A group of bike riders made life a little brighter for local non-profits last week.
A couple dozen 20-somethings with the group Bike and Build pedaled into town Aug. 10, and stopped off at the ReStore and Time Out Shelter to repaint walls, hang shelving and tidy up during the annual Brush with Kindness event.
It was the group’s 55th day on the road on a 3,886-mile cross-country journey.
Just as soon as the group breezed in, they were gone.
On Friday, the group’s Web site showed they were pedaling toward Seligman, on their way to Santa Barbara — capping off a two-month journey that started in Maine.
The purpose of the ride is two-fold: Bike and Build riders raise money and awareness for affordable housing and organizers hope, cultivate a lifetime of service and civic engagement.
More than 1,600 people have cycled cross-country since 2002, raising more than $3 million.
For rider Erin Kiewel, 24, the trip is more than just pounding nails and passing the miles.
Kiewel said the ride is part of a larger goal to test herself this year by pushing her limits. She had initially planned to make the ride with her boyfriend of five years, but they broke up last August. Momentarily deterred, Kiewel decided she could make the ride anyway, despite not knowing anyone in the group.
“I chose ‘uncomfortable’ as my word of the year,” she said.
Biking 70 miles a day for two months, fills the uncomfortable bill.
But so does going to a party where you don’t know anyone. Or cutting your beloved waist-length hair (something Kiewel did early in the ride).
Whatever it is, big or small, Kiewel said she wants to test that imaginary comfort boundary.
“When things rise — opportunities — just do it,” she said.
Uncomfortable, it appears, describes only that moment just before a decision is made. What comes after, at least for Kiewel, has been experiences more appropriately described as amazing, breathtaking and life-changing.
Rider Luaren Greenberg, 22, agreed, saying the places, people and friendships made along the road have been unexpected.
Local businesses that donated food and supplies for the Brush with Kindness program included Ace Hardware, Home Depot, Main Street Paint and Decorating Center, Payson Paint and Supply, The Pizza Factory, Safeway, Tiny’s Restaurant, Vita-Mart and Walmart.
Local volunteers included: Ken Althoff, Tom Herbolsheimer, Lynn Andrew, Loretta Anderson, William Kachel, Dean Martinson, Cindy and Andy Kofile, Michelle Johnson, Virgil Wagner, Pat Walker and Zach Horsley.
In particular, Greenberg said she dreaded one stretch of road through New Mexico that she thought would be boring and tedious. The towering, sandy red cliffs and then spans of vast open road were just “amazing.”
“I didn’t know it would be so beautiful.”
Greenberg, Kiewel and rider Kelly Donovan, 23, say they also didn’t expect to cultivate friendships so quickly or deeply.
“We know each other on a level I don’t think many people know us,” she said.
Knowing they would be with each other constantly for two months created an almost instant bond, Kiewel said.
The group holds near nightly meetings where riders can talk about their life or experiences on the road.
“We have shared a lot of ourselves with each other,” she said. “It is a very safe environment.”
The group shares more than just fond memories; they all wear a distinctive tan line.
Kiewel lifted her shirt sleeve to reveal what the riders refer to as a Neapolitan (ice cream) tan.
But tan lines are nothing.
Kiewel and Greenberg said the daylong rides are intense.
The group rarely takes a day off. When they are not riding, they are building. They help build Habitat for Humanity homes (which they did last year in Payson) or at local non-profits.
Jennifer Baltz, executive director of Payson Area Habitat for Humanity, was thrilled to finally see the walls at the ReStore get a fresh coat of paint.
“They are phenomenal young people and I think they are an inspiration to our community,” she said.
Baltz hopes their dedication to service inspires more people to volunteer.
The ReStore and Time Out always need more help and it doesn’t have to be a huge time commitment.
“These students come in once a year to help us build and we need dedicated volunteers all year long,” she said.
Baltz said she needs people willingly to help tidy up the store and move heavier items. Any age and skill level is welcome.
For more information about Bike and Build and to track the group’s progress, visit www.bikeandbuild.org. To volunteer at the ReStore, call (928) 474-0330; for Time Out, call (928) 472-8007.