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home : features : community February 6, 2016

7/22/2009 8:06:00 AM
Bike and Build teams with Habitat for Humanity
Coast-to-coast construction
Following a hard days' work on home sites in Diamond Valley and Prescott Valley, bikers have a group circle meeting after a dinner at PAHH Friday in Prescott.
Trib Photo/Cheryl Hartz
Following a hard days' work on home sites in Diamond Valley and Prescott Valley, bikers have a group circle meeting after a dinner at PAHH Friday in Prescott.
Trib Photo/Cheryl Hartz
One of four route leaders, Bike and Build's Steve Worrell poses outside the newly refurbished Prescott Valley Habitat for Humanity home of Toni Mettler.
TribPhoto/Cheryl Hartz
One of four route leaders, Bike and Build's Steve Worrell poses outside the newly refurbished Prescott Valley Habitat for Humanity home of Toni Mettler.
TribPhoto/Cheryl Hartz

Start May 15 on the North Carolina coast at the Atlantic Ocean. Rise at five a.m. Pedal a bicycle 75 miles in the rain. Sleep on a gym floor. Repeat for 65 days for 3,513 miles with variations, including nine days of home-building. End in San Diego July 18.

That's the schedule 31 young people, most of them college students averaging about 21 years of age, have followed this summer on the Bike and Build program to benefit Habitat for Humanity.

Oh yes, and for the privilege, each had to raise at least $4,000 to donate to the cause.

Few of them are without scabbed-over knees, elbows or chins from bike mishaps along the way. And all sport a deep "farmer tan" on arms and legs where bike shorts and T-shirt sleeves end.

The 31 riders rolled into Prescott on Day 56 - Thursday, July 9 - after a 70-mile trek from Williams.

They spent three short nights in the Mile High Middle School gym, and devoted Friday and Saturday to Prescott Area Habitat for Humanity. Half of them worked at a Thrivent Builds home in Diamond Valley, while the rest refurbished a Habitat home awaiting new residents on Robert Road in Prescott Valley.

Kelly McRell, an Appalachian State University junior, had helped build houses for Habitat but hadn't ridden a bike since she was 12, when she decided to join Bike and Build.

"I'm exhausted," she said with a huge smile, but admitted she's had a blast, despite recent episodes with altitude sickness.

One of the big challenges for Rutgers U. grad Nhan Vuong was dodging potholes in pitch-black tunnels early in the trip.

The group's longest ride day covered 124 miles from Rocky Ford to Colorado Springs. They got only four days off from either riding or building. One-day building stops were in North Carolina (three locations), Tennessee, Arkansas, Colorado (two locations). PAHH received their only two-day build.

UNC-Chapel Hill student Cindy Freimark said she enjoyed build days because they got to "sleep in" until 7 a.m.

In Prescott Valley the team worked to drywall, paint and landscape a home built about 10 years ago whose original owners moved out of state. Toni Mettler and children Owen and Shayna will soon move in.

Taking a break from painting the home's exterior while monsoon rains poured down Saturday, MIT grad Dennis Fantone and Rebecca Anderson, American University student, demonstrated how they couldn't straighten their pinkie fingers. They hope the nerve damage from handlebar pressure is temporary. Group hugs help.

Danielle Dalfonso, U. Conn. student, said most of the team had not biked distances before.

"It's cool because a lot of us are at the same (high) level now," Dalfonso said.

She noted the 124-mile day across the Rocky Mountains started with a mock-Braveheart speech from route leader Steve Worrell, a Duke University grad who was on his second B & B tour.

"(The day) was awesome," she enthused. "It was fun to find out you can do that. We went 360 miles in four days in the Rockies, but it was so beautiful you'd forget to be tired."

Riders kept each other entertained over the miles with a variety of activities.

Greg Sloan, U. of Virginia, and Dylan Kelly, Shorter College) conducted a mock radio show while biking, interviewing "special guests" and going on-air with local stations whenever possible.

The two also comprised the "Road Kill Awareness Committee," chronicling 634 smears on the highway with positive IDs.

"Everyone's interests are similar - being outside, service and riding bikes," noted Timur Ender from North Carolina State University.

Several celebrated birthdays en route. Gabriel Ofiesh, one of four route leaders, turned 25 and Bennett Buchanan, 20, while in Prescott.

The team enthused about the people they met and things they did along the way.

"We attract a lot of attention wherever we go," said Sharif Morad, U. of Virginia.

A "Krazy in Kansas" scavenger hunt provided a plethora of contacts with locals, from stealing kisses to riding a tractor, milking cows to getting "arrested."

From Prescott the team went on to Wickenburg. In San Diego, they had to find their own way home, or wherever.

Environmental engineer Worrell has just two weeks before heading for a joint Peace Corps/grad school (U. of S. Florida) project in Uganda.

Stephen Mills, Stetson University, was meeting his family in California and flying to Hawaii.

Bike and Build started with one cross-country route in 2002 and has grown to seven this year. Nearly 800 riders have raised more than $1.6 million.

After subtracting $35,000 to the Orange County North Carolina Habitat for Humanity, which donated a van for the group's use, about half of the $142,000 the NC/San Diego team raised goes toward administrative costs to get the riders across the U.S. and half goes into a competitive grant program for affordable housing.

For more information about the program, and to see journals and photos of the tours, visit www.bikeandbuild.org.

For information on Prescott Area Habitat for Humanity, visit www.prescotthabitat.org.

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