Andrew Byrum rode his bike through 13 different states (above).
By Aja Cooper, Staff Writer
Published in print Sept.10, 2014
Bike & Build, a non-profit organization whose focus is to raise money and awareness for affordable housing, took students on an unbelievable journey this past summer.
Students from around America teamed up with Bike & Build and made a difference in the lives of others by biking around different regions of the U.S. to build homes for those in need.
Some students joined because of their passion for the cause while some joined for the adventure. Whatever their reason behind signing up, the various backgrounds made for eclectic and diverse teams.
Teaming up with organizations like Habitat for Humanity and Rebuilding Together, students traveled within their assigned region via bicycle, where they built homes by day and ended every night in another city.
Some of these nights were spent on the floors of churches, community centers, or schools.
The students relied on the hospitality of their hosts for dinner and shelter every night. UNCG junior, Andrew Byrum participated in this summer adventure. Traveling the Central route, his journey began in Virginia Beach, Virginia and ended in Cannon Beach, Oregon.
According to Byrum, having to depend on the generosity of others added to the adventure.
As a first year participant, Byrum explained that traveling across the country with the 32 other members of his group was an experience that’s hard to put into words.
“The organization Bike & Build has eight different routes that all go coast to coast and we were just on the Central United States route,” said Byrum “On our route alone there were 33 of us. We didn’t all bike together throughout the day we kind of split up into smaller groups, but in total there were 33 of us.”
Not knowing what to expect, only geared with his excitement and support from his family, Byrum claims that he didn’t really see himself as a cyclist prior to this trip.
Along with raising money before starting the trip, it was essential for each participant to train appropriately for the extensive amounts of ground they were going to cover while bicycling across the country.
When asked what his training regime consisted of, Byrum confessed that he didn’t train as much as he probably should have.
“We were all supposed to put in 500 miles on the bicycle before we started, and I did not do that,” said Byrum, laughing as he continued, “I probably did about 150 miles on the bike and I ran some.”
With not being as prepared has he could have been, Andrew spoke of his experience this summer as one he would definitely do all over again if he had the time to.
“It’s quite a time commitment,” said Byrum. “I left in mid-May and I got back a week before school started here.”
Embodying UNCG’s motto, do something bigger altogether even while away from campus, Byrum expressed that while he enjoyed the experience it was a culture shock.
“The lifestyle is so different, you know? You’re with people 24/7, you don’t get to choose your meals often at night, you’re on a bicycle foreight to ten hours a day. It’s a new lifestyle to get used to,” said Byrum. “But conversely, it’s hard to get back to this lifestyle, it’s hard to be in a classroom again and take notes.”
Making it across 13 different states, Andrew said that being able to interact with and build homes alongside some of the future homeowners were the sites he found to be most exciting.
In discussing the highs and lows of his travels across the central region of the United States there was only one incident he wishes would have gone differently.
While venturing though Illinois Andrew had a sprained wrist along with a broken finger that left both of his hands in casts. With that being the case, he wasn’t able to bike at all in Illinois but it still didn’t ruin the other great moments he had while traveling.
As his journey came to a close, and he arrived back home in Raleigh, NC a sense of reality came over Andrew as he began to realize that he was going to have to readjust to student living once again.
Andrew, along with many other students across America, signed up with Bike & Build to make a difference in the lives of so many in the time span of one summer.
While achieving that goal, it is safe to say that this journey changed their lives as well.
Whether it be through the friends they made, the people they met in each state, or the building of homes, each of them now has a story they can share about how they spent their summer break making someone else’s better.
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