Ramon Martinez: Biking and building across the U.S. for a worthy cause

By Patrick Bradley

Lumen Reporter

Eight flats, six new tires, and two bicycle chains later, Ramon Mar­tinez had biked across the United States while supporting a worthy cause. Martinez, a senior Spanish major from Firebaugh, Calif, took part in the 2011 summer Bike and Build across America, a non-profit program that offers humanitarian aid to people all over the United States.

Over 270 riders took part in the 2011 Bike and Build event. The rid­ers took eight different routes across America and spent around 80 days on the road biking and building homes. For Martinez, this was some­what of a new experience.

“The farthest I had biked before Bike and Build was about 250 miles from Omaha, Neb. to Cedar Rap­ids, Iowa,” Martinez said. “The Bike and Build event I participated in was almost 4,200 miles and passed through 13 states. It started in South Carolina and ended in Santa Cruz, Calif.”

The volunteering side of Bike and Build was not new to Martinez, though. Before entering into Bike and Build, Martinez had done some work with AmeriCorps. Ameri­Corps is an organization that pro­vides volunteer work and service to communities in need and it is what took Martinez into the Midwest.

“I had been working for Ameri­Corps in Iowa and I loved the area,” Martinez said. “I looked at some colleges and I found Viterbo. I was offered a cross-country scholarship and here I am today.” AmeriCorps also introduced Martinez to the Bike and Build program.

“One of my friends was plan­ning on participating in Bike and Build after he was done with Ameri­Corps,” Martinez said. “I couldn’t imagine raising the $4,000 needed to participate in Bike and Build, let alone biking across the whole coun­try. It just didn‘t seem possible.”

After a little bit of research and the purchase of a bike off of Craig­slist, Martinez was set on taking part in the Bike and Build program. The next step was raising the $4,000 needed to participate in the event.

“I actually got about $2,000 from Xerox, the printing company,” Mar­tinez said. “Xerox has a department that looks for worthy causes to do­nate to and a friend of a friend put a good word in for me. Another ma­jor donation came from the Lion’s Club in my hometown. The rest of the money came from the Viterbo and La Crosse communities. I sent out emails and put up donation jars all over. It took a total of about three months to raise the money for Bike and Build. Everyone was re­ally helpful and supportive of my cause.”

The money raised by Martinez and the other riders is not a profit for Bike and Build. Molly Jacobs, director of operations for Bike and Build stationed in Philadelphia, Pa., explained that “each rider evenly distributes their money among dif­ferent grants. Each grant directly supports an affordable housing or­ganization of the rider’s choice.”

For Martinez, the hands-on work was what impacted him the most.

“We did a little of everything,” Martinez said. “We did the small things like painting and doing the final touches on a home, all the way up to building an entire house near Colorado Springs, Colo., in only five days. It really is amazing what you can accomplish when you set your mind to it.”

Martinez and his fellow riders dedicated 17 of their 81 days on the road to building homes for organi­zations such as Habitat for Human­ity. In one 10-hour day, the 32 riders on each bicycle route could save an organization almost two months of build time. Of the 81 days, Martinez and his group spent 60 days biking on average of 70 miles per day. That left them with only four days off for the entire trip.

“The trip was difficult both physi­cally and emotionally,” Martinez said. “Some days just sucked. Other days were really amazing. In the end it was totally worth it. What I expe­rienced will be with me forever.”

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