to prepare for the excitement of the day...the race.

Really it seemed unreal, in Tulsa, biking to a crit race, with 3 other eager riders, and two van loads of sideline cheerleaders. We were the talk of the town today, showing up at a race, you guys were on TV this morning building a house. There I was unscrewing my panniers and touring rack at the start line of a bicycle race. Every corner of the 1 mile loop was positioned with our cheering squad, anxious to see what a real race entailed. Painted chest with red and blue lettering Bike & Build, screaming every word of hilarious encouragement at each bend.

The race started, no girls showed except the Bike & Builders so we were placed right up there with the spandexy shaven legged men on their fancy bikes. And the games began. After getting left in the dust to battle a headwind from hell out by myself most of the laps, I came in a whopping 7 of 14 riders, then we road out way to all you can eat pizza and our plush thermarests for a night of sweet dreams.

Day 37. Christmas Day

Miles: 71
Weather: 108 and temperate

July 25, 2012 we rose early to prepare the riders for Jingle Bells wake up tunes and whipped up a special warm holiday breakfast surprise of banana blueberry pancakes. Today was the day we had been waiting for, Christmas in July. The sun didnt bare down on us today, but lightly showed itself through the clouds. We reached half way of our journey at mile 7, which caused a commotion on the road in order for the mini celebration. Lunch consisted of 90 donated Chipotle Burritos and we were all waiting to exchange our found gifts this evening.

Orgasmic was the peach cobbler at at the Rock Cafe at mile 55, which took any grandmas baking cookbook to a whole state level competition. 4th cup of coffee into the day, and two 25 minute power naps, I am starting to wonder if I have developed narcoleptic tendencies.

Alyssa turned 23 today, and her challenge consisted of 23 scoops of frozen cows milk, which Scott, who unwillingly lost 7lbs thus far, successfully attempted to conquer the frozen cream challenge with an outcome of only a minor tummy ache and no food coma. 15 minutes later he was back on the bike.

The clouds today were the kind that have flat bottoms with big fluffy tops. The kind that block the sun at just the right moments when you skin feels like it's turning to leather. We've officially reached the wild west, where stores are stocked with cowboy boots and overalls, white fences bar off horses on ranches, and cowboys drive trucks wearing cowboy boots with the wind blowing through their hair. The air smells of a hint of the olden days, a time when oil was the power and wealth of the nation and the concept of limited resources wasn't even fathomable.

Christmas came complete with a tree and all. Gifts of big turtle slippers, unicorn CDs, Barbie dolls, and hard hats were exchanged to the sound if 1950s Christmas carols in the church basement.

Day 38. 500 flavors of pop

Me: Buggy Captain
Weather: 95 and cloudy

I've always wanted to see the largest soda pop bottle in the world. 500 flavors Pops could boast of from every neon color to country one could pull from a hat. Pumpkin pie to sparking maple, to tree flavored spruce beer, we must have bought over 100 bottles. I guess one can say, you know your family when, without question you are sharing soda bottles with 32 other eating breathing friends.

Today continued, and was just one of those days. Just one of those days you question the concept of people.

As buggy captain, still rising from a restful sleep, I got flagged down at an early 8am by and angry driver who wanted to explain to me how, "my riders were in the way of his driving lane." I smiled politely and nearly bit my tongue off before lunch.

Mom made it all better because, Christmas arrived at 2pm, a shoe box full of every type of vanilla power bar sugary protein morsel they have marketed.

Neighbors of the church offered us their Icy cold pool, but it wasn't without a price. I sat there for 20 minutes being lectured on his favorite subject after the gospel, the controversial topic of fracking, a money making way to drill for oil by fracturing rock with over 20 million gallons of water. Such a nice fellow, a hard working family man, who struck it rich in life. The type of character you are friends with until you mention that your a democrat or weren't a fan of Bush and then the tables turn and it's time to leave.

In Yukon OK, our host is a generous private Christian school. Director Bob, a proud cyclist and Oklahoman, is an example of someone who proves that there is such a thing as being too organized in life. Our bikes were all ready to be numbered as we rolled in to keep them in order. I didn't dare want to say that our life is a chaos of functional disfunction; we had to hide the laundry burrito from him, which might have just thrown him into a full blown panic attack. However, their generosity could not be topped filling our sugar carbonated bellies with BBQ steak and chicken, sweet potatoes, chocolate milk and pitas with hummus.
Setting aside character flaws we all have, these people truly have opened their doors with only gratitude for us.

Day 39. Red dirt roads and wild horses

Miles: 86
Weather: 101 degrees and Barron dryness

Soak in the greenery and savor every last drop, wont see that again till Santa Barbara.

The scenery changed drastically today. We passed wind farms that stood miles high above our tiny bike and breathed gusts of warm air onto our route. The shades of green faded, the rocky hills and jetting red dirt planted its presence strong. Trees dwindled as the day went on. The sky grew larger, vaster, the horizon expanded, and it was as through the land finally reigned free. Free of cities, cars, farms, and lush plant life. Dirt, snakes, and heat waves off dried yellow fields command this land. The clouds today were the kind that kindergardeners draw with animal resemblance making up stories of dragons and they filled the sky to infinity.

We are entering a part of the country where the vegetation is not our friend. Passing houses where horses roam wild in front yards and pastures where black tan and cream colored cows look at you as though aliens had come to town.

Cordell, Oklahoma. 13 churches, 7 banks, 3000 people, 0 blue mail drop boxes, 0 bars, 0 TVs to watch the opening games of the Olympics, and where eggs are $1 a dozen. There is a striking beauty of the nothingness on the open road, its quiet presence adventurously guiding us along, but at the end of the day, as welcoming as all have been, I am getting a bit homesick for civilization.

Day 40. Hello republic of Texas.

Miles: 84
Weather: 106 headwind and too many trucks

Life: wake to see the sun rising over our backs, strike us down with its rays and shadowless at noon, and then set with an array of pinks, purples, and oranges. In the mornings the plants radiate soft pastel colors, in the afternoons, without squinting the gnarly scattered water deprived trees would be lost in the bright sun. An the evenings, thank god there is AC.

Today was a morning of quality of life stops. The colors of the sun rising over the horizon made the shutter of my iPhone irresistible. A truck stricken wild turkey was found, paralyzed, and needed some TLC in my arms before it passed. A 2 hour detour happened when we discovered a TV in a passing town showing the cycling Olympics.

Hitting the state border was a whole new cup of tea. Horses that wanted to play, and ice cream men who wanted to chat us up about blue laws. The gun laws here, there aren't many. You shoot who trespasses to mess with your cow or horse. You still hang law breakers who attempt to steal your horse. And fines are given for spitting in the streets.

25 trucks rolled by before a single car on an eight mile stretch. We've been dry hopping from dry town to dry town, not a drop of beer in sight. Bootlegging is what's its called when you bring more than 2 cases of beer here. 3 towns and days later I am still on the lookout for a blue post box and a desperately needed bike shop which is far from sight.

1,000 people popular Wheeler Texas and that grandeous population requires a whopping 7 church. However tonight we are staying in a barn with a broken septics system. Hose showers, backyard bathrooms, ehh this town has an ice cream store and a live rodeo tonight at 7pm. After 80 miles life is complete with just that.

Fried rice is being cooked and we are all off to the rodeo in overalls and spandex. We fit right in!

Day 41. Wolf Pack

Miles: 101
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 42. Down goes the house

Build Day Amarillo Texas.

Armarillo Texas. A town plagued by the Disneyland of steaks and cheap cowboy boots. Fast food cement sprawl that went on farther then the horizon. A seemingly soulless town, an anywhere city, an urban planners nightmare with streets intercepting with no common sense rhythm or reason. I want to say more, but after watching lean and mean Josh stuff himself full of 59 oz of corn fed American beef last night and fail because the clock struck 60 minutes with only 11 oz left on his plate, I can only cringe and pray there is a cow heaven where they bathe in 75 degree sunlight on green grassy knolls all day.

Amarillo is a city of diversity, with the local elementary school speaking a variety of 93 languages. Such potential for a cultural awesomeness, but instead I found every chain store and fast food joint imaginable. Refugees, immigrants, hard working families in search of the American dream flock to this town nestled in the heart of Tyson meat packing plant and other slaughter, fed, and meat packaging factories to find work of shipping your furry dinner around the country.

Today we did not build, but tore apart a house to its bare bones. 33 people, 7 hours, and that house was gutted down to the smell of old cigarettes. A foreclosed house to be revamped into one mans dream home to raise his kids and family. He was a Burma refugee struggling to find a better life for his family. I guess even in the worst feed lot America could produce nothing compares to some of the stories he would share.

Day 43. Meat and Wheat.

Miles: 71
Me: buggy mom
Weather: 100 degrees with, like always, an unfavorable wind.

Destination Friona, population 4000. Home to the Capitol of Cheeseburgers. 78% Hispanic, 20% white.

Passing though Hereford, the largest beef producer in the world, along with grain, shipping dead cows across the globe, according to the state trooper who rolled up to our lunch stop in a cowboy hat. Apparently the Texans are a bit confused by our presence on the side of the road, calling 911 to report cyclists riding on the shoulder of the HWY. I am not a fan of the police, so once I affirmed we were by no means causing a scene, I had to pick his brain about living in a town that kills more than a war zone. He wasn't impressed, I was.

Tonight we are in for a treat. A home stay, we break into pairs and head home with church members to beds and sandwiches. We talk about our mission, sharing conversations and facts about the state of this country, how there is no county where making minimum wage one can afford less than 30% of their wage on rent.

A good nights sleep, although separated from my other 30 counterparts something just felt a tad bit lonely.

Day 44. And then there were 3 states left

Miles: 60
Weather: very bearable, 99 degrees.

Awake, rested, the Garmatz's family home complete with 3 face licking pudgy dogs was more than any of us could have asked for. Awake at 6am, we pulled up to the church like the days of elementary school. There we were, all arriving at 6:30am from different homes ready to meet as friends and have a grand play date all morning. The longest we all had ever been separated since arrival in Maine, a whopping 9 hours, and boy did we have a world to share. Some milked cows at their home stays, others ate homemade cake, and a lucky two told stories of heavenly feet massages. We were all treated to the locals flare in some way, and whatever it was, we all loved this little welcoming town of Friona.

Mr. Garmatz was an employee of the livestock feed supply, and oh how I wanted to pick his brain. This topic of discussion is one that I love to partake in, and here I was in the home of the people on the other side of the fence. Afraid I'd offend such generous people, I never asked my list of questions still rolling through my mind.

Cargill is the largest feed lot in the USA, and if you wonder where your meat comes from, it's most likely here, in the panhandle of Texas, with 95,000 cows, unless you shop at Whole Foods that is. Sadly the livestock trucks going west were all empty, and the ones going east full of mooing noises and shrikes.

Traveling through this haze of methane gas and poo stench for 60 miles, I should clarify during my blog rant that I am by no means against those who indulge in flesh eating activities as much as it may seem. A personal choice and I give it to the Texans who watch this sad state of American consumerism and animal cruelty and can still order their steaks rare without flinching. There is just only so much to think about when all there is to look at is like counting shrubbery bush after bush.

You see, now that we have hit New Mexico, I can no longer ramble about the scenic glory, or grand adventures. Our path is straight, hwy 60 for days, there isn't a town in sight, or a tree, or a hill, so that leaves lots of political nonsense to think about on the open road for hours on end. And then laugh hysterically at the Jesus billboards as they are the only sign of life for miles at a time.

Day 45. Cowboy coffee

Miles: 95
Weather: 110 degrees and flammable.

We officially hooked youngster Taylor on coffee just in time for her first year of college. Good news because now that warrants coffee shop stops in towns where we meet locals to be served cowboy coffee, grounds brewed in the pot, strained through burnt toast.

The day started at 4:30am, and after 10 miles of political conversation in my head, 2 miles of drinking water and munching on cliff bars, 5 miles of figuring out how to describe the scenery to a blind person, 2 miles thinking about coffee, and 3 miles of thinking what to think about, we hit the cafe, and the only sight of a town the entire day. God, 70 more miles of the straight baron flat road lined with cross like telephone poles. Oh how a stop sign, curve in the road, a hill, anything would be a treat.

And then we hit mile 50, boom out of the blue, canyons, plateaus, inclines, it was scenic. We call it perching, and it happens at every cliff. After 120 oz of water, the water bottles were bone dry, it was 110 degrees and an ice cube was my sole thought. We rode without civilization for 60 miles, and then straight into a gas station to obliterate their ice machine. Mission accomplished.

Final destination, Roswell New Mexico. Home of UFOs and they believe it like Jesus walked on water. Tomorrow, 2nd day off in 44 days, so details to come. 

Day 46. Land of Enchantment and Aliens

Roswell New Mexico

In July 1947, something happened northwest of Roswell, New Mexico, during a severe thunderstorm. Was it a flying saucer? Was it a weather balloon? What happened? The Roswell UFO incident was a report of an object that crashed, allegedly an extra-terrestrial spacecraft and its alien occupants. Since the late 1970s the incident has been the subject of intense controversy and of conspiracy theories as to the true nature of the object that crashed. The United States Armed Forces maintains that what was recovered was debris from an experimental high-altitude surveillance balloon but many UFO proponents maintain that an alien craft was found and its occupants were captured, and that the military then engaged in a cover-up.

And that's where it all started. People really believing Aliens have come to their town, no I'm not kidding, and they have beautified their city with proof of this magnificent UFO landing, that changed life, only in Roswell, as we know it. Should I mention that the hallucinogenic referred to as Shrooms are also legal here for consumption, maybe just a coincidence perhaps? A tourist trap for us, we decided on our day off to skip the UFO museum full of plastic aliens, as well as the gift shops that lined Main Street and head to the salt lake 15 miles out of town, a bottomless lake 90 ft deep that reflected our silhouettes. Locals warned us, there was nothing to see out there in the State Park, but we all flocked to escape Disneyland alien world for some fresh air, a salt swimming hole, hiking trails, and some of the most picturesque landscapes we've seen.

Turn on the facet and the water here even tastes like its been diced with a pinch of salt. Perfect for 105 degree days where pit stains start within 1 minute of stepping outside any A/C facility. And then it all begins again tomorrow, 4:30am, 91 miles and headwinds, but we here there are hills in the distance! New Mexico is absolutely a beautiful place, they call it the Land of Enchantment as their motto, and it suits this place very very accurately. 

Day 47. House of Cup

Miles: 93
Weather: beautiful 80 degrees and a passing isolated thunderstorm.
Elevation height: 6500

Today is a big day in the world of Bike & Build. We awoke with British accents to the start of House of Cup, a scavenger hunt to find the winning champion and defeat the weaklings on our 6 day stretch into Arizona. The beauty of knowing nothing of Harry Potter and riding a bike for 6 hours with someone who does means I had a ye old story time tale for 7 chapters. Now all filled in, let the games begin.

New Mexico, you put the icing on the cake. Or should i say, a day that will be filed into an easy reach box in my memory. There is only one other place in my life that might compare to what I've seen today, and it was atop a high mountain in a far away land of New Zealand. We started out the morning In desert, wandering the wide windy roads to Aztac like land, with pasty yellow nobby hills sprinkled with green bubble blobs. A right turn onto 380 west and once again we are in another land. Chasing down a lightening storm we head towards the town Billy the Kid escaped from to find ourselves at the once a year Billy the Kid festival. Waiting out the storm on a white porch in the middle of this parade, I met Kay. Dressed in green turquoise, her wrists and ears lined with hand crafted silver, red mescal seeds hung from her neck radiating off her white blouse. She wore her proud long grey hair coiled tight in a bun. Her bright blue eyes and sun worn face with deep wrinkles told a story in itself, a story of love and hard work, and a tale of peace with the land.

What was upon us was, the trail end of the Rocky Mountains, at 6500 feet we panted for oxygen till the valley below us opened up. And then it was like riding off the crest of a waterfall, down into the valley of Switzerland, down to where the cacti look like fluffy teddy bears, the sun shown through the clouds as though Heaven was above on and on for 15 miles. It was the kind of day that you want to pocket, a picture doesn't do justice, a million saddle sores is worth, and silence is your best friend.

We arrive to a quaint town of Carizozo at the bottom on Mt Capitan. 1000 habitantS, an economically deprived town with nearly 2/3 of its entirety attending Free Thursdays Church dinners. However no amount of money could pay for the stunning sunsets here, the storms that light the sky only in July, and the red streaked sunrise we will see tomorrow.

Now with the remains of the storm in the distance I sleep under the starry sky angled in a row of the rubberized high school track rink. The clouds glisten under the moon, the wind blows a sweet peaceful breeze, the lightening still strikes in the distance, and the magical night make the imagination run wild. 

Day 48. Priceless.

Miles: 76
Me: driver of buggy with friendly company of tush broken Erin and cliff climber gone wrong Danielson.
Weather: the winds to our backs and 90 degrees.
Van days, icky. Scenery, stunning. Driving company, huggable. Sitting at lunch relaxingly reading as riders turn the corner, rolling up completely nude in laughter and sunburns, to earn a five fat points for House of Cup Competition, priceless!. Enjoy the photos. 

Day 49. Howdy hoedown

Miles: 85
Weather: all I was told was how miserably death defying unpleasantly hot the desert would be, and here we are, having suffered 114 degree, thunderstorms, hail lightening, and it's a perfect cloudy day of 81 degrees.
Elevation max: 8100ft
Elevation gain: 5000 ft of climbing

Back to technology, the desert does that with it stretches of pure solitude of cacti and brush for beyond miles of clear nothingness. It was the test Verizon VS AT&T. Neither won.

Destination Pie Town. And as much as I want to tell you about the national forest we passed through with purple mountains of jagged edges or the nearly 20 flats we suffered as a team, I have much much more terrific news. Pie Town speaks its name. Population 45. Just imagine a huge commune with a hostel on it, and that's where we were. Welcome to the toaster house, where the gate is literally draped in dead toasters, it's hippy land here, rainbow flowing dresses, Kombucha, cashew dressing, I think everyone here is high, and eating pies. We were told, bring the fruit, we'll bake the pie. And that was it, 15 pies, nutella banana, peach apple, strawberry rhubarb, pumpkin, the list goes on; Pie for breakfast pie for dinner by moley, it was epically delicious.

But onto more important topics, it was officially prom tonight, a day in the making for weeks and sure enough, the community center on Toaster commune was willing to host our extravagant howdy hoedown. We allowed one night of booze, with permission of our pie maker with orders to stock up in the town prior. Tell 33 twenty year olds to "stock up" and you have enough tequila rum, beer and bubbles to drink the town under. And then it started. Cowboys and Indians, 1980 pop stars, we had the ladies of old money, and the gangsters even a Bruce Springsteen.

After scrounging thrift stores for weeks we had quite the attire to make one think the cowboys had made friends with the natives of this land and the 1980s coincided with the 1960s. Live music by Holland himself, we drank and sang till the sky became magical.

So there I was, we all were, laughing our belts off down only 1 shot of tequila, 1 glass of champagne, 84 miles and 8100 ft elevation. That will end prom at an early 11pm, just in time for the towns people to lay down their guitars and head home sweet home with smiles. A nightly break beneath the starry sky in cowboy boots and full prom attire, flat on the dirt road, in complete aww of the universe we lay before Toaster house called us to bed. The stars actually twinkle here. This is one of thoes places you want to return to, with a good book, some hiking boots, a pie hunger craving to start friendly, and chatty conversations with the locals.

Day 50. Rocky Mountains Extend Westward
Miles: 74
Weather: 80 degrees, with a light and musical storm in the distance.
Elevation height: 7000

The desert is not flat; the Rocky Mountains well, we're in them and they extend all the way into Arizona. Guess I should have paid better attention in 7th grade geography. I am still looking for the Barron lands of cacti and 120 degrees, but now in Arizona we have hit the forest. California, I love you dearly, but these states have topped the charts. They are unexplainable in beauty and we don't want to leave. The altitude has hit us hard, us east and westerns, some never standing much above the sea. Buggy took care of party of sick bicyclists unable to eat and pedal further up the mountain.

Winding through the hills, canyons, and plateaus, we ran into fellow riders headed east with a story. A story, that one would find in a tale of fiction. Touring all over this world, this 88 year old man was smoking a cigarette next to his "wife" and fully loaded panniers and bicycle trailers wearing cargo shorts and s pair on brand new shinning white sneakers. Headed to Houston to "see a doctor" and "make a quick $5000", we all still question what was really in the trailers, he grew up in the circus, attended Duke, has 13 children, is a widow of 2 wives, has ridden from Alaska to Argentina, married his new wife, who was his student, was a professor of some subject none of us had heard of, and was nomadic; just him his bike and wife. I wouldn't have continued to listen in aww if the facts he pulled from his hat weren't true, but he could tell us anything about a bicycle and gear, and about any side road traveled from here to California and into the tip of Florida. And so, another character of complete oddity to add to the list.

Before traveling this adventure, I had come from a fairly educated background, with many preconceived judgements about my own country, its people and its landscapes. Now 3,000 miles in, thousands of people later, and mountains I never even know existed, this country is a little more generous, extremely curious, a lot more religious, a bit ridiculous, a lot poorer, and 100 times more beautiful than anything I was told or taught or read.
And so tonight we slept in Springerville Arizona on a grass turf football field in the only high school dome in the world.

Day 51. Whatever goes up goes down.

Miles: 85
Weather: the perfectest 80 that ever existed.
Elevation gain: 3500

Up Up Up means down down down. And at nearly 50 mph, the concept of two wheels, a styrofoam hat, and some welded aluminum doesn't quite instill a sense of deep trust. But careening down green and red plateaus the clouds hovering in reaching distance fears fade and the glory of nature takes over. We wish the days never end, and with enough food we could carry on through the forest effortlessly. Once again I fall in love with Odin who caries me deep into the west, seeing things many many citizens travel to countries elsewhere seeking what is really just in their own backyards.

It was a day of big trees and fresh crisp mountain air. The kind that makes one reevaluate life. Passing through the National forest White Mountains of Arizona for nearly 80 miles, the peaks of the west call me home. The scenery, so slightly changing are the views I finally know, the mountains that sphere upwards like the ones I grew up by and the road just takes us home westward.

Day 52. Smokey Bear's Birthday

Miles: 56
Me: buggy party
Weather: 80 degrees at 7500 ft 100 at 3500 ft

For the past week after leaving flat boring cop ladened Texas we have slowly made our way on a steady climb up the plateaus and steep ridges of the Rocky Mountains. Once again my turn to tow lunch around and on the day when all the hard work pays off, I'm in the van with a bug splattered window to peer put of. We hit the crest and an expansive 30 down hill free for all into the town of Payson Arizona. Passing riders in buggy and trailer, some had glances of pure concentration, other complete fear, and others trying to top the max speed a bicycle can hit.

We have been meandering through Arizona somehow without leaving national forests. It just never ends, and I question if the lengthy forest is because we are on rock hard plastic leather seats and 2 wheels for 130 miles of sweat and smiles for 2 days thus far or if really the rich mountain air and never ending row of trees extend into infinity.

3,000 miles today is the accomplished total, and it couldn't have been done without good company or urgent care visits. Saddle sores the size of ping pong balls, i thank my Specialized seat for treating me with respect. Bike shops, ice cream parlors, and even Mc Donalds have become scarce. But there definitely isn't a lack of locals yelling obscurities through car windows. The facts, Arizona, worst drivers, but it has his charming vibe despite that. There is no hiding the bitter remorse and resentment that still exists between the native Americans, but one thing that anyone can agree on is how absolutely gorgeous this state is. 

Day 53. Home is a light creamy pink.

Build Day Payson AZ

33 people, 8 hours, 2 houses, complete paint jobs inside and out. The organization is called Time Out, a shelter for abused mothers and women and Habitat of Payson donated us to them for the day. It was truly rewarding day, a non profit helping a non profit helping a non profit. The site and people are all confidential for their safety so unable to share their stories comes ours. Hovering high and low in an unventilated bathroom all day with a can of light cream paint, I wondered why when the day completed reality felt a little loopy. A day of brushed fumes will do that I suppose, but it makes a weed wacker quite an object of entertaining grassy fun.

The mountain town of Payson treated us so well. The bike shop reached out its arms in love, the radio demanded we share our stories, every market in town seemed to donate veggies, fruits, all the desired items we could fathom, the karaoke bar let us take over their joint, and topping the night off they provided a personal concert of a local singer and song writer. With narcolepsy setting in again, it is way past pillow time. 

Day 54. Sedona

Miles: 94
Weather: 111 degrees in the pit of camp Verde
Elevation gain: 4500

We play this game, it's called would you rather. The question of the day was: would you rather ride in 111 degree weather at 3500 feet, or 7500ft with hills and a temperate 80 knowing an 80 miles is to come still?

It started out, one of those days not your flavor. 8 weeks in, it hit me, we are almost done and as much as I love my new born family of 32, I am almost ready to re enter the world and do more than just Bike and Build. Ready to have the time to read the news again, or more than one sentence of a book without falling asleep, and shower with a real fluffy fill size towel. I think every muscle ached today, and with that at 7am we climbed from 3500ft to an air gasping 7500 ft in a short straight up of 20 miles. Yes, one of those days when you dig into your soul to find some strength to not give up, call the van and pretend you have altitude sickness. I think I dug all the way to my stomach, but I found some willpower to not give up there.

The only thing that kept me going was team Flower Power, strapped with our book pointing out Arizona wildflowers. Our team of 4 stopped at reds, yellows, whites, pinks, an oranges. You see what you want to see, in life, in people, and in the millions of wildflowers alongside the right white line. Our updates to riders by were knowledgable facts on the importance of warmth for shoes from the leaves of these fiddler flowers as well as the Fire Pinwheels and use of the Silverleaf Nightshade to curdle milk in making cheese.

The nearly 16 miles down the back side of the mountain at mile 40 gave me a boost, descending down to normal breathing levels. Unfortunately, the giant mountain in the near distance erupted curse words from my mouth knowing what goes down 3000ft in a mere 15 minutes goes back up in hours. To top this all we not only hit a brake like headwind veering down the mountain, but also a cloud of fire, a death pit of heat that rose to 111 degrees in the valley below.

I chose the former, I'll take oxygenated air any day with any temperature. Finally, my bike and this lay of the land could be friends for the day. After a free vanilla ice cream that melted before I could get 5 licks, I was refueled with a sugar rush and ready to beat this day. Coming into Sedona, let's just say add it to your life long list of things to see. Despite the yuppy Disneylandic scene beneath the canyon walls, it is one of those experiences, shrinking down to the size of an ant, the red stripped colored hills, majestic it could 1/2 be called, where the words from your mouth and the tiredness from your legs disappears. Suddenly the earth becomes alive, and we are simple tiny moving specks in relation.

Lying awake tucked in my sleeping bag under the starry night filled with meteors, wild bores oinking their vicious grunts run through the church parking lot, and off I run to sleep on the carpet of Red Rock Community Church under a ceiling of white drywall.

Day 55. A farewell in flagstaff

Miles: 35
Weather: 80 degrees
Elevation gain: 2500 Ft

35 miles, 11 hours, two phrases that should never go together. Our shortest day yet and we were told by locals it was because we were about to climb a mountain straight to the top. And it was worth every switchback. Looking down at the windy road it was as if one had woven a string along the trees trailing far into the distance. So we averaged a slow 3 mph, we could have walked it, but not with our 2 river swim stops, a 40 foot cliff jump into a lake, 3 scenic over lookout stops, a hot tub at the Hampton Inn, and the final finale celebration to farewell one of our beloved riders. Nick A. made the stand filled with champagne and a posse of 32, we filled the streets of Flagstaff failing to find a salt lake to resemble the pacific ocean, but still making his last day epic. There comes a time when real life, aka grad school, takes president over Bike & Build, and his time had come. His speech, holding proud his American Flag, was there are some experiences in life no one else understands expect those who cross the path with you... You can guess the rest, as we nearly all stood in tears.

Day 56. A starry Night

Build Day Flagstaff AZ

I want to say, after biking across the country I could talk your ear off about how to fix a bicycle, but instead, I could really tell you any ailments buggys partner, mrs trailer had, where the trailer repair stores stretching from Maine to California, and how to sledge hammer a jack back into place.

Instead of building today, I was on trailer duty to get it fixed before we hit the bottomless nothing of Nevada. We are 2 brake systems in, 3 jacks later, but running strong now thanks to Bills Welding. If you can't fix it, just weld it off. Coach Collin tried to offer collateral of his $100 Pulsar watch to borrow a new jack while attempting to find a welder in town. They were happier with our credit card.

Flagstaff is quite the fun bunch of a town. With a mix of good food, local beers, murals, and local art, the locals all love the outdoors, their bikes and skis, beneath the forested mountains.
The night turned into a walk to the observatory that discovered the mystery planet Pluto and a long night staring at stars.

Day 57. Land of no service

Off to the land, deep in a canyon where technology cannot penetrate. It is called the Grandest Canyon in the West. With stories to come in a few days.

Miles: 72
Weather: 95 degrees

Day 58. The grandest

Day off # 3 grand canyon

Miles: 12 hiking to plateau point 3000 feet into the canyon.
Weather: 95 at peak, 120 degrees at bottom

There aren't many things that bring me to tears, and I've even been to this fine canyon land before. It could have been the dehydrated excitement that brought tears of lemon lime gatorade to my eyes. 95 degrees and chills, goosebumps ran down my sun loved arms. Expansive greatness, as if the world had a gaping wound miles deep, the word grand puts it to shame. Suddenly as if our timely existence, worldly desires, are glanced at through the wider and wiser beyond human glasses of life.

So far I think I have met 80% French, 10% Germans and 10% Americans here. We are the campsite with a pile of guitars, chamois hanging from trees and 7 tents. I have never seen so many early 20 year olds so willingly eager to rise to a 4:30 alarm clock on their day off. But that was the consensus to see the sunrise.

Did I ever mention we were a bit crazy? Of course after seeing the sunrise, we need to explore the canyon on a epic hike. Some of the more sane folks hiked a nice 3 miles and then hit the cafes for brunch. Others, unarmed with neither first aid kits or maps decided despite warnings to hike the whole canyon in one day, a 16 mile 5000 ft elevation gain. There was no doubt we could do it, but it was a feat. The rest of us, including myself, decided to transverse the canyon to a pleasant plateau that had breathtaking views along with breathtaking cliffs.

Walking right up to the edge it was as though dinosaurs lived down there. The river a dirty paintbrush brown, or as Collin put it, Chocolate milk flavor.

Day 59. Williams AZ

Miles: 59
Weather: 85 and hail in the afternoon
Me and Buggy: with Tom Petty coming through the speakers

Awoke with legs as though I had never ridden a bike before, with muscles aching deep within tendons I never knew existed, boy was I ever happier to be the Captain of Buggy today. We had to leave our lovely world of starry nights and deep canyon lands, off to somewhere on the map called Williams. Lined up by height, we broke up into riding groups, shortest to the tallest.

After 10 flat tires, routed on the historic 66 we arrived at this musical, BBQing, neon lite, touristy, stuck in the 1960s, quaint, and lively town built into the forest. Habitat for humanity of Williams, begged? Demanded? not sure which one, but we offered to build with them, and being who we are and what we do we couldn't say no, even after a near 60 miles. So our plans were set, lunch, then paint a shed. It was all set up, until nature got in the way, dumping hail the size of paint balls. And that was that, another year.

Most excitingly though our Thursday mail drop included a package from the fancy office of Bike & Build itself. An envelope stuffed full of grant request, 19 in total, $130,000 worth of wishes and desires for money to build houses and change lives, and here we were a bunch of 20 something year olds biking ridiculous amounts of miles given the opportunity to divvy out these funds. Over the course of the next 9 days we will read their proposals, some from Habitats we've build with, others from just in need of extra grants, all almost asking up to $10,000 and decide where to send all the money you readers have all donated. This entire adventure became full circle tonight. And thank you again for all your support.

Day 60. Monolithic tourism

Miles 46
Weather: jacket weather

With a day of 46 miles and a lazy wake up of 6am, we didn't quite know what to do with ourselves. And then, 9:30am we roll into our distinction Silgman, and really didn't know what to do with ourselves.

Oh dear, just 5 minutes in this town and I was ready to leave. Population 450, school runs only Monday-Thursday here, and the graduating class was a whopping 12 students. Now there is nothing wrong with this, but killing a whole day in a town where there are only 10 route 66 tourist stops, 1/2 a grocery store, motorcycles and tourists speaking only French judging American culture by this monolithic tourism is a headache waiting to happen. Silgman, once a booming town connecting the east and the west of AZ, has now falling to the sad fate of interstate 40 that veers away from any needs of this towns existence. Why do tourists even flock here, well because it is the town the movie Cars is based on of course.

So the day consisted of a fabulous bite of pancakes at second breakfast in a quaint cafe in town, a 2 hour nap, hair cuts for all the boys in our personal yellow lawn chair, aka my salon, dinner donated by the burger joint in town, and falling asleep to the sunset on a football field.

Day 61. Mohave is a desert

Miles: 90
Weather: Desert average 102

Sadly we are leaving the beautiful state of Arizona, and it shows. But before we hit the Mohave desert and the armpit of east California, we passes through beautiful jagged rocks jetting upwards like large oversized pebbles. Roaring trains followed us all day 139 train cars long seated between to pointy mountains. We hit the hot Mojave as though we were breathing into a blow dryer of hot air. After riding through rumble strips all day with a wind plummeting into our faces, chatting about a food that dont pair with both cheese and chocolate, we lay dead at an abandoned route 66 gas station.

We headed straight to In and Out burgers in Kingman. You'd think the who team was riding to get fresh burgers not the pacific ocean.

Kingman showed signs of the dreaded town I ran from 9 years ago, LOs Angeles, Faces caked in make up, girls roaming the streets in booty yoga pants, and a town with car fetishes and rolling cement sprawl. I don't think AT&T knew Arizona was a state, for 10 days I struggled to find a single tiny cell bar for service, yet now just miles from Nevada state line, we are back in to 3G. I'll give it to our kind host though who cooked us a lovely dinner, and went out of his way to cater to our every need.

Day 62. Brown brown brown

Miles: 75
Weather: it said 105, but felt like 115.
Elevation gain: 4800ft

Who would ever guess after a grueling day of 12 miles down hill through a brown mountain almost topping the speed limit signs, to then find ourselves climbing back out of the brown canyon in 105 baron brown mountains that I would find one of the most generous friendly towns with a whooping population of 800 in searchlight NV.

There isn't much in this town, a mcdonalds, gas station, and casino. With nothing in sight for a 50 mile radius, we were stuck here, so I begged and pleaded with the owner of the only motel explaining our lovely stranded situation. All we really needed was a donated room for all 33 of us and one shower. He generously gave us 3!

So there we were eating cold pasta for dinner, watching real housewives of NJ in a bed at 4pm. But only 70 miles from Vegas of course there was our Vegas crew, a party of 26, decked out in high heels, and floral paradise shirts, drinking Bud Light, waiting for their personalized bus to pick them up, drive 70 miles north and hit the town of Vegas for the first time. All except me of course, and the youngsters, and the two smart ones. Been to Vegas once, saw enough to satisfy that need for a lifetime and with 101 miles in 110 degrees, a 5am wake up and 2pm bus ride back, I definitely opted to spend the evening in Searchlight.

Who would have guessed, the proud grandma party pooper of 6 found there way to the weekly community horse shoe competition, where the town fell in love with us. Not only did they whip out their wallets of $130 in donations to our cause, but invited us to play, handed us all you can drink gatorade and offered us a personal escort out of town at sunrise.

Now the 6 of us watch the sun set over a rainbow and lay in a bed watching crappy TV. Closest to normal I think we've come in 10 weeks.

Day 63. Delirious desert

Miles: 101, 120, 140. (read on)
Weather: 114 degrees, handlebars too hot to touch, skin frying, tires meltinG, heat rashes, and 400 oz of water.
Elevation gain 4000 ft
Miles on dirt like road: 30

You'll have to excuse this post, the desert kind of gets under your skin and sucks the water that connects the neurons out. But it started out with 10 cent bottomless coffee at the Nugget Casino, 6:30am.

The famous national rowing champion Taylor and co leader Morgan were my partners in crime riding buddies, ready to tackle the desert today. You see it was my van day, but completely sober and rested, I opted to ride and give the hurting and dehydrated from the Vegas adventure the privilege of driving buggy.

It kind of spiraled when Taylor, anxious about not being in her boat for 10 weeks needed to go "fast" today. Much faster than neither of us, nor our whole team could pedal. So we set her up for sprints, as long as she was in sight, she sprinted out and back to us as we trudged along. This turned into a fun game for us all, creating training plans and having her execute them to perfection. Morgan and I started to question, how many miles with all these back and forths would she do by the arrival into Baker. We guessed 140, and when Taylor overheard this, it became a goal. Crazy I know, but if anyone was in shape it was her, if anyone knew their limits better it was her, and so she never left our sight for safety reasons obliviously when your biking through the Mojava at an already 101 mile stretch. Loaded with over 200oz of water, candy, GU, bars, we were ready. Her newfound coaching crew wanted to see her reach her new goal she was so stoked about.

We passed into CA at mile 22, with no state sign, nothing to celebrate our feat with except a leaving Nevada billboard. It was pathetic, and i know California i broke, but it is the grand state of almond trees, oranges, movie stars, and hellish deserts. Now, 6 days left and 280 miles, I can already smell the salt air.

How this epic day played out, well, we got to the host, at 115 miles for Taylor, and 102 for me. We had gained a new coach, Coach co leader Collin, who completely thrilled with Taylor's accomplishment, kept me good company as Taylor spirited along ahead. Completely demolishing the gas stations ice and slurpy machine, we headed back up the road we came down, for 12 miles, a 24 mile out and back.

She did it, 140 miles. And myself at 122, I still loved my bike, but was ready to lay down. It was Epic. It wasnt about the 140 miles in extreme temperatures, it was about pushing yourself to mental limits and realizing potentials. Yes, the desert makes you nuts, delirious, exhausted, and invigorated at the same time. We passes through the national mojava preserve all day, cradled between two massive mountains, the land looking like the sea, open roads that cars hadn't touched for years, pavement that has been laid in the 1940s, heat waves that come out of the oven when your roasting potatoes at 500 degrees, and a botanical dreamworld that makes the Lorax trees come to life.

Day 64. The zero mile day.

Miles: 0
Weather: Hell moved into Baker CA.

There are few things that could ever go wrong on Bike & Build. Hosts could fall through, we could get lost, we could even ditch Mr. Trailer on the side of the road. We really can handle anything I think, camping at gas stations, 120 degree days, straight peanut butter for lunch, it wouldn't be pretty, but we'd make it. The one possible thing that could go wrong is someone get seriously injured.

We had known about the Baker Barstow stretch for months, the lonely interstate that is the sole road stretching through the baron brown expansive dry dirt. It is illegal to ride on interstates in the state of CA unless there is no other route. There is, one other road, a dirt road, 70 miles out of our way. So that means, it is illegal to bicycle on this 60 mile stretch. We looked high and low for all options. Rerouting through Death Valley, or south through Victorville, each failing us with their own shortcomings of either 200 miles of deserted mess with no water or shade or 130 degree temps and altitudes below sea level. We looked at rerouting our route for days to the north or south around this single track of interstate 15, but to avail.

So was the plan to just ride, and tell the cop our pathetic story, that they should build more roads out here, that they should understand we have biked 3500 miles and this single 60 miles is the only break in our entire cross county trip. We debated for days, weeks, on what to do.

It came down to some fearful words from past riders, scared of the trucks wising by at 75mph. Horror Stories of shuttling riders on the side of the hwy because the cops would not let the ride another mile.

And so we made a rather sad decision. There is only one thing that could go wrong on Bike & Build and that is someone gets injured. With that said, the 60 miles of the pathetic 6 feet shoulder of the transient route from Los Angels to Vegas was not worth it. And so 8 am we loaded everyone in buggy, strategically loaded bikes in trailer and shuttled people all morning through this sad stretch.

It ended in Barstow at 1pm, a town that is a sad pothole in the middle of a desert. A dreary introduction to California we've had. Our host is also a shelter and opens its loving arms to us in a town of solely motels and fast food joints.

Day 65. The Last Century

Miles: 100 even
Weather: very un-California desert like, being chased by a thunderstorm all day.

Arriving in Portland Maine nearly 10 weeks ago, I was a California snob, thinking my state was superior to all, that our fruits were fresher, our coastlines more beautiful, our forests more expansive, our deserts more baron, our people more progressive, and our culture more diverse. Now 3 days into my homeland and I feel bitterly wronged. Ehh, what is this strip of South Eastern Cali that I never knew? Pathetic roads so ridden with potholes you'd think the state was broke. Oh yeah, it is. Prisons so big that they looked via bike as though they encompassed the entire town. I knew on the other side of the mountains south of my view was Los Angeles, my childhood home, and I wasn't thrilled for some reason. I was no longer excited about the new roads to be discovered, or the towns that were to come. Palmdale, CA, our destination of the day, a desert where people have bright green lawns all year long thanks to the people who make it possible to pump water from hundreds of miles away. And thank god, praise the lord, more In and Out burger joints and authentic Mexican food too spicy to eat.

Ok, simply because Bike & Build routed us through the absolute ugliest part of the state, I won't get too down on you Cali. I know Santa Barbara's beauty will revive us and my faith in you as my home that surpasses other lonely 4-8 letter states. That you do rein awesome, despite the close affair I had with Arizona, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania.

I can't say I saw much of anything spectacular today, I have no inspiring words of beauty to report. However, after getting lost, and clocking in a 97 miles at the host, we circled the block with sprinklers blasting to top it off as our last century ride.

Although California has disappointed me, allowing me to hide my pride from others, our host these next two days makes up for any abandonment my state left us with. AV Youth Build it is called, an organization created to offer kids, aged 16-24, from roughed up backgrounds and families to have the opportunities to learn about construction and building, and then build affordable houses in the communities. Many of them live on site, and work not only to rebuild the lives of others, but themselves as well. So I guess something grand has come out of this day after all.

Pictures below are of Bottle Tree Ranch, a glass bottle sculpture ranch we passed on route 66 into town.

Day 67. The countdown begins.

Miles: 46
Weather: Sunny in Southern CA

It's all coming back to me, what I love about CA. I can see green edibles again. A table spread with broccoli, I think I even forgot what spinach was. Oranges that could make a lifetime supply of juice, grapes that have flavor. Gosh, the poor rest of the nation deprived of fresh taste sensations.

I wouldn't say Valencia, CA is much of a town. It is a small city, attached to a metropolis, nothing like we've seen since St. Louis. A mall? Cars and 5 lane streets that would make you think your in a race car arena. After a muscle burning 20 mile down hill through the beautiful desert canyons of Los Angeles, my home, love it or not is calling me. After indulging in fistfuls of watermelons and oranges, and arrays of taste bud clenching colors of the rainbow. With the excitement over almost, and a sadness that my people must disperse back to normal life with a few handful of hours, it is time to take Coach Collin out and make not only a birthday toast, but many toasts to many days of laughter and heartache.

Day 68. 24 hours

Miles: 35
Weather: California coastal fog.
Me: transporter of dirty chamois and oranges.

Santa Paula, CA. Now I know where all the oranges from our trip have been coming from. Santa Paula, orange Capitol of California, has an American Main street with a spanish flare.

Less than 18 hours we will be standing on the Pacific Ocean with 4000 miles behind us in complete unreal emotional hurrah. Driving by my people in buggy today, it all hit me like, well like a cold wave of the Pacific. Soon enough, no longer will I ever walk into gas stations, restaurants, coffee shops, corn fields, churches, with a posse of 31 others close behind. I will no longer sit on the side of the road in complete content, if my people are there, then home is there, no need to be anywhere else. I will no longer share a bedroom with 31 others or enjoy weekly homemade cookies from 31 other moms. Never again will we be in the same room all together. Each off to explore the world on their own, make their own adventures, find their dreams, and test their own limits. But the beauty, taking away a summer, a family, a life long story. And then time goes on to new and exciting adventures and challenges that continue to teach us to grow as make our life book that much more readable.

The countdown begins. And here are a few funny photos we have been with holding from you all. Let's just say when you live on a bicycle funny crazy things happen.

Day 69. The End

4000 miles. It didn't seem real. Beside the minor fiasco with 60 parents calling us frantically at mile 35, 1/2 at the trailer, the other half 3 miles down the beach, both groups begging us to come to each of their locations. 20 phone calls later we calmed everyone down, waited a good hour and let them reconvene by buggy. Thinking that the world would end by the tone of their desperate voices, we patiently waited in hangery state (a famished state of hungry that leads to anger). Despite this, it was the last 5 miles and they were pure glory, it was finally happening. The heard packed together, rode in singing our theme song, screaming bike and build, reality had offically set in. Onto the bike path to the beach we rode right by all the excited parents. They were on hug timeout till our trip came to fruition. Storming the ocean like a heard of wolfs hunting down a feast for a dinner, we ran full force into the freezing saltwater. It was a feeling that could not be described, kind of like the whole world of Bike & Build itself. And that was that. 10 weeks, 32 new family members, 4000 miles, a restored love for our country, it was all over.

After 15 bottles of a champagne celebration, we headed to our last home up one last huge hill, probably the steepest we hit thus far. A fistful of farewells, tears flowed, hearts saddened, this adventure was complete.

Oh the places we go, as Dr. Suess would say. My last speech to our riders no longer was one of the details of the day, but inspiring words to take into the future, to never give up on dreams, to work to lend a hand when needed, and to love life fully and never stop laughing. Luckily the west coast, despite it's awful CA entry had impressioned riders for the best. And so, now 7 soul searching youngsters are moving to San Francisco and thus pack rejoins with force in days and months to come.

On a final note, a review of the best and worst of a bicycle and our country.

Best Tires: Gaterskin Hardshell, although some will argue armadillos
Best sunscreen: Surfing sunscreen made with zinc. My lack of tan lines are proof.
Most flats: 41 by Adam
Least number of flats: 1 by miraculous Meg
Longest day: 109 miles
Hottest day: 118 with heat index
Favorite State: close tie, but probably Arizona
Worst state: New York by far
Worst drivers: Arizona
Worst paved roads: Massachusetts California and Texas
Most hills: new Mexico
Flattest: Texas
Coldest: Maine
Most weight lost: 35lbs
Most weight gained: thanks to all the cookies. 12lb
Average hours of sleep: 5
Average hours on the bike: 9
Number of build days: 13
Total amount raised: $165,000
Most generous host: Friona Texas
Number of states crossed: 19
Longest day on the bike: 15 hours

Thank you all for reaching you hands out to us and supporting us through thick and thin, rain storm and drough.

Ciao till the next big adventure life takes you in.

Thank you for reading, and sticking with all my typos and word messes. After 69 blog posts types solely on an iPhone I can proudly say, I am a good typer now. Thank you for all your support and helping our cause, and reading the blog so each night laying on a sleeping bag exhausted, i had a reason to write. And never stop dreaming and laughing and loving.

Ciao till the next big adventure
-Kristen Gentilucci