There are days that the sheer, jarring reality of the journey hits Andover’s Joe Kuykendall.
Days when he realizes he is thousands of miles from home, and still has thousands of miles to cover on his bicycle before his trip is over.
“The first day you start out and ride 55 miles and the endorphins are kicking in and it is so exciting because it is something new,” said Kuykendall. “Then you realize you still have about 3,700 miles to go. It was very overwhelming.
“But then I think about why I am doing it. It’s intimidating, fascinating and incredible all at the same time. It’s hard, but it is worth it. I tell myself, ‘Never underestimate the major impact a minor action can have.’”
Kuykendall, the former Golden Warrior volleyball star, could have spent the summer before his sophomore year at James Madison relaxing with friends in Andover.
Instead, the 19-year-old set out on a cross-country cycling trip with a group that by the end will have covered 3,794 miles from Virginia Beach (Va.) to Canon Beach (Ore.) for the charity Bike & Build which benefits the affordable housing cause in the United States.
“It’s hard to put into words how proud we are of Joe,” said his mother, Laura Kuykendall. “I can’t talk about it without getting emotional and teary. It’s amazing what he is accomplishing, and I think he and his group will be changed both physically and mentally by the experience. I can’t wait to bring him home.”
Joe is a member of a 29-person group, all strangers prior to the trip, that is taking part in the “Central America” route — one of 10 organized by Bike & Ride — that began on May 31 and is expected to finish on Aug. 10.
“It’s been crazy,” said Kuykendall by phone from Idaho. “I expected it to be certain things and it’s been a lot of different things. It’s been a great growing experience personally, and I have learned a lot about the affordable housing problem in America.”