Day forty-two: the mountains are calling!

Hello from Boulder, Colorado! It’s been a while since I’ve posted an update, because there’s been so much going on over the last two weeks. Please pardon the delay, and prepare for a flurry of highlights!

Century rides are awesome: By now our group has completed two 100+ mile days, which have actually been two of my favorite days. It’s really cool to see how much stronger everyone on our team has gotten since we first dipped our wheels. Even though the centuries are really long days, it’s a awesome challenge and a really great feeling to finish.

Kansas is not nearly as flat as people say: Kansas was such a pleasant surprise! We’d heard stories about horrible headwinds and nothingness for miles, but I think it was a favorite state for a lot of us (so far!). All of our hosts were incredibly gracious and towns like Lawrence and Manhattan were a lot of fun to explore.

Milestones: In the past two weeks, we’ve hit our official halfway point, our 200-mile mark, crossed two state lines, and a new time zone. We take a lot of joy in celebrating and documenting these accomplishments!

Sunrises, sunsets, and stars: We’ve switched our wake-up time to 4am, so we’ve been getting to see lots of awesome sunrises. This morning some of us got up early to hike Royal Arch at the Flatirons, and even though it was pretty cloudy and a very steep hike before our build day, it was so worth it. Kansas and Colorado have also given us some of the best sunsets so far, especially when paired with distant thunderstorms. We’ve only had one night so far with sleeping under the stars, but we have several camping days in the coming weeks and I’m looking forward to more awesome night skies.

Build days: Since my last post, we’ve had five more build days. We had the privilege of working with Habitat for Humanity chapters in Kansas City, Manhattan, and here in Boulder, doing everything from installing roof trusses to building lemonade stands to preparing prefabricated storage sheds. We also had a chance to visit Grid Alternatives in Denver, a non-profit that is working to provide solar power to low-income residents and build a more inclusive clean energy economy. Finally, we got to tour a Mercy Housing project in Denver, and learn about the great work that organization is doing across the country.

the Rockies: We’ve arrived at the foothills of the breathtaking Rocky Mountains, and tomorrow we climb to Estes Park. From there we’ll get to ride on the highest paved road in the US, Trail Ridge Road, with a highest elevation over 12,000 feet. The altitude is definitely getting to a lot of us, and the next few days will have some unique challenges, but we’re getting psyched for some incredible views and awesome memories.

Send some love, prayers, and good vibes for the next few days – we’ll need them!




Day twenty-six: Missouri loves company

Heat rash is real, and it is Missouri-able.

Bike & Build follows a 90-90 policy, where if it’s a day with over 90-degree temperatures or more than 90 miles, we stop for two lunches to refuel and make sure everyone is staying hydrated. Since leaving Illinois, we’ve had some of our hottest and longest days yet, which has meant lots of extra sunscreen, sweating, and drinking. Tomorrow is our first century ride (more than 100 miles), which will bring us into Kansas City.


We’ve been spending the majority of the last three days on the Katy Trail, which is a rails-to-trails route and part of the Missouri State Park network. The crushed limestone trail is definitely a nice break from dealing with cars, but is also doing a number on our already-sore butts. It can also get pretty monotonous  spending so long on a single trail, with little scenery and lots of sun. Being able to ride two abreast makes a huge difference, and it’s been a lot of fun being able to have conversations with my fellow riders without yelling over the wind and cars.

Despite the heat and long days, our group has definitely still been having some great adventures. Our day off in St. Louis allowed for exploring the city zoo, the Budweiser brewery, the City Museum, and of course the Arch. We’ve also gotten to meet several Bike & Build alumni along the road, who graciously meet us with Popsicles along the road or spend some time riding with us. At our last mail drop, we also received a present from last year’s Central US route – they had kept a journal with helpful hints and ‘pro tips’ for each day of the route, including ice cream shops and swimming holes to check out.



While we’re in Kansas City, we get to build two days in a row, which will be a nice break after such a high-mileage week! But with a 4am wake up tomorrow to beat the heat, it’s time for bed… More updates soon!

Day nineteen: our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate

It’s difficult to believe that just three weeks ago, I met my teammates for the first time and we departed from the coast of Virginia. Today, on our way to Terre Haute, we hit our 1000-mile mark, a huge accomplishment for Bike & Build teams. Even thought some days are total struggles, each one brings new challenges and opportunities to grow stronger and closer with my teammates.

One of my favorite things to talk to people about while we’re riding is quotes that inspire or move people. One of my favorite riding buddies, Catherine, reminded me of the quote that begins, “Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our greatest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” The past three weeks have been full of reminders of that power – both as individuals and in community. I’ve been amazed by the passion, determination, and support of this group of young adults. I love being surrounded by such positive, enthusiastic people. This is by far the most complete, authentic, and fulfilled I’ve felt in a long time, and I am so excited to see what the next 3000 miles brings!

Day sixteen: ought to call it wind-iana

Hello from Indiana, where the wind today was brutal but the sunset was breathtaking! We’ve had a couple of state line crossings since my last update, and a couple other big firsts. On the way out of Charleston, I got my first flat of the trip, and spent the next day on my first “sweep” ride. Each day, two of our team members ‘ride sweep’, which means that they follow the rest of the group with a med kit and spare tire. Sweep makes sure that everyone gets to the destination safely, and in return they get to eat dinner first and have first dibs on sleeping spots.

I also did roofing for the first time, on our third build day of the trip yesterday. We had the privilege of working with Habitat for Humanity of Greater Cincinnati, who covers the city of Cincinnati and surrounding counties in Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky. The chapter is celebrating their thirtieth year, and in honor of this accomplishment they’re building three houses in thirty days! The three homes are nearing completion, so we worked on some exterior grading, roofing the small shed that goes with each house, painting the sheds, and some drywall work. It was such a pleasure to work side by side with the CEO of the chapter and other staff members.




While in Cincinnati, I had a chance to meet up with an old friend from the Newman Community at Virginia Tech. He’s originally from Cincinnati and just finished up school there. It was awesome to have someone who really knows the city show us around and to catch up with someone who’s been such a big part of the experiences that brought me to this trip.

It was a bummer to leave Cincinnati, especially because today was a long, windy 84-mile ride to Columbus, Indiana. But Columbus is a really interesting small city, with lots of modern architecture gems and some really innovative urban design pieces. It’s strange to see buildings by I.M. Pei and Eero Saarenin out this way, but definitely a treat!

Day eleven: Wild and wonderful

Total miles: 583

The last few days have been quite a whirlwind! Day 7 was a struggle, with our route taking us 87 miles to Lexington, Virginia. 45 of those miles were on the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is breathtaking. I’ve been on the parkway before in a car, which is cool, but it’s a totally different experience on a bike. It really feels like you’ve earned those views, and the descents were so much fun!


Lexington was our last stop in Virginia, and since then we’ve been making our way through the wild and wonderful state of West Virginia. These hills (mountains?) are killers, but the scenery is worth it and the people are fantastic. We’ve also had some incredibly generous hosts, especially here in Charleston! After a smooth 60 miles yesterday, we got to swim at the community center that’s hosting us, saw the West Virginia Power (the local Class A baseball team) play, and explored downtown Charleston.

This morning we had the pleasure of sharing a meal with the regulars at the Manna Meal daily breakfast at St. John’s Episcopal Church. Afterwards we headed over to our second build day, on a Habitat for Humanity site. The affiliate received a land donation from the Catholic diocese, and so far they’ve built sixteen homes on an extension of the steepest road in the city. Two homes are nearing completion, so we spent the day painting the foundation of one house. It was super hot, but the other volunteers were great to work with and many hands made pretty light work!


Tomorrow is our last day in West Virginia, and then we’ll cross another state line into Ohio – stay tuned!

Day six: if it’s broke, fix it

Total miles: 282

Today was our first build day of the trip! Our group was split in half today, so half of us worked with Habitat for Humanity Charlottesville, and the rest had the pleasure of working with the Albemarle Housing Improvement Program (AHIP). AHIP is a non-profit that works to keep local homeowners in their homes by providing basic maintenance and repairs. They’re all about their motto, “if it’s broke, fix it.” Today we wrapped up the work on a house in a neighborhood next to UVA, and our team spent the morning painting the porches and touching up paint inside the house. It was really cool to meet the homeowner, Ms. Nightingale, and hear a little bit about her family. We also learned that AHIP has worked on over thirty homes in that neighborhood so far.

As we move farther west across Virginia, the terrain gets more and more challenging. The hills from the last two days have been so brutal, but it’s good training for West Virginia! We rolled into Charlottesville, Virginia yesterday and had a delicious dinner at the Belmont Baptist Church, our host for these two days here. Shouts to Sticks and Bodo Bagels for hooking us up with some great fuel for dinner and breakfast before we hit the road tomorrow!

The Blue Ridge Mountains are looming in the distance, just like the prospect of our ride tomorrow. It’ll be our longest day yet, 87 miles to Lexington, VA, and lots of elevation gain. I’m so grateful for all the positive attitudes and encouragement from our whole group. There’s a huge level of support among our CUS fam, which is definitely getting me through these long days. These hills are tough, but we’re tougher!


day three: 190 miles down!

The past three days have been so incredible – and it’ll only get better from here! After two days of orientation, we kicked off our journey with our wheel dip at Yorktown Beach. Mother Nature decided we didn’t need a warm up, and threw us right in with a full day of rain and wind. Riding along the Colonial Parkway to Colonial Williamsburg was quite an adventure, but luckily I had some awesome riding buddies for our first day. After lunch at Jamestown, we hopped on the Virginia Capital Trail, which is where I did some of my favorite training miles. The trail brought us all the way to our first stop in Henrico County, a church that is a popular stop for many cyclists on the TransAmerica BIke Route 76. 
Day two brought us from Henrico to Waverly, Virginia, about 40 miles, with more rain. We were so lucky to have such gracious hosts at the Waverly United Methodist Church, who treated us to warm showers with real towels and delicious lasagna. It was so interesting to hear their stories about how the town has changed, and to share with them why we’re each taking this journey.
Today was the longest and most challenging day yet, with 78.8 miles from Waverly to Victoria and over 4100 feet of elevation gain! The hills were killer, but the scenery was beautiful and again, my riding buddies made the uphill struggles more enjoyable. 


Tomorrow is looking a little brighter, with sunshine and a quick 46 miles to Dilwyn, Virginia. Stay tuned for more from the road, and check out more photos on Instagram – look for #bikeandbuild and #CUS16. Ride on!

It’s real!

Hello from Yorktown, Virginia!

Yesterday our CUS16 team met for the first time, and it’s pretty clear already that this is an incredible group of young adults (not to brag). It’s been really awesome hearing everyone’s stories about why they’re here and seeing the passion and spirit in all my teammates. It’s definitely going to be a great adventure!

Between painting the trailer that will carry all our gear, bike maintenance workshops, drills, safety talks, and getting to know each other, it’s been a busy day and a half. So many thanks to St. Luke’s United Methodist Church for being such gracious hosts! After our first group ride today (twenty miles through Yorktown) I can’t wait to hit the road tomorrow. Wheel dip is tomorrow AM at Yorktown Beach – stay tuned for more updates as we continue pedaling for affordable housing!


fan mail

We’re just four days away from wheel-dip! Orientation starts on Thursday, and I can’t wait to finally meet the rest of my teammates in person down in Yorktown, Virginia.

Several people have asked lately if I’ll be able to get mail on the road, and the answer is YES! Bike & Build fan mail is always appreciated to keep spirits and energy levels high – especially when it’s edible (think Clif bars, ShotBloks, and Honey Stinger energy chews). Our team will pick up mail about once a week at the designated USPS locations below. Address any letters of support, packages of goodies, glitter bombs, etc. to:

Bike & Build
Attn: Kelsey Oesmann
General Delivery

Please be sure to mark the envelope or package with “Please hold for pick-up on DATE.”
Late mail will be forwarded to the mail drop two weeks ahead. Late mail from the last two mail drops will be returned to you.

May 26
Charlottesville, VA 22902
June 02
610 Gay St
Portsmouth , Ohio 45662
June 09
210 N 3RD ST
Effingham, IL 62401
June 16
Union Station
30 W Pershing Rd #112
Kansas City, MO 64108
June 23
201 E Main St
Beloit, KS 67420
June 30
1905 15th St
Boulder, CO 80302
July 07
200 Collum St
Maybell, CO 82640
July 14
875 N Capital Ave
Idaho Falls, ID 83402
July 21
770 South 13th Street
Boise, ID 83702
July 28
630 Northeast Killingsworth Street
Portland OR 97211

Thanks for your continued support!!

sixteen days ’til wheel dip!

I’ve finally fully recovered from this whirlwind weekend up in Pennsylvania, and I wanted to give a quick recap and thank-you’s to all those who came out to show their support this weekend.

Big thanks to the Bethlehem Morning Star Rotary Club, who were gracious enough to allow me to come speak at their weekly breakfast meeting and share a little bit about Bike & Build. It was such a pleasure to be surrounded by people who are so generous with their time and committed to improving their local community! Thank you again for having me, and I look forward to coming back and sharing photos and stories with you all soon!

And a HUGE thank you to my family, who hosted a benefit party for Bike & Build and the Lehigh Valley Habitat for Humanity Restore. On Saturday my parents hosted an open house party at their home in Bethlehem, complete with music from one of our favorite local bands, RED. The event raised over $1000 for Bike & Build and Habitat for Humanity, along with dozens of items to be donated to the Restore. I am so grateful for all the hard work from my parents, grandparents, sister, and boyfriend, and many thanks to all the family, friends, and neighbors who came out to celebrate with us!

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With all the hustle and bustle of the weekend, I didn’t get to ride much – but my bike did get a new name! At the benefit party, there were so many creative suggestions for my sweet ride, but the winner came from our family friend, Monica. My bike has officially been dubbed ‘The Numinous’! Numinous refers to an experience that makes you fearful yet fascinated, awed yet attracted, overwhelmed yet inspired – which pretty much sums up how I’m feeling about this summer!!

It’s crazy that in just two weeks, I’ll be down in Yorktown, Virginia to meet my teammates in person for the first time and start our B&B Orientation. I’m also at about 78% of my new $8000 fundraising goal, so if you’ve been waiting for the perfect time to visit the SUPPORT page and make your contribution, this is it!

Sixteen days to wheel-dip!