Allison Mercurio

Disappearance

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Sorry for the disappearance during the remainder of my Bike and Build trip! As we got farther and farther out West it was harder to find internet, yet alone phone service, making it harder for me to post updates. In addition to that it became harder to find time to write when there was so much beauty to enjoy! I'll be uploading photos of my trip shortly but if you're interested in checking out what we did when I wasn't blogging you can visit the blog maintained by ALL of the riders on ME2SB. Once you get to the webpage just click on the pencil icon on the right-hand side for journals and the camera icon for photos! Thanks again to everyone who donated helping my route raise over $163,000 for affordable housing!

Moment of pure joy captured by fellow rider Daniel Turner when we hit the Pacific Ocean.

Moment of pure joy captured by fellow rider Daniel Turner when we hit the Pacific Ocean.

A Fracture on the Road to Adventure

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Photo taken by Daniel Turner.

Photo taken by Daniel Turner.

Four days ago I took a turn the wrong way and ended up off my bike. Later that night I went urgent care to discover that I had fractured my radial neck in my elbow along with my pinky on my left hand. After discussing my injury with my fellow riders I was not shocked to hear that many of them had also had a similar injury (radial neck fractures or radial head fractures). The way most cyclists tend to catch themselves when crashing leads to pressure on the elbow, which if it is enough pressure can lead to a break.  

Because of the commonality of my injury I decided to do a little research and discovered that there's a technique to falling. As a cyclist you're supposed to tuck your extremities in, remain clipped in and get ready to roll. Many cyclists have written about the proper way to fall, here's the blog I checked out.

Thanks to my fall I've been able to see my fellow riders from the van for the past four days which truly is inspiring; yet I still can't wait to get back on bike.

Safety is Sexy

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After three days of riding a bicycle on busy roads I've learned that safety is sexy. Unfortunately many cyclists die each year to accidents, a lot of which could have been prevented. Many drivers don't know that they should treat all cyclists on the road like a car; the only difference between a cyclist and a car is the amount of road they are legally entitled to. Many Bike and Build alumni and riders have been involved in fatal cycling accidents. Yesterday I was fortunate enough to meet and hang out with the Webber family who lost their son Chris Webber in 2007. Chris was a Bike and Build trip leader in 2005 and later became a program director. 

Each year the Webber family hosts the Chris Webber Memorial Ride. A ride only open to Bike and Build alumni going through Florida that raises 12,000 for the affordable housing cause.

In addition to hosting the Chris Webber Memorial Ride the Webber family also opens up their home to the ME2SB14 route for a feast that rivals a Thanksgiving meal.   

It's the generosity of families like the Webbers that make you wonder what could be changed to stop individuals from losing their loved ones in pedestrian and cycling accidents. If you're interested in learning more about bicycle safety you can go to    

http://yieldtolife.org/tips/cyclists.

Friendly Crossways

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The quaint clothesline at Friendly Crossways, a hostel ran by a fellow Bike and Builder's lovely parents.
The quaint clothesline at Friendly Crossways, a hostel ran by a fellow Bike and Builder's lovely parents.

Three days of travel and so many new friends! It's amazing how quickly you can bond with people. A few days ago I had just  finished visiting with my sister and boyfriend for a week seeing the busy, culturally rich city of New York. I was a little nervous and had no idea what I was about to get myself into or who I was about to road trip through the northeast with. Today I'm seven friends richer. After seeing the seaside in Boston, staying at the oldest continuously ran hostel in the northeast, mulching blueberry bushes, playing games next to a campfire and sleeping summer camp style we've all grown pretty fond of each other. Now off to Portland to make many more lasting relationships!

Generosity & Curiosity

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After taking a break from blogging for a list of many reasons (thesis, finals, graduating college, internship, etc.), I'm returning just in time with only twelve days left until the beginning of my Bike and Build trip. These past few months I've been preparing for my trip through cycling, a lot,  volunteering with Habitat for Humanity building homes, and fundraising. Through my preparation I've learned a few things; below is what I've learned based on my experiences.

Curiousity. Human beings have the tendency to want to learn about the unknown and the exciting. Whether it be a Congolese refugee volunteering with Habitat for Humanity because he wants to learn how to build a home and can't afford trade school, or a baby walking up to my shiny bike as I'm cycling at the farmer's market because she's never seen something spinning as fast as back wheel; people are curious.

Generosity. People are giving. Cycling on rural roads has led to many stops at houses from questioning (curious) locals. Where are you headed? How far have you gone? I saw you two hours ago, why are you biking so much? Questions lead to me talking about Bike and Build and the work that I'll be doing this summer. Graduating college has led to many family members and friends asking what's next? Thanks to people asking questions and being generous I've raised $4,500 for affordable housing! In addition to people donating money for affordable housing I've also come across generosity in the form of acquaintances helping me prepare for my trip. I recently met a Warren Wilson Alum who started his own business and is now the owner of a successful bike shop called Liberty Bicycles. This introduction led to me receiving all of the gear I needed for my trip free of charge. The generosity that people have never ceases to amaze me.

Training for cycling cross-country has meant long rides, sometimes even sixty miles.

Training for cycling cross-country has meant long rides, sometimes even sixty miles.




Happy International Women's Day!

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Today, March 8, is officially named International Women's Day. This holiday has been around since the 1900s and is a holiday that is meant to inspire women around the world and celebrate all of the bad ass achievements women have made. So, if you're looking for some inspiration, or even some information search the web a little, find out some events going on near you, celebrate being a female or just support the women in your life.

As many of you know I am currently interning at Groundswell International, an amazing global development non-profit that helps spread agroecological practices, and empower women and rural communities. I was asked, as a woman of Groundswell, to write a little blurb about a female that I have been inspired by for a blog post for International Women's Day; I ended up writing about Hawa Abdi. This was a very hard task considering the fact that I'm surrounded by some pretty inspiring women everyday, most importantly, my sister and mother who've been inspiring me since the moment I was born.

My sister, Erin Mercurio, not only graduated college in 3 years but also managed to get a job before she even graduated. After being a successful designer at Target, she's still following her dreams living in New York working as a designer/art director for Huge.

My sister, Erin Mercurio, not only graduated college in 3 years but also managed to get a job before she even graduated. After being a successful designer at Target, she's still following her dreams living in New York working as a designer/art director for Huge.

My mother, Patti Mercurio, recently went back to school at NKU and got her Master's. After committing over 20 years to her work at Cincinnati Children's Hospital and Medical Center she now is the head of the Same-Day Surgery department.

My mother, Patti Mercurio, recently went back to school at NKU and got her Master's. After committing over 20 years to her work at Cincinnati Children's Hospital and Medical Center she now is the head of the Same-Day Surgery department.


One inspiring story, that I don't get a chance to share that often, is the story of my host mother in Madagascar, Neny Lala. Neny does not have much for herself, yet managed to make a change in her community. She started an organization 2 years ago for poor immigrants in her community from an island off of the coast of Madagascar called La Ruenion. Her organization, run by herself, her husband, and a neighborhood friend, provides finances given from local doctors to over 100 students of all ages to attend school. In addition to starting and managing this organization Neny Lala also built a school, with her own finances, for local children to attend. This school, unlike many in Madagascar, has a full cafeteria and kitchen that feeds all students two meals everyday. In addition to the cafeteria it also has a bathroom with running water, providing the children who attend with toilets and showers that the majority of them do not have at home. The school also has an outside area for children to get exercise and even an art and music room. This woman inspired me greatly during my stay in Madagascar, where she opened up her home and heart to me. What amazed me the most was the fact that I lived with Neny Lala for three months and she was such a humble woman that she did not share all of her accomplishments and work with me until the last week of my stay with her.

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Don't forget to honor the women who inspire you, or just thank them for everything they've done!

Women can make stability. We can build peace.
— Hawa Abdi

Gut Flora

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Did you know that scientists think they finally figured out what the appendix is used for? This is a medical break through that I had no idea had occurred until 11 days ago when I found myself in the hospital getting my own appendix removed. The Guardian writes a great article on the theory of what the human appendix does, which I found when I was searching the internet after leaving the hospital.

Bill Parker, US surgery expert from Duke University, is the researcher who developed this new theory of what your appendix is used for. Parker states that the appendix acts as a "safe house" for good bacteria and gut flora that is in your stomach. Many people don't know about this knowledge, but now health experts are recommending that if you've had your appendix removed than you should be sure to take probiotics after getting a stomach bug to help your digestive system reproduce beneficial bacteria.

This past Saturday I was finally feeling well enough again to get back on my bike and take a small 11 mile ride to the Bee Tree Reservoir near my school.

This past Saturday I was finally feeling well enough again to get back on my bike and take a small 11 mile ride to the Bee Tree Reservoir near my school.

New Toy!

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Bike companies should start slapping warning labels on all road bikes, because they are addicting. Once you get on a road bike, you constantly want to be on one. After two weeks of training and riding over 100 miles a week on friend's bikes and inside, my new bike finally arrived in the mail! It took me a few days to kick the college kid cold that I had the day it arrived, but today I was finally able to take it out and put 11 miles on it's brand new wheels. The past two weeks have been pretty busy with the training I've been doing for Warren Wilson's Road Biking Team, but training is about to get ten times better with my own bike underneath me. Thank you so much to all of the donors that donated under my name to Bike & Build! I have now raised 2,104 dollars for the affordable housing cause, almost 50 percent of my goal of 4,500. Stay tuned to check out my upcoming fundraising plans!

Millennials

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After being at my parent's house in Cincinnati, Ohio for almost a month for winter break I have been asked that dreaded question countless times by relatives, friends and strangers, "What are you doing after you graduate?"

 

Being a part of the millennial generation has given me many different labels. My generation, on track to be labeled "the most educated generation in U.S. history", is known as the generation of globally aware consumerists that have become tech-savvy, in-debt, social media aficionados who now accept tattoos in the workplace. After choosing to put myself in debt, a lot of debt, to become a part of "the most educated generation" I will soon have a liberal arts degree in Global Studies in my hand. Hours of sitting in lectures, writing papers and researching topics via the Internet have left me with knowledge of the world's global interactions like you would not believe. But now that I'm facing being pushed out into a world where 16.3% of my generation is unemployed I have no idea what I want to do with this new degree of mine. Like many other millennials, I don't know exactly what I want to be doing when I graduate college. I can tell you what I do not want to be doing, but if you ask me what I want to do that question is something that I may never be able to answer.
 
My generation is a generation full of people who are not just happy earning money; they want to enjoy what they do as well. We are no longer enthralled with the idea of just a steady job. 84% of millennials believe that making a positive difference in the world is more important than professional recognition; 92% believe that business success should be measured by more than just profit. The millennial generation is a generation that needs a job that also provides them with travel, excitement, and gives them the opportunity to give back.

I've seen millennials graduate and get a job teaching English in North Korea, or save up all of their money to travel cross-country stopping temporarily to be a peddy-cabber in Chicago, or quit their office jobs to get their dream job managing a goat dairy, and even work two part time jobs just to start their own farm. Because I still have questions about the world, our nation and myself that I need to answer I, like many other millennials, will be earning my college degree and then embarking on an adventure across the nation. So here you go Aunt Kathy, Dad, Neighbors, sweet old lady in line at the grocery store, when I graduate I will not be getting a job right away, I will not be putting my degree directly to use, I will be traveling cross-country on a bicycle helping others, meeting strangers, making friends, but most importantly having a good time discovering me.


Their great mantra has been: challenge convention. Find new and better ways of doing things.
— Tom Brokaw (in reference to the millennial generation).

Other people's belongings.

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Happy New Year (again) everyone! As a new year always brings a time for inspiration I thought I'd share one of my favorite photography collections in hope that it inspires you as much as it inspires me. Photographer Huang Qingjun has been travelling through remote areas of China, the country where the U.S. gets most of their belongings, asking people to take all of their belongings out of their home and pose for a photo. Here's one of my favorite photos from Huang Qingjun's Jiadang (Family Stuff) Collection.

 

Photograph by Huang Qingjun.

Photograph by Huang Qingjun.

What I find most interesting about these photos is that although China is quickly becoming richer, most of these families have a humble amount of belongings compared to those of us in the U.S. In a BBC interview Huang discusses how the Chinese government has "delivered roads and connected (villages) with electricity" (why most of the families have TVs). With roads and electricity Huang states that "the biggest problems in rural areas now are how people can get better education for their children, and healthcare".

Fundraising 101

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I hope everyone had a lovely and safe New Years celebration! Slowly but surely fundraising is coming a long for my upcoming Bike & Build trip. After trying a few different ways of asking people for money to fund affordable housing projects I've overcome the awkwardness that comes along with asking for money and started accepting donations in coins. My grandpa made a gracious donation of 150 dollars in nickels and dimes he won from playing pool at the senior center. Go grandpa! 

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Donation letters, coming soon to mailboxes near you!

 

Bike & Build

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Image of Bike & Build alums, property of Bike & Build, Inc.

Image of Bike & Build alums, property of Bike & Build, Inc.

This summer, following my graduation, I will be biking across the United States with a group of riders from an organization called Bike & Build. My adventure starts in Maine and ends in Santa Barbara, CA. As we pedal our way across the country my group and I will be raising awareness about Affordable Housing and partnering with groups that support housing projects to help build homes along our route! 

Through this trip I will have the opportunity to travel to places I've never been and places I have been but I'll be seeing it all through a completely different lens. I chose to raise money for Affordable Housing because I believe that it is a problem that greatly affects many people but is not physically seen by all. Not having affordable housing is something that affects the well-being of a family, children's education and many other aspects of life we tend to take for granted. In the past I have spent a lot of time volunteering at community gardens, getting food to those that are food insecure. I also was a Big Sister in the Big Brother Big Sister Program in Asheville, NC. In 2012 I spent a lot of time mapping out reasons for food insecurity in North Carolina. In my community minimum wage is below living wage so many people cannot afford housing at all. I'm super excited to bike across country and help those in need from regions across the nation. After hearing about Bike & Build from a friend of mine who led a trip last summer I could not turn down the opportunity to help out such a great cause and have the adventure of a lifetime. I cannot wait to learn from the communities I come across, and help spread awareness about the issue of affordable housing!

Before embarking on this adventure I have been asked to raise money to go towards affordable housing. Homelessness is an issue that affects many in the U.S. Without a home over one's head it's hard to worry about things like finding food to eat, education and finding a job to support your family. If you'd like to donate to help out please click on this link, scroll down to the bottom of the page and hit DONATE. Thank you!

Want more? Find out about Bike & Build's mission and history here. And check out this awesome video from a 2013 Bike & Build participant.

Check out my route on the map below!

Maine to Santa Barbara Route. Property of Bike & Build Inc.

Maine to Santa Barbara Route. Property of Bike & Build Inc.