Well, the time has come. I am currently en route to Atlantic Beach (just outside of Jacksonville) to meet my team, with whom I will spend the next two and a half months.
So I just wanted to welcome you to my blog and say thanks for following and supporting the project. A special thank you to everyone who donated in support of Bike & Build. In all honesty, without your support this trip would not be possible. Your donations are given directly to affordable housing associations in four different ways:
1) Competitive grant application process (any affordable housing NGO can apply)
2) Rider-designated beneficiaries (I get to pick an org to give $500)
3) On-the-road donations (allowing our hosts and others supporters pick an org of their choice to give $100)
4) Pre-arranged contributions
In this blog, I want to share several different things. I want to share the overall experience of the riding, share what I have learned about our country’s culture, share what I have learned about the affordable housing problem from an up-close perspective throughout the country, and show where your donation is going (and hope that you continue to support the org in the future!).
The overall experience of riding will obviously be a main topic I focus on. When I am exhausted and sore after a cool 100 mile ride inArizonain the July heat, I may not be able to think about much else besides my bicycle. This will be the biggest physical challenge of my life (besides being a 5’6”, 140 pound freshman on the high school football team!). I want you to FEEL how it is to ride across theUS, averaging over 70 miles per ride day, for two and a half months. I will try to do this without getting into too many disgusting details, but you get the point.
Over the past 5 years, I have developed a passion for traveling. When I’m not traveling, I am usually thinking about traveling. A huge part of this passion comes from learning about cultures. The first time I lived outside the country, I had an internship inLondonand worked in a company with people from all over the world. “You mean, you guys don’t watch American football or baseball? You don’t even know the rules? But you watch something you call football (soccer) and cricket. Isn’t cricket just baseball with a lot more confusing terms and rules? And you hardly even score in soccer!” Well, after you learn why they think the way they do, you can start to appreciate things in different ways. Something that is normal for you might be the weirdest thing for someone else just because they live in another country, culture, whatever. Why do people inPerueat guinea pig? (Besides for the fact that it’s delicious)
So I have to admit, I have been unnecessarily rude to theUS. Going to countries far, far away but never taking the time to really get to know my own country. Never been toTexas,California, orLouisiana, but have been toNew Zealand,Hungary, andBolivia. Well, what better way to get to know a country than to do it on bike? And from what I have seen in the south so far, this place is different from where I grew up. The food, the accent, the music, the lifestyle. I cannot wait to really understand what it means to be from the South. To talk to the locals, to try the foods (how about some chicken fried steak, grits, okra, along with some sweet tea?), to make new friends. To be honest, I picked the south route because I will visit many states I’ve never been to. This is contrary to popular belief that it was for the spring-like days inTexasin July! Ha! So this will be another big writing topic for me.
Because the purpose of the bike trip is for the affordable housing cause, I will be learning every day about the problem, the cause, and what we can do to alleviate it. Every day, we will be talking to people in communities. Talking to people who need the housing, talking to people who work for the NGOs, talking with people who are already living in affordable housing, talking with locals who have no idea that there is a problem. We’ll be learning a lot, and it will be first hand. For example, did you know that families are normally expected to work 500 hours of “sweat equity” with the Habitat for Humanity before they can move into their home? Habitat isn’t just giving houses away for free. Everyone is working together on this.
Finally, talking about my experiences with Habitat and the other organizations gives you a good idea of where your donation is going. I hope this inspires you to get more involved with the affordable housing cause by continuing to support them with volunteering or more financial support.
So I sit here writing in the Days Inn in rural southernGeorgia, just a few more hours of driving before getting toAtlanticBeach. I just got home a few weeks ago after 8 months inSouth America. I quickly got my new bike, bought all of the needed gear (who knew that one needs so much gear for biking??), and put in some training hours. I was just getting used to a normal bed, but tonight is the last time I’ll have a bed for a while. After this, almost every night will be on a Therm-a-rest and in my $35 sleeping bag. Tomorrow, I meet my 25 teammates and we have 2 days of orientation and then a build day. Finally, on Saturday, we start the journey. We start with a cool 32 mile day, followed by a 43 mile day, and finally up it to 75 miles. After this, there is no slowing down.
Thanks again for the support! I hope you will keep up with the trip throughout the summer.