Taylor Burdge has embarked on the trip of her young lifetime.
The 2012 Tampa Prep graduate, whom the Tampa Bay Times profiled last month, has started her cross country journey by bike, pedaling to help raise awareness of affordable housing with a nonprofit called Bike and Build.
Burdge and 32 other 18- to 25-year-olds left Thursday from Portland, Maine, en route to Santa Barbara, Calif. The trip will take 75 days and cover nearly 4,000 miles.
The group will stop every fourth day or so to assist in building affordable houses in various communities across the nation.
"It's been absolutely amazing so far," said Burdge, who arrived in Maine last week for orientation. "I've met some great people so far that I can already tell are going to be friends for life."
The young adults dipped their back tires in the Atlantic Ocean to begin the journey, and will finish by putting their front tires in the Pacific Ocean upon completion of the trip. The group will rely on churches, schools and families for housing and food along the way.
Burdge, who recently finished sixth in the single scull at the U.S. Rowing Youth National Championships in Tennessee, will continue her rowing career at Stanford. But in between, the Times will periodically follow along with Burdge's journey in her own words.
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Kindness on a difficult day
Today (Thursday) was a ridiculously crazy day. I started out with Ryan, Kristen S, and Kristen G at a good clip through busy roads and across the New Hampshire border.
When we reached Durham, N.H., we stopped and enjoyed a DM (Donation Magic) smoothie at a local coffee shop. We then cruised into lunch and were the first to arrive. It was an absurdly hot day, and it only got hotter.
After lunch, I road with Josh because we both wanted to keep a similar speed. After climbing up a hill, we saw some other riders who had left lunch earlier, enjoying the shade in front of what can only be described as one of the most amazingly beautiful farm houses I've ever seen. They had beautiful horses and a most lovely garden - and a pool!
There we were, five riders on a cross country journey sitting in front of paradise. After struggling internally, I finally got the guts to knock and see if by any chance we could use their pool. The resident could not have been nicer. She welcomed us (with) a pitcher of cold (water) and we hopped into the most refreshing pool.
We were all revitalized. Eventually, all 33 of us took advantage of her kind hospitality. After about 45 minutes, I was ready to hit the road but most of my group wanted to stay, so I headed out solo. With 15 miles to go after I crossed the Massachusetts border, I met up with Kegan and Nick, and we found a great swimming hole to cool off it.
By now, we were really feeling miserable. The rest of the ride was rough. We were on a busy road, it was over 100 degrees, I got a flat tire and my speedometer broke. But at last, at 5:30 p.m., we reached the school, the first to arrive.
Unfortunately, most groups got lost and the van had to go and pick up several riders. It was a hard day but we were rewarded when the Webber family opened up their home for us with a thanksgiving feast (turkey, stuffing, cranberry relish, mash potatoes).
The Webbers are an important family to the Bike and Build community as their son was one of the first program directors before he passed away. They could not have been more kind to all of us, and after such a difficult day, it was just what we needed.
We then went back to the Pike school where I fell fast asleep in the library amid talk with Caroline, Ryan, and Lauren.
To follow along with Taylor Burdge on her journey, visit taylorbikes.wordpress.com.