Three best friends with a common passion for fighting sex slavery and two wheels rolling underneath each of them is where the story of Pedal the Pacific starts.
Savannah Lovelace, Grace Pfeffer and Sarah Belmer graduated from college in May of this year and with their post grad summer shaping up to be an open road of possibility the three decided they would embark on a mission to bike the Pacific Coast Trail from Seattle to San Diego. Although this endeavor may seem arbitrary, the common bond that unites these three girls and their trip is their commitment to raise awareness and fight modern day sex trafficking.
When the idea for Pedal the Pacific was first thrown out the girls realized that none of them had ever biked more than five miles at a time. They didn’t have the experience, gear, or knowledge required for the journey they were getting themselves into, but they got into it anyway. With help from technology and the people of the biking community, the trio went from beginner bikers to seasoned cyclists in just three months.
They all arrived in Seattle, the starting point, on June 15 with a few days to prepare and explore before the June 20 sendoff date. As I spoke to the girls about the role technology played in the formation and execution of Pedal the Pacific Grace said,
“Technology has really allowed us to visualize what to expect each day. We can see the elevation grade map and if we didn’t have that we would be going to each day so much more blindly.”
The most daunting part of the trip besides the physical preparation was planning their route. The girls used a mobile app called Strava which allowed them to input their starting and ending points and then filter the route based on certain criteria like campsites or grocery stores.
They also use a weather app called Dark Sky that gives hyperlocal forecast information so they know when what to expect each day as they bike through changing climates. The only possessions they will have for the duration of the trip is what they can fit on their bikes. Each girl has her iPhone, an external charger and, between the three of them, they have two iPads.
The Adventure Cycling Association puts together maps by cyclists for cyclists and these physical maps have also been a part of the planning process for times when cell service is out of reach or plans have to be adjusted.
Technology also plays a role in how the girls get each meal. Campsite cooking has come a long way from rubbing sticks together and searching for kindling. With a camping stove that takes any kind of fuel and each having their own person Jetboil flash cooking system the girls can incorporate a variety of foods into their diet.
The fundraising aspect of this mission was a huge motivating factor and united effort Pedal the Pacific put at the forefront of its purpose. The girls decided to partner with The Refuge, that specializes in long-term, holistic care for girls 11-17 who have been rescued out of sex trafficking using equine therapy. The donation from Pedal the Pacific will go towards building new stables for The Refuge, increasing their ability to serve young women.
During their fundraising efforts, a professional videographer donated his time, equipment and expertise to craft a minute long promo video highlighting the needs of the Refuge and the partnership with Pedal the Pacific.
“I think [the video] helped a ton. It established credibility for people that were investing in our vision,” said Savannah.
An anonymous donor agreed to match the girls fundraising up to $20,000 until the day they left on their trip. Through a push on social media and the power of community, Pedal the Pacific has raised $43,000 without even starting their 1700 mile trek.
The girls also used Instagram and Facebook to promote their cause on their personal accounts as well as official Pedal the Pacific accounts. Finally, they created a website for the cause using Squarespace to serve as a landing page, donation page, and a blog.
Although biking is an all consuming part of their life today, there are other forms of technology the girls consider to be an influential part of their lives. Savannah loves film photography saying,
“I wouldn’t say it’s anything more than recreational photography with friends. We try to discover new perspectives in a world and a time where so many pictures are taken every day.”
Grace says she uses technology to stay connected to family, friends, and community. Ironically she also complains that technology also makes her feel disconnected from the present moment and that she often has to fight to commit things to memory and not rely on the fact that she can always look it up or refer to the moment later using technology and social media.
Here are three young, passionate women who are using their bodies, minds, and technology to work towards a common goal and an epic adventure while they’re at it. As they pedal further down the Pacific they tell me they look forward to meeting new people and embracing the kindness of strangers who will become friends. They also plan to make stops at the offices of organizations who are working towards ending modern-day sex trafficking and presenting Pedal the Pacific.
“Meeting people that have chosen to commit their lives to improve the lives of others is inspiring and being able to share their stories for everyone to see and be a part of is something we are really looking forward to.”
You can follow the inspiring journey of Pedal the Pacific on Facebook, Instagram, the official website or the personal accounts of the peddlers themselves: Sarah, Savannah and Grace. You can also check out The Refuge for more information on the restorative work Pedal the Pacific is supporting.
Human Factor is a series focused on highlighting how individuals use technology in their everyday life. Sometimes unique, sometimes revolutionary, sometimes ordinary. Always human. Read more of the series, here.