LEWISBURG, Pa. — On June 1, Mike Anderson and Kaitlyn Smith will stand on a sandy Virginia beach, ready to begin what they believe will be an unforgettable adventure.
After dipping their rear bicycle tires in the Atlantic Ocean, they'll embark on a two-month journey across the United States, the first time either Bucknell senior will travel across the country.
"Yes Mike could get another internship, yes I could start a job right away, but this is probably the last opportunity we'll have to take the time and do something like this," said Smith, a senior majoring in Spanish and geography who plans to go on to medical school.
But the trip is more than just a last hurrah before the couple enters a new chapter in their lives. They're riding with a group from Bike the U.S. for MS — an organization dedicated to raising money to benefit people suffering from multiple sclerosis. Anderson became intimately familiar with the chronic, often disabling neurological disease after his father was diagnosed in 1996. The disease forced his father to go on disability in 2004.
"When I told him what we were doing, he loved it," said Anderson, a civil and environmental engineering and management major who is completing the fourth year of the five-year program. "He cried when I told him we were doing this. I think I've only seen my dad cry once in my life, so I know it means a lot to him."
Pedaling nearly 4,000 miles might seem like an odd way for two people with "zero" riding experience to get involved.
"I don't think we were worried until we showed up at the bike shop with our bikes and they started asking us all of these questions that we had no answers for," Smith said. "They were asking questions like, 'How many miles per hour do you ride?' and, 'How many gears do you have?' I was like, 'A lot?'"
But the pair says training is going well, and so are their fundraising efforts. After meeting the $7,600 goal set by Bike the U.S. for MS, Smith and Anderson decided to up the ante by increasing the amount they hope to raise to $12,000. While they're encouraged by the support, they're also excited for the opportunity to stop during the trek and help people suffering from MS.
"It's really a service-learning trip," Anderson explained. "We'll be volunteering in every state. We will stop on our bikes as a group at people's homes who wrote in and have MS but can't afford or aren't able to do certain modification projects. We'll be building ramps, doing yard work, making bathrooms wheelchair accessible."
Serving learning is nothing new for Smith — she traveled to Nicaragua twice as part of the Bucknell Brigade, spent a spring break in Guatemala helping to build a house for a family in need, and volunteered for a summer in India, using sign language to teach deaf and disabled elementary-aged students at an orphanage in Faridabad.
"My experiences outside of the classroom in these service learning trips have shaped what I want to do and how I perceive the world around me so much more than what I'd get out of just reading a textbook," Smith said. "I feel like Bucknell has taught me to be more than one dimensional. You can't go through life like that. A lot of my friends at other schools study their major, they do what they're supposed to do, they get their job and that's it. There's so much more depth at Bucknell."
On Aug. 1, after biking past the plains, up mountainous trails, and through canyons they'll finally roll into San Francisco. Smith and Anderson will dip their front tires in the Pacific Ocean, completing what they think could be a life-defining journey.
Said Smith: "We'll probably look back on this trip later in life and say, 'Remember that bike trip? That's when we decided what we wanted to do with the rest of our lives.'"
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