What do affordable housing, the American South, and sore thighs have in common?

They’re how I’ll be spending my summer.

A few days ago, I moved across the country from Brooklyn, NY to Los Angeles, CA. While planning for the move, I thought about how I was going to get my bike to come with me. “I could just ride it…” I mused. And then I remembered something I had been wanting to do for a long time, but which I had pushed down as ridiculous and probably not going to happen, the dream of which still, it turned out, flickered somewhere in my hippocampus: Bike & Build, a summer spent working on affordable housing as you bike across the entire country.

I had wanted to do it since I heard about it in college, but pushed it off for reasons like “not owning a bike” and”doggedly trying to find a job that wouldn’t let me take a summer off to bike” and “being afraid of twisting my ankle.” But after living and working in New York City for over 2 years, I was feeling a pull to do something that mattered, and to try living in a different, less urban and regimented way.

Bike & Build seemed the perfect storm: I’d get to learn in-depth both about issues of affordable housing and the techniques needed to advocate and build it, train to get myself in the sort of shape that would allow me to power myself across the country with only wheels and muscle, and have the chance to help contribute to something huge through fund- and awareness-raising. In addition, I’d get to see so much of the country and get to know people across it. And I’d get to look out across America, and think, “I crossed that, with just my legs and a bike,” with new friends, memories, and knowledge from the journey.

So I applied, and got into my first choice route: the American South, a region I picked because it’s a place and culture I’ve never seen firsthand, as (until Tuesday), I’ve always lived in the Northeast. Now the plan is fourfold:

  1. to train like crazy. I have to log 500 miles on my bike, including a 65 mile trip, before embarking.
  2. to learn about and work on the affordable housing cause. I’ll be completing at least 10 hours of service on affordable housing projects and complete a curriculum to learn more about the issues.
  3. to fundraise $4,500. This is a lot of money. I am a bit intimidated by it. But I know a ton of awesome people who have supported great things in the past, and it’s my hope that you will help out as much as you are able here.
  4. to blog the hell out of this journey! I’ll be writing here about my time volunteering, how training is going, what I learn about affordable housing, about the people who donate, and whatever else I find interesting or at least entertaining. Then, this summer, this blog will serve as a travel journal for you to share in the adventure. I hope it’ll be a really fun and interesting experience for all of us.

Thank you so much for reading! Let me know your thoughts in the comments or at jesteckel [at] gmail. Talk soon.





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