On September 9, 2016, Akshata Nayak embarked on the longest bicycle trip of her life. Until that day, her riding had been limited to an afternoon on a bike path or a ride around her hometown of Essex Junction, Vermont. But she heard about an organization called Climate Ride and inspiration struck.
Nayak joined a group of about 70 cyclists biking from New York City to Washington, D.C., covering 45-70 miles per day for 5 days. Along the way, she’d meet the physical challenge of the ride, bolstered by the camaraderie of strangers-turned-friends, the support of dozens of volunteers, superb planning by the Climate Ride organizers, and inspiring evening presentations by leading professionals in sustainability, conservation, and active transportation. All of these people and their efforts converged to raise both awareness about climate change and funds to support organizations addressing this critical issue nationwide.
Caeli Quinn, an avid cyclist and adventurer, co-founded Climate Ride nearly a decade ago. Observing that energetic people across the country run, walk, bike, and golf to raise funds for countless health and other causes, she found no events of the kind to raise funds for the environment. Committed to addressing sustainability and environmental issues, Caeli decided to organize events that would draw cyclists and hikers and raise funds to support environmental organizations. Akshata’s bike trip from NYC to DC was one of eight itineraries Climate Ride organized in 2016. The group organizes all the details of each trip, including routes, lodging, food, rider support, and evening speakers. The riders raise funds, a large portion of which is donated to their chosen beneficiary organizations at year-end. After covering its expenses, Climate Ride directed over $633,000 in 2016 to organizations working in sustainability, conservation, and bike advocacy, and more than $3 million since its founding in 2008.
The Vermont Center for Ecostudies (VCE) was a grateful beneficiary of Akshata’s ride. Her vegan skincare company, The Orange Owl, supports social and environmental causes, especially those that educate youth, and sponsors the education of 50 underprivileged kids in her native India. When she read about VCE’s Alexander Dickey Conservation Internship (ADCI), she decided to select VCE as a beneficiary of her Climate Ride funds.
Last year, VCE created the ADCI in memory of a dedicated volunteer and dear friend, Alexander Dickey. Thanks to the Dickey family’s generosity of spirit and leadership in funding the program, VCE will able to honor Alex’s kind, giving manner and his passion for the natural world by mentoring a promising conservation biologist each summer. This annual internship will offer an enduring tribute to Alex and will enable VCE to provide young biologists with deeply engaging experiences for years to come.
Akshata shared the following about her first Climate Ride:
“The ride was an amazing experience. The first day was rough and I struggled with the distance, but I soon realized that raising the money and awareness and giving it my best shot was the right attitude to have going into this experience. Once I made that decision, I really started enjoying myself. We rode through NYC, Princeton, New Jersey, Amish country in Pennsylvania, through horse farms in Maryland and finally into DC. Our trip featured stunning roads, lovely views, cows mooing and sheep bleating as we rode by, and immense support from everyone we came across. We had a lot of conversations with people where we stopped for snacks, meals and overnight camps and they were all supportive and interested in learning more. There were about 70 riders in total and each and every one of them is involved in some way or another to help increase bike advocacy as well as engage more people in the climate change conversation. I am so inspired by them all! Age was definitely not an issue; there were many riders in their 40s, 50s, 60s, and even in their 70s!
“The people who plan everything are very prepared for all contingencies and have every detail worked out. We left every morning with full directions printed on paper and clipped to our bike handles. They posted signs at every turn. Breaks were planned for every 15 to 20 miles and they took care of all the food, even for someone like me with multiple food allergies. I was very impressed with the attention to detail. Support vehicles keep scanning the routes all day and you have phone numbers of all the organizers so you can contact them at any time for help. I would recommend the events they plan to anyone who is interested. They have bike rides and hikes planned across the country for 2017 as well. I am going to look into participating again.
“I have come back 100% inspired to do more on my end for the climate and for raising awareness.”
Akshata was among the top ten fundraisers on her trip. Here she is sporting the nifty green jersey she received to commemorate that achievement. Congratulations, Akshata, and thank you from all of us at VCE!
Are you interested in participating in a Climate Ride event to support VCE? Check out their 2017 offerings at climateride.org, and let us know if you’d like to send some funds our way. We’ll help you spread the word and share your adventures with the rest of the VCE family!