Pedaling for big change

<I>The Eagle/Dan Toner</I><BR>Michael Ward of Portland; Adam Lamothe of Florida; Christopher Wong of New Jersey; and Kevin Meehan of Virgina ride through John Day on their way to Dayville. The cyclists started their journey in Virginia Beach, Va.

JOHN DAY - The Church of the Nazarene served as one of the final pit stops on July 19 for 27 cyclists pedaling across the country in the name of affordable housing.

The Bike and Build Foundation cyclists - ages 18 through 28 - met in Virginia Beach, Va., on May 20 to start their journey. They are scheduled to finish the ride July 25 in Cannon Beach.

"It's been fun seeing the country in such a unique perspective and developing relationships with the other cyclists," said Adam Bohr of Chicago, Ill. "I've been able to make a personal inspection of myself and how I live, and get a sense of what other people struggle to have, and what I have."

After the trip, Bohr, a recent graduate of Illinois-Wesleyan University, will return to Chicago and start his career as an accountant.

But the trip wasn't just about developing friendships and enduring the country's rigorous riding terrain. The team stopped in nine cities along the way to help organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and Rescue Mission put up the framework for homes being built for low-income families.

The stops included Cincinnati, Ohio; St. Louis, Mo.; Kansas City, Mo.; Jackson, Wyo., and Boise, Idaho.

"The cycling and the people I've met along the way have been the best part of the trip so far," said substitue teacher and Omaha, Neb., native Joe Naughton. "Plus some of the scenery we've passed through has been unbelievable. Colorado was great, and parts of Idaho are really pretty."

Bike and Build started in 2002 as an expansion of Habitat Bicycle Challenge, a non-profit cycling event founded by Marc Bush. Currently, there are six routes starting on the East Coast and ending in the West. Since 2003, the organization has raised $752,804 for housing projects planned and executed by young adults.

This summer, it hopes to donate an additonal $360,000 through grants and fund-raisers.

In order to participate in Bike and Build, prospective cyclists must raise $4,000 to cover the cost of their bike, food, and fuel for the support van. However, most of the money is donated to student-led affordable housing projects across the country.

Before departure with a team on one of the six routes, each participant is required to volunteer at least eight hours at a construction site, and another eight hours helping Bike and Build produce the trip. Cyclists are also encouraged to train heavily beforehand to prepare for 70-mile days on the road.

"Some people actually didn't train at all," said Naughton, with a smile. "Most of the people here are pretty good athletes, though; it was just harder for those who didn't train for the first few weeks."

In addition, all cyclists must attend a multi-day orientation with team leaders to learn about basic bike maintenance, bike safety, and to get better acquainted with their teammates.

"It's been a great way to make a lot of friends and explore towns," said Whitney Newton, of Virginia. "For us it's about the adventure and just getting to help people in need."

To succeed, each team needs its own sources of help. The riders rely on churches and campgrounds for places to sleep and rest along the way, and readily accept food donations.

"The reason Bike and Build is is so successful is the hosts and churches that take us in and donate food to us," said Naughton. "Without them, we wouldn't be able to exist."

On July 20, the team woke up with the usual route meeting, where cyclists map out their day by discussing directions and making sure nobody gets lost. Also, each cyclist must take a turn driving the team van - or "sag wagon" - which transports all their gear from stop to stop, and assists riders with any problems along the way.

The trip through Oregon included planned stops in Dayville, Maupin, Portland, Vernonia, and finally, Cannon Beach.

"Oregon looks to be a good place to ride through," said Kevin Meehan, of Virginia. "Honestly, it was just hot and dry at first, but the scenery has definitely improved a lot with the trees and everything."

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