Cyclist crosses country, builds houses along the way.
by David Leone
WAKE FOREST — How did you spend your summer?
Did you witness sunrise on a mountaintop or see the fire-scorched hills of Arizona? Did you breathe fresh, unfiltered air for 10 hours a day from the back of a bicycle? Did you wet your feet in two oceans?
Kim Murphy has.
“Every single day, whether it was a day where we saw the snowcaps on the Rockies or a terribly windy, hot day in Kansas, I always had a moment where I said to myself, ‘This is living life to the fullest,’” the 23-year-old Wake Forest resident said. “The whole thing was amazing.”
Murphy spent 70 days cycling across the country, building houses along the way in 11 cities with a crew of about 20 people as a part of an organization called Bike & Build.
Allied with Habitat for Humanity, the cyclists pedaled from Nags Head to San Diego, Calif., relying on donations and the kindness of strangers for places to eat and sleep along the way. She returned July 31.
She chronicled her trips on a blog at nc2sandiego.wordpress.com, supplemented with iPhone photos taken by herself and other riders. The blog revealed that she prefers to ride in groups, that Tennessee doesn’t maintain its roads and Clif Bar wrappers are essential for fixing flat tires. The wrappers block tiny holes in the outer tire from pinching the inner tube, causing it to rupture.
“Those are crucial on the road. Sometimes we’d have to eat one — we’d have to share a Clif Bar so that we’d have a wrapper to put in the tire,” she said. “We had patch kits, but they never really seemed to work for us.”
You also learned that there are stretches of road in Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas where there is no cellphone service for dozens of miles, that a Colorado city has the coolest downtown and that Murphy performs better on long uphill mountain climbs than on even ground.
There are breathtaking photos and entries about the Garden of the Gods and the ruins of Mesa Verde in Colorado; California sand dunes; arm-wrestling locals in Coldwater, Kan.; and an early stop to hear ordinary folks play the banjo in North Carolina.
There are endless entries about amazing coffee shops and evidence Murphy was building lifelong friendships with cyclists who hail from all over the country.
There was a heartbreaking stop in Prescott, Ariz, at the memorial site for the 19 firefighters killed by a wildfire in July. “It hit me hard,” Murphy said.
That was just over 100 miles from her most exhilarating stop on the trip — the Grand Canyon.
“It was awesome,” she said. “If I had driven up there I wouldn’t have felt the same sense of reward from it. I had earned it. I had biked my butt there from North Carolina to see this beautiful landscape.”
The Wake Weekly also spoke to Murphy at the start of the journey, in which she expressed a desire to see her native land, to explore, to adventure, before she heads off to pharmacy school. Since helping people is central to her beliefs, the trip served two purposes.
The recent college graduate is putting off further education for a year, however. Though she intends to work in free health clinics during and after pharmaceutical studies, she’s signed up for a year of work with Habitat for Humanity in Charlotte through AmeriCorps. She’s already reported for work as a crew leader, responsible for directing new workers on build sites.
“I’m excited to learn how a nonprofit really works and become a part of it,” she said. “It’s awesome. It’s a great organization.”