Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Jul 13, 2015 in Rat News | Subscribe

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When most people plan a cross-country bike trip, they typically don’t choose a rat for a riding companion. 

But Lizzy Trickey knew she and her friend, Haley Winkelman, both of McMinnville, Ore., would be on the road for nearly seven months if they accomplished their goal of cycling 10,000 miles through the 48 contiguous states this year, and Trickey didn’t want to part with Denali, aka “Beefy,” that long. 

“(Pet) rats only live two to three years, and I have already had Beefy for two years this past Thanksgiving so I didn’t want to leave him behind,” Trickey said when the pair stopped briefly in Woodstock on June 30 to chat about their adventure.

The fact the duo has managed to cycle an estimated 2,600 miles through 11 states in about two month’s time without the support of an equipment vehicle or staff is inspiring. The reality that along the way – through the mountains of Wyoming and the badlands of the Dakotas – the two friends have transported a rat in a converted mailbox attached to the back of Trickey’s bike is a bit more bewildering. 

“He doesn’t mind it,” Trickey said, with a laugh. “If it gets hot, I have a system where I put ice in his mailbox and, as the wind hits the ice, it cools his area. But, we really haven’t gotten bad heat yet. Our biggest obstacles so far have been mosquitoes and the wind.”

The women’s story and their rat companion make for interesting conversation as they meet strangers at stops along the way. Wherever they go, people ask about the tiny mailbox, fitted with screens on both sides and a seemingly comfortable interior, and its furry brown and white occupant. In a way, Beefy has become the duo’s mascot, helping lure more attention to their quest, originally plotted for fun, but now helping raise donations for Watsi.org, a nonprofit outsourcing health-care platform that allows people to donate directly to patients and receive updates, in countries throughout the world.

The women departed on their bikes – a rebuilt Trek 720 from the 1980s for Trickey and a Rivendell Hunqapillar for Winkelman –  May 8 from Portland, Ore. They plan to continue their ride east through Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, New York and Maine. Eventually, they will head south and hit the East Coast states and veer westward. The pair usually camps overnight in parks or fields and, occasionally, have found inside shelter via the generosity of strangers. They estimate they’ll return to Oregon in the beginning of December. 

So far, they’ve endured a wicked thunderstorm in Wyoming, where they were taken in for the night by total strangers, and breaking bicycle parts in Rochester, Minn., where a fellow cycletourist and mechanic named Michael Jackson came to their rescue.

“It’s been really nice talking to people,” Trickey said. “A lot of people say they’d love to be in our shoes, but then a lot of other people say they’re glad they’re not in our shoes.”

The women’s bikes are fitted with luggage racks and bike packs on the front and back tires. The packs are filled with clothing, food, a small tent, cookware and supplies. The pair always carries a jar of peanut butter, having gone through eight jars so far. Spare tires are strapped to the sides of their bikes along with other necessities.

Together, the bikes and luggage account for about 100 pounds for each rider. Still, the duo makes riding across country seem like “no big deal.”  

“My family took biking trips while I was growing up,  so I’m used to this,” Winkelman said. 

Winkelman serves as the route master and bicycle mechanic. Trickey manages the website and Facebook page – Withinbikingdistance.org, keeping family and friends updated. She also handles media publicity, reaching out to local newspapers and television stations to create awareness for their cause. 

“It’s been cool to develop a skill set,” Trickey said. “We’re biking, but we’re also working every day. I’ve learned how to write press releases and handle marketing and our social media. There is a lot of stuff I knew before, but I’ve become more proficient at it. “

Part of their work is keeping pledge followers and business donors abreast of the success. Some people offer donations based on the number of miles the women travel. Others, such as businesses, make monthly donations. All funds are donated directly to Watsi’s online site, and the proceeds benefit the people who need them,Trickey said.

“When we were planning our trip, we knew we wanted to have a positive impact on something,” Trickey said. “The problem with a lot of charities is that you don’t know where all the money goes. We picked Watsi.org because they were radically transparent. They even post all their financials online.”








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