Monday, September 13, 2010

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Tetons

Yeah, I went over those.

 My Teton Pass-climbing buddies, Liz and Brittany, with me on top of the mountain.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

We love you, Paige.

 For those of you who haven't heard, here's what's been going on.

One of our leaders, Paige Hicks, passed away this past Tuesday, July 20, as she was struck by a truck carrying an oversized load in South Dakota. Thankfully the other ride who was with her at the time was unharmed.

More information about what happened and about the steps that Bike & Build is taking can be found here.

Thank you so much for keeping our group, and all of Paige's family and friends, in your thoughts and prayers. The outpouring of support we have received is such a blessing. Right now I'm just struggling to make sense of it all - it doesn't seem possible that someone so full of life and presence could have been taken from us so suddenly.

We're currently in Chadron, NE and will be taking a bus to St. Louis, MO for the funeral on Monday. We then plan to skip about a week of our route to get back on schedule in Wyoming. The bonds we have formed as a group are hard to explain in a way that would do them justice, but we are finding strength in one another. I believe that the best way for us to heal is to stay together and continue on this journey as the family that we are.

"And now, Harry, let us step out into the night and pursue that flighty temptress,'s the unknown we fear when we look upon death and darkness, nothing more."

All my love to everyone. Please stay safe wherever you are.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

the other side of the Mississippi

Hello from Mt. Vernon, Iowa! How to summarize the last week...I'm going to do bullet points and no pictures this time, to make sure it gets done.

-To paraphrase Anthony, who has a penchant for getting lost, "Even when you're going the wrong way, you're exactly where you're supposed to be." Being able to experience the country from the seat of a bicycle is an experience unlike any other, and even the toughest miles are worth it because they're all part of the journey. It's amazing to see the landscape change as we go - from rolling hills and even mountains to flatter and flatter fields of corn and soy. We're now on roads that stretch on for miles and a car passes us maybe every ten minutes - perfect for biking side-by-side and having in-depth conversations with fellow riders.

-We got to stay in a dorm at Kenyon College and we had real beds with sheets!! It felt like staying in a hotel. Also, they have a great dining hall. Yum. On the ride that day we passed a horse and buggy and ate lunch at a firehouse where we took pictures with the fire truck because we get excited about the same things as ten-year-olds do.

-The ride to Dayton, Ohio was confusing - we went around in circles trying to get out of Columbus for a while and then had to cross a highway to get to a bike path. We had a fantastic lunch surprise from the parents of someone who had done the Southern US route, and got to enjoy BBQ pulled pork in a veritable oasis - a beautiful old farmhouse in the midst of cornfields and hay bales. Once we got there, Dayton was awesome. We stayed at Sinclair Community College, which is one of the top community colleges in the country and has a crucial impact on those in the area who have been faced with unemployment, as it has allowed them to go back to school and completely change careers. That weekend, there was a folk festival going on, so we went down to the riverfront and walked around for a while. The city was actually a lot of fun to explore, and we found some cool restaurants and shops, including a fantastic used book store called Bonnett's Books where Anthony and I spent about an hour and a half.

-We had a build day in Dayton, where we put up drywall in a Habitat house. I was too short to be of much use on the ceiling, but the walls were fair game. We finished probably about half of the house and got to work alongside the homeowner, Christie. That night, the local Habitat chapter got us awesome seats to the fireworks display, which was a really good show. We ended the night with a euphoric (if off-key) rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner.

-Best 4th of July OF ALL TIME. Our first century (ended up being about 103 miles) and we passed the 1,000 mile mark of our trip, as well as the Indiana state line (marked by a lovingly hand-painted wooden sign). We started the day with a police escort out of the city at about 6:30 a.m. - someone remarked that we were the first 4th of July parade in the country. We even had a dog that a dog started running in front of the police for at least a mile. After we were dropped off at a bike path, we burst into another round of the national anthem as Gabe waved the flag. Team Hailey (the affectionate nickname of the group I rode with that day) had a great day of singing and telling stories. It got almost unbearably hot by the afternoon, though, and we had this wonderful moment somewhere in the home stretch where we were just sitting in the middle of a gas station island putting ice in our Camelbaks, in our clothes, anywhere that would help us cool off.

-We finished Indiana in two short days and headed over to Gilman, Illinois. The headwinds have been picking up and it's pretty discouraging to be pedaling as hard as you can and feel like you're not getting anywhere - especially when the roads are straight and flat enough to see the destination from miles away! On the other hand, at one point we caught a tailwind and cruised along at 20 miles per hour with little to no effort, providing a much-needed ego-boost.

-Day off in Pontiac, IL. Honestly, I mostly slept and wandered around the town - it was completely uneventful but exactly what my body needed to recover a bit. Pontiac has some swinging bridges, murals, a Route 66 museum, and a statue of Lincoln outside of the courthouse.

-Yesterday we crossed the Mississippi River into Iowa! Now it really feels like we've gotten far along in our journey. That day was supposed to be a 90-mile day, but I ended up with 99 miles, so I biked loops around a cul-de-sac until I reached 100. I also got an awesome surprise that day - my good friend Marc from the Saxtet, who did the same route in 2006, came down and biked the last bit of the day with us! We've had a few alums bike with us so far; I love the fact that people who have done Bike & Build are still so excited about it and about their friends participating in it. That evening we got completely massacred by a group of kids in dodgeball. No joke. We had about three times as many players, and were bigger than them, and they were absolutely terrifying. Still a lot of fun, even if I am hopeless at throwing and catching. I'm okay at dodging, which is important.

-Now I'm in Mt. Vernon, Iowa. Had a funny moment this morning when the group I was riding with realized that a crop duster plane was flying low over the road directly toward us. It looked like it was headed straight for us, so we all freaked out a bit and slowed down. Of course then the plane started ascending again and we could see the pilot laughing at waving. We all laughed for a good five minutes about how we had all just panicked. We also got our second downpour of the entire trip today! It didn't last long but we got good and soaked, which cooled things off quite a bit (and cleaned some of the grime and Gatorade off of my bike).

We're in the midst of a tough week - lots of long mileage days between our last day off and our next build day in Sioux City. My bike and body are both holding up well so far (knock on wood) apart from minor soreness. Hopefully I'll post some more pictures soon! Until then you can check out everyone's pictures on the Bike & Build website under our P2S route tracker.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Build day in Youngstown, OH

Today we had our first build day since Providence. We shuttled over in the van to a street with four beautiful Habitat for Humanity houses - three finished and one unfinished. The unfinished one, which we were scheduled to work on, was the closest to completion I've ever seen; in fact, we were the last volunteer group scheduled to work on the house! All that was left when we were done were finishing touches like blinds and carpet.

I worked with Anthony, Mary, and Gabe, putting up soffit and fascia. Soffit is the underside of the roof overhang and fascia is the trim on the edge of the roof. Mary and I mostly measured and cut while Anthony nailed the stuff up and Gabe contributed his technical expertise. At one point I volunteered to go on the roof to hold up the long pieces of fascia, which was exciting. The four of us had a great time singing songs, from slow jams to Disney tunes, and generally laughing like crazy. I'm proud of the work we did - we were as precise as possible (measure twice, cut once!) and the finished product looked very professional.

Others in the group worked on moulding, painting, caulking, doorknobs, and other details. Monica, the executive director of the local Habitat chapter, was extremely helpful and friendly and had even done a cross-country bike trip several years ago, so it was fun talking to her. It was really satisfying knowing that, when we finished, the house was basically complete except for carpet and landscaping. I wish we could have met the homeowner - apparently she really wanted to be there, but since it was Monday, she had to work. All in all a successful day, despite the brief downpour in which our sneakers (and just about everything else) became caked with mud.

Here are some pictures from the day! Though I managed not to be in any of them...

 Anthony nails up soffit in the rain.

 With the sun out again, Anthony puts the final touches on soffit while Mary holds the ladder.

Justine cuts a piece of moulding.


Theise and Noam install a doorknob.

Roof edge before...

...and roof edge after. Look, the sky is even bluer now that we're done!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Here in Youngstown

Brittany demonstrates our favorite sign.

Yesterday we rode into Franklin, PA. The ride was pretty flat and we even got to ride on a bike path for a while! Unfortunately I had a really stupid fall on the bike path, in which I was deeply absorbed in a story I was telling and didn't realize that I was going off the edge of the path. Of course when I tried to get back on the path, I just went down hard. My bike is fine, and so am I - just a little bruised. It was my first fall on my road bike, so I guess it had to happen sometime! We got into Franklin early enough to relax - I lay on the grass in the park for a while and it felt delicious. That night, we all went to a place called the Celtic Cafe, where the awesome owner/bartenders gave us all free t-shirts. We essentially took over the back room and just had a blast hanging out and singing along with the jukebox. Someone else on the trip made a comment about realizing every day how awesome it is that we're doing this. It felt like last night was a celebration of all that - every evening, I'm exhausted, but so happy to be where I am with all of these amazing people and to have made it through another day.

Theise and me at the Ohio state line

As of today, it truly feels like we are on our way. Crossing into Ohio marked the first state I had never been to before, and meant that we were no longer on the East Coast, but in the Midwest. Definitely felt like a milestone. Today was so hot and humid, though, that the ride wasn't as enjoyable as those of the last few days. Nevertheless, having been fortified with double my usual PB&Js at lunch, I made it to Youngstown. The funny thing about PB&Js is that, even though we eat them every single day for lunch, rather than getting sick of them, I actually like them more and more each day. After my body has been working hard all day, they're somehow more satisfying than any other meal could hope to be.

So far Youngstown seems completely deserted - I haven't really seen anyone in town except the wonderful folks from the Youngstown State University Catholic center who fed us dinner. St. Paul's Episcopal Church, where we're staying, is a majestic stone building resembling a castle. I got chills when I stepped into the stunning sanctuary, all stone and wood and stained glass. We haven't seen much else of the town, besides the abandoned campus, but it definitely seems like an economically depressed area. I hope to get more of a sense of the place tomorrow at our build day - the first one since Providence! It'll be a relief to have a day off the saddle and a real treat to sleep in till - wait for it - 7:30.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Hello from Warren, PA

Well, I've been on the road with Bike & Build for 10 days now, and we've made it to Warren, PA. It's been a blast so far - definitely physically challenging, but the people in the group are all so fantastic and fun and interesting that it gets me through even the toughest days.

The trip began with a three-day orientation in Providence, in which I learned to change a flat tire and painted the interior of a Habitat house. We headed out on the 15th after dipping our wheels in the "Atlantic Ocean" near the Brown boathouse. It was strange feeling like I was finally leaving Brown and Providence for good this time. There are four of us from Brown on the trip, pictured below in front of some reservoir in Connecticut.

L-R: me, Paige, Chaz, Theise

So what's a typical day on the road like? We wake up at 6 (or earlier if we have a long day) and have our stuff packed and out at the trailer by 6:30. Breakfast and get ready by 7:00. Clean the host site, pump up tires, and leave by 7:30. We head out in small groups (usually two to six riders) and go at our own pace throughout the day. Lunch happens somewhere around halfway - we stop wherever we see the van pulled over. PB&Js have never tasted so good. After lunch, we have until 4:00 to get into the next host location. We average about 70 miles per day - so far the range has been 30 to 85 miles. We've been staying in churches, schools, and YMCAs, and they've all been incredibly hospitable. Most places have provided us with an awesome dinner, often a potluck during which we get a chance to meet members of the community. Between arrival and dinner, we take showers and, time permitting, explore the town. Between dinner and lights out at 11:00, we usually relax and play games.

Chris seems to have gotten taller...

Connecticut was full of rolling hills, which I knew about, because I live there. The day we went to Granby was fun because we passed through a corner of Ellington, my hometown!

New York was, well, pretty tough. The trip to Poughkeepsie was supposed to be a nice short day, but everyone took a wrong turn. Luckily, I had been riding in the last group, so we actually went the least far out of the way and ended up arriving first! That may never happen again...I tend to be among the last to roll in to the host location. Not that there's anything wrong with that!

The trip to Roscoe was definitely the most difficult day yet, and perhaps will be the most difficult day of the whole trip. It was a hot, humid day, and I was feeling sluggish, as were the people with whom I was riding. Maddy dubbed us the Struggle Bus - truly an accurate description. Each time I saw a new hill I wasn't sure I would make it, and when we got to the accursed Mulig Road, the steepest hill I have ever seen, I almost cried. Somehow I made it up the hill, and got into this machine-like zone of exhaustion and just wanting to finish the day, and I booked it the rest of the way to the host site. I guess it was a good test of my ability to just push through when I'm hurting and tired. Everyone was in bed and sound asleep by 9:00 that night.

Binghamton was our longest day yet, at 85 miles, yet after Roscoe it didn't seem so bad and ended up being a pleasant journey. We got a day off in Binghamton, as our build day had fallen through. It was just what I needed to recharge from a grueling two days. We found a pool, went to the movies, ate at a great little diner, and just relaxed.

L-R: Ben, me, Maddy

Pennsylvania has been gorgeous so far, with mostly scenic rides past farms, mountains, and lakes. Route 6 was a bit scary because there were so many trucks passing so close to us, but otherwise it's been great. Yesterday, on our ride to Coudersport, we got caught in our first real downpour. Luckily there didn't seem to be much thunder and lightening, but it was raining hard. The four of us who were riding together had fun, though, continuing to shout through the rain, and we were on level ground so we didn't feel unsafe. On the contrary, it was a welcome cooling shower. We made it just fine to the top of the 2424-foot summit.

L-R: Amy, Jake, Brett, Vidya, me

I have a few videos that might be fun to post, but I'm getting pretty tired at this point so it may have to wait till next time. I'll try not to go so long without an update next time! Tomorrow we bike 67 miles to Franklin.