The Great 48:

Maddi Anderson Managing Editor

Traveling to all 48 continental states is a goal that many have for their entire lifetime. Five SDSU students will be doing this in a matter of six months. On May 13, these five men will begin their journey to not only bike through each of the 48 states, but raise money to build a secondary education facility for an orphanage in Honduras. 

Mike Amen, Chris Gould, Brett Citrowske, Ben Ruggeberg and Shaheed Shihan started making plans to take a trip over winter break. After further discussion, it was clear that each was passionate about supporting an educational cause, and helping to provide educational opportunity to those without, said senior mathematics major and team member Mike Amen. 

“We feel like we have been really blessed to have gotten an education … and it really has to do with the privilege that we were born into … we realized that these people were not given the same privilege as us,” Amen said. 

Through a connection with the City of Refuge in Comayagua, Honduras, the five SDSU students and Delta Chi brothers decided their ultimate goal was to fund the costs necessary to build a secondary education facility for the orphanage. “We were really excited to be able to jump on board and provide more opportunities for it [City of Refuge] to grow and flourish,” Amen said. 

After two of the teammates took a spring break trip to visit the orphanage and the bilingual elementary school in Honduras, the details of the trip began to be worked out. 

 When calculating a route, the group took into consideration not only their goal of touching each of the 48 states, but hitting the major national landmarks each person wanted to see. 

“We want to make sure we enjoy the ride and not just go through 48 states, but enjoy the process,” said mathematics major Shaheed Shihan. 

Monday through Saturday the team will bike 60 miles, totaling to over 10,000 miles by the end of the trip. Sunday will be spent resting and planning logistical details, contacting communities they will visit the following week and organizing places to either camp or stay, Amen said. 

The group will take one single bicycle and two tandem bicycles that will pull trailers with their equipment. The team will rotate around the bicycles, rotating their seats and making the proper adjustments on each bike. 

“You have to be in harmony with the person you are riding with, you have to be able to communicate with them. All the little things make a lot of difference,” Shihan said.

Other challenges that the team will face are weather, the physical toll, and breaking the societal norms each is used to. The team will have to adjust to life without the things that they take for granted, such as a warm bed, regularly timed meals, and other psychological obstacles, Shihan said. 

“I think the thing that some people don’t realize is how difficult … 60 miles a day times 6 days a week is going to be and on top of that trying to raise funds. It’s good that we have a team that is very positive,” Amen said. 

Throughout their trip, the Great 48 team will make stops in communities to raise donations and awareness for their cause. Prior to arriving in communities, Shihan hopes to contact local radio stations and newspapers to share their story. They will also update their website with their progress, through a blog, video, and a live map to follow their journey. The team also plans to feature the stories of the people they meet and stay with. 

The Great 48 team held various fundraisers in preparation for the costs of their trip. 

“Everything that we raise before May 13th is funding our equipment and our gear, and once we take off every penny that is donated is going straight to the school,” Shihan said. 

The team is contacting bigger companies looking for sponsors. Saturday, May 3 the team will host the Fifth Street Festival, which will include a 10 mile bike ride, live music, and food. The SDSU Meat Department and Georges Pizza each made contributions to the event. Wooden Legs Brewery created a special beer for the event, named the Great 48 Ale, Amen said. 

On the morning of May 13, the team will have a kick-off event that will raise the first funds fully donated to the cause, and send them off on their journey. The team’s main goal, other than raising funds for the orphanage, is to inspire other SDSU students to take action, Amen said.

“Maybe after this project, and all of the hype that I, Too, Am SDState is getting, people will realize that SDSU isn’t just San Diego State,” Amen said, “Right now what we really need … is just sharing our story.”

After returning from their trip in the fall, in December all five of the Great 48 team members will visit the City of Refuge in Honduras. The team hopes to attract the interest of other SDSU students, and welcomes anyone interested in joining them on the trip and volunteering at the school, Amen said. 

“One person said, so you are basically going to go out of life for 6 months but I told her that I think really we are getting into it…” Shihan said. “We are really motivated to work on it.”