Ride of a Lifetime

If everything goes according to plan for Dustin Englebert, the young man from Brussels will be starting the three-year doctoral program in physical therapy at University of Wisconsin – Madison this fall. It’s unlikely that students will be asked to share with their classmates what they did on their summer vacation, and that’s a shame, because Dustin will have quite a story to tell.

He graduated from the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire in 2012 as a certified athletic trainer and spent an additional year taking courses to prepare for physical therapy school. He was accepted in the PT program at Carroll University in Milwaukee, but at that point, he’d been in school 18 straight years since kindergarten at Southern Door.

Dustin Englebert

“I didn’t want to burn out with three more years of graduate school right away,” he says, “so I decided to take a year off to ‘do something big’.”

Dustin has always been an outdoors, sports-minded kid. At Southern Door High School he was involved in football, wrestling and track and field events, and in college, he was a pole vaulter. So his first idea for “something big” was an extended hike – perhaps the Appalachian Trail in the eastern U.S. or the Pacific Coast Trail from Mexico to Canada.

But volunteering was also a big part of Dustin’s college experience. He’d worked with the Boys and Girls Club, with Special Olympics and with the PRIDE Program (Physical activity and Recreation for Individuals with Disabilities in Eau Claire) that provides weekly one-on-one interaction with college students.

A course in public health in a global society also made a strong impression on Dustin. “That really appealed to me,” he said.

“In the end, we’re all part of one big society. It’s important to know about the environment and what’s going on in other parts of the world.” This interest led him to consider AmeriCorps or the Peace Corps. “I knew I wanted to do something to help somewhere in the world.”

Dustin’s route crosses the country.

And then he remembered something he’d heard about in college through a friend of a friend – the nonprofit Bike and Build program that gives young adults, almost all college students or recent graduates, an opportunity to contribute to the need for affordable housing nationwide. In the past 10 years, more than 2,000 bikers have pedaled more than 7.5 million miles, donated more than $4.5 million and spent more than 160,000 hours working on building projects. They have also been active in spreading the word about the affordable housing crisis in America.

Dustin is one of 34 young men and women from 16 states accepted to take part in one of Bike and Ride’s eight routes this summer. They’ll start from Jacksonville, Fla., on May 16, and complete the ride in Monterey, Ca., on Aug. 3. Before the trip begins, each rider is required to complete 500 hours of on-bike training and volunteer time with local affordable housing builders. Both activities have been difficult to coordinate with Door County’s winter, but Dustin is pedaling away in his living room and working with Habitat groups, in addition to his temporary construction job.

He’s also required to collect $4,500 in donations that will help to defray his expenses on the trip and provide contributions to building projects along the way. Seventeen of the days will be spent working on construction projects in Jacksonsville, Tallahassee, Mobile, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Dallas, Amarillo, Santa Fe, Farmington (New Mexico), St. George (Utah), Henderson (Nevada) and Ridgecrest and Modesto (California).

Riders will have the opportunity to visit the Grand Canyon, Zion and Yosemite national parks and enjoy a total of four days off during the 11-week trip that will cover 4,058 miles. The shortest day’s ride is 33 miles; the longest, 116.

Days will begin with chores at 6 am. The riders have been told to expect a lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on the road, and they’ll bed down at night in churches, schools and community centers. They’ll depend on the generosity of hundreds of strangers for food, showers – sometimes just a hosing down – and other necessities.

Sound like a fun way to spend your summer? Dustin says, “I was raised with a sense of social obligation to give to those in need. This ride will be challenging, but it is so worth it! What I look forward to most is being able to combine my passion for biking with my passion for helping others.”

To contribute to Dustin’s expenses (so far he’s raised $500 of the $4,500), e-mail him at [email protected].