To most people, raising $4,500 in order to bike almost 4,200 cross country for three months sounds completely insane. But for hundreds of college-aged students, that's exactly what each one did.
The young adults are part of an organization called Bike and Build, a nonprofit that benefits affordable housing in a very unconventional way.
For the past nine years, Bike and Build has been sending out groups of 30 or more to ride 70 to 100-plus miles a day for the cause. And on their off days when they're not biking, they're getting on their hands and knees to fix homes.
This year, Bike and Build has eight different routes with eight different groups, and one of the routes made a pit stop in Norcross this week after clocking in 481 miles. The crew, known as SC to SC (Charleston, S.C. to Santa Cruz, Calif.), started May 27 and plans to bike until they reach Santa Cruz in August.
When they landed Tuesday in Norcross, greeted them to a buffet dinner and a warm introduction.
"This goes beyond everyone's dreams to think that a group of young people would have the heart to to do something like travel 4,200 miles," said Bob Stanton, a project analyst and president of Rebuilding Together Gwinnet, at the dinner. "You all are either very, very caring, or you're totally nuts."
"Or both!" blurted many of the group.
Stanton has organized the Atlanta stop for the past three years and helps find hosts to fund the food and shelter during their stay, which is done in every city they stop in. FHLBank Atlanta funded the group's dinner and breakfast Wednesday at the cafe, and they stayed at the on Tuesday evening.
After making a small presentation at the weekly PDC meeting Wednesday, the troop headed straight to Rome, Ga. Their next stop afterward is Scottsboro, Ala., and by Friday, June 8, it's Decatur, Ala.
Even though they didn't help construct anything in Georgia, the bikers have completed three build days since their journey started May 27. One of the build days so far was dedicated to restoring the interior of an elderly woman's home in Charleston.
"That was really cool, just working side by side with her," said Matt Jenny, a student at the University of Virginia. "She called us her family.”
Seven of their 16 build days are scheduled for Colorado Springs in July for a "build blitz." Brynne Heatley, a student at the University of Central Florida, explained that they plan to construct an entire home there.
Another Bike and Build route will csontruct the foundation, and then the SC group will build the rest when they get there. Out of the $160,000 raised so far by the SC group alone, $55,000 of it will go to the Colorado home.
So what inspired riders to sign up for this crazy biking journey, anyway? Many admit to not being regular bike riders before they started training for it, so what was it?
For many, it's as simple as needing something different in their lives.
"I was at a point in my life where I needed to do some soul-searching, and I needed a change," said group leader Britt Simmerman.
This year is actually the 28-year-old's second time participating in Bike and Build, with her first year in 2010 and taking 2011 off to concentrate on her law degree at the Indiana University at Indianapolis.
She decided to put her foot to the pedal once more because it was the most inspiring thing she's done in her life.
"There are really no words to describe how it changes you as a person," she said. "It really combines that level of soul-searching that I think people in our generation, especially this age group, need. ... When you go outside the Bike and Build bubble and out into the real world, when the summer is over, you are a completely different person, and I think that's the biggest thing: You are a better person, and you're a better person for society."
Brynne Heatley, a first-time Bike and Builder like most others in the SC group, said a friend of hers inspired her to join.
"He was so on fire about what happened on this trip," Heatley said. "He said it revived his faith in humanity and all the acts of generosity around the United States."
One woman even gave food stamps to Bike and Build, he told her.
"I've felt that I've had such a sheltered upbringing, and I wanted to feel that experience," she added.
With more than 3,700 miles to go after Norcross, it's still a long journey for these young adults. To check the progress of the SC to SC journey or the other routes, or to donate, check out bikeandbuild.org.