Greg Shaw

Illinois Wesleyan Professor Reaches Flagstaff, Ariz., on Cross-Country Bicycle Ride

May 8, 2005

Greg Shaw, associate professor of political science at Illinois Wesleyan, is riding his bicycle across America to raise money for Habitat for Humanity of McLean County.

Shaw, who is faculty adviser for the campus Habitat for Humanity chapter, departed San Diego on May 2 and plans to arrive in New York City on June 8. He will average nearly 90 miles a day over 35 days of riding, totaling almost 3,100 miles through desert, mountains and plains.

The following is an e-mail from Shaw who was in Flagstaff, Ariz., on May 7:

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Arriving in Flagstaff, Arizona yesterday was such a relief. Getting to the top of the hill (7,000 ft. elevation), the home of some friends here, and the first planned rest day were all wonderful things. Spent today getting gear ready for the next leg of the trip and catching up with my former college roommate. The weather is cool but dry.

The first set of mountains just east of San Diego are very nice — 4000 feet tall, but nice. They quickly give way to a different terrain, however. Crossing the desert in southern California and Arizona was quite an experience — very hot. Very dry. Very few signs of civilization. The psychological threat is about as real as the physiological one. Being out in the middle of the desert is, I suppose, a bit like being on the ocean. You can't hope to control your environment. You can just focus on getting through it. Dehydration is difficult to avoid. I'm OK now, though. That crossing wouldn't be possible June through September.

The two-day climb from the low desert up to what locals call the Colorado Plateau was stunning. Around every turn there seemed to be changes in the vegetation, animal life, temperature, etc. The culture of the places varied as well. Flagstaff is a mecca for Birkenstock-wearing, Democratic-voting, granola-eating folks who ride bikes and understand that bikers have a place on the roads. These things do not apply to some of the lower-elevation areas I saw last week.

From here I head east across the Navajo reservation that covers much of the northeast corner of Arizona, to Gallup, Albuquerque, north of Amarillo, and to the Oklahoma City area to visit [my wife] Mollie's parents. I'll cross the western continental divide (7300 ft.) on Tuesday. It's not quite all downhill from there to the Mississippi, but you get the idea.

The legs, spirits, and bike are all holding up well. Thanks for your messages of encouragement. Thanks also (indeed, more importantly) for your financial support of Habitat for Humanity.

Every dollar donated will be used to support construction of the Habitat for Humanity house by IWU and ISU students, their 10th house in 10 years of the universities' partnership. Pledges marked “Collegiate House” can be sent to Habitat for Humanity of McLean County, Attn: Bruce Williams, assistant director, 410 N. Prairie St., Bloomington IL 61701.

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