Week 6 – Bike & Build

7/21 – 7/23: Joplin, MO
Mileage: 80
Host: Byers Avenue United Methodist Church

The sweepstakes for today’s ride is to make a music video, and Kristin, Ella V, Amanda, and I do just that. We pick up a couple cliché songs to sing and we film scenes as the day progresses.

Another big topic of debate today is determining the type of farm animal mounted on a roadside roof. We are certain that it is male; however, its exact species is quite questionable. The debate is never settled despite quality photographic evidence.

We then get to enjoy two quality build days in the great town of Joplin, which provides us with one of the best rooftop bars we encounter the entire trip to date. Also, at the Habitat build sites in Joplin we have the pleasure and the privilege of meeting Matt McGee, the Christian music all-star. Thanks to our previous build site, we are armed with posters and pictures with which to tease McGee.




7/24: Vinita, OK
Mileage: 61
Host: Vinita First United Methodist Church

Van day. I am at lunch all day to the point where it feels like I have at least three lunches. Some of our riders label this day as the “Best Day Ever” because the pace is slow, the stops are plentiful, and the lunch stop is awesome. The last group of riders to pass through lunch bust out the guitar and we start singing Christmas songs because Christmas in July is coming soon.


7/25 – 7/26: Tulsa, OK
Mileage: 66
Host: First Presbyterian Church – The Powerhouse

On the ride into Tulsa, we cross the halfway mark for the trip. Sam and Kristin chalk the area full of our names and celebratory messages for making it this far. Funnily, they actually chalk the wrong area because they slightly misread the day’s cue sheet. Nonetheless, it is still close to the right spot and we celebrate over the markings with dance, song, and general merriment.

Fortunately and unfortunately, our build day in Tulsa is cancelled. This gives us a day off to explore the city and rest. There was some rain (as this was the reason for the build’s cancellation), but we have a great time regardless. On our second evening in Tulsa, we celebrate Christmas in July with a gift exchange, cake, and a burning fire projected on the wall.



7/27: Chandler, OK
Mileage: 69
Host: First United Methodist Church, 122 W 10th Street

This day was full of fun stops from whether those be saving turtles, eating a second brunch at a train-themed diner, stopping at a restaurant that inspired characters in Pixar’s Cars, or just generally enjoying the atmosphere that surrounds Route 66. The day is then made complete when the evening’s entertainment includes a local Chandler Rodeo complete with kids chasing goats, bull riding, and all sorts of horse-riding competitions. Overall, this is a fun Oklahoma day.



A little jingle for my aches and pains

Particularly when trying to scale some of our larger hills, this little chant helped me continue to climb.

Left, left, left, right, left.
My back hurts, my chamois high,
My hips shake from left to right.

Left, left, left, right, left.
My knees ache, my hand’s numb,
But I am still having fun.

Left, left, left, right, left.
My stomach’s soft, my booty’s sore,
But you will still hear me roar.

Left, left, left, right, left.

Week 5 – Bike & Build

7/14: Salem, IL
Mileage: 61
Host: Grace United Methodist Church, 116 E Schwartz

The road to Salem is relatively short and flat, and we take full advantage. We lounge at every stop, nap under many a tree, and get to our host site early enough to enjoy some personal time or some time at a great nearby swimming pool.

During one of my several naps today, a local bicyclists passes by and stops to learn about what we are doing and where we are going. We learn that this young man, probably in his mid-thirties, also traversed America via bicycle going from west to east along a more southern route. His experience, however, was drastically different from ours because he chose to go it alone. So much of our trip is dictated by the people we are surrounding ourselves with, and as a result, I could not image trying to bicycle close to 4000 miles all by myself. As an aside, he also had to carry all his gear with him, and I am also very happy for our sag wagon carrying all of our things.



7/15 – 7/16: St. Louis, MO
Mileage: 82
Host: University of Missouri, St. Louis

Despite it being a long ride, incredibly hot and humid, my body behaves itself and I feel okay. At each gas station, I would refill my bladder in my camelback with very cold ice water that would make me feel like it wasn’t so miserable outside. Riding through East St. Louis is also a bit of an adventure. Several of us at different points are talked to my local police asking what we are doing in this area and if we know where we are. As it becomes apparent, East St. Louis is not the safest of areas and stopping for a break or water whilst riding through is not a good option.

I know that I am feeling a little better when I arrive in the first riding group to get to the host site. Then to add to that feeling, my scab from the divot in the side of my thigh naturally falls off during my afternoon shower. It is easy to say that things are looking up.

The build day is also of note because we get to put up walls. There is something very gratifying about being able to erect a wall. What used to be a platform quickly starts to take on the shape of a home, progress is easily measured as each wall is pushed up, and lots of hands are needed throughout the process of preparing, lifting, and then securing said walls.

Throughout our time in St. Louis we get to explore the city. We check out the restaurants and bars around Washington University, and we do the obligatory journey to the base of the St. Louis Gateway Arch, which surprisingly was even more impressive than I had expected.



7/17: Belle, MO
Mileage: 100
Host: Belle High School, 504 West Third St

The day again is quite toasty outside, but this weather has become the rule and no longer the exception. And not only is it hot, but the humidity feels like we are sitting in a recently finished dryer cycle just waiting for someone to come and open up the dryer door and collect us so that we can breathe again.

That said, today I can’t really complain because my escape from this oppressive weather was inside the van. It is one of my van days. I still wish that I am out there riding with everyone in solidarity, enjoying the sites, smells, and feel of the road, but occasionally as I feel the A/C on my face, I recognize the advantage of riding the van. I have some company as well. Alex, who has been riding in the van since her injury a little while back, is very helpful when it comes to coordinating the day for the riders.

We arrive in Belle, MO just at the tail end of a parade, put together a dinner from donations from a couple pizza places, a sandwich place, and fruit and veggies from Walmart, take showers that only come in the temperature of scolding hot, and then break for the night. Some venture over to a town fair that features very competitive events such as tractor pulling, and some just fall asleep from the exhaustion of the day.

7/18: Lake Ozark, MO
Mileage: 87
Host: Faithbridge Church, Osage Beach, MO

Again, to no one’s surprise it is another hot and muggy day. I ride with Kaitlin and Sarah, and we dance our way through the day. Dancing is not meant figuratively to depict the fervor in which we ride, but it is in fact intended to mean that we take many a break to dance.

Another highlight of the day is stopping at a town called Meta, MO for lunch where we found a very reasonably priced diner and probably ate too heavily given the day to come. Nonetheless, we enjoyed ourselves and still survived the afternoon even if with a couple extra GI exclamations.



7/19 – 7/20: Springfield, MO
Mileage: 95
Host: South Street Christian Church

This day had all the makings of an awful, challenging day. I was riding sweep, which meant that me and another rider had to be the last two riders of the pack. The temperature was in the 90’s with at least 90% humidity. The ride was close to 100 miles. And it was our third such bicycling day in a row meaning that many of us are wearing down a little. Having to remain in the back of the pack as the group and their bicycles begin to get a little tired might not always be preferable. That said, Kaitlin (the other sweep rider) and I had an awesome day and probably one of my more memorable rides of the trip.



Sweepstakes is a competition put on each day by the two “sweep” riders, who ride at the end of the pack making sure that no Bike & Builder gets left behind. They design a challenge such as take the best photograph with a local, film a music video, or pull the best prank. Then at the end of the day, the sweep riders review the submissions and declare a winner.

I am sweep for the second time on our ride into Springfield, MO. This day has all the makings of a grueling, long, frustrating day. It is almost 100 miles long, the humidity is oppressive and the temperature over 90, and this is our third such riding day in a row meaning that riders might be struggling a little. My fellow sweeper is Kaitlin, and from the beginning of the day, we decide that we are not going to let anything make this day less than amazing. Although the day lasts for fourteen hours, we do just that. And other than feeling like our chamois are a made of a bed of needles as we neared hour 14, we are in very high spirits upon our arrival in Springfield.

To introduce our sweepstakes submissions for the day, Kaitlin and I produced the following video in all of our unplanned spots throughout the day.

Week 4 – Bike & Build

7/9 – 7/10: Yellow Springs, OH
Mileage: 55
Host: Antioch College

My body gets rocked today starting at 2am and not in the same physical way that the bicycling and building had been doing previously. I must have eaten something that I shouldn’t have and as a result I am making panicked trips to the bathroom throughout the night and then returning to my sleeping bag pale and in a sweat. I repeat this a few too many times.

Understandably, I am in no condition to ride let alone be awake. I spend most of the day asleep in one of the vans many open rows. I wake up for a brief time during lunch where I consume several sips of Gatorade before returning to my slumber. We arrive in Antioch college, I force myself to eat some very bland food, and then after a quick Bike & Build presentation and a small scoop of ice cream, I proceed to sleep for close to twelve hours and wake up the next day considerably stronger.

Although still not 100% as my body is still thoroughly dehydrated and seemingly exhausted, I am able to participate in the build day. We move a shed, paint a house, and weather seal another. In addition, we get a tour of a passive house, which I learn is a house that is incredibly insulated and therefore requires very little energy. The walls are thick, the water heater cooperates with the dryer so that they can exchange energy in an efficient way, and all of the appliances use very little electricity. Interestingly, this kind of house is still not really economically feasible because in order to make it an economic investment, the house will need to be lived in for upwards of over fifty years, which is not always achievable.

For a quick GI update, I am not eating normal foods and replenishing my water supply; therefore, I’m excited that I should be able to ride the next day.



7/11: Rushville, IN
Mileage: 101
Host: St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, 426 N Morgan St

A lot happens today on the road, especially given that we are on the road for over 100 miles, but what I will remember most from this day is that one of the riders, Alex, gets into a very scary accident with another cyclist. She ends up hitting her helmeted head against the pavement and suffers a concussion. In addition, her acromioclavicular ligament is hurt, which if more serious could have prevented her from riding the rest of the trip (luckily, this is not the case). Frighteningly, Alex alsohas a posttraumatic seizure just after hitting the ground, and although I am not on the scene to witness it, just hearing the story third-hand is enough to send shivers throughout my body. Alex spends the night in the hospital with a couple other riders and seems to be handing everything as well as possible.


7/12: Bloomington, IN
Mileage: 86
Host: Sherwood Oaks Christian Church

Today is a very long van day for me totaling about 370 miles—a longer distance than traveling from the San Francisco Bay Area down to my folks place near Los Angeles. The miles added up as follows: I drove to the lunch spot around mile 45 where I leave the trailer so that riders can help themselves to the coolers and prepare themselves lunch from our leftovers. I then back track and drive the 100 miles from the day prior because Alex was at a hospital near our host in Yellow Springs, OH. We all wait a little while at the Greene Memorial Hospital in Xenia, OH because the orthopedic surgeon still needs to clear Alex to ride (even if after a couple weeks of rest). Together, we drive back to the lunch spot to reattach the trailer to the van and then complete the day’s route all the way to Bloomington, Indiana.

Upon arriving at the Sherwood Oaks Christian Church, I was very ready for a little food and a beer, and as luck would have it, a handful of riders are heading out to the Upland Brewery in town. The church is nice to give us a brief tour of the beautiful town before dropping us off at the brewery where I end my day with a delicious bowl of chili and a couple beers.

Although Alex will not be riding for at least a week, things seem a little more normal now. The whole group is back together after having been separated for a night—this rarely happens on this trip, and usually we end up even sleeping in the same room all together. I’m excited to get back on my bicycle tomorrow.



7/13: Sumner, IL
Mileage: 95
Host: Sumner United Methodist Church

Today is a long day but a good day. I find a town named after my alma mater, and seeing how I bleed cardinal, I had no choice but to stop and take a couple selfies of me and the relevant signs. Later we find a pool around half way where we cool off and take a much needed break on this incredibly hot and humid day. It might have reached close to 100 degrees with no lack of humidity.

Also of note today is that we cross our first time zone as we leave Indiana and enter Illinois. State boundaries are always exciting, but couple them with a time change and it is almost too much excitement with which to contend. In short, our day was broken up with fun intermediate stops such as the pool and the state boundary, and this made the 95 miles seem much shorter.



Bike & Build does laundry

Living on the road, although very far from real life, still comes with its challenges and its chores. The group is divided into five different rotating chore groups to tackle exactly these. There is an overnight crew to make sure we aren’t forgetting anything at our hosts. The cooler crew packs and unpacks the coolers each day in the host’s refrigerators and cleans the dishes from lunch. The dinner and presentation crew cleans up (and sometimes prepares) dinner as well as presents to the host about what Bike & Build is all about. The trailer and van crew packs the trailer each morning bright and early, and is also responsible for keeping our lovely van clean. And lastly, the breakfast and laundry crew puts out and cleans up breakfast as well as performs the laundry ritual, which is scheduled for every third day.

The way laundry crew performs their task is a window into how much of our trip across the country operates. First, there is a strict schedule in that it is every third day. Given that we are all allowed a 4500 cubic inch duffle bag or backpack, which must also fit our sleeping bags and air mattresses, packing lots of clothes is impossible and frequent laundry is necessary. In addition, riding with dirty spandex can not only smell really bad but can also lead to all sorts of spreadable and disgusting bacterial growth. Thus, laundry is always done on extra hot! We tell riders if they have delicate clothes, they should probably just go ahead and ship those home. There will be no special batches of laundry.

Our laundry ritual starts in the late afternoon after we shower, and the laundry crew sets our a giant tarp on the ground and sends out mass text messages to get our clothes out there as soon as possible. We all tie up our clothes using a laundry loop to keep the chaos to a manageable level, and then we throw our laundry “clumps” upon the heap of smelly clothes. The laundry tarp is then carefully wrapped burrito-style so that no clothes can leak out on its journey from host floor to van to laundromat. After washing the clothes on hot with lots of detergent, drying takes place. Nothing makes the whole team love laundry crew more than receiving perfectly dry and slightly warm laundry. That said, we unfortunately realize that this is more of a luxury than a right and are always anxious upon the return of our clothes.


Clean clothes keep the Bike & Build machine running smoothly just as all of the tasks of the other chore groups, and now by halfway through the trip, living like this almost seems normal.

Week 3 – Bike & Build

6/30: State College, PA
Mileage: 95
Host: St. Paul’s Church, 109 McAllister St

Today is another van day for me, and I will use it as a chance to get in a couple extra stretches and rest my legs. I am accompanied in the van most of the day by Emily, and together we enjoyed a great morning riding past the other riders while cheering them on, and then eventually finding a nice local coffee shop near lunch to talk while we waited for people to arrive.

That all said, van days are a lot of hurry up and wait, and the afternoon was not as relaxing as the morning was. Because of the longer distance, we have two lunches, so the van and trailer rush ahead to set up a second lunch closer to the end of the day’s journey.


7/1: Johnstown, PA
Mileage: 80
Host: YWCA, 526 Somerset St

Today is probably the toughest ride to date, but it starts out wonderfully at a local delicious coffee shop.  It is easily the best latte that I’ve had so far on this trip and it’s from Saint’s Cafe in State College.  But after the easy start, the day has a little of everything—big rolling hills in the morning, mountains in the afternoon, a torrential downpour of water, an incredibly steep downhill into the city near the end, and a sizeable overall distance at around 80 miles. By the time we arrive at the host, we can barely pull ourselves together to shower and eat before collapsing on our Thermarests for the night.



7/2 – 7/3: Pittsburgh, PA
Mileage: 80
Host: Smithfield United Church of Christ, 620 Smithfield St

My knee isn’t behaving itself today. It uses almost any excuse to flare up. A little bit of bumpy road, a steep incline, and a fast gear change are examples of things that my knee disagrees with today. Before I hurt myself, however, I get picked up 15 miles short of our destination because this journey across America is definitely a marathon not a sprint, and I need to make sure my knees will make the trip. Upon arriving, I get a chance to meet up with my old roommate Gabe who is driving across the country back to the west coast and we enjoy a meal together as I recount some of my stories from the road.

Our second day in Pittsburgh is our first day off. We cherish these days off for several reasons. We are allowed to sleep in. We get to do whatever it is we want to and explore the area. And we only get three of these days all summer, so their scarcity makes them quite special. On my day off in Pittsburgh, I start off by going to a delicious coffee shop called 21st Street Coffee, followed by a deep tissue, rather painful massage. I then find another coffee shop to write a little bit and catch up on some of my Bike & Build leader responsibilities before heading to the Andy Warhol Museum in the afternoon. The late afternoon is enjoyed at a converted church that is now a microbrewery. And finally, the end of the day takes us all to a top-ranked Pirates game where they are playing rival Phillies and we get to see the sunset over the city as the Pirates squeak away with a victory. The change of pace today was welcomed and I feel we are all refreshed to start anew tomorrow.




7/4: Cadiz, OH
Mileage: 75
Host: Presbyterian Church of Cadiz, 154 Market St

We made it out of Pennsylvania! There were times that the hills of the great state of Pennsylvania become a little more than trying, but I feel that we all had an opportunity to bond over said hills through the process of climbing them.

Today was a nice day to leave the otherwise bustling city of Pittsburgh because it being the 4th of July meant that the streets were a little quieter. Pennsylvania got one more laugh at our expense with a couple very nice hills at the beginning of the day, and although I assumed that hitting the Ohio border meant that the terrain would become instantaneously flat, it seems that I have miscalculated a little. It is still fun bicycling over the rolling hills, smelling barbeques on many a porch, seeing wagon wheels on at least every other front yard, and just generally seeing the stars and stripes much more than I am accustomed.

My knee and I weren’t exactly on the same page today, but we both came to at least some compromise. And although the last stretch just before the church was a solid uphill, my July 4th ride can be described as mostly successful. For dinner, the church was very nice to provide us with pizzas. To our surprise, all 12 pizzas were of the pepperoni variety—welcome to Ohio.




7/5: Coshocton, OH
Mileage: 63
Host: Coshocton Christian Tabernacle, 23891 Airport Rd

I’m driving the van today. The morning is very mellow and I find a lunch spot just next to the cemetery where the great Cy Young is buried. The afternoon is full of running errands such as going to Post Office, to Walmart, and to showers, but overall, it was a nice easy day. In the evening, although it was a day late, we continued our July 4th celebration while we played with sparklers outside in the church parking lot.


7/6 – 7/8: Columbus, OH
Mileage: 74
Host: Jacob’s Porch, 45 East 13th Ave

In terms of terrain, today was one of our nicest to date. Unfortunately, my body did not make the day as relaxing as it could have been. My knees are feeling weak, and I stop frequently to stretch. Amanda is nice enough to stick with me throughout the day through my rest stops and all.

A couple notable things today are the delicious cupcakes we try around mile 60 that were once featured on the Food Network, and that near the end of our journey we pass the 1000 mile marker since we left Portland, Maine.

In Columbus, we spend 3 nights, which is really a treat because it means packing our bags at least a little bit less. We still need to tidy up at the beginning of the day, but there is no need to try to squeeze everything in our duffels each morning. We have two build days here on the same sites, which means that we get to know the builders and the staff at the sites where we are working and we really get a sense of the Columbus / Ohio State University area.