by Kathryn Rice
Ben and Kate Seipel are undertaking a 3,400 mile bicycle trip across the U.S. as part of Ben’s transition from military to civilian life.
The couple is also seeking donations for two charitable organizations, Service to School and Team RWB, which help veterans in their transition to civilian life.
Links for the donations and information on the cross country trip are available on the Seipels’ blog: wheelsup.bike.
Ben credited his decision to go to Harvard Business School in 2014 after completing his military service, to the strong network of people who supported him. However, most veterans don’t have this support, which is why he picked Service To School as a charity of choice. This organization is dedicated to helping veterans reach their full academic potential by gaining admission into top-tier universities and leveraging GI Bill education benefits.
Donations to this organization will help it to purchase an IT system, establish a marketing program and reach out to more prospective students and universities.
After Ben’s deployments, he found bicycling to be therapeutic and a way to reintroduce himself to the country and Kate. They picked Team RWB as their second charity for donations. Its mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity.
Kate explained that it’s growing by three chapters and 3,500 members per month.
Ben is a 2001 Maryville High School graduate and 2005 West Point graduate. He spent nine years in the Army as an aviation officer. Kate is from Plymouth, IN. She attended Rutgers University, where she and Ben met at a West Point-Rutgers football game in 2002.
The couple was married on the farm near Maryville in 2009. Kate started law school at University of Iowa, Iowa City, but completed it at Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. She has been working with a law firm in Boston, MA, for a year.
Ben graduated from Harvard two days before starting the cross country trip. A couple of weeks before his graduation he was hired by Google to work in sales development helping account executives who are selling Google ads to customers.
The couple decided now was the time to undertake the journey. They started in Seattle, WA, on May 30 for two reasons. One was the prevailing winds would be at their backs. This was somewhat of a fallacy because the Seipels were plagued by strong head and cross winds through South Dakota and Nebraska.
The second reason was Kate’s employer agreed to give her the time off if the journey ended in Boston.
“This has been an amazing opportunity to get back in touch,” said Kate about the route. It has allowed the Seipels to connect with family, friends and places that have meaning for the couple and as individuals.
“This is a message of thanks for the people in this community supporting me as I went off to school and the Army,” said Ben. “We’re connecting the places we’re from.”
Staying off of major roads, Ben and Kate have averaged 75 miles per day, with the longest day being 115 miles and the shortest 25 miles.
The couple has gotten into better physical condition as they’ve progressed. The second morning, Ben could not move, which made him wonder if they would be able to complete the trip. By the time the couple arrived at his parents’ farm north of Maryville on June 22, they explained that what hurts changes from day to day. They rely on each other to keep going.
Doing the trip for a cause has added extra motivation. The first pledge was from Ben’s little sister, Becca. They have raised a little over $2,000, and have hopes to raise $10,000 for the charities.
They reached the halfway point of 1,700 miles in West Point, NE. The first 100 degree day was in Montana. The couple packed the bare essentials and tools to allow them to get to a bike shop in case of a breakdown. They have no chase car.
The Seipels reached West Point, NY, on July 10. After Ben completes his orientation with Google, the couple is proceeding approximately 225 miles to Boston which they will reach between July 14 and 16.
Ben began biking when stationed at his first post. It was a way to cover a lot of ground and see the world.
Kate had ridden a mountain bike while at college. Ben gifted Kate her first road bike upon her graduation with the hopes of having a riding partner.
Before Ben’s first deployment, the couple pedaled the Great Allegheny Passage and the C&O Canal Tow Path along the historic Potomac. That trip cemented the love of bicycling for the Seipels and they have been doing bike vacations since.