University of Colorado senior James Gaston plans to bike nearly 4,000 miles across the country after graduation -- but this is not your typical pre-career joy ride.
Gaston will join 30 other cyclists, aged 18 to 25, and from across the country, as they bike from Portsmith, N.H., to Vancouver, British Columbia, riding nearly 70 miles a day to provide support and awareness about affordable housing efforts nationwide.
To donate to James Gaston's Bike and Build fund, go to wwwbikeandbuild.org and click on "donate," then select Gaston's name from the list of riders.
It's all part of the eighth season of Bike and Build, organized by a Philadelphia-based nonprofit group that has donated more than $2.3 million and supported more than 1,000 young adults who have cycled 4 million miles to support affordable housing projects, such as Habitat for Humanity.
The grueling 70-day trip, beginning in June, will push cyclists to their physical and mental limits, but Gaston said he's confident he is up to the challenge after a 2,000-mile bike ride from Boulder to his hometown of New York City in 2008 tested his endurance.
"It will be tough, but I know I can handle it," Gaston said. "It helps that I have some experience from my first trip and knowing that I'll meet so many amazing people along the way. That really keeps me going."
But experience is not the only advantage Gaston has to help motivate his journey. Gaston said he rides his bike everywhere and has done so far as long as he can remember. His bicycle has become more of an appendage than an accessory, and Gaston said he couldn't imagine life without it.
"I'm an avid biker," Gaston said. "Being from New York originally and now living in Boulder, I've really spent most of my life on a bike. I just feel uncomfortable without it."
As part of the program, the cyclists are required to raise at least $4,000 for costs and donations during the trip, but Gaston has already raised nearly $5,000 and said he's still going strong.
He has three months until departure, and his fundraising efforts are in full swing due to his enthusiasm for the cause.
As an architecture major in the school of environmental studies, construction sites are no surprise to Gaston. But the combination of on-site experience and community service is boosting his passion for the cause and creating an opportunity for exploring career paths and finding a direction after graduation.
"Right now I don't have any plans career-wise after graduation," Gaston said. "I know I'm going to meet so many amazing people on this trip and gain so much experience that I think this will help me find the right road to follow."
But it won't be all work and no play for Gaston, who said he is most excited about the scenery along the way. The Great Lakes and Niagara Falls are must-sees, and as the group rides through Chicago, Gaston's favorite scenic pit stop will be his grandma's house.