This summer, my former student Danny is participating in something called “Bike and Build.” He is the leader for a group of college students who will bike across the country. The students will participate every third day or so in a community service project, building houses for Habitat for Humanity and other projects associated with affordable housing. In addition to the biking and building, the group helps to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the associated charitable causes. I thought-- what a great way to spend the summer! The students get to see America and help rebuild it at the same time.
The Bike and Build organization has many tours crossing the country http://bikeandbuild.org/cms/. Danny’s tour was leaving from Providence, Rhode Island, ending in Seattle. The tour's first leg was a 35 mile ride through the wilds of Rhode Island to Pomfret, Connecticut. The ride was mostly on US Route 44. This length was about within my biking range, so I and another friend volunteered to ride the first leg. We had some logistics to work out. We drove two cars with two bike racks, dropped one car at the ending point in Pomfret, drove to Providence, parked the other car there, biked with the group, and then drove back to Providence when done.
What a terrific ride we had! The idea of combining biking and building is sort of like a Reese’s peanut butter cup: two things that just go together well. I had a rocky start, getting not one but three flat tires. I was grateful for my friend Seth and Danny in helping to change the tubes, and I’ll have a box of tubes sent to Danny when the group arrives someplace in Ohio. The logistics for the overall tour is impressive. It requires a tremendous amount of organization, scheduling and coordination. Stopping points and routes must be carefully worked out in advance. The groups rely on churches and other volunteers for overnight housing, and most of the food is donated. After our 35 miles (well, actually 50 miles, since we made a wrong turn and explored even more of Rhode Island than planned), the church in Pomfret had a table of watermelon and cantaloupe. That was definitely the best watermelon I’ve ever had, all 7 pieces.
Towards the end of the first leg, when riding into the town of Pomfret, there is a stretch of road that is sublime. Route 44 widens out to an expanse of classic New England countryside, with rock walls, pastures, lazy cows and distant barns. As we biked up the last hill, the sun streamed through a cloud-speckled northwest sky, and at that moment everything was possible. In Pomfret I left the group to return to work, family and other middle-aged things. The students biked on to rebuild America.