The day of all days!

Day 67: The day of all days… The day we hit the Pacific Ocean!!

That morning, the usual cell phone alarms went off, alerting us that it was time to rise and shine. Knowing that it was only a 27 mile day, people were moving even slower than usual… And I’ve already mentioned here that we’re not a group of morning people.

Scott and McWeens, two of the fastest riders on our trip who always arrive at the host first, had been assigned to sweep that day… Which was sort of ironic and seemed like it had been planned that way. So to start off our morning, Scott, in true Type A, militant fashion, started running around in the high school library we had stayed at that night sounding a blow horn. When he felt that he’d successfully scared the sh*t out of the sleepers and woken everyone up, he stopped the blow horn and yelled “YOU’VE BEEN SWEPT!” It was easily one of the funniest moments of trip, and it set the tone for the shenanigans that were bound to ensue on this last day of our journey.

We cleaned the host site and packed up the van, as per usual. We decided we couldn’t leave without having one last dance party. We cranked our favorite songs of the summer from the van and danced around like lunatics. We did our morning breakdown/shakedown as we always do to get excited for the day (as if we weren’t already!), and then we rolled out for the last time. Coffee crew grouped together and went out for the final morning coffee run at a nearby Starbucks, where we got our last DM-ed morning coffees.




Then we headed out toward La Jolla, where we’d end our long two month journey. I rode behind Abbie for a while, who kept our beloved (but not by all) Snickelfritz, the otter, tucked in her Camelbak.



Soon I found myself riding with Dietlinde, Motherbird, Baron, Reg Ry, Olivia, Laundry Loop Tim, and Daniel.


Tim realized about halfway through the ride that he had a flat tire. Since we were all fresh out of tubes (and I mean COMPLETELY out, as an entire team), we employed the “pump-and-run” method… Which is rather self-explanatory.

At one point, we were stopped beside a car with two older gentlemen inside. They asked Motherbird/Erin where we were riding our bikes to today. It’s funny because we’ve been asked this question nearly every day of the trip. We always answer with the following general outline:

“Well, today we started in ____ and we’re riding to _____. But we started our trip on the Outer Banks of North Carolina and we’ll ultimately end in San Diego, California.”

To be honest, I think we all got sick of this series of questions and answers. When “The Question” was directed to our group, but to no one person in particular, we’d all look at each other as if to say “okay, who’s gonna give the spiel this time?” Often it would lead into an explanation of why we’re doing what we’re doing, what organization we’re with, how long we’ve been on the road, how many of us there are, etc etc. While these questions are GREAT in that we get to spread the word about Bike & Build and the affordable housing cause, the answers become repetitive and begin to sound overly rehearsed.

On this day, answering “The Question” was much more fun than usual.

Motherbird said “We’re going to La Jolla beach, where we’ll be ending our cross-country bike trip from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean!”

Hearing someone say this out loud sent chills down my spine. Was this really happening? Was I about to conclude the most adventurous, incredible, and life-changing summer I’ve experienced in all my 23 years?? I could feel my sense of pride and accomplishment already beginning to rise.

“Well,” began one of the men in the car, “you just have one hill to climb before you get there!”

Um, excuse me? We’re going to the BEACH, right? Sea level? How the HELL could we be going up a hill??

But climb, climb, climb we did. In true NC2SD fashion. The irony and hilarity of the situation felt like the perfect ending to a summer of passing through as many mountain ranges as possible. We’ve decided as a group that NC2SD may be the shortest ride of all the B&B routes, but we certainly climb the most.

At the very top, we saw our favorite sign for the last time: a sign warning of a 11% grade descent. Perrrrrrfect!

In the middle of the descent, we caught our first glimpse of the Pacific Ocean. Shouts of joy as well as delirious laughter could be heard among our group. We were approaching the moment we’d all been waiting for.

We had designated a “wait” location less than half a mile from the beach, where we’d all wait for one another and ride to the Pacific as a huge group of 27 riders. When everyone had arrived, we mounted our bikes, and slowly began to roll together. We had a huge American flag that we’d been sporting on our trailer since July 4th in Gunnison, CO, so a few of the guys had taken it off and proceeded to ride in front of the pack, holding the flag out as if we were in a parade.


At one point, Scott sprinted up to the front of the pack (remember, he was sweep that day) shouting “one mile left, f*** it!!!” which made everyone crack up. Our theme/motto for the past 2 weeks has been “two weeks, f*** it”, so it seemed appropriate for him to do that. If he was a front rider for the whole trip, then he should end as a front rider. Fair enough.

As a group, we began to sing the National Anthem. My heart was pounding and I had butterflies in my stomach from the unity, love, and pride I felt alongside my teammates. We were on top of the world, and our energy was contagious. Many people came out of shops and businesses along the street to see what all the commotion was about. Some had their phones out, recording this odd and unexpected sighting of 27 cyclists sporting red, white, and blue and patriotically singing at the top of their lungs. I looked over at Amelia who was unable to sing because she was crying. The emotion of the moment had overwhelmed her. I was feeling overwhelmed, but not to the point of tears. My utter disbelief of what we as a team were about to achieve prevented me from crying. It was exhilarating to take over the road as a group and turn heads as we confidently and proudly rode closer and closer to our final destination.

Although I had envisioned a large beach front, where we’d have to leave our bikes at the boardwalk and sprint down to the beach hand-in-hand, Scripps Beach at La Jolla was nothing like that at all. We walked down a very steep stairway to the water, where there was only about 30 feet of sandy beach. We propped our bikes up along the rocky cliffs, as far away from the water as possible. The beach was very crowded, so even though we felt like this was a personal victory for our group, we were also in a place where we’d have to share that triumph with strangers. It was both nice to have people cheering us on and unfortunate that we couldn’t have a more private ending among ourselves.


When we’d all made the steep trek down to the water, we all looked at one another with excitement glowing in our eyes as if to say “Welp, here we are!!!” In the chaos of the moment, I’m not sure who made the first move, but suddenly we were all running into the water, holding hands as we sprinted the short distance from the rocks that marked the end of land into the Pacific. Our rush of adrenaline prevented us from the initial shock of the cold water. The thick and slimy seaweed that enveloped us was funny in that it disturbed the picturesque ending that we had each envisioned. But to be wading in the cool water on a sunny day in California with all 27 NC2SD’13 family members beaming with pure happiness was a moment of perfection that I wish I could bottle up and keep forever. We embraced one another, sharing congratulatory tears and prideful smiles.




Looking back at all the photos that were taken on that beach, I have flashbacks to the days before my Bike & Build journey, where I would peruse the B&B website for hours on end, seeking photos of a wonderful journey that was still only a hopeful idea in my mind. I would look at “finish line” photos of past teams that had succeeded in what seemed like an impossible journey to conquer. Their vibrant smiles and radiating happiness is what convinced me that I could not pass up this once-in-a-lifetime adventure. Now, when I look at the photos of my team, I feel part of the huge Bike & Build family, who are the only other people who can fully understand the extent of emotions felt when you submerge yourself in the Pacific Ocean after such a trip. I feel that I can finally look back at previous Bike & Build teams’ end-of-journey photos and understand their sense of accomplishment and team unity.


We popped champagne, we smoked cigars, we hugged, we kissed, we laughed, and we cried.

The moment was pure bliss.



El Cajon

Day 66: To El Cajon, an easy day of about 50 miles, and one of the most beautiful days we’ve experienced all trip!! Almost everyone was in agreement that this ride was so SO good!

The morning was magnificent. We woke up casually, knowing that it was a shorter day an we’d spend some of the morning in the town of Julian anyway. The sun was shining, the air felt cool, and our spirits were high.

We had a dance party in the morning, in true B&B fashion!


When we rolled out, we stopped in town again for MORE pie and coffee. YOLO!

We ate at a place called Moms. It was fantastic! It was another one of those moments when we were all together, and I tried to savor it because there wouldn’t be many more of them.




My favorite thing about this day was riding with a sort of random group of people. By the end of the trip, we’d found our riding groups (more or less) and we didn’t switch it up very much. But this group of riders was kinda random, and that made it even more exciting!!











We knew it would be a downhill day because we were up at 4,500 ft and we had to go down to 435 ft!!! Although locals told us it would be downhill all the way, we’ve learned never to trust them. Riding in a car might fool you into thinking that it’s all downhill, but on a bike you feel every incline. There were plenty of uphills on this route, but the downhills made up for them!!



The best way to describe this ride is that it was “typical Cali”. It was a sunny but not-too-hot day, there were palm trees almost everywhere, and red/orange tile Spanish style California roofs poked out from the mountainous landscape.


We were on a road that was free of cars (for the most part), so we used this an excuse to ride in a bigger pack than usual, biker gang style! The ride was perfect in every way possible.

It was exciting to see the first mileage sign for San Diego!!!!


And then we saw a unicorn on the side of the road, so Meg took a photo with it (why WOULDN’T she?).


When we got to El Cajon, myself and a few other girls decided to go to the mall so we’d have clothes to wear in San Diego that weren’t bike shammies, Nike shorts, or any of the various Habitat for Humanity shirts we’d collected in towns along the way. What was funny was that we went shopping in our B&B jerseys, shammies, and cycling shoes. And we didn’t smell great either.

Going to sleep that night was kinda hard, knowing that it’d be the last morning we’d get up and ride bikes together. But we were so stoked for SD!!!

NC2SD likes to climb!

Day 65: To Julian! 73 miles.

We didn’t know much about Julian at all. Normally, someone will give a quick presentation in the morning of the town we’re going to, but we’d all presented twice already and no one had been assigned to the final 3 towns, so we had no expectations for Julian.

What we DID know was that Julian sat at an elevation of 4,500 feet. In Brawley, we were at -110 feet. So there was that. At this point in the trip, it was just comical. If there is a mountain to climb, we would climb it. That was the NC2SD motto.

So we set out on the day. I rode “chilly dog” style, meaning that we took our sweet time, with Claire, Gerk, and Lo. We had a tailwind for the first 25 miles, so we were able to catch up to the next group in front of us, even though we had gotten a flat and we were a little far behind. The caption for this next photo is “Gerk is really helpful with changing flat tires”.


We found ourself in the desert once again, but we could see the mountains in our path in the distance.



We crossed over the San Diego County Line that day!


Lunch was shortly after the county line that day, and then we began the first hills before the climb. The hills somehow re-energized me, and I honestly felt like I was in a Gatorade commercial… I whipped around curves, even as I was going slightly uphill because I had kept my momentum from the previous downhill. Feeling strong on the bike is one of the most powerful feelings!

When we finally got to the real climb, I stopped to take it all in. Rain clouds were creeping around the corner of the massive mountain that hovered over me, and I knew it wouldn’t be long before I would be in the middle of a downpour.



I was so happy when I saw Meg climbing up the mountain toward me. I don’t know how it happens, but whenever there’s a huge climb, Meg and I find one another. It was appropriate that it had happened again for the last mountain climb of the trip.

And then it started to downpour. But it was refreshing and it brought out so many smells from the surrounding landscape. Scents of basil, rosemary , and lavender filled the air. I kept saying over and over again “What an absolute gem of a road! This is beautiful!” I was absolutely sure that drivers passing by assumed we were miserable as we rode our bikes in the pouring rain, having to practically swim through the water on the road that was rushing down as we were climbing up, but I couldn’t have been happier.

We made it to Julian, and… surprise!… it was ADORABLE!



The first thing Meg did, in true Meg fashion, was eat a burrito. We decided to later come back to this same burrito place with more of our teammates. Sometimes, a day of riding plus food makes us sleepy (especially Claire because she falls asleep everywhere).


Getting to walk around this cute little town was such a treat!

Julian is known for its pie. So we had to get some, obviously.


When we were going to bed that night, I was in a “cuddle puddle” with Meg, Claire, and Regular Ryan. I remember trying to be locked in that moment, knowing that my time with these friends was coming to an end. Being around the same group of people every day for the past two months was something I’d gotten so used to and comfortable with that I was beginning to question how I’d function without them. I tried not to think too much about my sadness and focus on the simple pleasure of that moment.


Day 64: The last long day of riding: 90 miles to Brawley, or “B-Raleigh” as I like to call it.

Amelia and I went into this day with the mind set of just getting it OVER with. It was going to be a hot, long day of riding in the desert. There was no dilly dallying to be done this day.

The morning was absolutely BEAUTIFUL. It was flat, there were mountains on the horizon, and we were up early enough to see the sunrise, which was especially gorgeous. It had rained the night before and that morning, so the air was cool the air felt clean.


The photos are a little blurry but the color is there!



We hustled along all morning long, trying to make good time on the day and not have to deal with the heat coming for us in the afternoon. It started to feel more and more like the desert, once again.

There came a point where we saw what we thought were mountains in the distance, but as we continued to approach them, it became clear they were not mountains… But rather humongous sand dunes.



I’ve never seen anything like these in real life, only in movies. For a moment I thought maybe I was in Saudi Arabia.



Aaaand then Amelia got a flat, right smack in the middle of the sand dunes.


Other teammates of mine showed me photos they had taken while riding through, and we all agreed that the sand dunes looked fake, as if we were standing in front of a green screen.

The rest of the ride seemed to drag on. We were still riding at a pretty quick, consistent pace, but we were just ready to be there.

At one point, there was flat farmland on the left and palm trees lining the right side of the road. Amelia and I joked that “Kansas was to our left and California was to our right”.



We were the first ones to the host!!… Mostly because Scott stopped to get food and fix his tire right as we entered Brawley. It still felt good to be first.

California, here we come!

Day 63: Salome, AZ to Blythe, CALIFORNIA! About 60 miles.

Obviously, we were STOKED to be getting to California! Crossing the final state line on the trip was a huge deal! Many of us had never been to California either, so it was bound to be an exciting moment.

Remember how I said that it’s legal to ride your bike on the interstate in Arizona? Well, we used that to our advantage again. Probably not the safest of options, but the interstate had a big shoulder.

I rode with Gerk because it was her birthday!!! It was a day of mostly downhills with only a few uphills that weren’t very challenging at all. I spent my afternoon riding and doing a lot of laughing with Gerk and Lo.

We finally made it to CALI!! We had to go through some kind of weigh station before entering the new state, and as we cruised through, the guy yelled “Welcome to California!!!” to which I responded “WE’RE BIKING ACROSS THE COUNTRY AND WE’RE SO EXCITED TO BE HERE!!!!”

Then it was time for state line photos. The LAST state line photos of the trip.



After crossing the state line, it was only about 4 more miles to our host in Blythe. When we got there, we went to a small pool and basically took it over. We decided we were having a “SoCal pool party”… Because we were in Southern California… And we were in a pool… And we had music coming from our tiny speakers. The MTV music video camera crew never showed up, unfortunately, but we made the best of it.


That night, I was on laundry crew with my chore group (the BEST chore group by far). We spent our evening doing the team’s laundry while reviewing some grant proposals sent to us.


Bike & Build gives us as riders the opportunity to review the grant applications sent in by various affordable housing groups, some of which we’ve worked with along the way and others from places we didn’t pass through. Every chore group read through 3 grant applications, presented them to the group, and then everyone got to vote on which ones we funded and how much money we donated to them. The review process was strongly focused on youth involvement on the project that each application was asking us to fund. If we felt that it was geared toward getting youth ages 16-25 engaged in service with affordable housing, then we aimed to support them with our funds. It was exciting to be a part of this process and to make the decision as to where the money we fundraised actually went.

While it was very exciting to be in California, we were beginning to realize we’d have to say goodbyes all too soon.

SO OVER the desert.

Day 62: Wickenburg to Salome, AZ! Another shorter ride of about 55 miles!


As you can see, our morning whiteboard itineraries have gotten out of control.

We started the day with a pancake eating contest at Denny’s between Sam, Max, McWeens, Steven, and Meg (Team Barfy McCarthy! Girl power!). The caption for this next photo is Max trash-talking Meg by saying “I’m going to crush you”.


It’s safe to say that this competition was much regretted after the fact.



This day was nice because it was over with relatively quickly, but it was complete desert… By which I mean it was HOT, the sun was brutal, sand was everywhere, and the quintessential desert cactus was in abundance. Unfortunately, I did not take a photos with my camera (I don’t like the desert, remember?), but luckily my teammate Daniel did, and his photography skills are better than mine anyway.


It was so hot that we ate lunch under a bridge. I’m not even sure why there’s a bridge there because the creek was dried up… And it probably always is.

I spent most of my day riding with Motherbird, Sam, and McWeens. I always love riding with Motherbird because she asks good conversational questions and has lots of stories to tell, which takes your mind off the road for a bit.



When we got to Salome, we stayed at the high school. We were given two trailer classrooms to stay in, both of which had the AC cranking. When we got there, everyone was so hot and sick of being in the sun that we just laid in the dark, cool room on the floor for hours. Sarah said “if I lived here, this is how I would live my life: in a cold, dark room, never going out in the heat or sun”. It was THAT miserable.

That night, we had our weekly Town Hall Meeting of “highs” and “lows” and then a Bike & Build confession. We were told that there weren’t consequences to confessing to breaking a rule, and it was just supposed to be for fun. Some people confessed to hitch hiking, taking a cab, stealing food from the group bin, and other more “scandalous” things that brought a lot of laughter and “OH MY GOD!” yelling to the meeting. It was the best Town Hall Meeting we’ve ever had, hands down.

If you were wondering, my confession was that I have faked being asleep at the host once or twice to avoid having to help my teammates unload the van/trailer when it arrived. Whoops.

Prescott to Wickenburg

Day 61: Prescott to Wickenburg! A shorter day of about 66 miles… Although we originally thought it would be 87! It was a nice surprise. The road we wanted to ride on had been closed, but had opened up the day before! What luck!

We knew there would be some climbs, because after all this is NC2SD, and there are mountains everywhere.

After our usual morning coffee run, we were off and headed up the mountains! I don’t know what these mountains were called, but they were beautiful! It reminded me SO MUCH of the North Carolina mountains! Maybe not as green, but it felt like home. And after crazy climbs up the Rockies, these hills felt like nothing.




It was a bummer when we finally got to a downhill and we got stuck behind a truck that was painting the white line on the side of the road… With a “DO NOT PASS” sign on the back of it. How does it feel to go downhill slower than you went uphill, you ask? It sucks. But it’s also hilarious.


The truck did finally move over, and we got to fly downhill for a bit.

There were SO many downhills this day! For a while, the Arizona scenery was more mountain-like and less desert-like. It was wonderful!




The hardest part of the day was passing through Yarnell, the town where the wildfires occurred that killed 19 heroic firefighters. After going to the memorial site the day before, it was fresh on my mind. Seeing the black ash on the mountains, the remnants of the houses that had been burned down, and the disaster relief trucks and tents set up alongside the road made the whole situation much more real. To think we only escaped this catastrophe by a matter of days was another realized blessing.





We got to Wickenburg and relaxed as we watched a storm roll in over the mountains and desert hills (it is monsoon season, after all).