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.




Week 2 – Bike & Build

6/23: Northampton, MA
Mileage: 39 (stopped short due to a minor bicycle spill)
Host: Christ United Methodist Church, 271 Rocky Hill Rd

Today, I rode sweep with Abby. Riding sweep means being one of two riders who will remain at the end of the pack and make sure that everyone completes the journey that day. The irony of the situation today is that I end up getting into a bit of a spill just after lunch and am forced to sit out the second half of the day (I shared this experience in my last post). The day was beautiful up to that point, and it was actually still quite beautiful the second half even though I was in the van trying to make sure that the blood seeping through my bicycle shorts didn’t stain anything. Although I didn’t ride the second half of the day, the group was forced to detour because of some road work, and the detour caused everyone to climb one of the steepest hills imaginable. Some riders made that a Hike & Build moment, but again, it is going to be all of these blips that will make this trip so memorable.


6/24 – 6;25: Pittsfield, MA
Mileage: 43
Host: First United Methodist Church, 55 Penn St

It’s my van day, and this is a blessing because it’s my first day post-spill, and my leg can use the rest. Van days rotate between the four leaders, and on our respective days, we will be responsible for locking up the host site, finding a perfect spot for lunch, running errands to ensure the trip continues to run as smoothly as possible, and of course, being available and responsive to the unpredictable.




6/26: Poughkeepsie, NY
Mileage: 80
Host: Oakwood Friends School, 22 Spackenkill Road

It’s my first day back post injury, and I’m a bit apprehensive especially given that it’s an 80-plus mile day. That said, from the very beginning I plan to take the day slow and steady. The weather is relatively pleasant as it is a bit overcast, which is a great condition for riding. At lunch I close my eyes while sitting on a bench and enter directly into a deep sleep. This reminds me of my late grandpa who could and would sleep almost anywhere. From an outsiders perspective, it probably didn’t look particularly comfortable, but it did the trick to re-energize me for the second half of the day.

We knew we were getting closer to the mountains as the hills starting to pop up with more frequency and fervor. Rounding a bend and seeing more hill until the next bend is a bit of a mind game in that mental toughness is something more challenging to achieve than quadriceps toughness. With a couple breaks, some snacks, and the reciprocating encouragement between riders, we all make up these hills on our way to Poughkeepsie.


6/27: Port Jervis, NY
Mileage: 60
Host: Drew United Methodist Church, 49-51 Sussex St

The highlight of the day comes at the end of a very warm and constant uphill grind near the end of the day when alas we see a sign intended for trucks that we are about to a approach a 4-mile significant downhill grade. Coasting into Port Jervis at the end of this day is a delight for all of us even if there were some serious hills getting to this point.


6/28: Mount Pocono, PA
Mileage: 70
Host Mount Pocono United Methodist Church, 12 Church Ave

Anytime a town name has the name Mount as its first word, that is a descent sign that there will probably be some climbing to get there. And then along the way, we begin to notice street names like Mountain View Road, Summit Ave, and Skyline Blvd. To make things even more exciting today, when we are about 20 miles shy of our destination, we find a detour in the road due to a missing bridge. The detour, to our surprise and our demise, adds about 10 miles and is always at a nice pitch, either up or down.

Another highlight of the day is the food at our host. Delicious! Great dinner and even better dessert. The Mt. Pocono UMC even had this salted chocolate and caramel that makes my mouth watering just thinking about it. Overall, this was my most challenging day yet, and it was really satisfying to have completed it in any fashion.


6/29: Berwick, PA
Mileage: 60
Host: First Presbyterian Church, 320 Market St.

One scary part of today was near the beginning of the day at then end of a nice, long gradual downhill, I pull into a situation with a huddle of Bike & Builders surrounding a scene with another car and a police car just outside the scene. I pull in and find that one of our riders has been hit by a car that was pulling into a parking lot. Fortunately, the rider is okay other than a little road rash, and the car was not moving too fast because of the situation. That said, this also bring the risks of what we are doing into focus and all of the other riders take a little while to regroup across the street as some of us enjoy our first Wawa’s experience.