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Tessa Pierce

PhD Candidate at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD

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I can’t believe how amazing this trip has been, and it’s only week two! Today is one of our four days off, so we are hanging around Pittsburgh and getting some rest. There’s a 10 minute limit on computers here at the library, so I can’t write a full post, but suffice it to say that I have been incredibly busy, tired, and happy while cycling across the northeast. More to come soon. Much love, tess

—Ok, I convinced the librarian to give me longer. so how bout I start at the beginning?

Orientation

On June 17th, 32 strangers showed up at St Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Revere, Massachusetts (a suburb of Boston). It promptly rained. Over two days, we learned names, some basic background info, and took a 14 mile shakedown ride around Revere Beach. It was beautiful. On the 19th, we had a tire-dipping ceremony: walked out on the beach and dipped our back tires in the Atlantic Ocean, prepping ourselves for our trek to the Pacific. Mom and Dad came to see us off, and with hugs and best wishes from a number of concerned parents, we headed off to Andover, MA (a 20 mile ride). It rained. We stopped at a McDonalds about halfway out of town for a bathroom break and stayed to talk to a table of ladies perplexed by the appearance of 18 drenched college students taking the parking lot by storm. Lo and behold, we got our first On the Road Donation!! After making sure we didn’t leave an inch of the restaurant dry, we finished the last leg of our ride to Andover, where we stayed at the Pike School and were generously fed and watered by The Webbers, the family of a former Bike and Build Program Director who passed away.

Andover, MA - Build Day

We stayed in Andover two nights: I spent the first afternoon playing basketball barefoot and consequently rolling my ankle, and I’ve spent all my time since then feeling foolish about not having worn shoes or some sort of ankle support. The Webbers had all 32 of us over to their beautiful home for dinner both nights and royally spoiled us for the rest of the trip. Their kindness and hospitality was truly wonderful.

We had our first Build day in Andover, and I spent the entire day measuring, cutting, drilling and screwing in ballisters on a front porch with Chris, a dedicated volunteer from the area. He was patient when I stripped a screw and let me help out as much as a I could. They had a lot of work for us that day- people were working on 3 different housing sites doing everything from pulling up old carpet (for a rebuilding project), putting up siding, landscaping and painting, to shoveling debris and laying concrete for a sidewalk. In a strange twist of fate, it was beautiful and sunny. It was hard work and we were all tired, but excited to get back on our bikes and head west.

Fitchburg, MA

The Webbers had us over for a mouth-watering breakfast and much-needed coffee, and then we set out on the ride to Fitchburg. It was only a 40 mile ride, so I stayed with a fairly large group as we navigated the twists and turns of unmarked pothole-riddled Massachusetts roads in the rain. My ankle was black and blue and about twice its normal size, so I decided to skip the last 10 miles of the day in favor of getting an ice pack and giving it a little time to heal. That night, we stayed at a unitarian church and gave a presentation to our hosts. They were generous both with time and food, and we passed a wonderful night there. Neal, one of the hosts gave us a preview of our day to come: HILLS. He mentioned that we were hitting the worst of the Berkshires and would hit some of the Poconos, so we all hunkered down to try and get enough sleep in anticipation of the week to come.

Northampton, MA - Ali (one of the leaders)’s town, and the spot of several Chris Pureka shows!

New England is beautiful. BEAUTIFUL. Despite the fact that we’ve been rained on almost every single day, I can’t get over how gorgeous the country is. Everything is so GREEN. and Treed. and at times, extremely hilly. The ride to Northampton was beautiful, though difficult. I rode with Jodi much of the day, ‘tortoising’ our way there. Basically, we were slow and steady instead of stopping a lot, and had a wonderful ride. The lunch spot was the most gorgeous view over the hill (though I’d like to call it a mountain, it was probably just a hill) we’d climbed.

It was hilly, but most of all, i think it was difficult because my muscles were still exhausted and confused about being in constant use. I think by now they’ve realized they’re not getting out of cycling, but the first 5 miles of every day are the slowest, most tiring miles I usually bike. Northampton seemed like a town that would be much more at home near San Francisco/ Santa Cruz, or perhaps in the Northwest near Portland or Seattle. But Ali assured me that Massachusetts has its fair share of cute liberal vegetarian-friendly coffee shop laden towns. I hadn’t really expected to find that sort of atmosphere on the east coast - i always considered it a west coast thing. Maybe the northeast is not so bad after all.

We stayed with a friend of Ali’s in a crazy cute Duplex- I have no idea how we squashed everyone in, but we did and it was amazing. I slept on a couch that night and slept extraordinarily well. There’s nothing like a soft couch when you’ve been sleeping on thermarests on hardwood floors!