Taylor Burdge completed the trip of her young lifetime last month. The 2012 Tampa Prep graduate, whom the Tampa Bay Times profiled in May, started her cross-country journey by bike in June in Portland, Maine. She joined almost three dozen other 18- to 25-year-olds to pedal across America and raise awareness of affordable housing with a nonprofit called Bike and Build. Burdge and the rest of the team arrived in Santa Barbara, Calif., last month after a 72-day, 4,000-mile trek. The group stops every fourth day or so to assist in building affordable houses in various communities across the nation. Burdge shared with Times correspondent Brandon Wright her exhilaration about completing the trip:
After more than 4,000 miles, 72 days, 19 states, three new tires, four pairs of sunglasses, 15 flat tires, smiles, cries, sunshine, rain, sweat, tan lines, and endless amounts of peanut butter, bagels, cookies, and sunscreen — whew — Bike and Build Maine to Santa Barbara made it.
After a very late night and only three hours of sleep, the alarm went off at 5 a.m. and, more than three hours later, we hit the road ready for the Pacific Ocean.
About halfway into our 40 mile ride, we saw the coast. The next 20 miles were spent actually going north along the coast to Santa Barbara.
To be honest, it was slightly aggravating to see the ocean and the beach but still have 20 miles to go. However, it was pretty incredible riding along this picturesque oceanfront with mountains in the background.
All 32 of us met up five miles out so that we could ride the last little bit of our journey as one. It was absolutely crazy, a pack of 32 riders taking over the entire road.
When we got to the beach all of the family and friends who had come out to tire dip cheered us on as we threw our bikes down and sprinted into the water. So many emotions were going on in my head. I was excited, upset, happy, relieved, sad, longing. It's hard to describe the beach celebration.
There was so much splashing, jumping, yelling, laughing, hugging, crying. It's the accumulation of all of the emotions you had over the past 10 weeks in just 10 minutes.
After the craziness and excitement started to die down and riders had greeted their loved ones, we officially dipped our front tires into the Pacific. We made it coast to coast.
Everything after the tire dip just seems like added fluff. More hugs, crying, and champagne toasts followed. It was so funny to meet everyone's family after having heard so much about them on our rides together. It felt like we already knew them before we ever actually did.
Eventually, we made the six-mile drive to our host, St. Mary's Seminary. We could not have possibly had a more incredible final host. Situated high up in the mountains over looking the ocean with massive gardens surrounding the property, its possibly one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.
The next 36 hours were filled with exploring Santa Barbara and sad goodbyes as one by one riders left for the real world. It's hard to imagine that this whole adventure has come to an end.
Not only did I have an experience of a lifetime and create friendships that will last forever, but I was also part of a movement that is trying to solve the affordable housing crisis. I've learned so much over the past 10 weeks — whether it's about affordable housing, bikes, or myself — that I will take with me for the rest of my life.
There is no real way to describe how incredible my summer was. Sleeping on a floor for 72 days, and going to bed at midnight and waking up at 4 to ride 80 miles certainly stands out.
So does downing gas station Slurpees, showering in hoses, reaching 50 mph on a 12-mile downhill, swimming in friendly strangers' pools, saddle sores, 118-degree heat, demolishing buildings and sleeping in a room with 32 of my best friends laid down like sardines across the floor.
I'll have these memories with me for ever.
Thank you so much for following my journey. Without your support, my summer would not have been possible.
Until Next Time, Taylor Burdge