June 11th: Decatur, TX to Wichita Falls, TX

On June 11th, we woke up bright and early at 4am, whipped up a sweet breakfast of hash browns and eggs and said farewell to Jerry who had graciously hosted us at the First Baptist Church. The first 60 miles spoiled us with perfect 65 degree weather and endless farm roads lined with wildflowers. Our first lunch included left over tacos from our family dinner in Decatur. Along the way, we found a monster gas station where we picked up some chocolate milkshakes and fudge as an energy boost.  As we approached Wichita Falls, we caught a nice tailwind to carry us the last 28 miles.

Rolling into town, we were met with lots of cheers and encouraging words from the residents—a very pleasant welcome! Wichita Falls is home to one of the largest group rides in the nation, the Hotter N’ Hell Hundred (HHH). Every year, over 10,000 people from all over the world travel to Wichita Falls to participate in four days of bike events. 

Members of the HHH executive committee were our hosts for the evening and generously treated us to a delicious meal at Pat’s Drive In, a local favorite. It was great to hang out with our fellow cycling nerds in Texas. The HHH crew also showed us around their clubhouse and gifted us with branded t-shirts and water bottles as well as a whole box of tubes. Judging by the number of flats we’ve had since entering the state of Texas, it seems like we’re going to use them! 

After dinner, we checked out the Wichita Falls Brewing Company and met another local cyclist who was training to bike from Vancouver, Canada to Tijuana, Mexico. We spent the night in the Wichita Falls YMCA, and were so pleased to find that they had Women’s World Cup playing in the lobby! All and all, a great Bike and Build day! 

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June 10th: Dallas, TX to Decatur, TX

After being in Dallas for three days we headed out on the road to Decatur, Texas. A storm rolled through Dallas the afternoon before leaving many without power and trees down on roads which made for a tough exit that morning. It took one hour to go four miles getting through the worst of the morning traffic and debris leaving us far behind schedule for our 90 mile day. After getting out of Dallas we started rolling faster, but were unable to make it to Decatur in time, the vans came and picked us up about mile 70 because we have a 4:00pm cut off for riding for safety. While getting picking up was disappointing, we all recognized that on Bike and Build there are things that are outside of our control and this is part of the journey. Once in Decatur we were graciously hosted by First Baptist. Our original dinner plans with the host didn’t work out, but that ended up being a wonderful thing because Paster Gerry took us grocery shopping and we cooked tacos and vegetables for ourselves a meal we hadn’t had since being on the ride! Gerry joined us for dinner and stirred the pot by asking everyone who is the smartest and who the most devious amongst us. We rolled out 20 min after sunrise to head towards Witcha Falls. 

June 5th – 9th: Athens & Dallas

June 9th: Sunnyvale (Dallas), TX

Phew! What a week the Southern US team has had! Since the last check-in, we have traveled through western Louisiana and into East Texas! Stops in Louisiana included Natchitoches and Mansfield on June 3rd and 4th.

On June 5th, we crossed into the great state of Texas, bound for Carthage and the McPherson home. The McPherson’s continued the amazing hospitality that we have experienced throughout our trip. We were treated to a delicious dinner that evening, with a smoked brisket as the main dish.

Our next stop was Athens, TX on June 6th. After rolling into First Baptist Church and enjoying dinner together, members of the team were paired up with members of the church who graciously opened their homes to us for the evening. We reconvened back at First Baptist the next morning and pointed our bikes towards Dallas.

After a marathon ride day on June 7th, the team arrived at the home of Sally and Peter Muhl in Sunnyvale, TX (a suburb of Dallas). To say that Sally and Peter have treated us well would be an understatement. They have opened their entire home to us and have kept us well-fed, with plenty of home-cooked meals and a great variety of snacks. 

June 8th was our 6th build day of the trip and it was spent at a Rockwall Habitat for Humanity home in Royse City. Sally is the volunteer coordinator for Rockwall Habitat and Peter supervises the construction of the sites. The Bike & Build crew helped to paint trim, doors, and shelves for the house, which is nearing completion! The homeowner, Robert, is a U.S. Army Veteran who has lived in the Royse City area all of his life. After we finished up at the build site, Sally and Peter treated the team to the Mesquite Rodeo in Mesquite, TX. The team greatly enjoyed the event, and even got a behind-the-scenes tour from the man running the show, Brother Van. 

We were back at the Royse City build site today, hanging doors, building shelves, and installing trim. The sawdust was flying today! It’s exciting to know that Robert will soon be moved into his new home!

Tomorrow will be a somber day, since we will be leaving Sally and Peter. But new adventures await! We will be rolling on to Decatur, TX in the morning. Stay tuned!

June 5th: Mansfield, LA to Carthage, TX

Mansfield, LA to Carthage, TX. 

First really rainy ride of the trip!! SUS19 and rain don’t seem to mix well. We started the day with tons of flats! The final tally was 9 flats and one gashed tire despite it being on the short side for us, only 57 miles. The rain didn’t stop us, we made it to Texas! The lunch van did a great job of finding a good dry spot for us out of the rain for a snack. We were able to dry off a little but it didn’t take long to get cold again with more wind and drizzle. The second half of the ride, once we were in Texas, went more smoothly than the first. Everyone arrived at our wonderful host, the McPherson family’s home (the family of an alum), for the night. We hung out on the porch playing games and singing songs. A bonus of our home for the night were the adorable family dogs including a sassy three legged chihuahua. The McPherson’s served up a delicious smoked Texan BBQ which we snarfed down and fueled us for the next day. 
Kelley McNarney

June 4th: Natchitoches, LA to Mansfield, LA

Up well before the sunrise, our last full day in Louisiana was a dream! Trinity Episcopal Church fueled us before sending us off to Mansfield with a classic Southern breakfast. 
Overall, a short and sweet 50-mile ride – our day included photoshoots with a hay bale, lunchtime roadside coffee, Bike & Build parody songs, and long naps post-ride. 
St. Joseph’s Catholic Church spoiled us with pizza for dinner and completed tour de American pizza chains by rounding it out with Pizza Hut – the team still hasn’t come to a consensus about the best ‘za. Stay tuned.

– Greta 

June 3rd: Alexandria LA, to Natchitoches LA

HEY! It’s a Mustache Monday kind of morning and we’re up and at ‘em ready to leave for one of our favorite stops on the trip, Natchitoches! And if you want to pronounce it, just completely ignore how it’s spelled.
Our hosts showered us in more southern hospitality. We had a full breakfast to start our day withas well as more wonderful company. We learned about the famous Coincoin, one of the first black, land owning, females in the US who’s house still stands as a historic attraction in Natchitoches. We had some entertaining town facts presented to us by the party planning/fun committee and we were off for our 64 mile day!
A few flats and train passings didn’t slow us down for too long. And milkshakes are a great way to pass the time during tire changes.
Our host for the evening was our first college, Northwestern State University and we all had a great time walking around the town, taking in all the southern charm and fun knickknack shops. And of course we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to enjoy some nachos in Natchitoches.
A Bike and Build alum from CUS’18, Christian, joined us for the evening bringing lots of generous food and great stories from his trip that he completed last summer with our leader Liz. 
Our curfew was 8pm for the evening to make sure we were all inside the gym before it was locked up. We all made it in for an early bed time so we could all finally GO TO SLEEP.
It was one of those memorable Bike and Build days filled with a sweet time exploring and jokes that will probably only ever be funny to our exhausted, silly selves.
Natchitowats, wait Natchiats, no Nack-a-dish* will always remain in our hearts and with us on our matching shirts! 
Keeping the southern hospitality with us and remaining fueled on gratitude! And fueled on plenty of generous helpings of southern cooking as well.
Until next time Natchitoches!THANK YOU!

June 2nd: Morganza, LA to Alexandria, LA

The destination of June 2nd was Alexandria, LA. The 9th largest city in Louisiana with a population of 47,334. Alexandria has a rather developed affordable housing landscape in comparison to some of the other towns/cities we’ve been to. There are 21 low income housing apartment complexes, 900 apartments that set rent based on residents income, 188 HUD apartments, and 340 low income apartments that don’t have rental assistance but are considered affordable housing for low income families.

The ride was about 75 miles. It started out by riding over the closed spillway (set to be open soon for the third time in its history), riding next to the Mississippi River again, and seeing lots of gator! We are starting to make our way north now and the landscape of the Louisiana Bayou is starting to shift. We had about 40 miles on one state road lined with agriculture, followed by about 25 on another state road where you could really start to see the landscape change.

We were hosted at St. James Episcopal Church and Day School. They served us an amazing dinner of rice and beans, sausage, salad, and Bike & Build themed cookies! The generous members of the church was excited to host us. This church has been hosting riders of the southern route for a long while and we really enjoyed getting to know them.