Kerry from Annapolis, MD

When our Couchsurfing hosts, Sheldon and Naomi, heard we were Americorps volunteers, they invited their family friends over who were also Americorps alum, and had similar passions for affordable housing and social justice. We spent the evening talking about our experiences volunteering, and learning about various issues pertaining to housing in Lancaster, PA and elsewhere.

Below is an interview with Kerry Aszklar, who we met that night, and will be embarking on a Bike & Build journey soon .


What made you want to do bike and build and what do you see as the connection between transportation and housing?
Bike and Build has been on my adventure list since I started bicycling in college and interning at a bike advocacy nonprofit in Boston. I love bikes as a method of transportation, since they can be very accessible to many people, save money, and don’t rely on gas!
The connection between transportation and housing is huge – they tend to be the two biggest expenses on a household’s income. Building affordable housing for families and individuals isn’t sustainable unless there is equitable and safe transportation – whether it is public transit, bike infrastructure, or cars – to important places such as jobs, grocery stores, hospitals, and schools. The success of one is tied to the success of the other.
What were some of the biggest challenges facing the communities you served in as an Americorp volunteer?
It’s difficult to say what some of the biggest challenges facing the communities I served in as an AmeriCorps Member. The issues facing a community in one place differed vastly in another. Regardless, I found genuinely good-hearted people in every place!
What is something you wish more people know about affordable housing?
There is no state nor metro area that has an adequate amount of affordable housing! But volunteering or working for an affordable housing organization is a great way to begin to address this problem. Additionally, educating ourselves about the issue is crucial – did you know that a home is considered affordable if rent and utilities do not exceed 30% of a household’s income?
What are some solutions you would like to see for the housing crisis?
Better housing policies, as well as community involvement, are some solutions for the affordable housing crisis. Although it isn’t considered profitable to develop, affordable housing is important nonetheless! It makes communities socially diverse and more resilient economically. Community involvement is also important – when a community becomes involved, people are more willing to take care of their neighborhoods and are more connected to their neighbors. Plus, you come across interesting people, such as two millennials walking across the country! (Thank you Kerry)
Is there anything else you’d like to share about your Americorp experience, plans for the future, or anything else? 
Get involved locally! In the words of Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Check out Kerry’s blog here and make sure to follow along on her journey!

Getting Comfortable in Public Space

Italian architect Daniela Colafranceschi said, “public space is the theater of the history of mankind.” One of the biggest changes the walk has brought for me is the amount of time I spend living in, and thinking about, public space. So often I move through the world from the private space of my home to the private space of my car, only to pause in public areas.  On the walk it’s the opposite. I spend most of my time moving through, and trying to survive in, public spaces. I walk on city sidewalks, county roads, and state highways. I camp on public land. I eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on park benches. I map out our route in public libraries. I sit on curbs to put mole skin on my blistering feet. I take photos on bridges. I go to the bathroom in soccer field outhouses.

Relying on public space for survival brings joy and challenges. One of the best parts about walking through public spaces is how many interactions I get to have with the people I pass on the street. Sometimes these interactions are brief and it’s just someone saying hello and “how ‘bout that sunshine!” and other times I chat with someone for 20 minutes about the history of the Lincoln highway and the towns built around it. These interactions always make me feel a deeper sense of place and community, even if I am just passing through.   

The biggest challenge of spending this much time in public space is the loss of control.  My diet is dictated by the contents of a gas station. Where I sleep each night is often uncertain. I don’t know whether sidewalks and road shoulders will be shoveled after a snowstorm. I can’t control the weather, the height of the mountain, or if a gas station will have a bathroom. This loss of control has forced me to be a better planner and to have more patience with myself and my surroundings. Some days a snowstorm prevents us from walking at all, and other days my body will tell me it’s best to take a break, and even if that means 2 fewer miles for the day, it’s okay.   

If public space is a theater, then I am enjoying my time in a leading role. As we near Pittsburgh, it feels like act one is coming to a close and I’m looking forward to what plot twists, characters and set changes the remaining acts will bring.  



Crossing the Appalachian Mountains

The past few days we have traveled from Gettysburg to Breezewood, crossing, and camping in, a portion of the Appalachian Mountains along the way. In this time, our love/hate relationship with Caddy became pretty clear to us. Unpacking our gear, and retrieving our food leaves us ever grateful for her, but lugging a loved one up 2,000 feet would put a strain on any relationship.

After camping in state forests for the past few days, and getting a better sense of the mountains, we hope to arrive in Pittsburgh sometime around April 1st.

For now, check out the slideshow from South Central PA below!

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A Cast of Characters

Editor’s note: There is swearing in the article below.
Addt’l editor’s note: The editor and author of this article are the same person. Basically, there is no editor.

I don’t ever want to forget the man on the bike. Or how one of our hosts, Sheldon, forever changed my opinion on Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Nor do I want to forget what we learned tonight. That “south central Pennsylvania is the snacks capital of the world.” I don’t want to forget the fun we had on the biggest hill we’ve faced yet, as Abby took on her “Van Gogh” persona, and took dozens of soon-to-be-deleted photographs. I won’t forget Kim, the woman who ran her coffee shop like it was her home. The woman whose face remained resting in a smile, who welcomed us into her shop with warm coffee and stories to share. I don’t want to forget the first celebrity spotting we had, when a woman backed her BMW up a hill to tell us she recognized us from facebook, she was praying for us, and she would be donating money to JOIN for us. Most of all though, I don’t want to forget the man on the bike. What an imposition he was. What a know-it-all. What a ridiculous claim he made that the big war was coming. The one to end all wars. The one that the powers-that-be had been planning. The one that would kill all obese and technology-reliant people. What a character. What an un-self aware person. What a strangely caring, and concerned neighbor he was to us. What a fucking character. Like the man outside the auto body shop said, “it’s the journey, not the destination.” And this journey has had a cast of characters with more quotes than we can write down, and more wisdom to share than we could absorb in a lifetime. These journal entries are not being written by me, they are being colored by the beautifully unique individuals that are filling our days, feeding our hearts and fulfilling all the fantasies that we had about this trip, and the wonderful people we would meet along the way.

— Danny

Van Gogh’s work at her finest.

Van Gogh not taking photo time seriously

Days 17-20 – Downingtown to Hanover

The past couple days we walked from Downingstown, PA to Hanover, PA stopping in Christiana, Hallam, Lancaster and York. While in Lancaster we stayed with couch surfing hosts Sheldon and Naomi. After hearing we had done Americorps, Sheldon and Naomi invited their family friends Amy and Kerry over, who are both NCCC Americorp alums. Amy now works for an organization building affordable housing in Lancaster, and Kerry will be biking across part of the country, and building affordable homes along the way, with a program called Bike to Build. Stay tuned for a blog post to learn more about the affordable housing issues affecting Lancaster.

We owe a big thanks to Sheldon and Naomi for their hospitality, and for connecting us with their friends, Roger and Donna, who later hosted us in York.

We head to Gettysburg today, and will be camping in state forests for the next few nights!

big hill

Danny taking on a huge hill east of York


Outside Hanover, PA


Downtown York, PA

Walking with Dignity

It takes five minutes to drive through a town like Coatesville, Pennsylvania, but in the forty minutes it took us to walk, we were struck by the simple beauty of it’s design, and the warmth and hospitality of the residents we encountered.

Take Tom, for instance. Our first interaction in the town, Tom had a handsome, white beard, a round face, and United States Army veteran hat atop his head. Tom was outside his home, shoveling snow, when we came walking by with our massive pushcart and neon safety vests. We helped him shovel his walkway, he shared stories from his childhood in Coatesville, and from his experience in the army, and soon we had developed a rapport with this stranger. Before we parted ways, Tom made a donation to JOIN, paid for our lunch, and urged us to be safe on our journey with the sincerity of a close friend.

Or take the man shoveling outside the massive brick building, who saw our cart, and, assuming we were homeless, invited us inside for a warm meal. “It’s not much, but it does the job,” he said, motioning us over from the street. Even after we explained we weren’t homeless, and talked about the walk, he still invited us in, eager to help out a neighbor. They may not have had much, but the soup was warm, we rested our legs, and the one man working exuded a gentle grace and humility that would welcome any stranger. “Quiet dignity” was how we described it afterwards. With a quiet dignity and calming grace, they were serving those most in need in their community. We left that building frustrated by the evident lack of resources available for them, curious what homelessness looked like in a city so small, and grateful for the beautiful, humbling experience they invited us into.

Or take the woman driving past us towards the freeway, who slowed her car down, and shouted at us “where ya going?” When we replied San Francisco, she grabbed a $20 bill from her pocket, raised her hand to the sky, and waited for us to cross traffic to retrieve it.

Often people see our cart and assume we are homeless. They avoid eye contact with us, looking away before reading our sign. What has struck us about some places is how friendly people are to us, despite thinking we might be homeless.

Quiet dignity. A community like Coatesville was ready to embrace a stranger as if they were neighbors, even if that stranger was actually just two crazy kids, trying to walk across America.






Day 16 – Downington, PA

We’re getting an early start today, headed back out in the snow towards Christiana, PA! Above is a picture of Abby pushing the cart along the highway, through the snow-covered hills in West Chester.

We wanted to extend a special thank you to Susan and George, our hosts for the past three nights. After we arrived at their home in West Chester, PA, which they were kind enough to welcome us into, they invited us to stay there for the duration of the storm, providing us with delicious, home cooked meals, great book references, a tour of an arboretum, and an abundance of good conversation. Thank you again for your incredible hospitality! It was a wonderful chance to refuel and reenergize for our journey!

Philadelphia, PA


I’d like to see Rocky try conquering these stairs with a 70 lb cart to push!

After following two days of rest in the great city of Philadelphia with an unnecessarily strenuous hike for this photo-op, we are headed out of the city towards West Chester. We are incredibly grateful to our hosts the past three nights, Conor and Elana, who let us tend to our blisters in their apartments, fueled us up on cheese-steaks and Thai food, and watched us plan the next leg of our route towards Pittsburgh. As always, many thanks to all the beautiful people we’ve met and interacted with along the way!

The Things We Carry


We have received a lot of questions lately about our gear, and what we have brought with us, so we unpacked our cart and laid everything out for this post.

Pictured above are all of the supplies we bought before beginning our journey. With everything from our camping equipment to the electronics we’re using to communicate with you, we worked hard to keep our equipment to only the essentials. And while this is everything we packed into our cart, it is important to note we are both carrying our clothes in our individual packs.

Below we have also included a picture of our trusted cart, Caddy. We often refer to her as the Cadillac of carts to the people we are meeting, and soon the name Caddy stuck. She might require a lot of effort to go uphill, but she has provided us with ample storage for all the necessities for our trip.



Day 8

We crossed the Delaware River today, officially leaving New Jersey and entering Pennsylvania! While it was our longest day yet, at 23 miles, we felt some extra motivation after seeing this sign directing us towards our goal, San Francisco.

Thank you to our couch surfing host Zak, as well as his roommates, for letting us stay with them at Princeton  yesterday, and to Lauren and Tim for hosting us tonight in Holland, Pennsylvania!