An alternative summer break
Two University students plan to bike from Texas to Alaska for charity
While most students at the University use summer recess as a time to decompress, earn money or gain career experience, third-year College student Megan Bentzin and second-year College student Isaac Mackey are looking forward to turning in their last bluebook come May so they can embark on a cross-country biking adventure from Texas to Alaska.
Bentzin, who came up with the idea for the trip, biked from Georgia to California the summer after her freshman year of high school, and she is excited to try out the less common south-to-north route.
Also experienced in cycling, Mackey jumped at the opportunity to help Bentzin plan the trip.
“I grew up cycling and hosting touring cyclists at my house, so I just knew that in my young-adult life it would be something that I was going to do,” Mackey said. “When I saw Megan getting the word out about her trip, I knew it was the perfect opportunity to join in.”
The duo is dedicating a significant amount of time to prepare for the ride during the year, as the route is particularly challenging.
“Texas [to] Alaska is a pretty rare trip,” Mackey said. “We’re trying to average 80 miles a day and [we will be] carrying all our gear on our backs.”
The journey is not just for pleasure; Bentzin and Mackey are using the trip as an opportunity to fundraise for the World Bicycle Relief.
“World Bicycle Relief is something I found during research as a Foreign Affairs major,” Bentzin said. “[The organization] gives bicycles to families in Southeast Asia and Africa that demonstrate need. … Supplies come from different countries but are made in the country where the bike will be given to a family. It’s a very sustainable program.”
World Bicycle Relief works to aid entrepreneurs who produce the bikes and the families who the bikes are awarded to. The organization gives out bikes as a mode of transportation for children who need a safe way to arrive at school on time. When school is not in session, the family is free to use the bike for whatever household tasks they see fit.
“Our [fundraising] goal is $4,500 — one dollar for every mile we bike,” Bentzin said.
Bentzin and Mackey hope the trip will expose them to new opportunities, while also offering some side health benefits.
“It’s nice to go on a journey like this and see a lot of the geography of the United States that I wouldn’t see if I were just touring a city for a few days,” Mackey said. “My secondary goal [is] a low resting heart rate.”
For Bentzin, who is graduating the University a year early and plans to move to Cape Town, South Africa, the trip is also a way to close a chapter of her life.
“For me, I see this trip as accomplishing a dream,” Bentzin said. “I see it as a transition between two parts of my life. I found the earlier trip I did to be a good way to focus on my priorities and direction.”
The two are hoping to recruit more riders to join them as they work on fundraising and planning for the trip. But despite the stress that comes from orchestrating the logistics, both remain hopeful about the excursion.
“I can’t envision a big enough challenge that we couldn’t overcome,” Bentzin said. “Right now it’s all just very exciting and I think we’ll be very prepared when we get started in May.”