Andy Ives, an Efland, N.C., native and recent graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, is biking cross-country to raise awareness for the affordable housing crisis in America.
Bike and Build, the organization of which Ives is a member, provides riders with the opportunity to cycle across the United States while building homes for affordable housing organizations along the journey. In the six years since its inception, Bike and Build has raised more than $1.6 million, and hundreds of riders have pedaled more than 3 million miles. The organization features 10 routes, the majority of which span from a point on the East Coast to a destination on the West Coast.
Ives is biking from Nags Head, N.C., to San Diego, Calif. The Indy corresponded with him via e-mail during his journey.
How many miles a day do you bike?
Usually we bike about 70 miles a day, but this past week [June 7-13] is more like 90 to 100 miles a day. So far, my longest day was 104 miles, but we have a 124-mile day coming up in the next two weeks. I'm excited; it sounds like fun. Of course, I say that now.
What have your jobs been?
We've built in five locations and put up interior and exterior walls of one home, replaced ceilings in another, installed vinyl siding, built a floor on a foundation and changed lightbulbs in a large, low-income apartment complex in Asheville, N.C.
Have you met any of the families who will be living in the houses?
Yes, I have met the families. Usually, we end up doing our work on homes whenever we arrive in the town or city. Many times, we're working during the workweek when the individuals whom the homes are being built for are at their jobs, and we are unable to meet them. However, on two occasions we've met and even worked alongside the individuals whose homes are being built. They're unbelievably grateful, and they are in awe of how quickly we are able to complete a wall or frame or floor of a home. Thirty-one people are able to divide and conquer, and it always puts a smile on the face of those people the home is for, as they are that much closer to being able to move in and call their house a home.
What do you hope to accomplish aside from building homes and raising awareness for affordable housing organizations?
I hope to gain a better sense of what I would like to do in life and a better understanding of the conditions people live in and how important affordable housing is. Also, I've seen very little of America and I want the full experience. Coast-to-coast on a bike should be able to fix that, no problem.
What have been some of the highlights of the trip? Low points?
The highlights are definitely seeing America. Finding towns that are barely on the map and discovering all the really cool stuff in each one of them. I went through the tiny town of Bat Cave, N.C., and was amazed by the beauty and by the name. We've gone through big cities—Charlotte, N.C.; Little Rock, Ark.—and a ton of tiny ones—Swan Quarter and Bell Haven, N.C.
The low points are usually the weather. I've gotten used to the 5 a.m. wake-ups and the 11 p.m. bedtimes, but never the weather. One morning in North Carolina the temperature was in the 40s, and by the afternoon we were pushing 90. The first week of the trip, we hit nonstop rain. Sheets and sheets of rain, and it just made us push harder, go faster and get even more soaked. We also have some pretty rough terrain. I can easily bike 100 miles or more a day, but when you throw in mountains, the equation changes. Plus, the roadkill kind of gets to you after a while. Tennessee was filled with armadillos that were lucky enough to make it to the other side of the road. One day I counted nearly 40 whose lives were cut short by a Firestone, Michelin or Goodyear.
Have you encountered any dangers while biking?
Not really. Biking on roads with speeding cars is always dangerous. You need to trust yourself and your fellow riders. So far, I've been chased up to 25 miles an hour by several dogs and had a motorist throw a bottle at me. But interestingly enough, myself and two other guys caught up to the car and had a couple of words with them; 17-year-olds can be rather dumb sometimes.
Do you have any advice for young people who wish to get involved in endeavors such as Bike and Build?
So far it has been an amazing experience, and the people that you meet and interact with are incredible. I got a blessing from a man at a gas station as he loaded up his pickup truck last week. Meeting the families that we're helping is also exceptionally rewarding and makes you genuinely feel like you're making a difference, no matter how small. It broadens your horizons and makes you think deeply about your life.