August 11, 2019: Clatskanie, OR to Astoria, OR – WHEEL DIP!

This day started out like any other, wake up, pack, eat breakfast, ride. The difference was knowing it would be our last ride morning. Suddenly made rolling our thermarests, packing the tents, and loading the trailer a chore we wanted to do. We started counting off attendance for our last route meeting, and of course hit some bumps in the counting. People in the bathroom or finishing up filling their camelbacks did not seem annoying anymore. It was surreal. I would find myself smiling at something stupid because I came to the realization that I won’t experience it again, certain feelings or activities only Bike and Build can provide.

As for the ride itself, it was an extraordinary summary of our entire summer. We started out with a chilly morning (experienced in Montana and Wyoming) that led to a hilly, rainy stretch of road (experienced in Virginia and Kentucky), after the rain, the skies opened up to a sunny ride with punishing headwinds (experienced in Kansas and Colorado). Ask anyone on the team about me and they’ll be sure to mention the fact that hills are my least favorite part of riding my bike. I began to appreciate them riding to the Pacific. The wind felt like more of a punchline than a punishment as we crossed the Highway 101 bridge to inch closer to our final destination. As for the sun, well we were sure happy to have that as all 30 of us rode as a group in what I have dubbed our “Victory Lap” for the last 2 miles to the ocean.

As we all lined up in a single row, staring at what we had been thinking about all summer, we held hands and began to walk to the water. So much emotion running through my mind. All we as a team have experienced, the trials and tribulations we were put through, the laughs, the cries, the good times and the bad. All of it brought an emotional confusion to my mind, to be honest. Before I could begin to process all of it, we began to run. We made it.

Whatever confusion I was experiencing emotionally, quickly vanished as we began jumping for joy and hugging each other in the salty sea. Letting the cold water consume us as we had just finished biking 4,018 miles over 2 and a half months. Truly a euphoric feeling, one I will not soon forget.

That’s Bike and Build Baby.

-Craig McNees

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August 9, 2019: Portland Affordable Housing Day

Our first full day in Portland was simply spectacular. I started off the morning grabbing an egg sandwich with Sam Nitti, Gilbert, Celete and Wolf at “Fried Egg I’m in Love” followed by some tasty donuts at Blue Star Donuts that were well worth the 20 minute wait.

After that we headed to the Portland Housing Authority for a meeting with officials that deal directly with the Affordable Housing cause. It was great to talk about the issue from the policy perspective in a formal setting, and was definitely a highlight of the trip for me.

After that we all split up and explored the city at our own pace. Overall a great day!!

-Dave Kelly

July 31, 2019: Missoula, MT to Wilderness Gateway Campground, ID

Waking up to a ride day meant we had to leave our gernerous host, St Anthony’s Church, far too soon. Missoula was one of the most bike-friendly cities we’ve been to. Combined with the people we met at Habitat and the church that hosted us, Missoula left an indelible impression on all of us.

This morning we got ready like any other day except our breakfast was at the nearby St Paul church. Fluffy blueberry pancakes, coffee, yogurt, and fruit got us ready for the long 95-mile ride ahead of us. We rode off into the early-morning sun once we had our fill.

Our ride was a healthy 2800 feet of climbing in the morning to Lolo Pass and 3900 feet of descent in the afternoon into our destination, Wilderness Gateway Campground. In the heart of the Lolo National Forest, our ride out of Missoula quickly turned from city streets to beautiful forrested roads.

On the climb to Lolo Pass we pulled off for a break at the Lolo Hot Springs and saw a car with strange equipment on its roof. We rode over and asked them what the equipment was for. The two occupants explained they were french scientists partnered with NASA measuring air quality in Idaho and Montana. A laser in the passenger seat aimed at the sky through the sunroof reflected off the dust particles. Measuring the reflected laser light allowed them to quantify dust concentration.

These interactions with random people on the road is one of the best parts of Bike and Build. We meet so many different people from all walks of life and meeting french scientists in Idaho was so unexpected.

After learning about air quality on the side of the road we pushed to the top of Lolo pass for lunch. We munched on cookies, pickles, and other goodies and coasted down the mountain at 30 miles an hour.

From then on, we descended on curvy country roads following Lolo Creek. The occasional creek on the side of the road embraced us with sweet, cold mountain air as if nature’s air conditioning was on just for us. We made a couple stops for a dip in the creek and meandered our way to the campground for a dinner, a shower in the creek, and smores around the fire pit.

A truly educational, demanding, and rewarding day left us exhausted. We put all our food in the vans to keep bears away, crawled into our tents, and quickly fell asleep.

July 27, 2019: Sheridan, MT to Jackson, MT

Today we had a long 86 mile ride from Sheridan to Jackson Montana. We woke up to trays of cinnamon rolls courtesy of the local bakeries in Sheridan, definitely appreciated those calories. We got on the road and enjoyed a gentle ride through Dillion where some of the team stopped for a coffee break and checked out the stores in the area.

We arrived at the lunch stop a few miles later and refueled for the two mountain passes remaining that day. The second half of the ride was hot and windy but the mountains provided a lovely backdrop.

Our team took a few snack breaks to appreciate the scenery. We rolled into the campsite and setup our tents in front of a very picturesque lake. Our dinner crew built a fire and we enjoyed hot dogs and chili then some s’mores as we sat and sang songs on the dock while waiting for the stars to come out. The night got pretty chilly, but we persevered and huddled up to enjoy the big Montana sky.

-Neeva

July 26, 2019: West Yellowstone, MT to Sheridan, MT

105 Miles

Brrr. My shivers are the only movement I make other than the pedals that pull my legs in circles. I feel like an icicle, immobile, frozen to my bike. After waking up at 4:30am this morning, I groggily got ready and made the mistake of thinking I had enough on for temperatures in the low 40s. Riding downhill in the shade in the cold dawn was not a good move for someone clad in nothing but a biking jersey and shorts with sun sleeves on the arms. I was not alone; my whole ride group felt Jack Frost’s chilly grip. We just didn’t expect it in July.

Despite the cold, we rode through some gorgeous landscapes and expressed immense gratitude in the form of song (Here Comes the Sun) when the rays of the sun finally hit us. We weaved around Quake Lake, a pristine lake nestled in the valley. We passed an information plaque that said the lake had formed in 1959, when a deadly earthquake changed the course of a river and killed 28 people in the process of creating the lake. Not so pristine after all. Regardless, the views of the placid lake and the surrounding mountains were breathtaking. The pine trees exuded that special sap smell, causing Dave to exclaim, “It smells like Christmas!” It sure did. Or at least like one of those pine-scented air fresheners you put in your car.

After we finally warmed up, Eryk, Dave, Devon, and I really were able to enjoy the ride. The mountains were impressive, and the valley we biked through provided a flat terrain that made the miles fly by. We had one large climb late in the ride, but for the most part really cherished the enjoyment that each mile brought. 105 (s)miles later, we arrived at our host in Sheridan, Montana. Ahh, what a ride. With only two and a half weeks left, I’m holding on to every ride. The people. The open road. The thrill of waking up each morning and knowing that a new adventure awaits. While the lifestyle of being sleep deprived and constantly having to push ourselves physically is challenging, I’m going to miss this. Here’s to a couple more weeks of fun, fellowship, growth, and biking.

-Adam

July 22, 2019: Jackson Hole, WY Build Day

7/22/19: Build Day at The Grove, Phase III, with Habitat for Humanity of the Greater Teton Area – Jackson, WY

Today we volunteered with Habitat for Humanity of the Greater Teton Area on what was forecasted to be Jackson, Wyoming’s hottest day of the year (and it didn’t disappoint 😊)! The Teton Habitat’s latest project is The Grove, Phase 3, which will eventually result in the creation of 24 homes. This third phase is part of a larger development of market rate properties, but has been designed to be more affordable while remaining cohesive with the existing buildings.

We learned that some of the biggest issues in the area affecting the availability of affordable housing are the lack of land that can actually be developed (1.5%), and the extremely high price of homes. Jackson Hole attracts tourists and those with expendable income looking for a vacation home – or for their second or third, which drives the cost of living through the roof. In 2017, the median list price for single family homes in the Jackson Hole area was $2.65 million and the median sale price was $1.3 million. There were only five homes listed under $750,000 that year. This is beyond unattainable for most of the actual residents. Therefore, Teton Habitat caters to those making anywhere from 30% – 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI), which is a much broader demographic range than most other affordable housing organizations target, as well as a much higher maximum income level.

Some other great things that happened while we were in Jackson:

  • Delicious meals and snacks – thank you to all who contributed! We especially love veggies and watermelon!
  • Jude made some incredible chocolate chip challah!
  • Meeting Sean’s and Alexis’ families! You’re great!
  • Awesome stargazing tour with Devon’s friend – thanks!
  • Exploring Jackson! The best coffee places, new wildflowers, a skate park, the free climbing park, a rodeo, chill breweries, escapades involving some of us pulling each other to the top of a mountain in a toy wagon to see the views, etc.
  • And many more

-Wolf

July 21, 2019: Dubois, WY to Jackson Hole, WY

Some days remind you why you ride. When we woke up in Dubois, Wyoming, a committee of our team availed us of facts about Jackson, Wyoming. They recounted conversations with locals who said, in no uncertain terms: “In Jackson, the billionaires are starting to displace the millionaires.”

Other folk understandings like this permeated our discussions. We learned that custom forbids us from using the word “pass” while we go over Togwotee Pass. If you do, you will be cursed by a storm, a tornado, or an earthquake. We eventually settled on an alternative to “cars passing.”

As Lisa and I climbed the mountain, we caught our first glimpse of the Teton mountains. Capped with snow, their majesty couldn’t be captured by our cameras at a distance. We set out to close the gap.

The morning traffic was extremely slow. At nearly 10,000 feet of elevation, we struggled with our breath. But the pass soon yielded, and we found ourselves diving down the mountain side. As we moved closer to Jackson, the traffic picked up, and a bike path carried us the rest of the way into town.

At its core, Jackson Hole is a resort town. Standing in the square, you get the sense that you are in the Disney World of ski towns. The architecture of homes varied by dwelling, with modern townhouses interspersed among classic bungalows. By contrast, the downtown shops were all meticulously planned to resemble a rugged frontier town. But Jackson was built in 1912. Long time local stores were going out of business while large chains and outlets thrived. We would go on to learn that teachers and bank tellers struggled to make rent payments in apartments on the outskirts of town. 

It’s no wonder why someone would choose to vacation in Jackson. But the reality of housing in the town impresses upon me the depth of the crisis of affordable housing in the United States. When the wealthy find their favorite playgrounds, they often push out the residents who live there and who are necessary to the daily life of the town, and sometimes without meaning to. Those people then need subsidization from organizations like Habitat for Humanity, from the government, or from wealthy patrons in order to continue living in their home. That’s not right. 

That’s why we selected Jackson to build with Habitat. We may not be changing the systems in place that keep housing unaffordable, but we can make a difference for at least a few.

Build on!

-eryk