I have now officially begun what will be a 77-day adventure across the country with Bike & Build starting in Portland, Maine and ending in Santa Barbara, California. I chose to apply to be a trip leader for a Bike & Build ride because it allows me to further my interest in cycling while figuring out a way to give back. I feel so fortunate to have grown up in the family and the household that I did, and I feel that providing that stability for other families is a meaningful way for me to contribute to something much larger than myself.
In addition, after our second long day of cycling, tonight’s dinner hosted by the very gracious Webber family has made me realize another purpose to why I am excited to be a part of this organization this summer. Chris Webber, the Webber’s late son, was also a trip leader back in 2005 and was later hired as Bike & Build’s first Program Director in 2006. Tragically, Chris was hit and killed in a pedestrian accident in New York City in 2007. Since then, his family and friends have hosted Bike & Builders traveling through Andover, MA every June.
We enter their warm home through the turkey aromas of the kitchen, which immediately makes me think of Thanksgiving, of family, and of tradition, and I realize that this whole Bike & Build phenomenon is larger than I had imagined. The number of lives that this organization has touched extends far beyond those who are living in the homes built by its riders or even the riders themselves. The families and friends of past and current riders are just as much a part of this group, of this tradition. We get to know the Webbers and their friends, enjoy a delicious Bike & Build Thanksgiving-esque feast complete with mashed potatoes, stuffing, turkey, cranberry sauce, and more, and this is all followed with a presentation by one of our riders, Sam.
Sam had been approached several months back while still at university by someone who had been best friends with Chris Webber since attending day care together. This best friend told the story of Chris, what he stood for, the type of person he was, and his tragic ending. This meeting was emotional in every way—laughter was shared as great Chris stories were relayed and tears were shed from the magnitude of the loss. This meeting led to Sam painting a beautiful picture of Chris that she graciously let all of the rest of us riders sign around the edge. As Sam recounted this story and presented the Webbers with this vibrant painting of their son, most of the room was in tears.
The point of this story is not one of sadness, but of love, of community, and of support, all three of which Bike & Build seems to effortlessly foster. Over the past 3 days—one day of building and two of riding—I already feel this community within my group of riders. That said, it may help that these last several days have felt like a month due to how much happens in a day and the amount of effort we have already put in towards this adventure.
Tomorrow, I will wear a pair of bicycles socks that the Webbers gave us in memory of Chris, but even more importantly, I will wear them in celebration of his life and the persisting sense of community that he instilled into the Bike & Build organization. I want to say thank you to the Webbers and to all of my co-riders on this trip even though less than 1 week has passed on our 11-week adventure.