Some had never ventured west of the Mississippi before climbing on their bikes and riding 4,000 miles in a little over two months. So for 32 Bike and Build cyclists, the journey across the United States has been a trip of firsts.
Earlier this week, the group pedaled into Rim Country enroute from Maine to Santa Barbara.
But they didn’t stop to take in the views or take a hike, they went to work. They rested their legs by picking up paint brushes and hammers.
Now a Mesa del Caballo family has a new paint job on their garage and the Time Out Shelter in Payson got a facelift.
Bike and Build, a national non-profit, sends large teams of riders across the country each year. This year, eight groups are making their way across the back roads of America.
Riders trained by biking 500 miles on their own and each raised $4,500 to cover trip costs. Usually, the group rides at least 50-plus miles a day.
“The purpose of their 77-day ride across the United States is to make us all aware of the desperate need for affordable housing for our neighbors and citizens,” said Carol McCauley with the Payson Area Habitat for Humanity.
This is the second year a group has ridden through Payson. Last year, they helped fix up the ReStore, painting walls and shelving.
McCauley, who didn’t meet last year’s group, said she was in awe of the riders’ commitment and positive attitudes.
“I am so excited about this next generation,” she said. “They were so appreciative of everything that we did and we kept telling them that they are the heroes.”
McCauley sat with the riders, most in the early to mid 20s, marveling they still had so much energy after a full day’s work.
“I had to chuckle at a comment made by one of the riders,” she said.
Phil, a rider from Pennsylvania, said the ride had been monotonous for the first few days. After leaving Maine, the terrain never changed and the riders felt they were riding in circles.
Everything changed when they entered northern New Mexico and then Arizona.
“Our jaws dropped and we haven’t shut them since,” he told McCauley. “No one expected such beauty in states that are expected to be just desert by those of us who had never been west of the Mississippi before.”
Before stopping in Payson, the group stopped at Willow Springs Lake for lunch, sitting on the banks of the lake in their blue cycling outfits. Some of the bikers proudly showed off their intense tan lines, which cut across their legs and arms after days on the road.
For all, it was their first time on a Bike and Build trip and the first time meeting each other.
“When asked if any of them knew one another before the ride they all answered with a resounding ‘No!’ When asked if they would make the trip again, a few said, ‘Yes, as leaders,’” McCauley said.
While in town, the team split up into two groups. The women went to the Time-Out Shelter Transitional Housing Center and the guys to a project in Mesa del.
“The girls were swinging sledge hammers and paint brushes with the best of them and the guys worked so fast that they were afraid of running out of paint,” she said. Afterwards, the Methodist Church on Easy Street provided accommodations and Cindy and Andy Kofile and other PAHH volunteers provided food.
At the end of their stay, PAHH volunteers asked how they could make it better for the team next year.
“They said that they were so grateful for all that we had done for them and that they couldn’t thank us enough,” McCauley said.
“As PAHH board members, volunteers and staff, we decided that next year we do want to give them a hero’s welcome that they truly deserve and hope that all of you will help us to do just that.”
For more information on Bike and Build, visit www.bikeandbuild.org.