Molly Bruce is ready for the bicycle ride of her life – all 4,058 miles of it.
The 19-year-old from southern Iredell County has trained for months on her Trek 1.2 road bike as she prepares to join 33 other college students from across the country on a benefit ride from Jacksonville, Fla., to Monterey, Calif., this summer.
They’ll ride for seven days at a time and stop to put hammers in hand at 17 Habitat for Humanity housing projects - most times for a day, in New Orleans for a week.
The nonprofit Bike & Build organization based in Philadelphia, Pa., is arranging the ride. Since 2002, Bike & Build has brought 2,000 riders together and donated $4.5 million and 160,000 hours to affordable housing projects.
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Molly said she and the other students hope to raise awareness of the need for more affordable housing across the U.S.
Something must change, she said, when a full-time, 40-hour-a-week worker who earns minimum wage can’t afford a single-bedroom apartment at fair-market rates.
“We either need to make affordable housing more readily available or change the minimum wage,” Molly said in an interview at her family’s home at Lake Norman this week.
Molly has trained since last fall for the ride on the bike her parents bought her at First Flight Bicycles in Statesville when she turned 16. She previously rode a mountain bike and said her brother, Tommy, who is her twin, inspired her to pick up road biking.
She and her brother also obtained private pilot licenses last summer. Their parents are both pilots -- mom, Margaret, flies 757s and 767s as a captain for US Airways; dad, Tom, flies MD-80s as a captain for American Airlines.
Molly learned about the cross-country bike ride at UNC Chapel Hill, where she’s in the honors program, double majors in global studies and geography and minors in Hispanic studies. Her global studies major focuses on Latin America.
Molly, who is finishing her sophomore year, volunteers with the school’s Habitat for Humanity chapter.
She attended Cannon School in Concord her freshman and sophomore years of high school and the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics her junior and senior years.
Her favorite training route is the 15-mile round trip she takes to the cul-de-sac where Brawley School Road dead ends at the lake.
“I love it because that cul-de-sac has a 360-degree view of the lake,” she said.
Molly has surpassed by hundreds of miles the minimum number of miles that Bike & Build suggests riders log in training for the ride. She’s upped her travel speed to about 18 mph, well beyond the 12 mph-15 mph daily average expected on the trip.
Along her journey, she’ll update followers on her ride blog, www.bikeandbuild.org/rider/7441.
She’s also raised just over $1,500 of the $4,500 that Bike & Build requires each biker to raise for the trip. Most of the money goes to affordable housing projects, Molly said, including one to which the group of riders collectively decides to donate and others each rider selects.
The biggest challenge, she said, might be dealing with the summer heat in Texas, Arizona and other states much hotter and more humid than North Carolina.
The trip is May 18 through Aug. 2.
“We’ll miss her,” Margaret Bruce said. But she knows the trip is a chance for her daughter and the other students to make their worlds bigger and to support a cause, she said.
Plus, when it comes to Molly, her dad said, “There’s no holding her back.”