Santa Monica resident Emily Josephs has returned home after completing a 66-day 3,800-mile transcontinental bike trip to raise money and awareness to benefit grass-roots affordable housing groups in the United States. She and 30 other young people, riding under the auspices of nonprofit Bike and Build, left Boston on June 11 and arrived in Santa Barbara on August 14.
Emily is the daughter of Bill and Zina Josephs of Sunset Park. She was born in Santa Monica, attended Grant Elementary School and John Adams Middle School, and did volunteer work at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium and the California Wildlife Center in Malibu. She recently graduated from Brown University with a degree in biology.
Each rider on the Bike and Build trip had to raise $4,000, half going for trip expenses and the other half donated to housing groups. This summer, approximately 210 young cyclists have traveled seven different Bike and Build routes from the east coast to the west coast. They will be donating a total of over $420,000 to organizations that provide affordable housing, such as Habitat for Humanity.
The cyclists on the Boston to Santa Barbara route stopped along the way to work on building projects in Massachusetts, New York state, Ohio, Indiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, Nevada, and California. Tasks ranged from digging postholes and mixing cement to build a fence, to hauling bricks, installing cabinets, and painting a six-bedroom house in one day for a Somali refugee with 14 children.
The Bike and Builders rode up to 110 miles each day, sleeping on the floor in church basements, school gymnasiums, and occasionally campgrounds. They took turns doing presentations in the evenings for their host groups on the topic of affordable housing.
After dipping the rear wheels of their bikes in the Atlantic Ocean in June, the riders crossed the Berkshires, the Poconos, the Appalachians, and the Alleghenies. They crossed the continental divide at 8,600 feet in Pie Town, New Mexico, and visited the Painted Desert and the Grand Canyon.
On one memorable day, they rode across the Hoover Dam in 115-degree heat, then through a thunderstorm and into a rarely seen sight in Las Vegas – flooded streets full of stalled cars. Finally, they dipped the front wheels of their bikes in the Pacific Ocean at Santa Barbara’s East Beach in August, cheered on by family and friends.
Emily’s mother Zina Josephs, who is president of the Friends of Sunset Park, said, “We’re really proud of her for completing [the trip] – I think it was tougher than she expected – and for working for the goal of creating more affordable housing in this country.” The group on Emily’s route worked exclusively with Habitat for Humanity, but other Bike and Build groups worked with other affordable housing providers as well.
Emily said that she really enjoyed working on the building projects along the route, “learning to do new things and get new skills, from using a table saw to painting a wall.” She also said that meeting some of the people that would be living in the housing made the work more personal – not just an abstract cause.
Emily Josephs will soon be traveling to Bloomington, Indiana, to take a position as research assistant in a biology laboratory at Indiana University.