Geeks bike across country for a cause


Taking a road trip from New Jersey to Oregon seems like a pretty plausible idea and is somewhat expected of college graduates squeezing in a last bit of freedom. But what about doing it on bikes during the course of several months to spread the word it can, indeed, be done?

Recent Hawaii Pacific University public relations graduate Carlos Urreta and his friend, professional photographer Joe Philipson, were struck with the latter idea just a few months ago. Meeting at a Starbucks in Hawaii two years ago, the self-identified geeks began a get together at the coffee shop to congregate the small minority of such beings on the island. Uretta proposed the idea to Philipson, who jumped on board, and the two have since been in the preparation stage of their journey, set to start May 20.

Although the idea of a bicycle road trip across the country might seem totally amazing, the real reason they are daring to make this feat is to convince at least 1,000 geeks nationwide to make bike riding their primary means of transportation to work. The duo believes if they can bike across the country, other geeks can at least bike to work. They hope to inform people of the benefits in biking by meeting with various small businesses and organizations along the 60 stops across the U.S.

The Spinnaker spoke with Urreta, who is currently in Hawaii, to learn more details about this upcoming adventure.

What event led you to come up with the idea, and why target geeks?

It was really just me wanting to bike across the U.S. as a cause for something and to spread awareness. Biking provides much more in America than we think, and it’s up and coming. There is a big stigma attached to it, [and] we as geeks want to combat that. Biking saves you money, gives you a lot of energy and may be the only daily exercise some people get; it affects your health care.

What has the preparation process been like and what else is left to do?

About three months ago, we got the idea and started getting information and throwing ideas around. We are now trying to get sponsors and have some from various organizations who’ve offered things to us like energy gum. made the theme for our Web site; sponsors are helping us greatly. Although I don’t want to say official names yet, there will be a university. So I’ll be working on collecting more while Joe gathers hosts for us so we have places to stay. And we’re going to set up a donation site soon. A very minimal amount is coming out of our pockets.

What routes will you be taking, and why did you choose them?

We’re starting in the Northeast because there are stronger tech companies up there, and I’m from New York. And it will be summer, so we don’t want to be hurting. We have planned out our entire route including each road we will be using. We have also checked whether [each] road has the ability to be biked on. Interstate highways are off-limits and most four-lane highways are as well. We checked our route with Google Streetview, which allows us to compare routes and see if the shoulder is suitable.

What measures are you taking in case of emergencies with the bikes, weather, etc.?

I’m moving to Austin very soon, and while I’m there I’ll be working at a bike shop so I can learn how to repair them and fix parts. We’re inevitably going to hit rain, so we are bringing small tents with us so we can pull off. We’ll have to make a 911 call that will connect us to a satellite.

What bikes will you be using?

We’ll be using TREK 520’s, which are touring bikes. Because the bikes will be traveling so far, we needed ones with a stronger carrying frame since all of our belongings will be on the side of the bikes.

How did you set up the meetings along the way, and what do you hope to do at them?

A dozen or so have been interested, mostly small online businesses; we haven’t gotten the large companies on board yet. We’ll be making presentations directed toward the employees about the myths of biking, the challenges of converting, and giving tips. There are plenty of resources online, but [people] can’t really relate. If we get up and bike across America, I think we can build a relationship there with people.

Overall, what are you hoping to give, as well as gain from this?

We want our site to be more of a resource for people who are converting. On [,] we’ll be documenting the ride with pictures and blogs. I personally want to get involved more from this and use it as a way to network. It’s really up in the air; we don’t know how successful this will be. To check our goal, we’ll have an evaluation tool with a form on our site, asking people to answer two questions. Then we can judge if America is right for this right now.

Compiled by Sarah Gojekian.