Pedaling across the US for a purpose

I've been clued into two independent cross-country bicycle tours recently that some young men are taking to raise funds and awareness and favorite causes.

Both are blogging about their adventures. One tour, heading east, ends with this weekend Pan Mass Challenge. The other, heading west, is entering its final stretch. It makes for some interesting reading if you're not out on the road yourself.

Pan USA Challenge

The two brothers, Justin and Jamie Merolla, on the Pan USA Challenge last blogged in from Christianburg, Virginia. They were celebrating the last of their hurdles, the huge climb out of Vesuvius that summits at the Blue Ridge Parkway.

You can imagine it would be fun riding along with Justin and Jamie Merolla (their friend Ben Herrmann has joined in West and East to tote their gear in a car). After a short, 25-mile day, Jamie reflected:

“Whoa today really was a half-day; I ate only a waffle with syrup, two oranges, two bananas, two hot dogs covered in chili, cheese and slaw, one pulled pork BBQ sandwich, one Clif bar, one smoked chicken sandwich, French fries, potato skins, a salad and an Oreo brownie sundae.”

And that was before 8 p.m.

The brothers — Justin, 24 and Jamie, 19 — are riding for their mother who died of breast cancer and their father, who died of a blood clot three years ago but gave them their love of cycling.

So far they've raised more than $36,000 for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute through the Jimmy Fund and the Pan Mass Challenge.

They arrived in at their childhood home in Larchmont, NY, this week, after passing through New York City. They're continuing to the start of the Pan Mass Challenge, a two-day charity ride that starts Saturday. Last year, the PMC's 5,000 cyclists raised $33 million.

The PMC was their father's favorite bike ride. It will mark the end of the brothers' Pan USA Challenge.

You can donate to their efforts at their Pan-Mass Challenge web page.

MicroBike USA

The name for the cross-country bicycle tour by six recent college grads doesn't reflect the bikes they're riding, it notes their efforts to advocate and raise funds for microfinance, a way for the poor to work their way out of poverty through small loans.

How do you advocate for a cause while your putting in 75 to 100 miles a day on a bike tour? You tell newspapers that you're in town and occasionally one will send out a reporter to do a story.

For instance, the El Dorado (Kansas) Times did a long piece on the six. Included in their stories of sleeping under the stars and showering with hoses at campsites is an explanation of micro-financing:

(Fred) Piumelli went on to explain. “What’s really cool is that a loan as small as 50 American dollars can help someone start a business and then go on to support their entire family, and then that loan gets repaid and the loan money gets returned and reused for another family in need.

“It’s a cyclical process.”

“The difference between Micro-finance and the standard charity is that it’s not just a hand out,” said (Mike) Delorenzo.”

The MicroBikeUSA cyclists are: Mike Delorenzo, Fordham University, Mountain Lakes, NJ, Tyler Heishman, Bentley College, Boiling Springs, PA, Keith Kolakowski, Bucknell University, Darien , CT, Fred Piumelli, Bentley College, Mountain Lakes, NJ, Bryan Stinchfield, Bentley College , Darien , CT, and Jamie Watson, Bucknell University, Darien , CT. Here's hoping they arrive safely in San Francisco.

They've partnered with ACCION International is a private, nonprofit organization with the mission of giving people the financial tools they need – microenterprise loans, business training and other financial services – to work their way out of poverty.

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