Taking the hard way across the country (off-road by bike) to raise money

By Globe Staff   JANUARY 24, 2017

If you were going to bicycle from the West Coast to Boston, you’d pick the flattest, smoothest, shortest route possible, right?

Wrong. At least not if you’re Cris Rothfuss.

 She’s executive director of Harvard University’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science, and she’s organizing an unusually grueling charity fund-raiser.

Called the REAL Ride, it’s a 5,000-mile off-road cycling event — the course will mostly be dirt roads, trails, country lanes, forest tracks, and wooded paths — that will begin this summer in Seattle and end in Boston three months later.

Proceeds will benefit the Boston Day and Evening Academy, a Roxbury high school for young adults who drop out of the traditional system.

“Many people ride across the country on pavement, but we’re going to do it in an alternative way that will challenge ourselves like these students are challenged,” said Rothfuss. “These kids are off-track in the sense that they’ve wandered from a traditional educational path, but they’re making their way to a diploma, and their route is rigorous.”

The riding team will be small (probably only five members), in part because taking three months off work isn’t an option for most people. But some “guest riders” may join for shorter stretches.

 So far, in addition to Rothfuss, the core riders are:

Erin Abrahams, a veterinarian at MSPCA-Angell Animal Medical Center; Dan St. Croix, an Urban Outfitters visual display artist; Perri Mertens, an OYO Sports digital marketing manager; and Jay Vasconcellos, owner of Solstice Skateboarding in New Bedford.

The team currently has six corporate sponsors: the law firm Seyfarth Shaw, bike builder Seven Cycles, employment website Monster.com, roadside assistance company Better World Club, data analytics firm Location, Inc., and placement agency New England Legal Search.

The ride will begin Aug. 1, with stops along the way in Denver, Cincinnati, and Philadelphia.

SACHA PFEIFFER – Boston Globe Staff
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