Bike tour stops here |

Bike tour stops here

Merlyn Oliver, Tahoe Daily Tribune

Nevada wasn’t flat. Neither was Missouri. Kansas, in fact, turned out to be beautiful.

That’s what a group of 28 college students from the East Coast found out as they pedaled across the country to raise awareness for Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing affordable housing.

“When we started, we painted a silhouette on the side of our trailer of what we thought the country would basically be like,” Atticus LeBlanc, 22, and a recent Yale graduate, said. “We put flat spots for Nevada and Missouri. Neither is true at all. It’s a lot different actually going through it.”

The group left New Haven, Conn. on June 1. They will end their trip in San Francisco, biking anywhere from 35 to 120 miles each day. So far, they’ve ridden about 4,100 miles, accompanied by their hand-painted sag wagon and sleeping in parish halls, high-school gyms and sometimes just under the stars.

It took them about 8 hours yesteday to ride from Fallon, Nev., to St. Theresa’s Catholic Church in South Lake Tahoe.

“There’s nothing like seeing the lake after being in the desert for a week,” Kate Casselman, 19, from Yale University, said. “We all stood in the middle of Caesars talking about sensory overload.”

South Lake Tahoe is the 54th stop on the trip. The group has four more scheduled stops before they ride over the Golden Gate Bridge. They’re debating between going over Echo Summit or Carson Pass when they leave on Thursday. This is the first year the ride, in its ninth year, has taken Highway 50 across Nevada.

The bicyclists saw traffic patterns that also reflected the country’s diversity.

“Going through West Virginia, we had coal trucks whizzing by us,” Steve Carlson, 20, of George Washington University, said. “Out here, we got used to seeing maybe a car a minute. People are friendly out here, though.”

Nobody followed a formal training program to get in shape for the ride.

“The first two weeks, it was physically hard,” Carlson said. “We just rode.”

Now it’s about the mental challenge, LeBlanc said.

“It’s not a question if you can physically make it,” he said with a grin. “It’s, do you want to?”

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