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Longmeadow adventure seeker to bike across America for charity

Date: 2/21/2013

By Katelyn Gendron

LONGMEADOW — Eliza Cress, 22, of Longmeadow had envisioned her post-collegiate life as one that would take her on a journey across the country in self-exploration. However, life, as they say, is what happens when you're busy making other plans.

Rather than hike the Appalachian Trail solo, the senior at St. Lawrence University in New York, has opted to team up with the nonprofit Bike and Build, which will allow her to cycle from Charleston, S.C., to Santa Cruz, Calif., from May 22 to Aug. 10, stopping at various points along the 4,265 journey to help build affordable housing for those in need.

"Upon graduating college I wanted to see the country and I thought this would be much more beneficial than hiking alone in the woods," Cress said with a giggle, adding that her family has been supportive of her plans.

"My dad thinks I'm nuts. He doesn't understand why I'd want to bike that far and my mother wants to go with me," she added.

But before Cress can peddle her way across the country, she must raise $4,500 to participate, $1,000 of which will go toward a bike she must order through Bike and Build. Riders are responsible for all their own expenses, she noted.

When asked why she'd want to participate in such a grueling physical exercise, Cress replied, "When I was abroad [last year studying in New Zealand], I was really fortunate to travel a lot of the country and a lot of people there were shocked about how much of their country I'd seen that they hadn't. Now that I'm graduating I want to have first-hand experiences throughout the country and have my eyes open to various ways in which people live."

She added, "Because of my environmental studies [and sociology] major, I'm currently getting a lot of building experience through that. I'm one of two daughters and my dad adopted me as the son he never had and exposed me to home improvement projects. I know how to use power tools so I won't be completely shooting in the dark."

Those who'd like to donate to Cress' cause may do so online at and click on the "Donate" button and click on "Select a Rider, Cress, Eliza (SC2SC)." Checks may also be sent to Bike and Build, 6153 Ridge Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19128.