This summer, sophomore Athena Jones will be biking more than 3,800 miles cross-country – from Virginia Beach, Va. to Cannon Beach, Ore. – in order to raise money for affordable housing.
“It’s been one of my life goals to ride across the country ever since I started cycling,” Jones said.
Jones is participating in Bike and Build, a nonprofit group that organizes multiple cross-country bike trips every summer for riders of all levels.
In order to become a rider, participants must apply and commit to raising at least $4,500. All proceeds go to building affordable housing projects across the United States.
So far, Jones has raised $2,495. The majority of this money has come from supporters but she also found a part-time job to help meet the fundraising goal.
During the trip, Jones will be cycling with more than 30 other riders. Their route includes stops in more than 55 cities and will take approximately two and a half months to finish. In some cities, the riders will spend an extra day, called a build day, working on housing projects. They will also be given time in other cities to explore.
She is excited to spend so much time with other serious cyclists.
“I’m really looking forward to meeting the like-minded people I will be riding with and the people who will be receiving our support [on build days],” said Jones, who is majoring in environmental engineering as well as ecosystem science and policy.
Jones has been a serious cyclist since she was young. She helped found UBike, a student organization that promotes cycling. She applied to Bike and Build because she liked the idea of using her favorite activity to support a charitable cause.
“There have been tons of accidents along the way,” she said. “I’ve ripped my toenails off, I’ve had concussions, I have scars all over.”
Jones is not the first Cane to participate in Bike and Build. Last summer, senior Shannon Glenn rode from Jacksonville, Fla. to Monterey, Calif.
Now Glenn, who is the captain of the UM TriCanes Triathlon Team, is helping Jones prep for her trip.
“It really helps to have someone who has experienced out advise you on equipment, bikes, and the inner workings of the trip, from how laundry gets done to how you are possibly supposed to fit everything for an entire summer in one duffel bag,” Jones said.
To prepare for the trip, Jones has been biking 50 miles every weekend. For comparison, the longest leg of the cross-country bike trip will be more than a 100 miles and the shortest leg will be less than 40 miles.
She also recently purchased a used second-hand bike from a bike collector specifically for the trip. During the trip, she will be responsible for most of her own bike maintenance. The bikers will also be followed by a support van in case of any serious equipment malfunctions.
Because the cross-country trip is geared for all kinds of riders, from beginners to experts, Jones is not worried about health concerns.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” she said.
For more information, visit bikeandbuild.org/rider/7247.