This summer, while many college students were on vacation and getting ready for the school year, Grace Galvin set out to make a difference by biking across the U.S.
Galvin, a fourth-year in art education, rode her bike from Portland, Maine, to Santa Barbara, California, with the charity Bike & Build to raise money to build houses in low-income communities.
After nearly three months of cycling and raising money for affordable housing, she is home.
According to the Bike & Build website, the nonprofit works with young adults to create cross-country cycling trips where participants build affordable housing. The proceeds go to affordable-housing organizations, such as Habitat for Humanity.
“Bike & Build combines two of my passions: biking and doing my part to help others,” Galvin said.
The trip started June 18 and ended Aug. 31, after Galvin biked 3,987 miles, in addition to the 500 miles she said she rode when training.
Galvin said she chose the Maine-to-California route because it had a stop in Columbus. She said she wanted to ride through Columbus to see her friends and family.
“Ten weeks is a long time to be away from loved ones, so seeing my family gave me a major morale boost,” she said. “One of the coolest parts of riding into Ohio State’s campus was having my dad meet up with me along the route and finish the last couple of miles together.”
Galvin said she raised $4,635, a portion of the $188,000 her 32-person team raised together.
Galvin said she learned to push through the physical exhaustion because she had made a commitment to herself and the team to help make a difference for others who are less fortunate.
Corrine Yonca, an alumna of the University of Vermont, cycled with Galvin. She said the journey had noticeably changed not only Galvin, but every member of their cycling family.
“I think that in the beginning, it was easy for us to get discouraged at small things because we didn’t have the big picture yet,” Yonca said.
Small hills, getting lost and rainstorms all posed a challenge, but the riders’ perspective changed.
“By the end of it, all of us would get excited by the challenges,” Yonca said.
Yonca said they not only learned to overcome physical obstacles, but realized the privilege the trip provided.
“It gave us perspective on people who (don’t) have the opportunity or access,” she said.
She said they had family and friends who supported them along the way and people to reach out to and share their stories.
“So it became our responsibility to be able to give back even more,” she said. “We became a family by the end of it.”
Galvin said the most defining moment was reaching the ocean and dipping her bike wheels into the Pacific.
“After 75 days of riding and building, it felt incredible to celebrate the culmination of all of our efforts together,” Galvin said.
While Galvin might not participate as a rider again, she said she might like to do it as a trip leader.
“Being a rider on Bike & Build was the single most life-changing and rewarding journey I have ever been on,” she said. “It taught me about pure unadulterated joy, about pain and weakness, about love and loss, about the importance of gratitude, and it taught me about the power of friendship. But more than anything, this trip taught me about the resilience of the human spirit.
Yonca, too, said the trip was life-changing for her and many others.
“We were touching lives,” she said. “Our lives were bumping into other strangers, other travelers.”