A New Canaan college student bikes across country
Published 12:15 pm, Wednesday, May 4, 2011
There are plenty of cyclists in New Canaan. Many of them enjoy riding their bikes through Waveny or the other beautiful vistas around town. One particular New Canaan resident, now on the verge of graduating from the University of Notre Dame, is taking her bike a little farther. Starting May 23, Taylor Gulley will ride her bike from South Carolina to California. Yes, you read that correctly. She plans to ride across the United States.
Suddenly that trip from the library to Waveny doesn't seem so long, does it?
"This opportunity is incredibly unique, in part because it will likely never come around again," Gulley said. "I was compelled to jump on it."
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Gulley, 22, will be undertaking this 81 day journey along with many others as part of the Bike and Build Program, an initiative meant to raise funds and awareness for affordable housing in America. Every summer, people from across the country gather to ride across country while also stopping to build houses along the way with the assistance of local housing organizations.
Gulley herself had multiple reasons for taking on this extremely challenging initiative. While she has always been attracted to the outdoors and extreme activities in particular, she admits to not being an avid biker.
"I've been training for the last few months," Gulley said. "But I don't think anything can prepare me for biking cross-country other than biking cross-country."
Actually, some of her previous experiences might give her the fortitude to meet this challenge, whether she would admit it or not. Gulley, an environmental science major at Notre Dame, has already completed her fair share of extreme activities. After her freshman year, she trained for the Chicago marathon. After her sophomore year, she completed a 68-day stint in the Rocky Mountains, where she backpacked 100 miles for 28 days, rock climbed for three weeks and kayaked white-water rapids for two weeks.
"I'd never even tried any of these sports before and ended up falling in love with them," Gulley said. "Biking cross-country is a continuation of fulfilling this desire to experience new things."
Needless to say, she does not cite the actual physical aspect of biking long distances as the problem, but said the repetitive nature of doing the same thing everyday may be another issue.
"It might get monotonous, I'm not sure," she said. "But doing it in a group with 33 other people as crazy as I am to bike cross country will probably help."
In addition to the personal enrichment reasons, Gulley really found something to believe in when it came to raising awareness for affordable housing, an issue she thinks is largely overlooked in America, even by herself initially.
"I have overlooked it for a long time, too, taking my own housing situation for granted because I believed it to be the norm," she said. "Hence, I was blinded to the existence of a problem."
Growing up in affluent New Canaan played a large role in her ignorance of the issue for so long, she said. Living in a town where everyone is relatively well off sheltered her to an extent.
"We tend to assume that the sort of poverty that creates inadequate housing and nutrition is rare in the U.S., and focus our attention instead on health care, involvement in the Middle East and abortion," she said.
Gulley also added that while she supports many other causes, she believes the affordable housing issue is something she can impact in a unique way.
"Affordable housing is an arena that I feel I can contribute to in an active and concrete way," she said "Whether that's by raising money that goes to affordable housing groups or by building houses with my own two hands"
Through Bike and Build, Gulley will ride approximately 4,120 miles, averaging 70 miles per day for 81 days. Out of those 81 days, 16 of them will be devoted to building houses in and around the route to California. Gulley said she is looking forward to the "Blitz Build" in particular, which is one week in Colorado Springs where the group will build an entire house from the ground up. In addition to building and biking, the group will also be interacting with members of the communities they will be helping. They will have power point presentations explaining their mission and spreading awareness for affordable housing. In its eighth year of existence, Bike and Build has already donated more than $2.7 million dollars to housing groups. Last summer, the program raised nearly $500,000 and the group hopes to be at that level this summer when Gulley takes off.
At the end of the day, while Gulley will enjoy spreading awareness for a serious issue like affordable housing, she may just be most excited about the simple idea of traveling. The states she will be passing through include Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Alabama, among others.
"I'll be passing through a ton of states I've never been to before, not to mention from a bike -- not a car, train or plane," she said. "That will be pretty extraordinary."
For more information on Bike and Build and how to donate to this project, visit www.bikeandbuild.org/donate.