On June 13, Kera Murphy, BSM ’09, dunked the rear wheel of her bicycle in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Providence, RI, and headed west on a 70-day, 4,000-mile trek to the shores of the Pacific.
Her trip was part of Bike and Build, a national nonprofit that organizes a series of summer cross-country treks to raise money and awareness for affordable housing projects. Riders get hands-on, too: her group spent nine days of their journey helping with home-building projects in communities across the country.
All told, Murphy and her pack of 31 other riders raised $168,000 with their trip, which traced a path that included some of the country’s poor, forgotten rural sections that one might not necessarily see on a highway route. Avoiding the beaten path, though, had its dangers: in the fifth mile of what was to be a 70-mile day of riding in Iowa, Murphy hit a hole while crossing train tracks and broke her left hand. After being fitted with a removable cast and having a bike shop rework her brakes so she could control them with her right hand, she was back on the road.
But when it came time to reach their final destination of Seattle, the pace slowed. It wasn’t that she and her fellow riders were tired—though they were certainly that. “We just didn’t want it to end,” she says. The trip’s formal close was to come via another “wheel dip” ceremony, this time riders dunking their front wheel into the Pacific Ocean. As they approached the beach in Seattle, though, they saw that an unexpected crowd had gathered—parents, friends, loved ones. Spurred by their cheers, the entire crew spontaneously, dumped their bikes, ran across the beach, and dove into the waters of the Pacific.
Reflecting on it months later, Murphy—an admitted biking novice— says the journey’s mileage never became daunting. “You don’t see it—you just do it.” Even now, the full measure of the feat remains elusive. “I guess I am still waiting for it to hit me,” says Murphy. —DAN MORRELL