Most people fly when they need to cross the United States. Some choose to drive. Forrest Gump opted to run. But this summer, Penn students are ready to ride.
College junior Nick Moncy, College senior Edgar Agudelo and Engineering sophomore Liam Gallagher plan to bike across the country and help build affordable housing through an organization called Bike & Build. Bike & Build began in 2003 and plans trips for groups of approximately 30 people to bike cross-country, aid in building housing and raise funding and awareness for affordable housing. Riders can apply to participate in multiple cross-country routes, beginning in places such as North Carolina, Virginia and Rhode Island, and ending in California, Oregon and Washington.
Participants in one of the organization’s trips must raise $4,500 before the start of their journeys, which can serve as a daunting but also rewarding challenge. Riders reach out to their personal networks, along with using creative methods such as garage sales to obtain the funds. Moncy believes that fundraising has taught him how to ask for help from others.
“That’s something I had a hard time with at Penn. I tried to do things on my own,” Moncy said. “So being with a group of people, being with a team on Bike & Build and asking friends and family and everyone who will listen about fundraising has taught me that life’s a lot easier when you have people to support you.”
In addition to raising money for the cause, riders must also be prepared for the physical task of biking approximately 4,000 miles through diverse terrain. Bike & Build requires riders to bike 500 miles before the start of their trips. Moncy and Agudelo both currently live in Florida and have worked together to ready themselves for the summer.
Back at Penn, Gallagher wants to exceed the mileage requirement, hoping to bike 100 miles a week in the next month when he finds time on the weekends.
“I used to cycle some when I was in high school ... but I never linked together 80 miles a day, 80 miles a day, day in day out,” Gallagher said. “So I don’t think there’s any possible way I can really be ready for that until I do it.”
The affordable housing aspect of the experience serves as a strong motivating factor for the riders, who said they want to make an impact in the communities they visit and emphasized the importance of awareness of America’s housing issues.
“It’s so important to feel that connection with communities that we’re going to be in. Building goes a long way towards fostering a sense of community,” Agudelo said. “I don’t think that it’s always the highlight or at the forefront of a lot of issues that we deal with, but it’s definitely something we have to think about.”
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