East Siders pedal across country, raising funds for nonprofits along way


submitted photo • Whitney and Ben Greilanger, a couple from the East Side, will be wrapping up a four-month bike trip across the U.S. later this month when they ride into Maine. The couple raised money for bicycle nonprofits in each state through which they pedaled.

Two East Siders spent their summer biking across the U.S. 

 

Whitney and Ben Greilanger set out from San Francisco and will be cycling to their finish line — the Atlantic coast of Maine — in a few weeks. Along they way they raised money for bike nonprofits in each state they biked through. 

The wife and husband duo started their trek May 3 and will finish about halfway through this month, hopefully around Sept. 13. 

East Siders may recognize Ben for his “Then and Now” photography, which matches current photographs with old photos of places on the East Side and across St. Paul. 

 

A bucket list item

The bike tour has been on Whitney’s bucket list for years, since she was a teen. Originally, she and her mother planned to go together, but as time passed, it ended up being Ben who’d go along. 

By the time the Greilangers are done, they will have biked through 15 states — California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

The couple has raised just less than $1,500 that will be split between 15 bicycle nonprofits. Prior to leaving for the trip, the Greilangers held a send-off party where they raised about $1,600 for Minnesota nonprofit Cycles for Change.

On how they decided to fundraise, Whitney and Ben said that as they prepared for the journey, friends and family wanted to donate to help them out. 

“We felt honored that people wanted to help,” Whitney said, “but we felt someone else needed it more than we do.”

With a few Google searches, Whitney compiled a list of nonprofits to support. She said most don’t even know they’ve been chosen or that she and her husband are doing this. 

In addition to making the decision to raise money for nonprofits, Ben and Whitney said the majority of preparation for the trip had to do with purchasing equipment. Because they were going to be mostly camping during the journey, they had to buy specialized lightweight gear, since they would be carrying all of it on their bikes. 

 

Friendly faces

Whitney said one of the best parts of the trip has been encountering new people. “My favorite part is just meeting strangers, everyone is so nice,” she said. 

For example, while in Frisco, Colorado, after having a not-so-great night camping, she and Ben were having lunch at a diner when some folks came up and started talking to them about their trip. When the Greilangers went to pay, the waitress said the people they’d chatted with had already paid for their meal. 

At another point, another couple saw them with their bikes and struck up a conversation. Eventually they offered the Greilangers a night at their home, letting them use their laundry and showers — they even cooked them dinner.

Both of the Greilangers said one of the challenging aspects of the trip has been having two people with somewhat different goals. They said it’s important to make sure they are both keeping a similar pace and want to hit similar daily mileage marks.

Because the trip’s been Whitney’s dream, something she had planned long before meeting and marrying Ben, she said she’s had a long-set plan. “I wasn’t really willing to compromise too much,” she said, which has added some challenges.

Asked what advice they would share from the trip, Whitney said her biggest tip would be to have fun and don’t get stuck counting miles.

“I’d tell people to slow down and enjoy along the way,” she said, adding the frequent stops where they could chat with people added so many more positive experiences to the trip.

They both added that the ability to be flexible will go a long way. They mapped out and planned their own route, rather than following pre-established bike routes, which gave them the ability to camp where and when they wanted. 

Once they reach Maine and ceremoniously dip their bikes into the Atlantic Ocean, the Greilangers will be driving back to the East Side. They said that they expect four wheels and an engine will be quite a bit different from the two wheels they will have spent the last four months riding.

They said they figured that one hour of driving equals about a day of biking.

“So four days of driving will be like two months of biking,” Whitney laughed. 

For those interested in donating to the Greilanger’s GoFundMe, which will then be dispersed to bicycle nonprofits, go to www.gofundme.com/sanfran2maine. More information about the Greilanger’s trip and the nonprofits they’ll be supporting can be found at www.sanfran2maine.com.

 

– Marjorie Otto can be reached at 651-748-7816 or at eastside@lillienews.com. Follow her on Twitter at @EastSideM_Otto

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