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Mike Gutierrez ’17CPS: Biking Cross-Country to Serve Those in Need

As he begins his final spring semester at St. John’s, Mike Gutierrez ’17CPS still looks with wonder at the cross-country summer adventure that took him through 13 states in 62 days—3,700 miles, entirely by bicycle.

“It was one of the best experiences of my life,” said Mike, a sport management major at St. John’s University. “Sometimes, it was one of the toughest.”

For two months this past summer, Mike rode from the West to East Coast with 31 other members of Pi Kappa Phi, a national fraternity. The annual bicycle tour, dubbed the Journey of Hope, raises awareness of and funds for people with disabilities. The effort is part of The Ability Experience, one of the society’s philanthropic initiatives.

The endeavor, Mike observed, reflects the goals of his fraternity—and the mission of St. John’s. “The thing about this University,” he said, “is that service is a way of life. It’s everywhere. This was one way to go about it.”  

Traveling in groups of four, his team covered the tour’s southern route, one of three including the north and Trans-America (middle) tracks. They began in Long Beach, CA, on June 15, and finished in Washington, D.C., on August 15. Logging 65 to 70 miles a day—sometimes up to 115—they biked through deserts and canyons, forests and farmland. Sometimes, road conditions changed dramatically in just a couple of hours.

“When that happens,” said Mike, “it can be hard to get into a rhythm, and our legs might actually ache.” When the ride seemed most challenging, they remembered their cause. “We were riding,” said Mike, “for the 54 million Americans who have to live with disabilities every day.” Ultimately, the three routes raised more than $600,000 for those in need.

The camaraderie was equally uplifting.  Every morning, Mike said, he and his companions looked forward to biking together, talking over the wind, and seeing historic sites. They also appreciated the local organizations sponsoring them along the way. Even tiny towns like Mule Shoe, Texas, made them feel welcome. The Jennie Slippers, a civic group there, offered meals and a place to sleep.

Joining the Journey of Hope was a natural result of other Pi Kappa Phi service activities, said Mike, who is now President of the St. John’s chapter. For example, they vigorously support “The League of Yes,” a nonprofit organization on Long Island that builds the confidence of special needs children through baseball. Mike also serves as Executive Vice President of the University’s Interfraternal Council.

Mike’s interest in cycling precedes his engagement with Pi Kappa Phi. A native of Orange, CA, he began bicycling throughout Queens to become more familiar with the borough—and the city. He plans to remain in New York after graduation to pursue a career in sports entertainment or communications. “I like it here,” he said.  “Every time I get out of the subway, I’m still amazed by it.”