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Two teaching, learning on cross-country bike trip

Experiencing nature and the open road have created a way for twoUniversity of California graduate students to learn and teachacross the United States.

The students, Britta Bierwagen and Chris Pyke, have beentraveling the country via a two-seater bicycle since earlySeptember, visiting elementary schools, high schools andcolleges.

“We’re visiting schools that are involved in an internationalenvironmental program called GLOBE,” said Pyke, while passingthrough Brookhaven Wednesday.

The biology students did not make a stop at a school in thearea, just a quick stop for a snack. They were headed to theMississippi School for the Deaf in Jackson where they were to givea presentation about environmental issues, such as protectingendangered animals.

As biology majors, Bierwagen and Pyke enjoy the opportunity theyhave been given to share with students at 28 schools — from secondgrade to college — how vital biologists are in protecting theenvironment.

“It’s been a lot of fun for us,” said Bierwagen about theirtrip, which was sponsored by several companies in California.

Each day the two travel around 80 miles with Pyke at the helm,and Bierwagen on the back performing several tasks.

“I do the traffic, the public relations, like waving at people,and the navigating,” she said, adding that she also serves as aprotection agent when unwanted animals, such as dogs, want to joinin on the trip.

One thing she has not had to deal with much is rude drivers. Thebicycling duo has found most drivers to be considerate, providingplenty of room along the roadways.

After a day of pedaling and fighting off animals, a campsite ischosen, or if they’re lucky, a teacher opens a home to thebicycling biologists, which they really appreciate.

The best part about the trip for Bierwagen and Pyke has been theopportunity to meet so many kind people.

“It started as a bike trip, and it has ended up as a peopletrip,” said Pyke. “The hospitality has been amazing.”

Some people have stood in their yards and waved at the couple,while others have pulled vehicles alongside and talked with them.Pyke and Bierwagen have made countless new friends, and the trip isonly half finished.

“I think our Christmas card list has doubled,” said Bierwagen,mentioning how they still have at least another month of travelingbefore they are finished.

More information about the trip can be found atwww.spinningsolutions.org