Kara Ingersoll and her family moved all the way across the country only to have her hop a bike and head 3,500 miles back to her hometown of Murrysville.
Actually Ingersoll, 21, is part of a six-person team cycling from northern California to New York City, raising money as members of the Ride for Water charity cycling team.
“Pennsylvania is our tenth state,” said the Franklin Regional graduate, who was back in her hometown as the Ride for Water team hosted a community event at Helltown Taproom in Murrysville on Tuesday. “Every state is different, but my favorite so far has been Tahoe in Nevada. We went over the Sierra Nevada, climbed about 6,000 feet and reached a point where we could look out over all of the mountains.”
That’s a steep climb — literally and figuratively — for someone who, prior to this past September, had never ridden any decent distance on a bike.
“I thought it was super-cool what they were doing, but I remember thinking to myself, ‘I would never do that,’” Ingersoll said. “But when I got to my senior year (of college), I decided I was going to take a chance, buy a bike and join the team.”
Team members did training rides three or four times per week starting in September.
“We’d hit elevations to work on that type of a ride, and then when we would ride along river trails, we’d work on riding distance,” she said. “Honestly, you can’t fully prepare for something like this.”
The 51-day ride will cover 3,437 miles.
“We’re going toward Kutztown (outside Philadelphia), and then we’ll cut up north and head to New York City,” Ingersoll said.
Ride for Water is headquartered in Lower Manhattan, where employees will meet the riders as they finish. Their goal is to raise $80,000. So far, the group has raised just over $20,000, according to its website.
Ingersoll and her fellow riders serve as ambassadors for the charity and help raise awareness that 663 million people on the planet live without access to clean water. That is nearly 1 in 10 people worldwide.
“Before the ride started, we’d do little parties, like invite a bunch of people to a local coffee shop to let them know what we’re doing, and we’re having community parties along the way,” Ingersoll said.
Raising awareness extends to the ride itself.
“If we pull up next to someone who has their window down, we’ll give them a business card,” she said. “I’ve had people empty their change bin into my hand.”
Ingersoll said that despite the hard work and long hours riding, the end result — and sometimes the view — is well worth the effort.
“I got to the top of this mountain and I’d never seen a view like that before,” she said. “And then on top of that we’re raising money to help people get clean water.”