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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


Graduate student trains for cross-country bike ride

Anthony Santigate

Three thousand, nine hundred and seventy-four miles, 11 states, four time zones and a whole lot of peanut butter. That is what graduate student Jay Epelman, 23, has in front of him this summer.

As a member of the 2012 Southern U.S. Route team for Bike and Build, an organization that raises funds for affordable housing projects by biking across the country, Jay and 24 others will bike from Jacksonville, Fla. to Monterey, Calif. Through the official website,, anyone can follow his bicycle trip, learn about other upcoming trips and donate to the cause.

But Jay’s biggest fear is not whether he’ll be able to complete a cross-country trip, but how he’ll be able to force himself to eat one of his least favorite foods, peanut butter, almost every day for nutrition.

The biking group will stop in cities including Mobile, Ala.; New Orleans and Baton Rouge, La.; Dallas, Texas; Las Vegas, Nev.; and Santa Fe, N.M. before arriving in California.

Epelman decided to take on this adventure because of a friend’s suggestion more than a year ago. Jesse Oney, a SBU graduate now residing in California, heard of the idea and thought it would be something that Jay would really be interested in.

She realized the difficulty that comes with Bike and Build but, “If anyone could do it, he could,” she said. Jay is in the final year of his Master’s program and Oney thought some change would be a good thing.

“He’s worked extremely hard in the past six years, and I think that he needs some adventure,” she said.

After the suggestion, Jay did some research and found a route that was perfect for him. The southern U.S. route is during the summer, and it piqued his interest due to its stops. Mainly, the week in New Orleans jumped out at him as a great destination to bike to and, more importantly, to support after their struggles with hurricanes in the past years.

But still, Jay was not sure if he was really the person who would do this kind of event. Ultimately, the decision came down to him asking himself a simple question.

“Why not?”

He had always wanted to travel cross-country, and the fact that he would be supporting a cause just added to it.

So Jay applied, was accepted and has been a part of Bike and Build ever since. The organization asks their cyclists to raise money leading up to the trip. This money goes not only toward the foundation, but also toward Jay and all the other riders having the best equipment.

Over their eight seasons, Bike and Build has contributed more than $3 million  to housing groups to fund different types of projects to combat the affordable housing crisis. Along with raising awareness about homes, the organization supports various  projects throughout the nation, such as Beaches Habitat for Humanity, which they will contribute to in Atlantic Beach, Fla. this summer.

But the organization provides benefits beyond just the groups they donate to. As Jay explained, the experience that the bikers share over the summer cannot be overlooked.

“I’ve heard stories of groups that spend an entire summer together,” Jay said. “But when it gets to the last week, they want to spend two more days together.”

According to his sister, sophomore Renat Epelman, this decision comes as no surprise as Jay has done things like this before. For one, he loves to travel; biking has always been an activity of his. But also, her brother has been involved with various community services over the years, including Alternative Spring Break Outreach and SBU’s Sunrise Fund, which raises awareness about childhood cancer.

“This project is a really great opportunity for him,” his sister said.

Leading up to the summer, Jay still has a lot to do to make this opportunity into a lifelong memory.

Training will consume a significant amount of his life for the next two months. He will work on cardio and his stamina, while still trying to eat peanut butter. For extra training, he will bike from Stony Brook to his home on the west side of Manhattan.

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