When I signed up to do a cross-country ride, my only expectation was for an adventure. Everything else—the family, the challenge, and the cause—was secondary. I think we all came in that way a little bit, excited to ride and forgetful of whatever else was to come. But, as I sit here without 29 other people by my side and solo in front of the TV and dozens of unread emails exactly a week after this insane adventure finished, I realize that it is entirely the other participants—my new family—that made this trip the most wonderful, dream-like experience of my life.
You’re rarely put in situations where someone can really make a difference in the day by putting another first. But that was everyday on Bike and Build; from doing the daily chores to helping a rider not lose it on the road, it was always about somebody else. With the company of 29 of my crazy, smelly, sweaty best friends, there was always someone that had your back and always someone’s back to be had. About to pass out? A P2C’er never hesitated to run in with a Clif bar, water, ibuprofen, and insistence that you sit your ass down on the shoulder for at least 15 minutes. Nothing to eat for dinner tonight? Dinner crew could swallow their complaints about not having showered or wanting to buy some food at the only gas station they’ve seen in 150 miles and instead sit for hours making chili for thirty. Cold and lost in the middle of New York? There was always a little communal delirium and good cheer to keep everyone from breaking down and quitting less than 200 miles into the trip. Even after everyone’s gone after Half Moon Bay? Group texts and a never-ending flow of Snapchats that would seem mundane to anyone else to let you know that P2C is always there for you. We saw some incredible landscapes and met some amazing people but in the end, Bike and Build turned out to be an exploration of growing and learning with one group of people. Once hungry for only the adventure, we grew to love everything along with the experience and hardship as long as we were alongside each other.
Saying goodbye to P2C (which stands for Providence to California if I was never clear on that) was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done—harder than the five days we spent climbing the Rockies or the week we were stranded in Nevada with nothing but headwinds and desolation. Now, the trip seems ethereal in a way. When I stood in the Pacific looking west on the endless stretch of water with 28 of my teammates hugging and kissing and crying around me, I couldn’t believe that we’d actually made it. Every last drop of sweat and effort had been poured into making it to this ocean, and there we were. It was a miracle. Did we really do that ourselves? Standing there, I couldn’t stop crying. I think it was an ambiguous amalgamation of pride, grief, disbelief and ecstasy that made the tears keep pouring down. That each one of us had managed to push ourselves all the way here was crazy. Forget the physical strain; the mental challenge was enough! But one thing is for certain: I couldn’t have made it without my donors, from whom I got nothing but love and encouragement; my good friends in New York and California, whose support and cheers I could hear through the text on my phone; and most importantly, my incredible team that was one big, happy family (most of the time).
I’ll never forget the day I rode Trail Ridge, which was supposed to be the most scenic day OF MY LIFE. But instead of taking in the once-in-a-lifetime views, I concentrated all my efforts on not passing out on the ground and vomiting my guts out. That was one of the days I knew I could count on this crew forever: the moment I first walked out of the rest station bathroom looking queasy, Charlotte jumped over to sit me down and command my breathing. For the rest of the day, Roge and Jason never left my side to make sure that I was doing okay and never hesitated to stop when I needed to. It might not seem like much to an outside eye, but those things mean a lot on a day like that.
So I finish my final post detailing this glorious adventure with more thank you’s than I can count and a word of wisdom. To every P2C’er who lent a hand to anyone who needed one (which was all of them), never forget each moment of struggle and joy and awe that we went through to accomplish what we did. To all of my supporters, donors, friends and family (not mutually exclusive, mind you), thank you for allowing me to have this experience and for making a small difference in the lives of low-income homeowners across the nation. And never forget that there are always people in need: the affordable housing crisis persists and it is up to us—the driven, those looking for adventure—to utilize our hunger and energy and compassion to help them. Lastly, always keep in mind these words our beloved teammate Johnny chalked for us on the sweaty, mean pavement of Monarch Pass: “Keep pushing. Change the world.”