6/15 – 6/18: Portland, ME
Mileage: n/a (arrived by airplane)
Host: St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, 678 Washington Ave
After a couple days on our own, the trip leaders are joined by the 24 other riders whom we will help safely reach the other side of the country. We play name games, give presentations on what they should expect, share a couple meals, run through a couple practice rides, and stress anything safety-related whenever possible. We teach our riders how to care for their bikes, how to communicate on the road, and how to prevent common bicycling errors. Policies and rules are discussed, fears and anxieties are addressed, and general excitement for the adventure to come is shared.
We also get to have our first build day at the Habitat for Humanity of Greater Portland. We install windows and put up insulation, climbing around scaffolding and up ladders all the while. There is a slight drizzle and breeze making the day almost too chilly, but the pizza provided by Habitat helps to warm us all up.
6/19: Kittery, ME
Host: Second Christian Congregational Church, 33 Government St
First ride. First day on the road. We dip our rear tires in the Atlantic and are on our way. Some riders are better acquainting themselves with cue sheets, riding as a group, and learning how to communicate with each other. A couple groups of riders may have gotten themselves a little turned around throughout the day. Lunch is had in a beautiful park in Kennebunk, ME, and a sigh of relief is shared upon completing this first slightly trying yet absolutely beautiful ride.
6/20: Andover, MA
Host: The Pike School, 34 Sunset Rock Road
We start the day with a little more routine than before. Chore groups complete their tasks. Riders prepare the bicycles with more ease. Morning route meeting is relatively efficient and seemingly smooth. And the spacing between rider groups almost seems natural. After bicycling for about 60 miles including some challenging hills near the end, we have our fabulous dinner with the Webbers and start feeling a little more comfortable with the idea that we might be doing this for the next several months.
6/21 – 6/22: Fitchburg, MA
Host: First Parish Church Universalist Unitarian of Fitchburg, 923 Main St
Today was a shorter ride coming in at just over 40 miles, and it was nice arriving at the host a litter earlier. The extra time meant we could take a slightly more leisurely shower at the nearby YMCA as well as enjoy some of Neil’s anecdotes. Neil greeted us at the First Parish Church and even though he was a bit older than the rest of us, he spent the night on the floor in a sleeping bag in solidarity. Both mornings—one before our build day and one before our bike ride—Neil serenaded us as we woke in the chapel. Neil was full of facts, stories, and just general enthusiasm.
The build day was particularly exciting as we were asked to move about 30 tons of stones to fill a trench in the backyard. We finished the task with 2 minutes to spare at the end of the day. It was fun seeing the hustle in our team after lunch.