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 http://www.bikeandbuild.org/rider/5015 and do so. No amount is too small.