A team of 30 college kids on bicycles rode through Western North Carolina and over the mountains to East Tennessee last week on their way to San Diego. Their mission: To raise awareness of affordable housing issues and to raise money for the Orange County NC chapter of Habitat for Humanity.

The riders are participants in the Bike and Build program. Their mission statement: "Bike & Build is pedaling to end poverty housing. Through fund-raising cycling trips, Bike & Build raises money for and awareness of affordable housing efforts. Our events act as a catalyst to build homes, foster the spirit of service, and empower young adults... mile by mile, house by house."

The 2007 Bike and Build rides include seven coast-to-coast routes:

• Central U.S. - Virginia Beach, VA to Canon Beach, OR
• Northern U.S. - Portsmouth, NH to Vancouver, BC
• NC to San Diego
• Providence RI to San Francisco
• Providence TI to Seattle
• Southern U.S. - Jacksonville, FL to San Francisco, CA

Riders must do a community service project and raise $4000 in contributions to qualify for the ride. The money is used to pay for their bicycle (which they get to keep) and expenses. The rest, along with money raised along the way, is donated to their beneficiary organization and used for affordable housing grants and other projects.

The NC to San Diego riders' journey started May 25th in Manteo NC on the Atlantic coast and will conclude July 27th at San Diego. Their 3400 mile journey through eight states will take them through North Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Arizona, and finally California. They will stop along the way to work on building projects for local Habitat organizations.

The Southern U.S. route will take riders along the Gulf Coast. Along the way, they will stop for "build days" in Mobile, Alabama and Gulfport, Mississippi, and for a week-long stop at Slidell, Louisiana to help the Slidell Habitat for Humanity, their beneficiary, with Katrina rebuilding projects in Saint Tammany County. The riders started June 12th in Jacksonville, and their route will take them through Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Nevada before finishing in San Francisco on August 16th.

Since 2003, Bike and Build has raised more than $750,000, and expects to raise more than $360,000 in 2007. It's a great adventure for a great cause. If you see one of the Bike and Build teams out on the road, give them a wide berth -- and a few bucks.