UF student to bike coast to coast

University of Florida senior Monica Cicciarelli, 21, is preparing for a cross-country bike trip that begins June 1 in Providence, R.I., and ends in Seattle on Aug. 1.

Special to The Sun
Published: Thursday, January 12, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 12, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
She is taking a trip, a journey that will change her.
Everything is set, her training has begun and a route has been chosen, along with a date and the cities she is traveling to and from. All she needs now is to graduate and find $4,000.
It will take her two months to make the just under 4,000-mile journey and a bike will help her reach her final destination.
University of Florida senior Monica Cicciarelli, 21, is preparing for a cross-country bike trip that begins June 1 in Providence, R.I., and ends in Seattle on Aug. 1.
Alongside 30 others bikers, Cicciarelli, who is graduating in May with a bachelor's degree in math, plans to travel coast to coast before returning at the end of the summer to begin working toward a master's degree.
While on her trip, Cicciarelli and others - the group is called "Bike and Build" - plan a community campaign to create awareness of the need for affordable housing.
A former gymnast and cheerleader in high school, Cicciarelli decided to try biking instead of running to "switch things up."
"I fell in love with the bike I bought and began biking more," she said. "And when my friend began talking about Bike and Build I was immediately interested."
"Bike and Build," whose mission statement is, "Pedaling to end poverty housing," is an independent nonprofit company that works with young adults to create fund-raising bike trips, according to their Web site.
Selecting from five different routes, Cicciarelli, who was born in Pace, a small town near Pensacola, said she picked the Rhode Island-to-Washington path believing the weather may be better than some others dipping south.
"I figured that because it is a northern route, it wouldn't be as hot and the scenery would be prettier," Cicciarelli said.
During the trip, the cyclist plan to keep an online blog. For at least four days, group members expect to wield tools, helping build a house. And when they are not building, they plan to hold bicycle safety clinics for children and slide shows for the communities about the need for less expensive housing.
To participate in the trip, each cyclist must raise $4,000 for the organization. She has been writing letters to friends and family in hopes that they will donate and help her achieve her goal.
Helping those less fortunate than her is nothing new to Cicciarelli. For part of her time at UF, she traveled weekly to Waldo to help a blind woman in her home by cleaning, reading mail aloud and other activities.
With the trip pending, Cicciarelli has begun training. She bikes five hours a day, five days a week, putting about 150 miles, oftentimes taking the Hawthorne Trail, on her bicycle each week.
She said she has never done anything so physically and emotionally demanding. She said she hopes to travel outside of the United States but realizes that there is so much she hasn't seen in her own country that biking across various states is a great start.
"I want to get the most out of life and make a difference," Cicciarelli said.

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