by David Tesitor
WALSENBURG- On July 1, thirty one cyclists rode into town and spent the night at the United Methodist Church as a part of the cycle across America program which builds homes for the Habitat for Humanity. The Bike and Build program is in its seventh year of building homes for the Habitat, and here’s how it works: eight teams of cyclists travel across the country to work on projects which ultimately become homes for the needy. Each rider was required to raise $4000 to be a part of the ride. The group stopped in Walsenburg after an 84 mile ride which took them from Trinidad over the Scenic Highway of Legends. Karen Goudreau, a junior at Simmons College who hails from Mayfield Heights, OH had never been on a bike until this trip. She said of the experience, “Riding in from New Mexico and seeing the mountains being out in the distance looked challenging, but when I got here it was incredible.”
The group rested up for the night then headed out to Pueblo, the long way around, a 119 mile route through Gardner, Westcliffe and on into Beulah and Pueblo. On Saturday they traveled to Colorado Springs where they completed a ‘Blitz and Build,’ constructing an entire house from the foundation up. The finishing touches of the house were completed today. From there, they are off to Rifle, CO to work on a portion of another project.
The Colorado Springs house is the only house to be built by the same team this summer. Jessica Crumpler, who graduated from the University of North Carolina this past May said that, “The most rewarding experience of this whole trip is seeing that we can actually make a difference wherever we are. Seeing a floor or maybe the walls going up is just a small part of the whole picture.” According to Megan O’Brien, one of the route directors, “We’ve done it all… roofing, demolition framing and landscaping.” When the group hit Colorado Springs on Saturday, the foundation had already been laid by a previous group last week. In fact, the night this group was in Walsenburg, there were two other groups in Boulder and Gunnison en-route to other projects.
This group is a part of the Charleston, SC to Santa Barbara, CA route, a 4190 mile trip. It is the longest route both in distance and days. Their Walsenburg layover was the 39th of an 81 day journey. They already logged in 2015 miles. Since the inception of the program in 2003, the riders have peddled over 2.3 million miles and contributed over 63,500 man-hours of labor. Many of these kids have given up their summers to complete the ride while some are still searching for something meaningful in their young lives. Three riders told me they quit their jobs to be able to make the trip.
Judging by the looks on their faces- some relieved their first experience in the mountains was over and others just relaxing- it was obvious they are all building an experience of a lifetime. I did not have the heart to tell them about the Continental Divide. In closing, Brad Guest, a senior at Penn State said his best moment of the trip was “completing the highest climb of the trip then the feeling of coming down the mountain… what a rush.” Guest was another who was never on a bike prior to this trip. His athleticism comes from being a member of the rowing team at PSU.
If you would like more information or want to track the riders or make a donation, visit their website at www.bikeandbuild.org.