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Within Reach – the journey to find and learn from sustainable communities

Feb 9th, 2009 by marcus.

What sustainable communities are forming or established in the US? What ideas can they share with each other? How do we “spread the seed” of sustainable living?

Mandy Creighton & Ryan Mlynarczyk pondered these questions and decided to take a round-trip across the United States, twelve thousand miles in one year to find answers and, in fact, be part of the answer to some of these questions. Their project is called Within Reach, and it’s not just any trip – this one will be completed solely by bicycle. And what better way to spread the knowledge gained than by filming the trip and producing a documentary after they returned home?

Bicycles, Bicycles, Bicycles

The attached sociable-style recumbents form quite a heavy-duty travel setup.

They began the journey using two separate bicycles, one with a very large trailer, then switched to a tandem, and after that two recumbents. They currently use their two recumbents connected as one bicycle with crossbars, which has let them eliminate the trailer and carry their belongings on a storage platform behind their seats. One of the advantages, they pointed out, is that they can actually talk to each other, which wasn’t possible with any of the other solutions. Another benefit is that while both of them pedal at the same time, only one of them has to steer and so the other can be phoning, using the Internet on their iphones, or just taking a short break.

Both of the joined recumbents have front motorcycle-style windshields to protect from wind, bugs, rain and the like. To charge their electronic devices, they have two portable solar panel systems provided by their sponsors. Right now, they have no way of charging their laptop PC on the road, but that will soon change with the addition of a third, larger solar panel contained in a backpack.

A bit more than a year

Most of their cycling days are eight hours long, and while they won’t now reach their goal of cycling across the US in under a year, they aren’t worried – why be in a hurry? With the recumbent system, Mandy said, their longer travel days cover around thirty miles.

Right now, they estimate it will take them up to a year and four months to complete the journey.

Mandy and Ryan have been to around forty sustainable communities so far, and they hope to visit many more. They have a blog, a profile of the project, and a lot more information at their website,

Volunteers needed

Since they are spending much of their time traveling, Mandy and Ryan need volunteers to help them with many of the tasks for the project. Some of the items listed on their site that they need assistance with include fundraising, film editing for podcasts, and social networking