Former student rides a bike across America to raise funds for kindergarten to grade 12 physical education

Until the pandemic, Christine Wilhoyte had never cycled more than a few recreational kilometers at a time. Today, she has traveled over 2,600 miles in a 4,700-mile journey across the United States, conquering mountains and flying over valleys to raise money for physical education in rural and underfunded schools. .

“Everything I’ve done at Chico State has helped prepare me for this,” she said. “Mostly having to solve problems and interact with a lot of different people. It is really heartwarming to see my teachers commenting on my posts and saying that they are proud of me. I’m like ‘Go on, go up that hill for so and so.’ “

Graduating from her bachelor’s degree in exercise physiology in May 2021, Wilhoyte has been active her entire life, fell in love with football at the age of 6 and played competitively until an injury left her quitting. the field for two years in high school. She played club soccer for one season at Chico State and also discovered many other outdoor activities that brought her joy.

Then, during COVID-19, his roommates, Stacey Longtin-Horton (exercise physiology, ’20) and Mechanical Engineering Major Isaac Leker, who were bicycle mechanics, began luring him to rides at Upper Bidwell Park and around Chico as a way to be active when so much has been closed. She was addicted.

“You can go to so many places,” she said. “You can take a lot of things with you, food, drinks and frisbees. It’s just a fun way to be outside while doing tough things.

She began to reflect on a family she met in 2018 who had traveled the country on a three-seater bike and how fascinated she was with their trip, inspired to someday do something like this. As graduation drew near, what better time than now, she wondered.

The descents are by far one of his favorite parts of the hike, especially when it falls into a scenic valley.

Wilhoyte reached out to kinesiology teacher Steve Henderson, who gave him ideas and encouragement and put his teacher and physical education advocate Catrina Himberg in touch. With their help, Wilhoyte came up with the idea for a charity that she named Department48.

“Just like a spoke in a bicycle supports a bicycle on its long journey, quality physical education supports us and strengthens us in our bodies as we navigate our lives,” explains Wilhoyte. “Spoke48’s mission is to inspire and empower people through physical education to pursue the moments that make life worth fulfilling. “

She raised over $ 4,500 to reach her goal of $ 10,000. She plans to spend the funds on resources for students, such as equipment and workbooks; resources for teachers, such as continuing education and conferences; and in-person support, where she could lead workshops and help first-hand teachers.

Supporting K-12 physical education seems like the right thing to do, Wilhoyte said. In college, she worked as a physiotherapy aide to help various people regain their strength and physical capabilities after injury, illness and other issues, and she knew she had found her calling.

“A lot of it empowers people and their bodies, and that’s great. You give someone the tools to lead their happiest life, ”she said. “It will open doors in many ways. So why not start with the children?

While so much in public education is underfunded, joining physical education was a way to support social justice in a meaningful way to her.

She used the knowledge gained during her undergraduate studies to develop her own strength and conditioning plan, and began training until she injured her back. She eventually made it through 64 miles a few weeks before her launch date, then took time off to treat a sore knee.

Cycling from Astoria, Oregon, she made her way to the longest distances with 20 and 40 mile days. Exhausted, she slept nearly 10 hours a night before hitting the road again the next morning. She gradually learned to eat better, feasting on nuts, dried fruit, trail mix, oatmeal, beans and rice, and her new favorite, macaroni with spam.

At the start of her trip, she held a weigh-in to raise bonus funds, challenging fans on Facebook to guess how much her bike weighed. He recently tipped the scales at 92 pounds, not counting the water! Compared to other riders she’s met with just around 30 pounds, she admits it’s a heavy burden to climb hills, but well worth it for a bit of luxury and comfort, including a zero degree sleeping bag and his trusty guitar.

It follows a route created by the Adventure Cycling Association, which plots the entire route, with tips on elevation, terrain notes, driving conditions, weather and where to camp. After camping through Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, she is now in Colorado and will continue through Kansas, Missouri, Illinois and Michigan, stopping along the way to see national parks and d ‘other places of interest.

“I really like the idea of ​​it going through a lot of rural areas,” she said. “There’s a whole part of the country that you don’t see growing up in Northern California. A big city here has 5,000 or 10,000 people. This prospect is something I really wanted.

Christine Wilhoyt poses with her bicycle next to a sign marking the Continental Divide.
One of the many joys of traveling across the country by bicycle is seeing so many iconic destinations firsthand, Wilhoyte said.

With several weeks left, Wilhoyte is focusing on his trip, not the destination. Granted, she doesn’t know where the road leads once she reaches her final stop, which may be in New York or Virginia, but she wants a fulfilling career related to exercise physiology.

“Somehow I want to empower others to maintain their potential,” she said.

She is grateful every day for having the privilege of following this dream, even the most difficult. Some days when she travels over 70 miles, climbs over 4,000 feet, or spends hours withstanding harsh headwinds or 90 degree temperatures, she remembers how lucky she is.

“To have the autonomy to be here and to be autonomous on a bicycle, to ride in nature, to see these beautiful things, to travel the country, it’s incredible,” she said. “And it’s very humbling to climb a mountain and know no matter what, nature will always be stronger than me.”

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