Local rider seeks Habitat donations

17 years ago
    STOCKHOLM, Maine – For Stockholm’s Erin Bougie running and skiing were the sports of choice but an injury forced her onto a bike and she’s working on turning that change into work to support those who are less fortunate.

    Bougie is taking part in the Habitat for Humanity Bicycle Challenge beginning June 2 in New Haven, Conn., and ending in early August in Portland, Ore. The challenge sends 90 riders on three different cross-country routes ending in either Portland, Seattle, or San Francisco, with the additional responsibility of raising $4,000 to benefit the organization.
“All the money goes to Habitat for Humanity,” Bougie said. “Four days out of the nine weeks, we get off the bikes and help build houses. Also, each night, in each town that we bike into and that we’re staying in, we give presentations on our journey and what we’re doing for Habitat for Humanity. We’re trying to promote a general awareness for the cause.”
Bougie first entered the cycling world in the fall of her junior year when she suffered a setback as a member of the Bates College cross country team. Running became too painful and trainers with the school told her to rest the injury. After eight months of being unable to exercise the muscle, Bougie was diagnosed with a torn hamstring and torn meniscus. The prescription was physical therapy and work with a bike and Bougie was not impressed.
“I’m a runner and a skier … I hated biking,” Bougie said. “I wouldn’t get on a bike [before] and it was the worst thing just day after day to be on a bike, so it was really hard for me.”
Going into this summer, gas crept up to over $3 per gallon, and living in New Sweden and working in Caribou for the recreation department forced Bougie to travel over 17 miles both ways which was eating into the college student’s savings.
“I said ‘Dad, I’m buying a bike,’” Bougie recalled. “He said ‘You hate biking, Erin. Are you sure you want to bike 17 miles in, work all day and bike back?’ I said ‘I don’t want to pay all that money for gas … I’m going to do it.’ So I went up to the Ski Shop in Van Buren and started biking.”
Biking eventually turned into racing and Bougie took third in the Caribou Recreation Department race from Van Buren to Caribou and won the Fort Fairfield Potato Blossom race and a Houlton race.
Meanwhile, her college racing friends loved the tale of how the runner/skier turned into what she terms “a monster on a bike” and one friend put her on the path of the Habitat for Humanity ride. With only one week left, Bougie submitted the application which included a $50 application fee and was accepted, but she has learned in the early going that biking is the easy part.
“I’ve sold Girl Scout cookies and I did the Jump Rope for Heart in middle school but this is a whole different thing,” Bougie said. “I’ve been asking people for ideas and help and I thought with all the races in the summer that I’d get a really good response but it’s been pretty mixed.”
A Yale-based program, the challenge features a convenient Web site that makes donating a breeze, and Bougie says the other part of the site that would allow her to check her progress is not yet functioning so she can’t check her progress. But she’s getting a little nervous.
Bikers are already faced with providing their own clothing, biking and food needs throughout the trip, but if they don’t raise the entire $4,000, they also have to contribute the rest of the money toward that goal. So, while many people her age are out Christmas shopping this season, Bougie is traveling to local businesses and contacts asking for fundraising help.
“I sent a mass e-mail to my friends,” Bougie said. “I’m also planning on writing a letter to send to local businesses. Whatever anyone can contribute – $5, $10 – it all adds up.”
All in all, Bougie says she’s very excited for the trip. Having never been much further than New England, she says she can’t wait to see the Central and Western states and adds that there’s no better way to do it than on bicycle.
“Driving through the U.S. is nice and flying is very fast, but you’re there on bike and you really get to take in everything … I want to see the mountains and see them in the summer still covered with snow.”
To contribute to Bougie’s fund-raising efforts visit www.habitatbike.org. The Web site has more information about the ride and a link to make a donation by credit card. Once a donation is made an option is given to type in the name of the cyclist a person wishes to sponsor.
Donations can also be made by check. For more information contact Bougie by e-mail at ebougie@bates.edu or by phone at 227-3049.