Coast to coast for a good cause

schandler@newsobserver.comJune 23, 2013 

The Lucky 13 cyclists are, from left, Holden Selkirk, Hugh Kelley, Miles Rosen, guide Aidan Kelley, Kyle Ferriter, Paris Buedel, D.J. Recny, Arthur Mouw, guide Brian Burnham, Wes Malinchock, Caleb Roenigk and Jack Jansen.

COURTESY OF JANET WALTERS

  • How to donate

    The boys of Lucky 13 are taking donations as they ride for UNC’s Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. You can donate at the group’s website, lucky13biketrip.com. While you’re there, learn more about the teens on the trip and track their progress from Maryland to Oregon.

Three days into a cross-country bike ride with 10 teenagers, Brian Burnham wasn’t entirely sure where he was.

“We are in Williams— … Williamston? Hey, are we in Williamston?” he said over the phone, shouting to a fellow cyclist for help. “Williamsport! Williamsport, Maryland, right now.”

It was at the end of a long day of cycling up steep hills in the Appalachians, just the beginning of a 10-week trip that will take the group from Maryland to Oregon in an adventure aimed at raising $30,000 for UNC’s Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.

This is Burnham’s fourth time leading teens from Boy Scout Troop 845, based in Carrboro, on a cross-country bike trip. He knew what the group was in for, but most of the boys did not. They just knew they didn’t want to be bored this summer, and they figured they might as well raise money for a good cause while they were at it.

Hugh Kelley, a rising senior at Chapel Hill High School, signed up because his older brother had done a similar ride in 2010.

“He just came back with loads of loads of awesome stories, and I just wanted to partake in similar things that he did,” Hugh said. “We’re doing a little bit of a different route than last time, so we’ll have similar stories because we’ll be staying in similar towns, but we’ll also make new stories and have new fun times.”

Before starting their trip in mid-June, the boys kept busy packing their gear and making sure their bikes were in top shape. Physical training, Hugh said, was far less of a concern than wrapping their minds around the journey they were going to undertake.

“It’s preparing yourself mentally,” he said. “No matter what, you have to give up every single morning and bike. You don’t have the option just to stop.”

One major motivating factor is being part of a tight-knit group, he said, “pretty much like a family” that provided encouragement before the trip and will help nudge each cyclist along during the journey. Another push forward, he said, is the knowledge that the ride is raising money for Lineberger, with some of the money earmarked to send pediatric cancer patients to Victory Junction, a camp for children with serious illnesses.

“Not only are we biking and having a ton of fun, we’re doing it for an amazing cause,” Hugh said. “Every moment of the trip, someone is thinking about it and thinking about us and making sure we’re doing well. It’s just a really special and rewarding aspect of the trip.”

The group – which named itself “Lucky 13” to mark the year 2013 – has a general idea of a timetable and route, but for most details, including where to eat and sleep each day, they’re winging it.

“That’s part of the experience of it, is not really knowing where you’re going to go. And I really enjoy that,” said Miles Rosen, a veteran of the troop’s 2010 trip and a rising sophomore at UNC-Chapel Hill. “I get to end up in a new part of America every night, and I like that.”

The Lucky 13 – which includes Paris Buedel, Kyle Ferriter, Jack Jansen, Wes Malinchock, Arthur Mouw, D.J. Recny, Caleb Roenigk and Holden Selkirk as well as Hugh, Miles, Burnham and fellow guide Aidan Kelley – will earn their Boy Scout cycling merit badges for the trip as well as bragging rights and a trove of stories to tell their friends back home. But they’ll also spend the summer doing a lot of thinking and growing and just being. (OK, and pedaling.)

Hugh said he was most looking forward to the middle of the trip, just past Cleveland and into the Midwest, and not just because it’s flat.

“By that time we’ll all be in pretty good biking shape and we’ll be a really close family,” he said. “I think that’ll be the best part, because the first part you’re trying to struggle, you’re just trying to get through it; the last part you’re just thinking about the end, so you’re not really focusing on what you’re doing. But in the middle, the beginning is past you and the end is before you, so you’re completely focused in the now.”

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