How far can you get in 72 days on a bike?
If you’re Taylor Burdge ’16, the answer is 3,886 miles and 19 states. This past summer, Taylor participated in a program called Bike and Build, which organizes cross-country bicycle trips to benefit affordable housing groups. She raised $12,145 for the cause, which was 270% of her original fundraising goal, and went all the way from Portland, ME to Santa Barbara, CA.
Talk about a full summer.
Essential to the trip were its 13 build days, in which Taylor and her fellow 32 riders pedaled to local housing groups to supply them with manual labor for their projects.
The tasks she and her fellow bikers undertook were not for the faint of heart: reconstructing a convent that would become a 10-family home, weed whacking and building sheds, putting up siding, using a 10-caliber nail gun to build compartments for building supplies, and demolishing a building that was going to be turned into apartment complexes.
“Bike and Build is wild. I have no idea where I’m sleeping tomorrow, what my next meal will be, or even what town I’ll be in. But the constant change keeps everything exciting.”
This was not a slow crew, either. Taylor and her fellow riders would normally get up before 5:30am, and their typical pace was 15-18mph. The group even developed their own vernacular. Riding 100 miles in one day was called a “century ride.” Every three mornings, the bikers would go on a “rando-ride”…their numbers were randomly drawn from a hat, and they would ride with the corresponding group to avoid getting cliquey.
Taylor also kept a blog of her travels over the summer, which I urge you to check out. The posts are moving snapshots of America. If you quickly scan through them, you can watch the climate palpably change as she goes further south and west. You can picture her pack of merry builders battling heat, saddle sores, and flat tires, and hitting speeds of up to 50mph on downhills as they spend five weeks in the middle of the desert.
“It’s funny how we now get excited whenever we spend the night in a town that has a grocery store or a population greater than 2000.”
The blog abounds with stories of adventures and wild encounters…here are some of my favorites:
Visiting a college that had only 35 students and 6 professors in Yellow Springs, OH (Antioch College).
- Seeing a field full of buffalo and a camel on the way to Bloomington, IN, home of the Hoosiers.
- Observing that the number of overalls, missing teeth, and BBQ joints greatly increased the further west they went in the Missouri Ozarks.
- Going to Joplin, MO, where a Cat-5 tornado hit last year. Next to the destroyed high school was a colorful tree…it was the meeting place for disaster relief, and city residents painted it with the few remaining cans of paint salvaged from the high school. Now, the tree stands out in the stark deserted background as a symbol of hope for the city.
- On the way to Tulsa, OK, complete strangers let the riders swim in their pools, gave them watermelon and free T-shirts, and let Taylor and one of her partners go wake boarding for 1/5th the price.
- Visiting Pops, a famous gas station in Yukon, OK, known for its hundreds of different varieties of soda, including but not limited to pumpkin pie, maple syrup, corn beer, and buffalo chicken cola.
- Seeing oil rigs and rodeos in Texas, and eating chicken fried steak.
- Watching a fellow rider compete in Amarillo’s 72 oz Steak Challenge: a 72 oz steak, side salad, and loaded baked potato. It all must be eaten in under an hour or else you have to pay $75. The Bike and Build rider got all the way to 11 oz!
- Petting a giraffe at a zoo in Portales, NM.
- Taking a day off to hike 21 miles to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back, with a total elevation change of over 5000 ft.
- Finding that in southern NV, every gas station and grocery store has slot machines that people play at all hours of the day, including 7am.
A few more pictures from the journey:
If you get a chance, ask Taylor sometime about her travels. You can find her on the first boat of Stanford Women’s Rowing, or on the backroads of the hills in Woodside.