When Amanda Brown was 8 years old, she was gifted a sparkling new bike. Even though the sparkle faded, Brown rode the bike all the way through her undergraduate and graduate studies at UF.
Now a teacher at Alachua Elementary School, she has set out to take the ultimate biking journey.
This summer, Brown and 27 other riders will take off for a 3,963-mile ride with the nonprofit organization Bike and Build to ride from Portland, Maine, to Santa Barbara, California, to support affordable housing. The trip will take 10 weeks to complete.
Only a few months ago, she traded in her beloved bike for a road one, courtesy of Bike and Build, after she raised her first $1,000.
All bikers in the cross-country routes have to raise at least $4,500 for the organization in order to participate. On their track, the bikers will make several stops in communities to build houses and give presentations about affordable housing.
All the bikers get their donations in different ways, but Ashley Whitehead, a UF veterinary student serving as Brown’s mentor, organized an Easter egg hunt for part of her donations.
“It was kind of funny seeing a lot of 25-year-olds looking for Easter eggs,” she said.
As an elementary school teacher for low-income students, Brown sees firsthand how big of a difference affordable housing can make.
“All the state really sees is the performance, the test scores and stuff, but there’s so much more that goes into it,” Brown said, “and when you have kids that needs aren’t being met at home, whether hunger or homelessness, then it’s that much harder to teach them in the classroom.”
To prepare for the trip, Bike and Build recommends its cyclists ride a minimum of 500 miles before the trip — Brown has completed more than 1,000.
Brown met Whitehead through the Bike and Build Facebook page. Since then, Whitehead has shared her words of wisdom with Brown about the long trip.
The experience itself, Whitehead said, “was literally the best summer of my entire life.”
Both cyclists said Gainesville residents don’t have to cycle to help the affordable housing cause, as they can join organizations such as Habitat for Humanity or Weatherization Assistance Program.
“Tackling and adjusting the affordable housing cause is something that has to come first in order to help (low-income students) achieve,” Brown said.