Biking Across America with Janie Harari '15

Hi! My name is Janie Harari, and I'm a sophomore here at Olin. My accomplishments from last summer may be a bit different from other Oliners, but that doesn't mean they aren't newsworthy or that I didn't have a ton of fun doing them. 

Last summer, I:   

·         Ate around 300 bananas. That's three a day (two for lunch and one for breakfast) for three months.

·         Took most of my showers with a hose

·         Got the best tan lines

·         Had the largest leg size increase of all my friends

All these achievements were part of a larger one -  I biked across the country with Bike and Build, a charity dedicated to raising money and awareness for affordable housing.  Last May, I joined a group of amazing people from all over the US, who dipped our wheels in the Atlantic Ocean at Virginia Beach, and headed west.  We averaged seventy miles a day and about once a week we would stop and help build affordable housing.  What an amazing experience!


Bike Trailer.jpgBefore we began, we all helped paint our trailer that would carry our supplies across the US.  Alyson (right) spent a good deal of time designing a portrait that would fit with our mission: a bike made out of power tools.

The days we spent biking were full of challenge, adventure, and support.  We hit the Appalachian Mountains early on in the trip, and climbing 60 miles up a mountain in a single day when the most I'd ever done before that was the hill on the steeper side of Central park in Manhattan was a bit of a challenge.  However, I had plenty of people to help me get to the top so I could go flying down at 30mph (which didn't even compare the 46mph that I reached on the Rockies). 

After Wild West Virginia, we reached Ohio, the state of the tiny dogs that can run at unimaginable speeds.  Then we passed through Illinois, the land of corn, and Kansas, the land of even more corn and a crazy heat wave!   This heat did have its benefits though, as we realized Kansas also had the best ice cream out of all the states we went through.  We were cruising through tiny rolling hills when all of a sudden we reached the top of a hill that looked no different from the rest and got the most uplifting and frightening glimpse of the Rocky Mountains.  As we biked closer and closer to these humongous structures, leg muscles were growing and so was our confidence.  So while riding up these mountains  was challenging, it was worth it for the stunning views, the elk we saw, and the confused look on drivers faces as we passed them on the way down. 

After that, we went through Wyoming, Utah, and Idaho, which were memorable for their hot springs, dinosaurs, and potatoes, respectively.  Finally we crossed the last state border, pedaled through bike-friendly Portland, and reached the Pacific, where we spent our final days celebrating. 

Flaming Gorge.jpgSome of the sights that we saw were pretty amazing.  Above is a picture of Flaming Gorge in Utah, which we pedaled 10 miles out of the way just to get a glimpse of.

                The days we spent building and learning about affordable housing were just as much fun as the ones we spent biking.  I learned so much from all the construction that we did, including foundation, drywall, insulation, landscaping, and not to sit on fiberglass.  The first experience that I had on a build site was being handed a sledgehammer and being told to go to work.  We were removing a burned down church in a trailer park that was becoming disruptive to residents.  After this, the sites only got better, as we were able to meet and build alongside homeowners who were willing to share their stories with us. 

During this time, we learned so much about people's lives, both from what they told us and the work that we were doing.  One house that we worked on had been abandoned for thirty years after the owner had passed away.  We were put in charge of removing all the waterlogged possessions that remained so the house could be remodeled.  While dumping things into garbage bags, we found and tried to preserve old memories that we found, such as family pictures, antique jewelry, and even a box of old love letters that were written by an overseas soldier to his family back home. 

Supplies.jpgSometimes supplies were limited, but we always found ways to power through the work we were doing.   This picture was taken in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.  We were working on converting an old warehouse into storage space for donated habitat for humanity items

This was the best summer that I have ever experienced.   I spent it with amazing people, saw incredible sights, learned so much about the world, and overcame huge physical challenges.  Bike and Build is an amazing organization, and I encourage you to check it out if you want a great way to spend your summer!


Posted in: A Broader World View, A Different Path, Awesome Internships, Because I Wanted To, Just Plain Fun, Making a Difference