By Emma Toner
What originated as a family-bonding adventure soon evolved into a fundraising project for the Bornhorst siblings, who embarked on a cross-country bike trip this summer with their father, Walter, that spanned 2,500 miles over nearly two months.
Chris ’16, Natasha ’15, and Zoe ’15 took off from San Diego on June 9 with two goals in sight: their physical endpoint—Brunswick, Georgia—as well as the $57,048 they would eventually raise for Dorchester’s Epiphany School and Bridge Boston Charter School.
Natasha said her family’s decision last year to gear the trip toward these causes offered an extra push for the daunting trek from Pacific to Atlantic.
“It’s bigger than just us,” she explained. “When days on the bike trip were hard, we knew that we were helping the kids.”
Hailing from low-income families, the children who attend these schools in Dorchester pay no tuition, Natasha added. Before their trip, the Bornhorsts had volunteered at Epiphany and planned to do so at Bridge Boston, too.
Their community service efforts—and their biking experience—dates back. Last May, the Bornhorsts rode for charity alongside Math Teacher Mark Fidler, an experienced biker who has completed rides from Pacific to Atlantic and from Canada to Mexico.
“We did the 50-mile Brain Tumor Ride, which raised money for brain tumor research,” he said. “All together, we raised almost $6,000 for that charity.”
Mr. Fidler added that he had no doubts the Bornhorsts were up to the physical challenge of their most recent ride. Their father, who has previously completed the route, had planned for the 110-degree weather the family would combat on the ride. It was the mental exhaustion,
Mr. Fidler guessed, that would prove to be the group’s main opposition.
“Long days of riding can either be boring or fascinating, depending on your attitude,” he said. “There’s really no way to prepare for this except to take the trip.”
All three Bornhorst kids agreed, citing long, uneventful days as strains to their determination and focus.
“As we came close to the end of the trip, it was not tiring physically at all, but [it was still] mentally difficult,” Natasha said. “It was boring on the bikes, especially during our final hours of each day.”
She added, “We had to take it day by day—we couldn’t start thinking, ‘We have 38 more days left.’ We just had to get through the next challenge.”
Along with extreme heat, the young bikers faced flat tires, headwinds, and thunderstorms. At last, though, they agreed the experience was definitely rewarding.
“I would not do it again,” Chris said, “but in the end, we were glad we did it this time.”
Even one such long and strenuous trip can pay off, Mr. Fidler said.
“I find that biking is the best way to see almost any part of the country or world,” he said. “It takes you off the typical tourist routes so you get to know the true culture of an area, and it forces you to make connections [with] the people. Local people open up to cyclists in a way that does not happen as much with traditional tourists.”
Beyond that, such a ride is an excellent way to keep in shape.
“It’s great exercise,” he said. “On my long trips, once my body [has] adjusted to riding all day, every day, something clicks, and I feel as young and healthy as I did when I was a teenager.”
For the Bornhorst siblings, the ultimate payoff remains their success for a local cause.
“Biking for charity provided all that additional motivation,” Natasha said.
Photo courtesy of the Bornhorst family.