Road Trippin’ for the Planet

Luke Rein describes his 1989 Cannondale bicycle as ‘the finest bike I have ever ridden.’ He will use it this fall as he pedals from Providence to Los Angeles. (Kevin Proft/ecoRI News)

Luke Rein describes his 1989 Cannondale bicycle as ‘the finest bike I have ever ridden.’ He will use it this fall as he pedals from Providence to Los Angeles. (Kevin Proft/ecoRI News)

Barrington resident to bicycle across United States to bring awareness to climate change

By KEVIN PROFT/ecoRI News staff

Barrington, R.I., resident Luke Rein will soon set out on the classic, post-graduation, cross-country road trip. The two-month adventure will begin in Providence on Oct. 26 and end in Los Angeles in mid-December. Along the way, the 22-year-old will visit Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Richmond, Va., Tulsa, Okla., Santa Fe, N.M.,and Flagstaff, Ariz. among other places.

And, Rein will be doing all his traveling on his 1989 Cannondale bicycle.

Rein, a recent graduate from the marine biology program at the College of Charleston in South Carolina, said the idea came to him in summer 2014 when his friend biked from Wilmington, N.C., to San Francisco with a group called Bike & Build. The group organizes cross-country trips during which participants help build and raise money for affordable housing projects. Rein was inspired.

During his upcoming ride, Rein hopes to raise awareness about climate change and fossil-fuel divestment. Specifically, he is raising money for 350.org, a national organization that advocates against the burning of fossil fuels and spearheads the international campaign to encourage institutions to divest their assets from the industry.

Rein said he has been aware of environmental issues from a young age. His father works in the wind-power industry, and he grew up biking the East Bay Bike Path and sailing.

“Being on the water a lot is something that made me really value the outdoors and want to preserve it for future generations,” he said.

Rein is concerned by sea-level rise. Charleston, his college town, sits practically at sea level and is regularly struck by hurricanes and tropical storms. Rein said that during such storms it was common for the ocean to flood city streets and force people from their homes.

“Seeing people displaced, especially those who don’t have the means to move away, that really seems unfair,” he said.

Rein started bicycling seriously as a high-school sophomore, when he was hired as a sailing instructor by the Herreshoff Marine Museum in Bristol. He commuted to work from Barrington via the East Bay Bike Path. He put off getting his driver’s license until he was 19.

“I realized I didn’t need to drive. I could just bike everywhere,” he said.

By his senior year, he was biking to Newport, Jamestown and Narragansett.

His time in Charleston didn’t dampen his enthusiasm for bicycling. He said the historic city is a beautiful place to bike and easier to navigate on two wheels than four. Last summer, he biked from Charleston to Hunting Island, traveling about 250 miles round trip in 48 hours.

Luke Rein’s 3,000-mile bike route. (Trailrunner/Google Maps)

Luke Rein’s 3,000-mile bike route. (Trailrunner/Google Maps)

Rein plans to average 100 miles a day during his cross-country ride. “It’s a big number,” he admitted, “but if I travel 12 miles per hour for a full day, that doesn’t seem that hard.”

Rein estimated that he travels about 20 mph on a bike path and 12 mph on-road. He’s also accounting for the trailer he’ll be towing. His supplies will include food and water, camping gear, a small stove, spare parts and repair tools. He estimated the fully loaded trailer will weigh between 30 and 40 pounds.

For sleeping accommodations, he’ll be camping, couchsurfing or, when possible, staying with friends. Since the money he is raising goes directly to 350.org, he will pay for the trip with money he earned and saved over the summer.

Rein has courted biking, camping and solar companies to sponsor him — through product donations or with money. Voltaic Systems, a company that sells small-scale solar products, has offered Rein a discount on their products. He bought one of their solar panels and will rig it to the top of his trailer so he can charge his phone and other electronics.

To prepare, Rein has been biking to and from work — 16 miles round trip — and rowing with the University of Rhode Island’s crew team six days a week. “You get out there at 5:30 a.m. and row for an hour and a half,” he said.

Rein also has been taking longer bike rides on the weekend, including to Newport. He said the difference between biking and driving is only about 20 minutes, and that the extra time is worth it to avoid dealing with traffic and parking in the City-by-the-Sea.

When he hits the road, his diet will consist mostly of vegetables, beans and legumes. “I find that when I am doing a lot of exercise, eating vegetables helps me feel better,” said Rein, noting he hasn’t set a daily calorie-intake goal. “I am just going to eat when I get hungry or tired.”

Rein will travel down the coast to Richmond, following the Adventure Bicycle Association’s Atlantic Coast Bicycle Route. The ABA has vetted a variety of long-distance routes using roads, trails and other paths appropriate for bicycle touring. From there, he will follow ABA’s Trans America Trail through Kentucky, Illinois and Missouri, then continue to Los Angeles via the ABA’s Bicycle Route 66.

To get the word out about his cause, Rein is contacting bicycle and fossil-fuel divestment groups, and local chapters of 350.org along his planned route. He hopes those groups will organize meet-ups, join him for segments of his ride or help with fundraising.

Rein will be blogging and tweeting about his experiences in real time during his ride. “I’ll be writing about the things I see, the people I meet, and any transcendental experiences I have on the bike path,” he said.

Upon his arrival in Los Angeles, Rein hopes enough people will have heard about the ride that there will be some kind of welcoming party to help promote his message about climate change.

“I want people to say, ‘This person biked across the country, I should at least get out and bike more in my own neighborhood,’” he said.

Follow Rein on Twitter during his cross-country bike ride using the handle @renewableride. Read about his experiences on his blog.

The Rhode Island Bicycle Coalition and Channing Memorial Church of Newport will send him off in style, with a climate march and ride planned for Oct. 26.