Jamestowner to build houses during cross-country bike ride
Bicycling more than 3,860 miles across the United States – from Providence to Seattle – is a challenge. The Tour de France is more than a third shorter. Taking 10 days off during the trip to build houses would make the effort even more difficult.
But that is just what 24-yearold Elizabeth Andrews and 33 other riders plan to do between June 11 and Aug. 16. The group departs from Rhode Island’s capital on a cross-country trip that will take them through 14 states.
“I’m not doing this because I’m a stellar athlete, that’s for sure,” said Andrews. “But it has made me a better one.”
Andrews, who admits to never playing sports growing up until it was required in high school, says she became interested in endurance training as a personalized eulogy to a close friend who died. A year and a half ago, she began training to run a full marathon in honor of that friend.
“For the entire year I carried his memory through every training run,” Andrews wrote, “through all the bad weather, through the frost and the desert sun, and finally down a 26.2-mile course at 5,400 feet above sea level.”
It was during the marathon that Andrews bumped into a member of the Bike and Build Organization. “There is a certain strong and wonderful correlation between body and mind,” Andrews said about endurance sports. “And I came across Bike and Build and it was a wonderful junction between those two.”
Andrews grew up in Jamestown, the daughter of John and Julie Andrews, and attended high school at the Prout School. Although she never played organized sports, Andrews practiced yoga and ballet for as long as she can remember.
After graduation from Prout, Andrews enrolled at DePaul University in Chicago to study theatre, influenced by her mother, who is a singer and voice teacher.
Andrews left DePaul, and during a two-year hiatus from college, she taught yoga classes, before finally returning to school to study the discipline. She enrolled in the traditional eastern arts program to study yoga at Naropa University, a Buddhist school in Boulder, Colo.
“It’s a really wonderful place,” said Andrews, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in writing and literature, along with a degree in yoga. “It’s a lot do with the body, mind and spirit. I was never a practitioner of one particular religion. I’ve always kept an open mind in regards to religion.”
Now she will test the connection between the physical and mental aspects of the body on a trip where she won’t know where she’ll be sleeping from week to week. The Bike and Build Organization has contributed nearly $3 million to housing groups like Habitat for Humanity over the last eight years to fund projects planned and executed by young adults between the ages of 18 and 25.
The trip will consist of 60 days of riding, 10 days building, and four days of rest. Andrews has more experience with the hammer than the handlebars – growing up, her parents were members of the Central Baptist Church, and she visited the Dominican Republic on three separate occasions to help build a hospital through various mission groups. She helped rebuild homes with the Appalachia Service Project.
During her two-and-a-halfmonth trip, riders will sleep at churches, schools and community centers along the route. “Sometimes, there will be host families or camping,” Andrews said.
The organization provides meals, shelter and other essentials.
Riders are only responsible for their equipment and their training, although the bikes are usually provided through sponsorships. The only money riders need to bring is in case they want to see a movie or get some ice cream.
Each rider must raise $4,000 to participate in the trip, and most of the money goes towards housing grants, according to Andrews.
Andrews says that the best way to donate is to log onto www.bikeandbuild.org and click on “one of the blue buttons; they’re everywhere.” From there, a drop-down list will appear and you can choose her name from the long list of riders.
Andrews’ mother will host a fundraiser concert at the Central Baptist Church on Friday, Feb. 18, at 7:30 p.m. Everyone is welcome.
“I’m pretty excited,” said Andrews. “I’m not really nervous about it. I think I have a very clear training routine that I’m going to implement. I can’t wait.”