Traverse City Record-Eagle

April 29, 2013

Cross-country bike trip is ride of a lifetime

Special to the Record-Eagle

— TRAVERSE CITY — High school pals Ben Coughenour and Alex Goldsmith joked about taking a cross-country bike trip together.

It took five years, but this summer they will attempt a bicycling odyssey that would take them coast-to-coast and more than 3,000 miles.

Their adventure is set to begin in Savannah, Ga. on June 7 and end in Vancouver, British Columbia on August 10.

Along the way they will repair, renovate and build low-income housing.

“It started out as a crazy high school idea,” said Goldsmith, 21, of Traverse City, who is a student at Michigan State University. “I talked to Ben about it and we went on to find an organization to ride for.”

Goldsmith and Coughenour, 22, will participate in the Sixth Annual Fuller Center Bicycle Adventure. The 9-week, 3,700-mile journey will take them through 13 states and into Canada.

The organization’s inaugural ride was in 2009 and since then riders covered more than 14,900 miles through 36 states. Participants helped renovate or repair 50 homes and raised over $680,000 for families in need of housing all over the world.

The Fuller Center for Housing is a nonprofit, ecumenical Christian housing ministry dedicated to eliminating poverty housing worldwide. Millard Fuller and his wife Linda, who co-founded Habitat for Humanity in 1976, started the organization in 2005.

This year bicyclists hope to raise $220,000 to help build, renovate and repair homes.

Goldsmith and Coughenour, also of Traverse City, each paid a $200 entry fee that will cover everything they need like food and lodging. An accompanying vehicle will carry tools.

“We really don’t need much. We spend the night on church floors or we will stay with church families,” Goldsmith said.

Coughenour said he looks forward to living out of a backpack for a summer.

“I think it will be an eye-opening experience just living with what you need,” he said. “I’m also looking forward to meeting people and to the build days,” he added.

A MSU professor donated a bike to Goldsmith, who joked he didn’t think his 1974 Schwinn Spirit would make the trip. Coughenour will get a tune-up on his bike.

McClain Cycle and Fitness in Traverse City will discount the gear the duo needs for the trip.

To train for his sojourn Goldsmith, a distance runner, is taking spinning classes and lifting weights.

Coughenour said he spins when he isn’t busy wrapping his senior year at the University of Michigan.

Goldsmith still can’t believe he is finally going.

“It’s kind of a dream, but I’m incredibly excited to be devoting my summer to exercising, serving other people and communities, seeing the country and sleeping under the stars.”

Goldsmith and Coughenour need of donations and will split whatever they receive. To donate, visit or