Biking across the US has been a dream of mine since high school. When a teacher I had brought in a photo album of him and his friend biking from Virginia to California, I was hooked. I had driven and taken the train across the US before, but I realized that I had missed all the places in between, which really makes the trip worthwhile.
Five years later, a college friend was talking about an organization called Bike & Build that raises funds and awareness for affordable housing through cross-country bike trips. After hearing this, I knew my dream was about to come true. Biking across the country would be wonderful, but being able to experience and, even better, contribute something to the communities along the way would be taking that dream to a whole other level.
Bike & Build is a non-profit organization which has raised over $4 million for affordable housing in the 10 seasons of its existence. Each summer, eight different groups take off across the country. Each of the eight routes (my route is from Providence, RI to San Francisco, CA) accepts about 30 young adult cyclists who must each raise $4,500 and volunteer beforehand (for at least 10 hours) at a local affordable housing organization (I’ve been helping out at a Habitat for Humanity site).
In the beginning of June, each group heads off on their separate routes. They ride between 40 – 120 miles each day. At each town, we give a presentation about some aspect of affordable housing, and sometimes we hold bike safety activities for the kids. For eight (non-consecutive) days of the ten weeks it will take to bike across the US, the groups will put aside their bikes and help build at an affordable housing site.
What constitutes as affordable housing?
Affordable housing is defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as shelter that costs no more than 30 % of a household’s income, which is almost impossible to find in many places in the US. Some people think renting, instead of buying a house will fix this problem, but the amount of renters spending more than 30% of their household income on rent rose to 53% in 2010, up 3% from the number in 2008. In fact, a family with one full-time worker earning minimum wage cannot afford a two bedroom apartment at the local fair-market rent anywhere in the United States. Many people are faced with a difficult decision: do they use more of their income on housing and end up with less to spend on necessities like food, or do they settle for housing that is comparatively cheaper but is old, filthy, and falling apart?
If we put more effort into our affordable housing organizations we can make sure no one will have to make this decision again.
You may be wondering, what does biking across the country for affordable housing have to do with The DivaCup?
Biking for at least 5 hours a day for 10 weeks is hard on your perineum in the best of times, but during your period it can be incredible difficult. The guides Bike & Build sent us often mentions how very important it is to find a bike seat you are comfortable with.
Yet, somehow, they failed to mention what to during that “time of the month”.
I’ve always been a very active person and when I first started my period I only used pads. I would often sit out during pool days in gym and if I was biking or horseback riding I would often get diaper rash, which no one should have to deal with after you’re beyond the age of 3, maybe 4.
Then after high school when I became a lifeguard for about six months in Australia I figured I had to start using tampons which brought a whole new set of problems. I had to change them frequently, and somehow they always seemed to aggravate my cramps.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t until I stopped lifeguarding and started college that I found out about The DivaCup. After I got the hang of it, all my previous problems were solved. I really couldn’t believe it. Now, it doesn’t matter what activity I’m planning to do next because it’s almost as if my period doesn’t exist.
Knowing all about the wonders of a DivaCup and realizing that many women on my trip would not have one was a distressing thought. I immediately emailed The DivaCup to alert them of our problem and, true to their Canadian stereotype, they were very kind and very happy to help. Thanks to DivaCup, all the riders on my trip have the option of using a DivaCup, that is, the female riders on my trip,and we are all so grateful at the prospect of a comfortable ride all summer long!
For all those interested in contributing to my trip or following my progress and transcontinental journey, you can visit my blog!
Annamaria Viazzo attends Stony Brook University where she is majoring in biology and bio-engineering. In addition to being a dedicated Student Diva, Annamaria has many hobbies: skateboarding, surfing, mountain biking, and rock climbing are just a few of her many “likes”. Annamaria considers herself lucky to have the opportunity to be involved in her school’s intramural clubs; everything from the Equestrian team to their rugby team. If Stony Brook offered a minor in athletics, Annamaria would probably have enough credits for it by now.