We’re home!

We are proud to announce that on August 3rd, Lidia and John safely arrived it back to DC! Exploding with endorphins and unbridled relief, they pulled into Yorktown on the 3rd and marked the end of the ride by walking straight into the Pacific Ocean with their bikes. This to satisfy ancient bicycle tradition which demands the cyclist’s back tire be christened in the Pacific and front in the Atlantic. After extricating themselves from the water, they found the closest bar, took a seat, ordered two celebratory beers, two large burgers, and a giant slice of bread pudding. This post is meant to capture the reflections, commentaries, agreements and disagreements that occurred during that final feast and the weeks since.

Reflection #1: We have a beautiful and diverse country

The United States is overflowing with history and wonder. In our 3,600 mile journey, we traced the footsteps of the tens of thousands of 49ers who crossed sagebrush deserts and frozen Sierra Nevadas in pursuit of gold. We stayed at way points and station houses that captured spring water for the men of the Pony Express (folks who ideally, were lanky orphans with a sense for adventure and an understanding that each ride will likely be their last), and we spoke separately with members of the Church of the Latter Day Saints and Navajo tribe who see the history of the U.S. differently than their compatriots. We saw mining operations larger than mountains, agricultural plantations that touched the horizon, and cities where the internet hasn’t yet made its debut. The food we ate changed from climate to climate, the accents from region to region, and the people themselves gradually but certainly as we progressed. 

By visiting only coastal cities, one cannot claim to know the U.S. This applies to U.S. citizens, just as much as those traveling from abroad.

Knoxville Gas Station converted into live music park

Reflection #2: People on average are great

Over the entire ride, we only had one man engage us in a suspicious manner—everyone else was incredibly kind. At least once a week, we found ourselves in a stranger’s home, a warm meal prepared, a washing machine at the ready, and a bed made. Multiple times a week, we had individuals stop their vehicles to hand us bottled waters or fruit. We had grocery store owners fill our arms full of goods that would feed us for days on end. And if we had a bike breakdown, we had to hide ourselves to keep from holding up traffic as car after car would stop to offer assistance. 

And this doesn’t even touch on the fact that this ride was entirely funded by individuals who wanted to see rural and low-income communities represented  in DC and abroad. We owe so much to the generosity of others. 

Free BBQ and school supplies event hosted by Bill Hall and other local businesses who want to make sure no children go to school wanting

Agreement #1: Much of the U.S. is isolated

Surprisingly, we found it quite difficult to get internet access for much of our ride. Many towns we passed through had little to no internet connectivity. Universally, when people discovered Lidia’s Russian origin, they grew super excited. Many of them told us she was the first person they had met from over seas. 

Agreement #2: Cycling is better than driving

Acres and acres of tobacco, it smelled amazing

If you really want to see the country, cycling is the way to do it. Not only are you forced to reckon with distances, elevations, weather and wildlife, but people are significantly more likely to talk with you and welcome you into their community. 

Agreement #3: Cottage cheese and peaches is one of the best desserts out there

No need to expand upon this.

Commentary #1: This journey was life changing.

We cannot put into words what this trip has done for us, but we are different people now than when we began.

Lidia and I soaking up some Sweet Pea’s BBQ in Knoxville

What now:

Lidia and John are engaged in employment search mode. Once they’ve sent out enough resumes to feel comfortable, they will begin reaching out to their contacts to start discussions on how to best connect the DC IR community to their students.

Mission Update #2 – Jubilation and Disappointment

In an update that is both one of our most exciting and disappointing to write, we’ve got a lot to cover. To begin with, let’s talk successes.

To date, we’ve met with administration and faculty at Fort Lewis College, Southern Utah University, Missouri State University, Southern Illinois University, Colorado State University, and Ozark Technical College. In addition, via invite, we spent the weekend with the former lieutenant governor of Illinois, Sheila Simon, who provided us with a variety of resources and connections to advance our goals (we were also encouraged to reach out to Senators Durbin and Wicker regarding the Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Program Act, which aims to expand study abroad programs for higher education institutions across the country). Beyond this, we’ve met with miners who have offered to connect us with their corporate heads to discuss fully-paid scholarship programs for miners who would like to pursue higher education.

Lidia after a successful meeting with staff at Fort Lewis College

At each meeting, we’ve explained that our goal is to expand representation of students from low-income, rural, and heartland backgrounds in DC as well as study abroad programs, and that we have the potential to offer a variety of services including application review, coaching, and roomstays. We want to help students overcome the skill and funding gap that currently exists between upper/middle class East Coasters and those who have had less access to resources and opportunities. Administrators and faculty have responded with overwhelming positivity and excitement. Each and every meeting has resulted in brainstorming sessions and promises of future engagement to get students from diverse backgrounds to DC and abroad.

At Fort Lewis College, a school that awards 16% of all degrees earned by Native Americans in the U.S., administrators asked us to organize student-led skype sessions for classrooms from all disciplines at the start of the semester. They believe there would be tremendous interest from their students, especially if they’re able to connect with young professionals near their age.

At Missouri State University, the head of the History Department asked if it would be possible to coordinate with us to build a new certificate program that would prepare  students to be competitive in DC and overseas. 

From the miners unions, we were asked if we’d be able to speak with workers about  how to apply skills learned in the mining sector to careers in policy and international relations. There was particular excitement about SAIS’ Energy, Resources, and the Environment concentration.

In all, we have had the opportunity to interact with these institutions in meaningful ways that have helped establish long-term working relationships with school officials. Over and over, our partners said this was the first time a group from DC reached out to discuss how to bring their students to our nation’s capitol and that we have the potential to create pathways that could reach thousands of underrepresented students each year. We celebrate these successes as the first of many steps needed to change the landscape of the leadership in Washington, DC and abroad so that it better reflects the diversity of our country.

In sum, we’re excited, yet there is a lot of work to do when we get back — and we’re almost there.

Small detour to Tennessee

Now for the disappointing news. SAIS has decided not to endorse us this year. The school has  not yet given a reason, but we were promised an official message soon. It’s hard to frame this news in any other way than sincere disappointment. The students and professors we have met this summer are excited about SAIS, and we believe that we are contributing significantly to diversifying SAIS’ student population. In addition, the lack of cooperation from SAIS has made it near impossible for us to reach our second goal: to raise money for the SAIS Underrepresented Communities Fellowship. We have reached out to the financial aid and development offices several times to request literature about the new Fellowship and current fundraising mechanisms, but we have received very limited information. Our difficulty working with the SAIS administration is particularly disheartening considering that SAIS lags behind its peer institutions in terms of providing financial support to students from low-income or disadvantaged backgrounds. When talking with students with limited financial means, we’ve been forced to be candid about how SAIS’ funding models compare to those of other institutions.

At this moment, many of our riders are facing sincere financial hardship. Several joined the ride under the impression that SAIS would help support us (indeed, we received encouraging words from our school’s leadership before we began). Now, our riders have been forced to finance the trip through leftover student loans. 

Moving forward, we recognize that our work has just begun. Even after the ride ends, we will continue to build relationships with the schools we met with this summer. We are already planning skype sessions with students this Fall, are continuing to build our informal mentoring program, and are drafting documents to be reviewed by university provosts and administors. However, given the news we’ve received from SAIS, we no longer feel that we can promote SAIS exclusively over peer institutions. Instead, we will be promoting all international relations programs in DC equally. We will also be reaching out to new potential sponsors to see if they’d be interested in supporting us in the Fall. 

As we reflect on our journey the last few months, we again call upon SAIS to reaffirm its commitment to diversifying its student body. Programs like our ride, while not officially part of SAIS, are key to building a more equitable university that reflects the diversity of our country. Should future SAIS students come to the university requesting support for a ride, we implore the university to listen, to reflect, and recognize that this initiative has the potential to positively change the landscape of the student body for decades to come. 

As always, thank you for reading, and thank you for supporting us! —  GoFundMe

On the road at 6am

Century A Day – Memory Lane – Battling the Heat Wave

Hello from Carbondale, IL. Since leaving Pueblo, Colorado we have biked more than 100 miles a day, traveled down memory lane with John’s family, and battled the heatwave that has consumed the U.S. from Midwest to East Coast.

Meeting with Dr. Colette Carter, Leticia Steffen, and Dr. Ryan Strickler at Colorado State University – Pueblo

After having a successful meeting with the professors from Colorado State University – Pueblo, we departed east. Despite starting in the late afternoon we still managed to bike 60 miles to Sugar City, CO. There, we visited Lynette’s Sugar City Cafe, who’s owner has a quite impressive collection of cookie jars. Unsure where we could sleep, we asked the owner for an advise. She told us that we can ask the Mayor, who was dining there at the same time as us. We received a permission from the Mayor of Sugar City to sleep at the town’s park.

Our tents at Sugar City, CO town park

The following day, woken up by the park’s sprinklers, we set out to cross the the Kansas border. Due to strong headwinds, we were unable to accomplish our daily goal. After biking 85 miles, we stopped 11 miles short of Kansas border in Sheridan Lake. The locals we met at the gas station told us that we can stay at their Sheridan Lake Bible Church, where there is air conditioning, a full kitchen, and a fully stocked lazy-susan pantry. This was like a gift send from heaven. We were happy to take up on their services.

With Kansas border sign

The next day we crossed into Kansas and encountered many cyclists who were on a similar journey. The next two days we biked from sunrise to sunset, covering more than 100 miles each day. We slept at the local high school football fields in Bazine and Chase, KS. On July 14th, we made it to Wichita. There we stayed with Stan from Warm Showers. In Wichita, we had plans to meet with professors from Wichita State University, unfortunately, we were unable to meet up. This gave us time to sit at a local cafe and send out more emails to universities.

Our next stop was Fredonia, KS. On the way there, a local farmer stopped and gave us cold water and fresh peaches. 20 miles out from the city, we decided to take a shorter route and ended up on back country gravel roads. In the last 6 miles of our journey, we stumbled upon a big challenge. Locals told us that Kansas has been experiencing a lot of rain in the past couple of days so the surrounding rivers were higher than usual at this time of the year. Our road was blocked by a fast moving river that we were unable to cross. Alternative routes were also blocked by the river. With high speed water the bridges fell in. It kept pushing us farther off the route until we were able to find a high bridge that allowed us to cross. We got into Fredonia quite late and went straight to bed.

Road blocked by Fall River

On July 15th, we crossed the Missouri border entering John’s home state. Biking through Missouri is like biking through John’s childhood. We swung by Joplin, MO to say hi to his parents and then moved on to Springfield, MO. John has a big family. In Springfield, we stayed with his cousin and met his extended family. John’s sister makes the best pie. The thing is, John loves pies. Throughout our journey, he would never pass an opportunity to stop at a pie joint. So far, we have tasted more than 20 pie slices. John’s sister’s pies has is the best pie so far.

While relaxing with John’s family we reached out to Missouri State University and had a meeting with Dr. Kathleen A. Kennedy, head of the history department. The meeting was successful. Dr. Kennedy was excited about our mission and after the meeting, she expressed an eagerness to continue the conversation down the road. The following days in Kansas were brutal. Our hundred mile quotas during the heat wave were more than our bodies could handle. We went through 10 liters of water each day. Our jerseys were drenched with sweat. We were afraid to go in to any establishments, worried that we would stink up the place.

On July 20th, we crossed into Illinois. Now, in Carbondale, we plan to meet with professors from the Southern Illinois University, then head for Kentucky, while looking forward to end of the heat wave.

At the border of Illionis

Sarahann and Jesse say goodbye!

(Disclaimer: This post is a little out of date, we’ll have another coming up shortly. Thanks for your support!)

Hello from Pueblo, CO! Since last checking in, our team has traversed mountains, lakes, and the Great Divide. We have also talked with administrators at Fort Lewis College in Durango, CO and Colorado State University in Pueblo, CO.

A little refreshment to celebrate our Colorado crossing

This leg of our journey began in Blanding, UT. There, we celebrated Lidia’s 27th birthday with Navajo burgers made by a local family. The burgers had all the fixings of a classic burger, but they were wrapped in homemade fry bread. Needless to say, they were delicious!

Next, we traveled through Monticello, UT and into Colorado. Our first stop was in a small farming town called Lewis. John ran into a local grocery store to ask about nearby camping options, and he met Rod. After learning about our ride, Rod invited us back to his ranch and let us camp in his RV. He showed us his horses, fed us homemade zucchini bread, and shared stories of traveling around the world. Plus, his home had a stunning view of the Colorado mountains.

Out of Utah and into Colorado

The next morning, Rod helped us adjust our biking route so that we would follow safer, more populated roads. In the end, we broke away from the Adventure Cycling Association’s route and instead chose to roughly follow the route of the Race Across America. Our new path took us through Durango, home to a huge cycling community. While there, we were hosted by Jody and Seth through Warm Showers. They were incredibly kind and welcoming, and they helped introduce us to professors atFort Lewis College.

On July 3rd, we met with the Vice President of Advancement, Mark Jastorff, at Fort Lewis. We discussed the purpose of our trip, the lack of representation of individuals from low-income backgrounds in DC, and our plans to implement an informal mentoring program. He was excited to connect us with other staff members at Fort Lewis and begin exploring how SAIS students can mentor undergrads at his university. We are especially excited about this relationship because Fort Lewis awards 16% of all undergraduate degrees conferred to Native Americans in the US. We hope our partnership will allow Native students’ voices to be heard in DC and abroad.

Next, we traveled to Pagosa Springs, a small town at the foothills of the Rockies. We celebrated July 4th with a pancake breakfast, a town parade, and watching the fireworks from a rooftop hot springs spa. From Pagosa Springs, we climbed to Wolf Creek Pass–which crosses the Great Divide. Then we sailed down the mountain to a town called Del Norte, where we spent the night in a town park.

Fireworks over Pagosa Springs

The next morning, we biked over 80 miles from Del Norte to Salida. We crossed over from the Rio Grande watershed to the Arkansas River watershed. In Salida, we stopped by Simple Foods Market, which donated day-old groceries to us after hearing about our ride. The food was delicious, high quality, and just what we needed!

Finally, we made the 100-mile journey from Salida to Pueblo, CO. This marked the end of our journey through the Western mountains, and we will now be headed into the Great Plains. In Pueblo, we were grateful to be hosted by Marlene, who we were connected with through friends in Durango. Marlene was incredibly hospitable. We enjoyed played chess and watching Star Wars with her three charming (and brilliant!) children. Marlene also helped us connect with administrators and professors at Colorado State University – Pueblo.

In Pueblo, we also said goodbye to Sarahann and Jesse, who are headed back East. We also meet with our dear friends, Yizhen and Chris, who are both SAIS grads and recently relocated to Denver. Next week, we will be biking through Kansas, and then we will be in Missouri.

Fortuitous Encounters

By: Jesse

June 24, 2019 – The majority of the day was spent in Boulder, Utah, at a self-proclaimed art-coffee shop, where the owners can really take advantage of their unique location of being in the middle of nowhere, which was reflected in the prices. The coffee was expensive, and the internet was reliable. John, Sarahann, and Lidia wrote to 32 different colleges to arrange meetings with interested students.

Before cycling to our camp site, we stopped to use the facilities of the last gas station in town. A gentleman named Dave took notice of us and started a conversation. Dave is very familiar with the DC environment as he lived there for various years as a presidential appointee. He was sympathetic to our cause, and he told us about local Native American tribes that would be interested in meeting with us. We exchanged contact information and said our goodbyes.

As soon as Dave left another man approached. He immediately recognized our jerseys, and we knew this to be true by his correct pronunciation of SAIS and not S-A-I-S. He is the country manager for the Peace Corps in Tanzania, and he said a lot of the Peace Corps volunteers have worked with SAIS alumni and some enroll into the school after their service. We gave him the link to our blog and he sincerely wished us the best.

June 26, 2019 – After cycling through the mountains that involved avoiding cows and spectacular views, we arrived to Hanksville, Utah. In such a small town, it didn’t take much time for John to make friends. After speaking with Jill, the proprietor of the only grocery store, we were directed to the city’s town park to sleep on the lawn of the local community center. She also encouraged us to return in the morning to restock with supplies. We cooked ourselves a quick meal and then went to Duke’s Slickrock Grill to reward ourselves with some delicious corn bread. In the morning we were awoken by horses.

We then returned to Duke’s Slickrock Grill for bottomless coffee. On the way out of town we stopped at Jill’s once again. She insisted that we pack lots of groceries and filled our bags to the brim.

At the time it seemed like we were carrying too much food, but in reality, it was hardly enough as we didn’t see a grocery store again for 3 days.

June 27, 2019 – We finished one of our most treacherous rides. We ran out of water 5 miles before our campsite – Hite, Utah. While it was very uncomfortable to run out of water, it was never a real danger as people passing by in their cars were very generous with their supply. Cycling through the desert generally evoked sympathy and awe. Arriving at our destination, we were met by a camp site that clearly saw better days. Apparently, Lake Powell was 100 feet higher just 20 years ago. From what we can understand, the changing water level is a result of new water policies and climate change. While cooking our dinner at the abandoned ranger station, we were approached by two lost travelers, the Powell family. They missed their turn for the National Bridges Monument by 40 miles. Luckily for them the gas pump was one of the few facilities that was maintained. We invited them to join us for dinner, and I do believe they considered accepting. In the end they declined to join us for dinner, but they wanted to assist us. The Powell family donated money for our fund, cold water from their car, and an invitation to join them at the beaches in Delaware, which is where they currently reside.

“Life Elevated” in Utah

Crossing from Nevada to Utah

By: Lidia

Hello from Utah, the “Life Elevated” state! We have some exciting news from the road. Over the last week, we’ve had our first official meeting at Southern Utah University, were joined by a new team member, and have reached out to over 30 community colleges and state schools along our route. Here’s a quick recap of our recent adventures:

Last Friday, we were fortunate to meet with nine students from Southern Utah University who are interested in public service and careers in DC. We introduced ourselves, SAIS, and the mission of our trip. Lidia discussed how she lived and worked in Eastern Europe. John spoke about his family background and challenges adapting to DC life. Sarahann shared her experiences working in U.S. embassies around the world. The students asked thoughtful and provoking questions, challenging us to reflect on how individuals from different backgrounds can enter and thrive in competitive fields. We know they will all do great things for their communities!

Exploring Southern Utah University’s campus after our meet-and-greet with students

In Cedar City, we also had to say goodbye to Josh and Chloe, who are moving on to start their jobs at the Federal Reserve in New York. We will miss them! But, we’ve been joined by a new team member, Jesse Metzger. He will be cycling with us to Washington, DC and has brought wonderful energy to the group. To read more about Jesse’s background, check out our team biography page.

For Jesse’s first day, we began our climb through the Utah mountains. Wow, it is difficult! The hills are pushing us to our breaking points. In a single ride, we climbed over 5,000 feet, reaching an altitude of 10,400 where the snow is still fresh and summer seems far off. On Saturday, we caught a glimpse of Cedar Breaks and met a park ranger whose brother attended SAIS. We also met a fellow Washingtonian, RootChopper, who has a friend working at Johns Hopkins and gave us tips about the road ahead.

Sarahann, Jesse, and Lidia making the long climb from Cedar City to Cedar Breaks

Next, our route brought us to Kodachrome Basin State Park, which has beautiful views, rock formations that look like they’re from Mars, and a campground with 5-star showers. We cleaned ourselves up and spent the night toasting marshmallows over a fire. From there, we traveled to Escalante, UT and then descended into the Escalante Canyons. The road was steep and narrow, so we had to take extra safety precautions. But the view at the bottom of the canyons was worth it!

Views from Kodachrome Basin State Park

Today, we have reached Boulder, UT and have spent the morning reaching out to community and state colleges across the country. We have contacted individuals from over 30 institutions inviting them to connect us with their students. We hope this outreach will be fruitful and help us set up more formal meetings. If you know anyone along our route who would be interested in meeting us, please contact us. We are happy to get coffee and chat with anyone!

John, Sarahann, and Lidia enjoying the views after a long day of cycling

Mission Update: June 20th, 2019

By: John

Our Goals:

Because we’ve received so much support from the SAIS community and beyond, we wanted to make sure that everyone is kept up-to-date on what we’ve accomplished regarding our trip goals. We set out on this ride to increase rural and low-income communities’ access to and knowledge of career-building opportunities in Washington, DC. This includes sub-goals, such as:

  1. To inform young people about educational and career opportunities in DC
  2. To increase a desire among target communities to apply for these programs
  3. To establish connections between cycling team members and interested parties to ensure that rural and low-income applicants are qualified for these programs
Cycling through mining towns in NV

Our Progress:

As the first group of students who have participated in this ride, we have faced many challenges that have slightly delayed–but not halted–our outreach. The majority of our time leading up to our departure from San Francisco was spent on logistics and fundraising. When we left on June 4th, we were immediately hit by several bike-related mechanical malfunctions and difficulties adjusting to long days in the saddle. In the first week, we fell two days behind schedule, causing us to suspend outreach until we established a clear rhythm and could predict our route.

Community Outreach:

On June 10th, we resumed outreach and contacted 10 schools, community centers, and churches across Nevada and eastern Utah. We received responses from two groups: the public school district in Austin, NV and Southern Utah University (SUU) in Cedar City, UT. From this, we set up a formal meeting with students in the government department at SUU, which will be taking place tomorrow.

Meaningful Conversations:

Moreover, we’ve had countless meaningful conversations. One of the most rewarding conversations was with a youth who joined us for lunch at a mountain station meant for weary travelers. His family owned the place, and he spent many hours asking us questions. When we began to ask him about his plans for the future, he was resolute that he had no desire to go to college. After talking to him about the differences between college and high school and then speaking of our experiences traveling the world, he was won over. By the time we left, he said he wished we were staying longer. One of our riders heard him start talking with his family about studying engineering in college.

Planning our next visit

Establishing Connections:

At the same time, we have been establishing in-person connections with individuals in the towns we visit. Most of these individuals are community leaders and are interested in helping facilitate formal meetings for next year’s SAIS Cycling For Access team. We hope future riders can visit:

  • Carson City, NV: The capital of Nevada boasts a population of 55,000 people, and we expected that it would be relatively affluent. Though charming in many ways, we were surprised to find every sign of widespread poverty. Countless streets were marked by payday loan lenders, dollar stores, laundromats, pawnshops, liquor stores and brothels. More interesting was the disposition of the population. At one point we found ourselves talking to the former head of IT for Nevada’s search and rescue department. Upon hearing our mission, he declared, “We don’t have a voice in Washington. Our representatives could care less about anyone that doesn’t live in Reno or Vegas, that’s where their votes come from.” Talks with others confirmed a widespread feeling that if you’re from Nevada and you don’t live in Reno or Vegas, not only is there no federal government in your life, there is no state government. It’s exactly these feelings that we hope future rides can begin to reverse.
  • Fallon, NV: Despite its small population (8,606), Fallon has a current enrollment of 500 students in their satellite college associated with Western Nevada College in Carson. Nearly 75% of the degrees awarded are for students earning an Associates degree that are looking to transfer to a four-year institution. Of these students, nearly all come from agricultural backgrounds. We hope next year’s riders will have an opportunity to meet with these individuals so they can begin preparing for an education in DC.
  • Eureka, NV: In a small town with a population of 610, Eureka’s economy is built on mining. The greater population is closer to 1,800, consisting mostly of young male miners in their early to late twenties. A local business owner and retired miner has volunteered to connect next year’s team with the local mining companies, which he assures us would be very interested in getting their employees to attend a meeting. After telling him about the SAIS Energy Resources and Environment (ERE) program, he informed us that the mining companies try to recruit internally for high-level positions, but they have great difficulty securing qualified talent. As such, they’ve put together large and generous scholarship packages for miners pursuing graduate education. Bringing a group of seasoned miners into the SAIS student body to study ERE would be an invaluable contribution to diversity at the school.
Downtown Eureka, NV

Why Diversity Matters:

We’ve quickly learned that if we want to increase diversity in international relations, we also need to have a diverse SAIS Cycling For Access team. Lidia and Josh, our two teammates of foreign birth, are the centerpieces of interest in many of our conversations. People want to know what it’s like to live in Russia (Lidia) or the UK (Josh), why our friends came to the US, and what they think of the US. By just being a part of the ride, Lidia and Josh are able to directly address stereotypes and expose our audience to different cultures.

This has led us to regret that our team shrunk from 13 to 6 students. Because we have yet been able to secure funding from our school, we lost two Chinese students, one Korean, one Spanish, and one African-American. We’re less impactful without a diverse team. For example, an African-American uber driver commented that we were all white, saying “black students don’t have the genetics to do something like this.” We need to challenge this misperception. We encourage next year’s group to reach out and recruit diverse students from the very beginning. And we call upon SAIS to financially support this ride to broaden access for current students and alumni.

Secondly, we believe international students from SAIS could learn a lot about the United States through Cycling For Access. There is nothing comparable that allows students to witness the vastness of the U.S. landscape, the foundations of the economy, and the diversity and kindness of the population. We’ve seen mining operations with rubble piles larger than the surrounding mountains and alfalfa operations stretching as far as the eye can see. The majority of our nights have been spent camping on the lawns of generous people, and we can all recall the fellow who pulled over his car to bring us blueberries, or the Mexican-American worker who called the team over to his truck and prepared fresh pork tacos for us. This is the America we want our foreign classmates to see.

Mine debris outside Ely, NV

Next Steps:

Currently, our team is regrouping in Cedar City, UT and preparing for the next leg of our journey. Tomorrow, we will be presenting at Southern Utah University, which we’ll report back on soon. While here, we’re also reaching out to community groups throughout Utah and eastern Colorado, creating business cards to distribute to our new connections, and designing flyers for community college outreach.

A Song of Fire and Ice: Riding through Deserts and Mountains

By: Sarahann

Hello from Middlegate, NV: the self-proclaimed “middle of nowhere” with a population of 17 (formerly 18). Over the past few days, the SAIS Cycling for Access team has ventured across mountains, a frozen lake, and the very hot Nevada desert.

After leaving Ham’s Station on Highway 88, we climbed 4500 feet across 30 miles. We had a mild bike breakdown, so we weren’t able to make it to the Carson Pass (elevation: 8500 ft) before nightfall. We were surrounded by snow, so Josh treated us to a night at the Caples Lake Resort, which mended our spirits and thawed our frozen bodies.

Biking along Highway 88 on the way to Tahoe

The following morning we set out for Lake Tahoe. We descended nearly 3000 feet, reaching speeds of 35 mph. Once at the Lake, we checked in with our Warm Showers host, Warren, who is pictured with us below. He was incredibly welcoming, gave us cold drinks, and shared local tips to explore the town.

The cycling team with our Tahoe host, Warren

After Lake Tahoe, we sailed through the mountains to Carson City, NV. We stayed with another Warm Showers host, Evan, who has an amazing garden and chatted about international relations with us. In town, we ran errands and reached out Nevada community colleges and municipal governments to arrange meetings.

Lidia and a Sarahann overlooking Lake Tahoe

Next we biked over 70 miles from Carson City to Fallon, NV. The Nevada heat was brutal, but we enjoyed the flat landscape and the friendly waves from construction workers. We breaked for lunch at Lahontan State Park, which was a relaxing oasis amidst the desert. That evening, we had coffee and dinner at Stone Cabin Coffee in Fallon. The owner, Butch, and his staff were very kind and welcoming–and Butch treated us all to coffee the following morning.

Grabbing coffee in Fallon, NV

Next year, we hope the SAIS cycling team will be able to chat with people in Carson City and Fallon (we ran out of time to schedule events this year). While they are both lovely cities, we saw great signs of need. We believe students from these towns could really benefit from this ride.

That brings us to today. We have biked nearly 50 miles from Fallon and are resting at Middlegate Station — a historic stop along the Pony Express. The restaurant here has delicious burgers and a chill atmosphere. After digesting our lunch, we will be heading onwards to Cold Springs, NV.

Enjoying burgers at Middlegate Station

Over the next few days, we will be traversing the desert. But we are actively setting up meetings with students and community members between here and Cedar City, UT. If you know anyone along this route, please shoot us a message!

Rattlesnakes, breakdowns, and lots of pretty views

By: Sarahann

It’s the Cycling for Access team here, checking in on Day 4 of our cross country trip. And wow, it’s been an incredible few days.

We started our journey at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco with a lot of excitement. From there, we took the ferry to Vallejo and started biking towards Davis, CA. In our first day, we had two flat tires, a bike breakdown, and ended up catching a ride in a car the last 10 miles. We spent the night with a wonderful host named Alan from the Warm Showers cycling community website, who gave us a kind greeting and shared lots of local advice.

On Day 2, we ran a few errands around Davis, which included a stop by a bike shop and the post office to mail duplicate items home. We then biked through Sacramento onto Folsom. To cool down, we took a dip in the American River. The water was very cold. Once we arrived in Folsom, John would not stop singing Johnny Cash. Also, the Folsom dam was beautiful. We met many groups of riders who were excited to hear about our mission and offered advice. An FBI agent in cycling mode escorted us to Beal’s Point campground after we got lost. All in all, a great day.

Day 3 brought us beautiful rolling hills between Folsom and Fiddletown, CA. We rode nearly 50 miles in the California heat, saw rattlesnakes, and ate at a delicious deli. Again, we were greeted warmly by all. People offered us free places to stay and wanted to know how to support the Cycling for Access goals. We spent the night camping at the beautiful Casa de la Pradera BNB outside of Fiddletown, which was hosted by Alice, who is wonderful in all types of ways.

On Day 4, we climbed nearly 4000 feet as we entered the Sierra Mountains. Our legs felt like they were on fire! We had lunch at a pitstop along Route 88, called Cooks Station. Now we are camping behind another roadside restaurant, Ham’s Station. We enjoyed talking with the owners’ grandkids about hiking and going to college.

As we close out the day, we want to give a shout out to everyone who has helped us along this way. In our 4 nights, we have been given free lodging 3 times. People are excited to hear about what we are doing and why, and it makes us feel like our purpose is more important and timely than ever.

Thanks for reading!

SAIS Cycling for Access

Gearing up in San Fran!

With less than 24 hours to go, the SAIS Cycling for Access team is gearing up in San Francisco. Tamas, John, Sarahann, Josh, and Chloe have already arrived in California, and Lidia will be joining us tonight.

The past few days have been filled with excitement as we gather last-minute gear and prep outreach materials. A huge shout-out goes to Phoenix Bikes in Arlington, VA for donating precious gear for our riders. Phoenix is a community-oriented shop that teaches youth to fix bicycles and serve the greater Washington, DC area. Another thank you to REI for giving us coupons for REI-branded gear in support of our ride.

Tomorrow we are leaving San Francisco at 7:30 in the morning. Our first night will be spent in Davis, CA, and from there we will be heading over the mountains to Nevada. Stay tuned for more news.