Monday, July 25, 2011


Normally, I give a brief update on the happenings of the past couple of days, but let's I'm sure that most of you have checked out the rider's blogs which I am sure sufficiently cover the details of the days. So I'll just share what's been going on inside this little noggin of mine while I spend hours on a bicycle.

As the summer grows to a close, I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out what my next step is. Obviously, the first step of going back to Georgia is easy, but what then? I have decided to delay going to graduate school for at least a semester. I know that right now I am not in the right frame of mind to go back to school right now and I remember all to clearly where that got me the first time around. I know that I need to get a job, but then I wonder if I should get a "professional" job and use my degree or just get any job that I can find. Obviously I'll make more money working in a professional setting but at the same time I don't really want to get complacent in because I am actually making a decent salary. However, working a regular job means I have regular hours and while I will eventually have to face the reality of a regular work schedule it is something I would like to delay as long as possible. It would also be beneficial to find a job with a national or regional company that I could work for while I was at grad school.

Which also brings up another issue. I originally decided to attend Georgia Southern because it was prudent choice. It was an in-state school with reasonable tuition and the opportunity to work as a graduate assistant. I realized through this summer that sometimes the prudent choice isn't always the best choice though. I wouldn't be unhappy going to Georgia Southern but at the same time I think I would be much happier going to a larger school. Meeting riders from so many big name schools has made me realize how much more opportunity there is going to those schools. I also think that I should take care to make sure that I am always happy in life. This is complex because life require sacrifices and sometimes in the midst of that sacrifice you don't always feel happy. Yet you know that the outcome on the other side is well worth the sacrifice that you endure currently and so the question remains is Georgia Southern a sacrifice with something better on the other end or does the real opportunity lie in another university? I wish I knew the answer to this. I do know though that getting into Georgia Southern and the thought of attending Georgia Southern has never really excited me and I think that is a bad sign. I think that I am going to reapply to some institutions this fall for early deadline and see what happens.

I have also consider doing more extended humanitarian projects. The two most prominent in my mind being Peace Corps and Teach for America.  Both organizations have their own pros and cons and rather than bore you with a list just know that I am carefully weighing them.

The other lingering question that remains is what to take from this little trip of mine. On the one hand I have had amazing opportunities to meet great people, do amazing things and most importantly help those who are less fortunate than me. On the other hand I have had to deal with a huge tragedy this summer which has left an indelible mark on my life. I don't mean to say that this summer hasn't been fun because it certainly has been, but at the same time I have not been myself and I wonder how much more fun it would have been. I shouldn't dwell on such things and yet my mind often drifts there. The truth is this summer has been this summer for better or worse. I can't change it so I must accept it as it is. I must remember the times that make me smile while I deal with the things that bring tears.

I know that I have rambled quite a bit and for that I apologize. As I close I question why I have written this for everyone to read. I think maybe I am hoping for that one piece of advice that makes everything clear, so please share your wisdom.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Since Roosevelt

Since I last updated in Roosevelt about my trip, I biked into Duchesne, Utah, where we camped out at Starvation Lake. It was the first time that we had camped on our trip and overall it was a positive experience, not without kinks but nothing that kept us down. I think the best part of the entire night was the sunset. It was seriously the most beautiful sunset I think I have seen in my entire life. When I look at my photos I still have a hard time believing that they aren't photoshopped.

We got up after camping and biked in Provo, Utah. I was driving the van and I was a little bit disappointed because it would have been a wonderful ride. I did however, get to have a great van ride with Taylor, Sarah Spezia and Kristen. We stopped to do lunch at the stop of a climb by a picturesque lake surrounded by mountains.  When we stopped it was still a bit chilly and so we decided to cook some pasta with our camp stove so that the riders could have a warm meal, especially since it was a ninety-eight mile ride. The pasta was a huge hit along with the lunch spot.

Our stop in Provo also included a build day so we worked with Habitat For Humanity Utah County and did some more framing. This time it was mainly rimboard and joists for the second story. At about 2:30, I was getting bored so I decided that it would be a good idea to have an accident at the build site. Actually, I didn't decide that it just happened when a beam slipped out of my right hand and landed on top of my left middle finger, taking the first few layers of skin off of my finger. It was painful, or should I say that it is painful. Needless to say I am taking a couple of days off the bike to try and let my finger get a headstart on healing before I expose to riding again.

The team cycled to Salt Lake City today. We actually got to meet with the mayor and several city officials about how they were handling the affordable housing problem which was really awesome. 

21 more days until we get to Santa Cruz and I get to see my parents. I am having a hard time believing that the end is this close. 



My friends told me that I was crazy for doing this cross-country cycling trip. I denied it of course. While they looked at the sum of my journey, I simply looked at the individual pieces, none of which seemed unattainable. However being on this trip has open my eyes to just how crazy this journey of mine is. Actually it's not crazy it is completely absurd. The more and more I am on this trip, the more and more I realize just how absurd it is.

The crazy part of it though is it's not the biking that is the most absurd part. I have been privileged to spend the summer with 31 other amazing people. People I would have never met without this trip. I was able to change the lives of a single mom and her son both through fundraising and by spending a week working on what will become her home. It seems I get to see more of the country everyday and I just seems to get more beautiful the further I get. Oh and I live out of a Rubbermaid container.

With all that in mind though, I think the most absurd thing about this summer is the change in me. Bike & Build has stretched further than I ever thought possible. I have had to learn how to deal with people that have different viewpoints and personalities than myself. I have had to learn how cope with difficult situations. I have had to learn to be outgoing even when everything within me just wants to be left alone. However, the biggest lesson I have learned has to do with my outlook on life.

I started this summer with a plan for at least the next couple of years. Through tragedy I have discovered the flaws in my plans. The fragility of life can never be looked over and therefore I have resolved to always strive to make the best of every minute because you never know if it will be your last. Never settle this time for next time because next time may never come. Decide what is important and go achieve it. Don't hold back for tomorrow because tomorrow may never come. It's not a ticket for reckless abandon but a call to do what you can today, and every day without hesitation. It is a call to live and love to the fullest of your ability. I am not entirely sure how this translates into my personal life but I still have about 1400 miles to figure that piece of it out. 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Filling in the Details

Currently I am sitting outside of McDonald's in Roosevelt, Utah, where Marc Johnson's dad bought us lunch (Thanks so much!!!). I thought that I would take this time to fill in a few more details about the past couple of days.

When we rode out of Aspen into Silt, the majority of it, was on a bike path which made for great riding. It was also downhill which made for a quick day, a number of riders were in before noon. Unfortunately, a few of the riders got caught up with some bike trouble  just outside of Aspen. It made for a longer day than I had expected but honestly I spent the vast majority of the time napping which was nice. After I got in I showered and ate at the firehouse and then spent a little time exploring the town.

Our next day was a build day in Silt where we spent the day framing exterior walls and adding plywood sheathing to the exterior. We all had a great time being back at the build site after a couple of days off from Colorado Springs. After the build day, a group of us got together to go into the next town to see the premier of Harry Potter. We had a great time and I am glad that I got to be a part of it.

On our ride from Silt to Meeker I was assigned sweep, which means I have to be the last rider in. I had a much more enjoyable time this time doing sweep. A couple of riders ran into a gentleman, who was a hunting guide and let the girls in our group shoot guns. It was a ton of fun watching them. Even though I was sweep I still got into Meeker about 2:30. The host at Meeker had arranged for us to use the Rec Building in town for free. So, of course we did some swimming which was so fun. We also played a game of water basketball. It was Sierra, Tim and I versus Brad, Kara and Nathan. My team won, but really it was just about having a good time.

Yesterday was one of the more epic days of the trip. First, we had a 112 mile day, our third century ride of the trip. Second, we crossed into Utah. Last, we met up with the Central US route. I wanted to spend a good bit of time with the other trip so I pushed myself pretty hard in the morning but by mile 75 I had exhausted myself and had to take a break in Dinosaur, Colorado. I spent about an hour in the park when I noticed a group of Central riders so I chatted with them for a bit. I found out that Brandon Biggs, one of my friends and a leader on the route was about 10 miles back so I waited a while for him to come in and then rode into Utah with him. After we got in from the ride, showered and ate, Central came over and hung out with us for bit. Brandon and I renewed our food challenge and did a blended Happy Meal Challenge. It is exactly what it sound like, a McDonald's Happy Meal including the drink placed in a blender to create a Happy Meal milkshake. I am proud to say that I owned Brandon on that challenge. We also played a huge game of ninja and an epic game of slack jaw. All in all we had a great time with Central and am so thankful that we had that opportunity.

This morning we decided to meet Central halfway to do a morning huddle when we got their. Timur one of the leaders suggested that we do a two route chalk tribute for Christina and Paige. It turned out awesome (see picture below) and it was also a great bonding experience. We did a couple of chants and played All These Things That I Have Done, pretty much our theme song for Bike & Build. It made for an amazing morning.  About to get back on the road, so take care and I'll update again soon.


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Quick Update

I am going to make this quick since I am updating from my iPhone and not having a real keyboard makes typing difficult. I think the last place I updated was Aspen. Since then I drove the van one day Silt Colorado. According to the website it should have been Rifle which is the next town down. Silt was a small town but it had a good feel there was a park right across the street from the cimmunity center where we stayed. It was a great place to relax. We also had a build day in Silt where we worked on framing house. After Silt we went to Meeker, which was a really nice town. On the ride there we ran into a guy who let the girls in the groip shoot guns. They really enjoyed it. We were able to shower and swim at the local Rex center.

Today we rode from Meeker to Vernal Utah. We met up with Central US route in the middle. It was an awesome day. I'll give more details when I actually have Internet.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Aspen, CO

Today was the best ride of the summer so far!! We went from Twin Lakes to Aspen via Independence Pass and it was absolutely spectacular. I had heard that it was a pretty intense ride, but honestly I didn't think it was that bad. I laid back and took an easy and stop and took pictures every couple of miles and the next thing I knew I was at the top of the pass. Stan was driving the van and he went into Aspen and bought us cigars so I had a cigar at the top of the pass. Yes, I know that it sounds crazy to smoke a cigar at 12,095 feet, where you can barely breath, but I have to admit it was a lot of fun. Everyone was really excited when they made it to the top and we played Rocky Mountain High on the stereo. I think people thought we were a bit obnoxious but given the circumstances I think that our behavior was perfectly justified.

After the top of the pass we had a nice downhill into Aspen. I tried for a while to see if I could coast from the top of the pass to Aspen. It wasn't and so I started to pedal again. I actually found myself riding behind a couple of motorcycles and trucks for about two miles, before I decided to stop at a lookout and take pictures.

Aspen seems to be a nice town. Lots of bikes which is nice because it means people are used to cyclists on the road. There are tons of unique looking restaurants, which are also probably be expensive, so I'll stick with the food provided by Sierra's mother and maybe supplement with some fast food if I need extra. (Dollar menus are my best friend.)

I think I am going to go explore this town a bit more. Enjoy the pictures below!!


Twin lakes at sunset
 Twin lakes early in the morning

Myself at the top of Independence Pass with a stogie
The view from the top of the pass with my traveling companion.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Buena Vista, CO

So I am stopped in a small town in Colorado at a coffee shop lavishing in some internet time. The ride this morning has been pretty swell. Mostly flat to downhill for the first thirteen miles, a low grade mile climb, followed by fifteen miles down to where I am now. I'm not sure what the rest of the route holds but I have heard Twin Lakes is beautiful so it will be a good ride regardless of the terrain. I feel like I am in the heart of the Rockies right now and it is absolutely gorgeous.

Yesterday we had our first day back on the bikes after the Blitz Build into Hartsel and it wasn't without hiccups. We hit a pretty sketchy section of CO-24 that made quite a few riders nervous, so we decided to shuttle them forward in the route. It was a problem that was pretty easily solved. I got caught in a thunderstorm on the way. The rain was cold and physically hurt as it me as it fell from the sky. I made it into lunch and spent about half an hour at lunch with a cup of coffee and it passed through. On a positive note we did get to bike through Garden of the Gods, which was amazing.

Hartsel was a small and interesting town. It seemed that almost everyone there wore a cowboy hat, jeans and a plaid shirt. We went to the local bar and danced with the locals and I am pretty sure that everyone had an amazing time. I didn't do much dancing but I found that watching was highly entertaining. Since the community center that we were staying at couldn't really accommodate everyone, I wound up hanging my hammock out in the pavilion and trying to sleep out there. It worked pretty well until about 3am when the wind picked up a little bit. I tried to make my way into the community center without any luck so I slept in the van which I found really comfortable.

Anyhow I have just been informed that sweep is waiting on me to leave so I should get going. I'll try to update soon.


Saturday, July 9, 2011

A long overdue update

So I could make excuses as to why I haven't updated my blog but the truth is I have just been a little bit lazy when I have had internet. So rather than drag you through all the details of the past thirteen days since I last updated, I'll give you the Reader's Digest Version.

Texas, was perhaps the worst state that we traveled through so far. Far worse than Oklahoma. The heat was stifling and the headwinds/crosswinds just plain dangerous. We had to call our ride into Dalhart at second lunch because the conditions were so bad.

Then we went into New Mexico. It seemed that things instantly got better there was scenery and downhills. On our day into Colorado, while we were still in New Mexico, we descended into a canyon and had amazing tailwinds. I was literally going 30 miles an hour without pedaling on a fairly flat stretch of road.

Then we made it to Colorado, and it has been absolutely amazing. The scenery is absolutely gorgeous. The weather has been phenomenal and even though we rode 116 miles into Pueblo it was amazing and so worth it. I feel like I have finally gotten to the part of the trip that I was waiting for. The sad part is there is only about a month of the trip left and I have to say that I am saddened by that. I guess I will just have to make the most of the time that I have left.

End of Reader's Digest update and onto real update of Colorado Springs.

We arrived in Colorado Springs on Saturday after what would have probably been a really great ride. I don't know though because it was my van day. Oh well, that happens sometimes. Caroline and Joe (Christina's mom and younger brother) met us there and after dinner a group of us went bowling. I am proud to say that I broke 100 on my second game and I think everyone had a great time.

Sunday was our day off and I was lucky enough to use Caroline's rental car while she and Joe went whitewater rafting. So I went out to Garden of the Gods which was absolutely beautiful. I also ran a bunch of errands trying to get everything organized for the Fourth of July barbecue. After Caroline got back from whitewater rafting I went to dinner with her and another rider Marc and had a great time. Always enjoy spending time with her.

While most of the country was enjoying a day off and having a good time on the Fourth of July, we were busy building a house. I personally think that it was a much better use of our time. When we arrived there was simply a concrete foundation with sill plates that had been laid and drilled. Our first task was to set a steel span beam in the floor. It took most of us to lift it and it was really neat seeing the team work together to get it done. After the beam was set, we broke up into a bunch of different groups to seal the crawl space and get ready for framing. Personally, I helped pull seal plates run a foam barrier and then reinstall the sills.  Then we laid the floor of the house, while another group started to prefab the walls that we would use to frame on Tuesday.

After building, we came back grabbed a quick hose shower and then headed to a local park to enjoy some barbecue. I think that everyone really enjoyed themselves, which was a great feeling.

Tuesday, it was more work. We worked on framing the house. We ran into a few glitches but nothing that we couldn't handle. I wish I could say that there was more to it on Tuesday but that was pretty much what we did was move a wall from across the street, place it in the house, nail it in and repeat. The cool thing about it was that in the end it actually started to look like a house.

Wednesday a group of people finished framing while others put plywood and blue board (foam insulation for vinyl siding) on the side of the house, and I personally started putting up scaffolding so that we could start moving trusses. We moved a few trusses onto the house before we had to stop because of lightning.

Thursday, we finished the trusses up and and started decking the roof. I know that there were other things going on around me but honestly the only thing that I really know was what I was doing which were trusses.

Friday, I seemed to get put in charge of scaffolding. OSHA has raised standards so that residential builders, now have to comply with commercial fall protection standards. In short this means we had to put up a lot of scaffolding. I really enjoyed working on it though and it made the time fly by. After lunch when all the scaffolding was in place, I started working on vinyl siding. I got to be the person to do all the cutting. Which was pretty easy work. In addition to what I was doing, there was a group that was finishing the decking on the roof and starting to shingle.

On Saturday, which is today, and also my Dad's birthday (Happy Birthday Dad), we finished up the roof, and did more siding. When didn't quite get the exterior finished up but we got the vast majority of it done. I continued operating the saw for the siding/soffit crews which kept my super busy, but it was great to see what we had accomplished. Sandy, the homeowner who is awesome, came thanked me for all the work that we were doing but I just thanked her for the opportunity to work with her and sharing her story with the riders. We finished the day with a Bike Rodeo for the Habitat kids in conjunction with an organization called Bikes for Kids, which actually gave away six bikes to kids that didn't have one. It was a great way to end our week. During the Bike Rodeo I met a homeowner who had Bike & Build build her house in 2009 and got to go see where they had left messages on the garage wall in her home. It was really cool to see where Rachel had signed.

All said and done, I consider myself extremely blessed to have spent the week building in Colorado Springs. I got to see one of my mothers, I got the opportunity to really help a great family out, and it was really pretty relaxing.

I will try to upload some pictures later on this evening and just want to forewarn everyone that internet access is going to get pretty spotty over the next couple of days, which means so will my updates.


Friday, June 24, 2011

Oklahoma is OK by Me

Alright, so Oklahoma and I admittedly got off to a poor start. Part of that is my fault and I am willing to assume that responsibility, but the state does have a few redeeming qualities about it.

Our build days in OKC were great. It was nice to get back to building and helping out again. We decked a roof, installed soffit, facia and frieze board, and then we caulked and painted it. Another group painted the interior of a home and did similar trim work.

The first day out on the road after the build day was my van day, which was adventurous because we had two riders crash who needed to be patched up (for the record they are both fine and rode today) and a bunch of sick people in the van. So much for having so me time to get things done. We got into the host around 2:00 which is pretty early these days and then I went and picked up a van load of mail. I can tell that I have gotten sentimental in my old age because instead of tearing through the packages and looking at all the good food that I was sent, I went straight for the cards. I guess as you get older you realize what is important.

Today we rode from Watonga, OK to Arnett, OK a total of 86 miles. Up until our first lunch stop things were going great. We had a tail wind, were making excellent time and were riding on great roads, but just after our first lunch stop we made a left hand turn and the tailwind turned into a crosswind and the roads got rough. We pedaled through and had an excellent surprise at our second lunch stop in Vici, OK. People had stopped to talk with all the bikers coming through town and we wound up getting $335 donated and lunch meat, which made for a great lunch stop. The last couple of miles got really difficult as the winds picked up to about 30mph with gusts around 40mph but we managed to make our way into Arnett were they were ready for our arrival. They had a sign at the Activities Center welcoming us and ice cream at the host for us to eat when we got in. It was incredible.

We head to Texas tomorrow on a 95 mile ride, but I think there will be a part (albeit small) that will miss Oklahoma.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Oklahoma, Oh How I Loathe The

The past few days in Oklahoma have been absolutely brutal. I am partly to blame, but I think that I will mostly just blame Oklahoma. On our 102 mile day into Henryetta, I got really dehydrated about 30 miles in. I continued to our lunch stop at mile 40ish and was going to try and recover some and make the rest of the ride but as sweep was about to leave I wasn't feeling much better, so I decided to do the smart thing for once and van myself for the rest of the day. I drank about a gallon of Gatorade and got to feeling much better.

Our host in Henryetta was great. They had set-up posters from the two previous trips that had come through and had one for us to sign, as well as a poster about what had happened to Christina. I have to admit that it was a really nice gesture but it was a bit of a painful reminder for me. Anyhow, they had sacks for us when we got in, and served us a nice pot luck.

On our ride day into OKC, we had a nice 20-25 mph crosswind to start the day, as well as roads that were straight from the bowels of hell. I relaxed the first half of the day and rode towards the rear with Sierra. It was her birthday and I didn't think she should ride alone and I wanted to relax to make sure that I had energy for the rest of the day.

The last 3 miles or the crosswind we had been fighting turned into a vicious headwind. At one point I was going downhill pedaling and was still only going 8mph. It was at that point I decided that it was going to be a really long day.

When we got into lunch, everyone sang Happy Birthday to Sierra, which was really cool. It was also at lunch that I heard that they had issued severe weather warnings/watches around OKC for 3:00PM. And that we were more than likely going to cut the ride short. I took a quick lunch and decided to push hard and try to make it in before the weather got bad. The wind got worse and I actually got blown off the road twice after lunch, once I actually think the wind literally picked me up because my bike moved about a foot to the right but it did it, while I was leaning into the wind and the front wheel was straight. About 1:30 the riding started getting pretty intense as the crosswind moved to a headwind again. We rolled into a town with a casino about 2:00 and I decided that the casino would be an excellent place to wait for the van pick up. So I stopped and played on the slot machines for a while. It was a good decision because I won $25.

Maybe the next couple of days in Oklahoma will be better, but if not I am just going to write off Oklahoma as a God-forsaken place and vow to never return.

I have been bad lately about uploading my pictures lately, but I have added a couple of pictures from Petit Jean Mountain Lookout in Arkansas. It was so beautiful and anyone who is taking the time to read my blog deserves to take a look at the photos.

Build day today and tomorrow, riding again on Thursday.


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Sweeping the Streets

So yesterday was the first real day back on our bikes, and it was real hard. Ninety miles, several hills and scorching heat. Oh and to top it all off, I was riding sweep as well. I don't really mind riding sweep but it was a struggle to get into a rhythm because I kept having to stop and it was an eleven hour ride. I was completely exhausted when I got to our host.

All that said it was really a beautiful ride. We had a climb right before our second lunch, which lead to this amazing lookout over the Arkansas River. It was absolutely gorgeous. I really didn't want to leave that lunch stop...especially considering there was another 30 miles to ride and I was already exhausted.

The last third of the day was a struggle for me. I started to cramp soon after the second lunch stop and by the time I got to mile 80ish, my legs weren't really cooperating. At one point in time, I managed to get a cramp in my left calf and my right quad at the same time.  I managed to clip out on the left side, but because of the angle my bike fell to the right, so I had no choice but to fall with it. No harm done though just a little embarrassing.

Today was a recovery day or it least it was supposed to be. It was 78 miles in the rain for the first half of the day. I actually had to pull off the road for about an hour to let a thunderstorm pass, which slowed me down a bit, but I wound up making really good time regardless. It wasn't as scenic as yesterday's route but it was a lot flatter and we got paintball DM'ed, which was pretty sweet. Three games and I only got shot once.

Upon rolling into Van Buren, AR we stopped at a Sonic, number 1 all the way with jalapenos, tater tots and a coke. It was pretty amazing after 78 miles. Then we ate dinner at the host too. Been a long two days and I'm really exhausted, but it has been and will continue to be a great experience.

108 miles tomorrow and Oklahoma!!


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Back in the Saddle

So I have been neglected my blog. Sort of. I have actually been working on a post to summarize what happened in Boston, but I struggling to come up with the appropriate words to describe it, but stay tuned I promise I will get that posted in the next couple of days.

We had another shakedown ride today and it was also my first day back on my bike. I wasn't exactly sure how I would react getting back on my bike and this morning when I was getting ready for the ride I had a hard time spending more than a few minutes at a time around my bike. I was riding sweep with Dits so I got to be the last one to leave, which was good. I took a few minutes and just rode around the parking lot trying to get settled back into my bike. Then I hit the road again. The first couple of miles were hard but I settled in and it actually felt good to be back on my bike. I also had several great conversations with Dits.

We mostly rode on a bike trail today, that ran between a river and an old rock quarry and it was absolutely beautiful. We rode out and back on the route so we had a nice descent on our way out which turned into a good climb on our way back.

In addition to our ride today, we also had a pool party at Mac's neighborhood pool which was great.

Tomorrow is going to be about 90 miles and it's late here so I am going to hit my Thermarest.


Friday, June 10, 2011

A Brief Update

First off, I want to thank everyone for the support that they have given me. It’s been an extremely difficult time, but you all have made it a little easier. I am currently writing this on a plane to Boston with Christina and her family, where I am headed to spend some time with her brothers as well as attend services.

The past few days have been a struggle for me as I try to cope with everything that has transpired, but God has been faithful to me and bless me with more support than I ever could have dreamt of. The church that where we have been staying, St. Luke’s Episcopal, has been awesome. They have provided us what feels like an endless supply of food. Church members have opened up their homes to give us something to do besides just sit around at the church. If such a thing had to happen I am glad that it happened when I was surrounded b such amazing people.

Christina’s family has also been amazing. I have to say that I was nervous about seeing them. The last thing that her mom, Caroline, had told me was to take care of Christina. I know that I did the best that I could, but I couldn’t help but feeling that I had failed her. However, she walked in to the church fellowship hall, hugged me and just told me thank you for being there for Christina, and all my anxiety left me.

I have been fortunate enough to spend a great deal of time with Christina’s family, which I think has been beneficial for both of us. It’s great to hear stories from her family and it helps me remember Christina the way that I want to.

I had hoped that the last blog that I wrote would be the most difficult one for me. However, that was not the case. One of the things that Caroline and I talked about was writing Christina’s last blog entry.  Recalling the events of the day, were hard but the most difficult part was figuring out how to end, but then I realized that it doesn’t end. Christina continues to live in each of the lives that she has affected and that this is only the beginning.

I know that the next couple of days are going to be difficult being away from both my B&B family, and my real family but I feel like the Genco’s have taken me in as one of their own and I know that I can lean on them for support

Monday, June 6, 2011

We Miss You Christina!!!

This is far and away the most difficult blog that I have had to write thus far and it is my sincere prayer that it is the most difficult one of the trip. Today, I have lost a co-leader and more importantly a great friend, Christina Genco. Christina was my rock for Bike & Build. I could talk to her about anything and we voiced grievances about the trip to one another many times. It actually had become slightly absurd in the past week or so because we were finishing each other’s sentences and coming up with the same ideas. She will be missed and remembered.

I have had a good bit of time to reflect on things and there are a couple of things that I think I, as well as some of my friends, need to take away from this tragedy. First, Christina was not afraid of challenging herself. She found herself to be unhappy, so she quit her job was going to bike across the country and then was going to try and start over again somewhere else.

Second, she knew how to love life. It’s tragic that at age twenty-two she is gone but she lived life and loved life. She passed doing something that she absolutely loved. I hope that I am lucky enough to meet my end in a similar fashion. I know many other people who don’t love life simply because they aren’t living life. So go take some risks and live life.

I know there are a couple of things that if I had done differently she might still be around. That said, I wasn’t doing anything wrong and I know that Christina wouldn’t blame. Therefore, I cannot blame myself.

Many people have asked me about whether or not I will finish the ride. I don’t really see that I have any other option but to finish. I know that sounds absurd to a good many of you, but Christina wanted to make this ride happen more than anything. It’s going to be difficult without Christina, for certain, but I know that’s what she would have wanted. So, I think that it is necessary to honor her memory.

Christina, I love you and miss you and while it is difficult, I am going to press on for you.


Thursday, June 2, 2011

Onto Athens

I woke up this morning pretty stiff, and just never really felt like I was having a good day on my bike. I am pretty sure that I over did it at the lake yesterday. The last five or so miles of the route didn't help things much either as we were going through the uber hilly downtown of Athens. The good news though is that the day was only 45-miles and I still made it into the host by 1:30. So I actually had a little bit of free time, which was a pleasant change.

Dinner tonight was provided by our host Holy Cross Lutheran Church and it was by far the best meal we have had so far on the trip. It was a church potluck with all kinds of dishes. So nice to actually have some variety, as our fare is typically a meat, chips and maybe a salad.

After dinner, we went and saw Hangover Part 2. Honestly in my opinion don't waste your money or time. It was no where near as good as the first, but then again...are they ever??

All in all a pretty relaxing day and a nice change of pace. Tomorrow build day in Athens.


Journey to Georgia

Today we had a 59-mile ride from Greenville, South Carolina to Hartwell, Georgia, which also meant our first state line crossing. The morning started off as most of them do pretty well. I was riding with a group of six or seven and I pulled off to take some pictures. My plan was to catch up with the group after I had taken photos but about a mile later I found myself with my first flat. Not that big of a deal changing it but it definitely slowed me down.

At lunch we had lunch DMed (Donation Magic) from Subway in Anderson, which was amazing!! It was so nice to actually have a decent lunch. Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining about our lunches. Peanut butter and jelly stale bagels give us all that we need. It is also cheap which means that we can donate more money to affordable housing!!! By the way, it’s not too late to donate. So if you haven’t you should. (

After lunch we all rode pretty hard to get to Lake Hartwell. Lake Hartwell was great! It was so enjoyable to just spend a few hours relaxing and not worrying about anything. We swam and chicken fought (I guess this is the past tense of chicken fighting) and then we played a chicken fight/ninja hybrid. Christina and I won!!  

After the lake it was back on the bikes for about two miles to the Georgia State line and some pictures of the dam. After that quick stop we biked the rest of the way into Hartwell. Lucky for us it was downhill because we were all exhausted after spending two hours at the lake.

When we got to Hartwell, Christina, Mac, Craig and I stopped in at Dairy Queen to celebrate our first state line with a nice cool treat. This might become a tradition.

Our host in Hartwell, Hartwell UMC was absolutely incredible. They let us use their youth building, which had ample couches for everyone and exposed rafters by which I could hang my hammock. We had a little paint spill and Troy our contact their went out of his way to help us clean it up. He also shuttled us back and forth to showers and made a Wal-Mart run for the group. Our dinner was hamburgers and chicken sandwiches, and when they realized that we ate more like a group of 66 than a group of 33, they went back to the store to buy more food for us. Can’t thank them enough!!

We also had our first town hall meeting. It went a little bit long but I think overall it went really well. Hopefully the next ten will go just as well.


Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Sorry I have been away

So since the last post I have spent a day on a build site in Charleston and biked about 160 miles over three days. So it seems that we have some catching up to do.

On Wednesday, we built with Charleston Habitat for Humanity on a rehab project that was actually funded by a grant from Bike & Build last year. Our project was roofing. So we pulled off the old shingles, laid down another layer of OSB, laid felt, and then started to shingle. We started work about 9:00am and by the time we were done at 4:00pm we had the roof 95% complete. It is amazing what thirty-three people can do when they are working together. 

We came back on Wednesday and had dinner provided by the church. Homemade lasagna, salad and garlic bread. So much better than the pizza we had been eating for the past couple meals. The leaders then had one final meeting with Brendan and then it was off to bed to get ready for our first day of riding. 

Thursday morning we got up and packed all our things. We had breakfast provided by Trinity United Methodist Church, which consisted of eggs, grits, bacon and fruit. Great way to start the day. After breakfast, we loaded the trailer up, had our first morning huddle and headed to the tire dip spot at the edge of the Charleston Battery. 

At the Battery, we immediately started getting the bikes down to the beach. The whole process went surprisingly smooth and before we knew it, we had all thirty-three bikes and riders on a make shift beach to dip our back tires in the Atlantic Ocean, technically I think it was Charleston Harbor but it is close enough for me. There had been a lot of discussion over the site to do the wheel dip ceremony, but very little time had been spent actually discussing what we were going to be doing at the wheel dip ceremony. So we had all thirty-three of us lined up and everyone was looking around for whats next. After about thirty seconds and realizing that Brendan wasn't on the beach, I made a very short impromptu speech and Christina counted to three and we dipped our tires. Bikes went back up and we were on our way...well sort of.

After I got back over the railing and was getting ready to go I discovered that my front brakes were in need of adjustment because they didn't work. So about five minutes later, I was on the road bringing up the rear. I sprinted hard in order to catch up with everyone and while I didn't quite catch up with the fastest riders, I did find a group I was comfortable riding with. Forty-one miles later we were at our first stop in Monck's Corner, although technically we were in Pinopolis, just outside of Monck's Corner. 

After our ride we went swimming in the lake right across the street. To me the water seemed cool, but to all the folks from up north they commented about how it felt like bath water. It was interesting to me how our perceptions of the same water were completely different. However, our perception about leaches was the same, we all thought they were bad and spent a lot of time to make sure they were off our feet. Apparently, the lakebed is infested with them. I am going to have to remember to check myself over after swimming in strange places this summer. 

On Friday, we had a 67.5 mile ride to Sumter. All in all, it was a good ride but we did catch a thunderstorm about halfway through. I spent most of morning riding with Christina and Emily. About twenty miles in, I sprinted to the front set up my camera and took some pictures of riders passing by.  I hopped back on my bike and continued riding with Christina. We passed a cornfield and decided to take some pictures. As we were finishing up Taylor and Hester rode up and joined us for some pictures.

After lunch I tried to hang back and ride with some of the slower riders but with a storm looming in the distance and my bike computer registering barely over 13 miles per hour, I decided I would press on by myself. This turned out to be a bad decision as I just moved into the storm faster and got rained on more than the slower riders. Oh well…I guess that’s life.

We stayed in the Youth Building at First Pres Sumter. It was a really nice building with plenty of couches and space for us. We didn’t have dinner provided so, Chuck made some red beans and rice and a few of the girls made some pasta. I feel like I ate three meals and was still hungry at the end of the night. I am told it is a feeling that I should get used to because you have a hard time eating enough.

As we were getting ready for bed, Christina and I noticed a few bikes left outdoors. So…we stole them or more exactly put them in the trailer to make it look like they were stolen. It’s hard love but after the riders freaked out they all said they would be sure not to leave their bikes out and unlocked again.

Since Columbia was only a 47-mile ride we slept in until 8:00 and tried to get on the road by 10:00, which we did successfully. About three miles in, I pulled off at a swan park in Sumter. It was a pretty cool place and it was free which was great. After the stop at the park I pretty much rode the rest of way into lunch by myself.

After lunch, I left with Kara, Maria, and Hester about five miles or so into the ride Kara stopped to put on sunscreen, she told us she would catch up to us and so I kept riding, but I forgot that my natural pace is a lot faster than hers and so needless to she didn’t catch up. Maria hung with me for a while, but we hit a hilly section and I pulled away and rode solo the last fifteen or so miles.

Getting into Columbia was nice. Mom and Dad were there to meet me when I finished. We had to wait about an hour for Christina to arrive with the van. After the van arrived, I grabbed my stuff and went back to the hotel with my parents to have a nice shower. And then we went to California Dreaming for dinner. I had a double chicken breast stuffed with ham, green beans, fettuccini marinara, and a salad. By the way I finished it all.

After dinner, we walked around downtown Columbia for a bit and then I headed back to the Green Quad, on USC where we were staying to join everyone for a presentation.

On Sunday, I had my first day driving the van. I have to say it was a little bit depressing watching everyone bike out knowing that I had to drive today, but I tried to make the best of it. I stopped at Starbucks for coffee and then tried to stop and play a game of ninja with a group of riders stopped at a church. Unfortunately that’s when things got interesting.

First I got a call to go pick up Sarah Spezia who was having some knee pain, we think it was a poorly adjusted cleat, which was rectified. Then I got a call to bring a tire to Dits. After we got Dits resolved, I passed Mike French who had something go through his sidewall and also needed another new tire.

Things felt like they were slowing down at that point, but I decided to have Sarah help me navigate. I figured it would be one less thing for me to have to think about while driving. Unfortunately we missed a turned and went a few miles out of the way. Regardless, we made it to lunch and got it set up prior to most riders getting there.

At lunch I set up my hammock, and planned to relax a little. Unfortunately, my hammock was commandeered by Christina, Maria and Hester. Since it was a short day, people hung around lunch for a while and it was nice to continue to talk and get to know the riders better.

After lunch things went a lot better. We still missed a turn or two. So for the record, Sarah will not be navigating for me again. Although I am glad that she rode with me because I was able to really get to know her.

We arrived at our host in Newberry. The host didn’t provide dinner, so we decided to make pizzas out of the bread that had been donated by Panera.  After dinner, we had our first affordable housing presentations, which went really well. The best thing about the host was that they had columns going around the outside of the gym that were spaced just perfectly enough so that I could set up my hammock and take a night off from my Thermarest.

The ride from Newberry to Greenville was great. It was about 70 miles. I got out pretty quick compared to the rest of the group so I decided to pull out and then set up to take some pictures. I spent the morning riding with Christina and then off and on with a few Sierra, Hester, Maria. Just out of Newberry we biked through some beautiful farm country. Later on we stopped take some pictures some abandoned rail cars.

Our lunch stop was a BP/Burger King, so I decided that I would treat myself to a Whopper. It probably wasn’t the best choice for food, but it tasted great and helped break up some of the monotony of lunch on Bike & Build.

I left lunch about 15 minutes later than the group that I had been riding with because I had to make a pit stop. I decided that I was going to try and sprint through and catch up with everyone. It took me about 45 minutes of hard riding to do it but I finally caught up and spent the rest of the afternoon riding with a large group of girls.

We stopped in a small town called Fountain Inn at their city hall to play ironically enough in their fountain. The water felt amazing even though we were only wading through in the water. We also noticed a statue at city hall of some guy who’s nick name was Peg Leg, because he had a peg leg. Having not seen a statue before celebrating someone who was missing a leg, I decided that we needed to get some pictures.

After that stop I was having a really tough time finding my groove. I felt like I was riding hard but I just wasn’t getting anywhere, which was really rough considering it got pretty hilly as we came into Greenville. I struggled to keep up with everyone but I just kept pushing myself until we came to an extraordinarily steep hill. It was only about a 100 yards or so and I decided to dismount and take it on foot. That’s when I discovered that my brake caliper had been knocked so that it was constantly pressing against my wheel, which made the previous 20 miles make a lot more sense.

When we got into Greenville, we had to stop for the US National Road Racing Championship. We ran into some locals who invited us to join them in what amounted to tailgating for a bike race. (no alcohol though) . Christina and I headed down to the finish line to meet Brendan and Megan O’Brien.

After meeting up with Megan, we went back to the host, Bencombe Street UMC who provided an awesome dinner by Mellow Mushroom for us. After dinner, I decided to go the local medical clinic to get checked out. I have had a pesky cough and a bit of sore throat that was just getting worse and worse, so I decided to try and do something about it before it got too bad. Turns out I about as healthy as it gets. My blood work was perfectly normal and my chest x-ray was clear. So they prescribed me some antibiotics and told me if I am not better in a few days to go to another clinic later on. Also, somewhat random but I have lost seven pounds since the start of the trip.

After I got back from the clinic, I met up with a bunch of the riders at City Tavern for drinks. We had an enjoyable evening.

This morning we woke up at 7:30 for a build day with Homes for Hope. Homes for Hope is a neat organization that works on the low-income side of affordable housing. Since there are some people who are not in a position to buy a home, Habitat for Humanity really isn’t an option. So Homes for Hope, has build rental units which are rented out at Fair Market Rent. We spent our day painting porches on ten of their rental units.

After we got done with the build day, we were provided with BBQ from one of the directors of Homes for Hope. It was delicious. Then there was laundry, then grocery shopping  and now I find myself here on the computer at 12:20am updating my blog.

I think we are all caught up now and I am going to try and do a better job of updating in the future.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Past Couple of Days

So it's been a couple of days since I have posted an update, but things have been pretty busy. Sunday we finished up leader orientation and Monday morning we prepared for rider arrival that afternoon. And then...riders arrived.

It was awesome to finally meet in person the people that I had been talking on the phone with for the past couple of months. It was a bit hectic with everyone arriving. Directing people upstairs to check and put their bike and the room down stairs, then helping everyone assemble their bikes who shipped it. It made me realize that I knew a lot more about bikes than I thought I did. After we went though the check in process it was time to really kick off orientation and what better way to do that than to do ice breakers. Yeah they are cheesy but they are oh so effective. It was nice because in addition to getting to know names I also started to learn about personalities and who gets my humor and who doesn't.

After the ice breakers we did a day in the life of presentation, which I guess some of you are probably interested in too, so I'll give you a more simplified version.

6:00am- Wake up, pack up, clean up
6:45am- Breakfast
7:30am- Morning huddle (go over cue sheet[directions], talk about city research, fun things to do and anything that riders need to be aware of with hosts.
8:00am- on the road
Ride, eat lunch stop and do interesting things
4:00pm- arrive at host, shower, explore the town
6:30pm- dinner, affordable housing presentation
7:30pm- Free time, affordable housing curriculum meeting, other meetings as needed
11:00pm- lights out

Repeat for almost three months.

After the day in the life presentation we went over policies and bike safety. Afterwards dinner and a presentation by Charleston County Habitat for Humanity. We also had our first Bike & Build presentation which was presented by the leaders. It wasn't as polished as I would have liked but it worked. That closed the riders day, but the leaders were diligently working in the background making sure everything was ready for the next day. LIghts out at 11:00.

We woke up at about 6:45 and had the riders wake up at 7:00 and practice packing their things. Our first wake up song of the summer, The Sylvers, Hotline. If you are not familiar with this song, I would recommend that NOT familiarize yourself with it. Yes I know we did it to the riders, but that was because Brendan had made numerous references to the song and was trying to sing everything that we were doing to the tune. We felt the riders had a right to know where it came from.

After waking up and packing up, we had breakfast, which was leftover bagels, bananas and apples, a pretty standard breakfast by Bike & Build standards. After breakfast, there were more ice breakers and then we split them into their chore groups and did some presentations that were better suited for smaller groups, such as a review of chore group responsibilities, bike maintenance, bike cleaning and the always important Bike & Build elevator pitch. After we finished the presentations up it was a quick demonstration on fixing flats and then getting ready for the shake down ride.

Shake down ride went extremely well. There are definitely some people who have not trained like they should and we need to get accustomed to riding in groups as many of us trained by ourselves for the ride, but all in all they looked pretty good. After our ride, we showered, grabbed some lunch and painted the trailer. Then we did our final two presentations, health and hygiene and affordable housing. We had dinner and more or less called in a day.

Tomorrow we build with Charleston Habitat and Thursday we have our Tire Dip ceremony and hit the road. I'm pumped and can't wait to get the ride underway.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Trip to Charleston

On Thursday, Christina and I left from Philadelphia to drive down to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, to spend the night with the North Carolina to San Diego (NC2SD) route. On our way we caught traffic at nearly every point you could, Philadelphia (accident), Baltimore (accident), DC (construction), Richmond (rush hour). All said and done, I think we spend about 4 hours in traffic traveling at a near stand still. After leaving Philadelphia at 11:00 we finally arrived in Chapel Hill at 9:00. It was good to catch up with Joey, Megan, Cait and Chris, and see the NC2SDers.

We left yesterday morning and made our drive to Charleston which was much more pleasant than our drive the day before. We got into Charleston, picked up bikes that had been shipped, picked up breakfast (thanks Greuber’s) and then took a short ride through downtown. After our ride, we met up with Ashley, (another leader) and had dinner.  After dinner we went to Starbucks and did some work. Stan (leader) and Brendan (program director, aka my boss) arrived at about 1:30am.

We are finally altogether and are about to start leadership orientation this morning.

Wish me luck,

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Washington DC

I made it to D.C. this morning in time to take advantage of some great morning light for pictures. I did a whirlwind tour of the monuments around the mall and was surprised to find that the reflecting pool at the Lincoln Memorial was under construction.

After visiting the Vietnam Wall, the Korean War Memorial and the World War II Memorial, I was struck by the great price of war. I find myself surprise that we engage in war at all, but when you visiting the National Holocaust Museum, I was struck at just how despicable humanity can be and it seems that we will be perpetually locked in a battle between greed and hatred, and humanitarianism and acceptance and war is simply the necessary manifestation of this battle.

After D.C., I picked Christina up from Baltimore and headed to Philadelphia. We got caught in a couple of down pours but made it just the same. It has been great catching up her and I look forward to getting to know her as the summer goes by. We will pick up our van and trailer tomorrow morning and head to Chapel Hill and meet up with NC2SD for the night.

Love and peace


Monday, May 2, 2011


So I am getting ready to send out an e-mail with information about my blog in it and it seems appropriate to actually have something in the blog. So I shall write an introduction.

Almost a year ago I was sitting on Folly Beach just outside of Charleston with a collection of acquaintances, when I found out that one of them had cycled across the country the previous summer. Needless to say I was intrigued, so I ask some more questions about her experience. Turns out she did it with this wonderful organization called Bike & Build, which raises money and awareness for affordable housing. I got back to my best friend's parent's condo and immediately started to do research. The unfortunate (or at least I thought so at the time) news was that I was too old to simply be a participant on Bike & Build and would have to be a leader, which required additional consideration. Over the next couple of months I went back and forth with whether I should or shouldn't go.

Applications came out and I looked them over and started on my essays but the essays were difficult for me to write as they required me to exercise judgement about myself which is extraordinarily difficult for me. At one point, I was suffering severe writer's block and had more or less thrown in the towel but I watched a YouTube video found new inspiration. I worked through the weekend on my application and turned it in at almost exactly the deadline. I still wasn't sure whether I should do it or not but I knew that I needed to throw my hat in the ring.

I got a call later that week about scheduling an interview and three interviews later I got a call from Brendan Newman the Program Director offering me a position on the South Carolina to Santa Cruz route, which started in Charleston. I'm not sure I could have asked for better sign and immediately took the position.

Doing this has been far from easy. This role has stretched me in ways that I never dreamed it would, but I definitely feel that I am growing as a person because of it. I can now do cold calls with only a slightly elevate pulse and no churning feeling in the pit of my stomach, and while I still find it difficult to ask others for money, I have learned that people, in general, really do want to help you out. They just need to know how they can do it. I have become more comfortable talking about myself and what I am doing.

All said, I think I have been given an awesome opportunity and I look forward to making the most of each moment. So buckle your seat belt (or clip in, if you're a cyclist) and enjoy the summer with me.

Also, if you have not donated yet and you would like to. You can go to and do so. No amount is too small.