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Cyclists ride to aid environment

Western Nevada County residents Julie and Steve Powell had a house full of 16 hungry cyclists Thursday night. They fed them spaghetti and let them swim in their pool.

The pack, which included their 22-year-old daughter, Kristen, is making a cross-country trek in the name of promoting organic, local food and “environmental justice.” The cyclists left from San Francisco Sunday and are headed to Washington, D.C., a journey that will take them across the “bread basket” of the country over nine weeks.

The trip, Bike-Aid 2004, is an annual endeavor sponsored by Global Exchange, an international human-rights organization.



“Each year, the trip has a different theme,” said Megan McRobert of Global Exchange in San Francisco.

There are two other routes offered this year: a California ride and a Bay Area ride. About 60 participants will collectively cycle over 5,000 miles. Bikers raise money for the trip by receiving pledges from family and friends.




The Union intercepted four of the bikers as they were making their way along Idaho Maryland Road in Grass Valley, prepping for the impending final uphill push to the Powell’s residence on Red Dog Road, where their first showers in days awaited. The four, who hailed from both coasts and the Philippines, were all in good spirits, despite the hot weather.

Dan Masi of Medford, Ore.; Caitlin Lloyd of Medford; Justine Stevenson of New York City; and Bunny Soriano of the Philippines were all laden with water and touting spandex bike shorts. Soriano had a feather in his helmet. The rest of their gear was packed in a “support and gear” rental van being driven by Kevin Potere of New York City and Leslie Buell of Seattle. The rental company’s “Budget” emblem on the side was painted over with the words “the people united will never be defeated.”

The group takes turns driving the van each day. Buell was taking a break from riding because her knee felt a little sore, and she wanted to avoid the hills.

Each member of the trip seemed to have a unique reason for wanting to make the trip. Potere said he quit his job as a paralegal in New York City to come on this trip.

“I wanted to get a better feel for what the country is all about, to actually visit the towns,” Potere said.

“I wanted to see the country on a community and person-to-person basis,” Buell said.

Stevenson is a graduate student at New York University and said one of the things she is most pumped about is “meeting people.”

“We meet with people who are trying to change their communities for the better.”

None of the bikers knew each other before the trip began except for one couple.

“We have to eat together, sleep together,” Soriano said.

Sometimes it can be tough to bring a group together, the cyclists all agreed.

“It is group living; we have to have community,” Stevenson said.

Each night, the pack will camp, staying in the basements of churches, on organic farms, or with families like the Powells.

“(The Powells) were great to us. We were psyched,” Potere said.

Kristen Powell is a student at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo and a member of the university’s triathlon team. She was also a runner at Nevada Union and on the snowboarding team so she was in good shape for the trip, her mom said. Not everyone in the crew is a hard-core athlete, and there is a wide range of abilities and ages amongst the crew.

“They were all different levels, which surprised me. Some were slow and steady,” Julie Powell said.

The cyclists camped in Tahoe on Friday night and will begin their push into Nevada today. At the end of the trip, the group plans to lobby congressional representatives about food safety and environmental justice in the nation’s capital.


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