A Colchester native is putting the pedal to the metal and traveling cross-country but in an unconventional way.
Gaby Zimbron, a 2014 Colchester High School graduate, plans to spend her summer trekking across the central United States with Bike and Build, an organization committed to affordable housing.
“No matter how much time I get on my bike beforehand, there is no way to genuinely prepare me for 65 miles, 75 miles, 35 miles day in and day out,” Zimbron, a junior athletic training major at the University of Vermont, said.
When she transferred to UVM halfway through her freshman year, Zimbron picked up a Bike and Build flyer and tacked it to her room’s bulletin board as food for thought.
Two years later, her desire to help people access affordable housing is becoming a reality.
First, though, she must raise $4,800, much of which goes toward building materials. If she reaches her goal by May 22, the group’s departure date, then she’ll begin the trip in Virginia with 34 other riders.
So far, Zimbron is 75 percent there.
“Providing affordable housing is just a gateway to so many other things,” she said. “If you can’t afford your home, it takes away financially from a lot of other things like adequate nutrition and healthcare.”
The home is the foundation, she said, which she’s looking forward to help build.
As part of a pre-requisite for the trip, Zimbron helped build a Habitat for Humanity home in Milton last summer. She admits this is minimal experience, but even so, she’s empowered to learn more.
The Colchester native is a bit new to the cycling game as well. She began biking about three years ago after recovering from a concussion that sidelined her from contact sports for a year.
A lacrosse and field hockey high school athlete bound to play the latter at St. Michael’s College, her conditioned need to train returned. Soon after, she checked “triathlon” off her bucket list, and she’s raced with UVM’s club cycling team, too.
Biking cross-country, though, doesn’t quite compare. Another pre-requisite mandates 500 miles of outdoor cycle training. With the ever-changing Vermont weather, this feat has proved more difficult than expected, she said.
As such, she’s relegated to her indoor bike, a monotonous and stationary alternative, she said.
The first two weeks will be a real challenge, as Zimbron expects physical and mental fatigue to take their toll.
“But I’m up for it,” she said. “We all are. We’ll all be happy together, and we’ll all be miserable together.”
Zimbron’s fellow riders, with whom she communicates in online group chats, are all worried about different aspects of the journey. For her, it’s lack of sleep.
Schools, hostels, community centers, churches and more will host the group, but when they don’t have a host, they’ll camp out.
As an athletic training major, Zimbron is aware of what the body can do. She knows she has a sizeable adventure ahead – especially when the route climbs 5,000 feet in elevation in one day – but she’s ready to put mind over matter.
“The body is pretty incredible, and we don’t give it enough credit,” she said. “Physical feats might seem impossible at first, but you do adapt to being tired and training that much.”
Along the way, Zimbron said there’s no one place she’s most excited to see other than the flat, barren landscapes in the spots less traveled.
Her mom and stepdad are embarking on a cross-country road trip soon after Zimbron takes off from Virginia Beach, and they’ll be there to watch her complete the trek on August 6 in Oregon.
Afterward, Zimbron expects to continue volunteering with house-building organizations, she said.
“It’s just really empowering to learn new things and to meet the people who you’re helping,” she said. “Unless you actually do something, you’re not being the change you wanna be.”
To learn more about Bike and Build and Zimbron’s journey, visit bikeandbuild.org or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.