Pedaling for affordable housing
As you can see on the website, Bike and Build's mission statement is twofold: to benefit affordable housing, and to empower young adults for a lifetime of service and civic engagement.
We've had 7 build days so far, which we mostly still consider a rest day, even if it does require some physical activity. Around 7:30 am, a wake-up time 3 hours later than on our bike days, we leisurely arise from our (often beer-induced) deep sleeps and begin on the build site around 9 am. The type of work we do on the sites varies, partially depending on what stage of construction the house is in when we arrive at the town. Thirty-one people is quite a large group of volunteers, especially when the number of project coordinators is significantly less; we often split up between 2-3 different build sites, and then break off into smaller groups at each site.
On this trip, I've worked on roofing, insulation, drywall, painting, sealing grout, and various small tasks that needed to get done. The other day, Rachel and I installed the door strike plates (the fixture where the door meets and clicks into the wall); this required some carpentry skills with chisels and such, and made me grateful for my own dexterity! One of my favorite parts about volunteering, particularly through Bike and Build, is that we often get to meet the future owners of the homes, which many individual volunteers don't have the opportunity to do. The owners usually stop by at some point during the day, and we become acquainted with their story, their kids, and their experience with organizations like Habitat for Humanity. For example, during our two build days in Lawrence, Kansas, we got to know Kamari, the future owner, who told us about her two daughters as well. I was actually really impressed with the timeline of her journey; her house, on which we were doing some final small tasks, was built in only 4 months! That's incredible, especially for an affordable housing organization, given that I've heard that some houses take more than 2 years!
Becoming personally invested in the people benefiting from our fundraising and volunteer hours is what (I think) the second part of Bike and Build's mission statement strives to achieve. We are so close to the impact we're making. I mean, we're meeting the people whose home we're building! Donating to a charity and working at an NGO, you're often still so removed from the ultimate goal you're trying to achieve, and it's awesome to actually be zero degrees removed. I think this is how Bike and Build successfully inspires young adults to really want to drive that social change and pursue a lifetime of service; we really get some unique experiences that can build a genuine interest in making a difference.
Time flies when you're on a bike! We're now in Nebraska and entered Colorado and a new time zone yesterday; we are already more than 6 weeks into the trip, are more than halfway, and only have 3 more state borders to cross! I also had a wonderful birthday on Friday: it was a shorter ride on smooth pavement and in cooler weather; we went through the geographical center of the continental United States; fellow riders ahead of me got strangers to wish me a happy birthday on the road; and, I got lots of mail from friends and family! I couldn't have asked for a better day!
With The Wizard of Oz as my only reference for Kansas, I imagined flatness for miles, tornadoes, Toto, and a lot of grey. (Although, this may be due to the fact that the beginning of the movie was monochrome.) However, Kansas surprised me with some lovely (and not too challenging) rolling hills and some really beautiful views of just land. I think it was one of the more beautiful states we've seen in awhile; it reminded me a bit of northern California, but a little more rural. While we have passed through some very small towns of a population of less than 150, two of the major college towns we passed through (Lawrence and Manhattan) were both way more established and modern than I had expected. There were some bars, coffee shops, and boutiques that looked straight out of San Francisco! Nebraska has been more in line with what I thought of the entire middle of the country: flat roads in vast pastures with awesome panoramic views. As for what's next, I have mixed feelings: I'm looking forward to the epic views and cooler weather of the Rockies, but I'm anxious about the enduring ascents up those purple mountains and my burning quads that are bound to follow!
In addition to the pictures below, check out my fellow rider Michael's YouTube channel. He's spent a lot of time compiling footage from his GoPro camera and it is an AWESOME way to really see what our days our like! If pictures are worth a thousand words, his videos are worth a million!