Cross-country cyclists help construct Habitat for Humanity houses | SteamboatToday.com

Cross-country cyclists help construct Habitat for Humanity houses

Mike McCollum

— Rebecca Stievater can’t help but think of biking across the country as a series of numbers.

Wake up at 4:30 a.m. Hit the road by 6:30 with 30 fellow cyclists. Bike about 76 miles in eight hours. Deduct the miles traveled from the trip’s 3,600-mile journey.

But Stievater said one number stands out more than any other – every six days, they stop to help build a house.

Stievater, 22, is one of 30 cyclists volunteering with the Bike and Build organization, which stopped in Steamboat Springs this week to help build a Habitat for Humanity house at 2942 Abbey Road in West End Village.

“Most of us didn’t know much about building a house before we left on this trip,” said Stievater, an animal science major at Cornell University. “But we’ve ended up doing just about all stages on a house – from foundation work to painting walls to putting up the frame.”

The Bike and Build organization, which is composed of 18- to 25-year-olds from throughout the nation, has six routes it’s taking this summer. Stievater’s group left from Providence, R.I., on June 14, and they plan to complete their trek Aug. 15 in Seattle.

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“Mostly we stay in churches, not because it is religiously affiliated, but because churches are used to taking in community groups and are prepared to offer us floor space and provide dinner and breakfast as well,” said Stievater, who noted the United Methodist Church sponsored the group Wednesday and Thursday nights.

Jim Ballard, who serves on the board of Habitat for Humanity Colorado and serves as the local affiliate’s treasurer, said a Bike and Build crew stopped in Steamboat last year, did great work and were welcomed back for a second year.

“It’s a pretty amazing group of kids,” he said. “We only get them for one day, but we hope to show them how much their efforts mean to us.”

The crew helped prepare the foundation for the Abbey Road duplex Thursday – pouring gravel, flattening the earth and water-sealing the concrete.

“It looks like hard work, but this is actually our day off of the road,” said Stievater, who rode the northern route from Portsmouth, N.H., to Vancouver, British Columbia, in 2005. “Some of them, I’m sure, are glad to be off their bike seats.”

She said the journey has not been without hazards.

“In West Virginia, we were coming down a descent and we had one kid who went off a cliff,” she said. “The turn was so sharp and his bike skidded out and he went over. He was perfectly fine and got up and said, ‘That was the most amazing fall I’ve ever taken.'”

An afternoon thunderstorm poured down on the riders as they crossed Rabbit Ears Pass on Wednesday, but Stievater said foul weather, equipment problems and getting lost are just minor inconveniences.

“Everyone in the group has their own reason for embarking on this trip,” she said. “Some things you are just going to deal with.”

Some wanted the exercise, while others wanted to see America. For most, she said, the appeal was helping communities.

“The first part that initially drew me to it was the physical undertaking – it really appealed to me to say I’ve biked across the country,” said Stievater, a collegiate rower who wanted to diversify her workout training.

“As I got more under way – just getting to know the other riders and spending the entire summer with 30 other people who are as committed enough to a cause like this – it’s something that is really powerful.”

For more information about Bike and Build, visit http://www.bikeandbuild.com.

– To reach Mike McCollum, call 871-4208

or e-mail mmccollum@steamboatpilot.com