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What's Up Magazine

Towson Student Bikes Across America

Jun 14, 2011 09:36PM ● By Anonymous
On June 15, 2011, Towson University Sophomore Rachel Thompson will embark on a 3,842-mile bike ride across America, sponsored in part by Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake. During this Bike & Build event, Thompson and 33 other participants will dedicate 10 weeks this summer to ride from Portland, Maine to Santa Barbara, California—stopping along the way to help build safe, affordable houses with various nonprofit organizations, including Habitat for Humanity. “I have always been athletic, and this program appealed to that passion,” Thompson said. “I get to bike across the country with a team and help build simple, decent, affordable housing for deserving families.”

Through service-oriented cycling trips, Bike & Build benefits affordable housing projects and empowers students and young adults for a lifetime of service and civic engagement. In eight seasons, Bike & Build has contributed more than $2.7 million and 80,000 hours of labor to the cause. When Thompson first learned about Bike & Build over a year ago, she immediately knew she had to be a part of it. In high school, Thompson played soccer, softball, and ran indoor track. Her hobbies also include hiking, rock climbing, and kayaking. Currently, she is a member of the Towson University women’s softball team. Her love of physical activity and adventure—along with her preference for commuting by bike—led her to participate in Bike & Build.

Thompson most recently volunteered in the Build-A-Block program, joining Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake to construct four homes on Jefferson Street in Baltimore. She said the best features of her volunteer experience were working with AmeriCorps and learning how to use a jackhammer. (Thompson stands only 5’1” and weighs 95 lbs., but that doesn’t prevent her from taking on big challenges!) After being accepted to the Bike & Build program in November of 2010, Thompson began training with the Baltimore Bicycle Club. She also does both solo and group rides on weekends to prepare herself for the physically demanding journey. The daily mileage of the cross-country trip increases as time progresses; eventually, participants cover an average of approximately 70 miles per day.

When she’s not riding, Thompson will be building. During the 10-week cross-country expedition, Thompson and her fellow riders will make 12 stops to volunteer with various affordable housing projects, donating their proceeds and more than 190 total hours of labor. In addition to daily cycling, Thompson has already started peddling her way toward her $4,000 fundraising goal. To follow Thompson’s journey, visit her blog at