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Bike & Build's Summer Adventure Across America

Jesse Cohn, RTC's Trail Development Intern, writes about her experiences during a recent cross-country biking trip with Bike & Build.

This past summer I rode my bicycle from Providence, R.I., to Seattle, Wash., with a nonprofit called Bike & Build.

Bike & Build leads cross-country cycling trips for young adults to raise money and awareness for affordable housing. Each summer, eight groups of about 30 riders make the epic trek from East to West Coast, bicycling about 4,000 miles. Since its inception in 2002, Bike & Build riders have donated more than $2.8 million to affordable housing organizations and worked more than 80,000 hours for local housing affiliates.

Bike & Build trips take about 10 weeks, with about 60 days of riding. Once a week, the riders trade their helmets for hammers and work on affordable housing build sites across the country. Each segment of the route is planned beforehand, and riders carry a cue sheet with the day's directions with them as they cycle.

As one of the summer's trip leaders, I was responsible for planning these daily routes. My co-leaders and I primarily routed our riders on county and state roads, relying heavily on Google Maps, especially Google Street View, where we checked how many lanes of traffic traveled in each direction and evaluated the size and quality of road shoulders.

But of course we always took trails wherever we could. Trails eliminated many of our safety concerns and provided a fun change of pace, and often riders could bicycle two abreast without fear of approaching car or truck traffic. TrailLink.com was a great source of information for where we could find safe, off-road routes.

We spent the Fourth of July riding from Columbus to Dayton, Ohio, traveling via the Prairie Grass Trail and the Little Miami Scenic Trail. We met our support van for lunch and snack stops at the refurbished train stations in South Charleston and Xenia. Both of these stations included restrooms, trail maps and water--much needed amenities for long-distance riders!

A week or so later, while cycling across Iowa, we took the High Trestle Trail (formerly the Ankeny to Woodward Trail), experiencing the newly opened pedestrian bridge 13 stories above the Des Moines River.

As with most touring, the most direct route is not always the most scenic. We chose to add about six miles to our already 85-mile ride from Ames to Carroll, Iowa, but after crossing that renowned bridge the group universally agreed that the additional miles were worth it.

All told, we spent about 250 miles of our journey on rail-trails. We crossed the Hudson River on the Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park out of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., on the longest elevated pedestrian bridge in the world.

Nearly two months later, we rode more than 60 miles on the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes between Mullan and Harrison, Idaho, and soon after crossed our last state line into Washington at the intersection of the North Idaho Centennial Trail and the Spokane River Centennial Trail.

From rural straightaways to curving urban paths, the trails we rode between Providence and Seattle were easy to integrate into our routes, and fun to ride. We experienced some of the nation's best and longest trails, many recognized in RTC's Rail-Trail Hall-of-Fame, as well as lesser-known, shorter shared-use paths.

For all those planning bicycle tours, no matter how long or short, I highly recommend incorporating trails into your trip whenever you can.

Photos by Jesse Cohn.


Posted Tue, Oct 4 2011 5:14 PM by Jake Lynch


Mark lucas wrote re: Bike & Build's Summer Adventure Across America
on Tue, Oct 4 2011 9:46 PM

well done keep the good work up and keep on riding riding is good for you I ride over 18,000 to 25,000 miles a year I been doing it from 11 to 49 years old take care.

Gene Pass wrote re: Bike & Build's Summer Adventure Across America
on Thu, Oct 13 2011 9:33 PM

Enjoyed reading your trail blog.  Friends of Madison County Parks and Trails thank you for taking time from your busy schedule to be in our bicentennial parade in London, OH  


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