Three days into a cross-country bike ride with 10 teenagers, Brian Burnham wasnt 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 UNCs Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.
This is Burnhams 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 didnt 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. Were doing a little bit of a different route than last time, so well have similar stories because well be staying in similar towns, but well 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.
Its preparing yourself mentally, he said. No matter what, you have to give up every single morning and bike. You dont 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, were 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 were doing well. Its 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, theyre winging it.
Thats part of the experience of it, is not really knowing where youre going to go. And I really enjoy that, said Miles Rosen, a veteran of the troops 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 theyll 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 its flat.
By that time well all be in pretty good biking shape and well be a really close family, he said. I think thatll be the best part, because the first part youre trying to struggle, youre just trying to get through it; the last part youre just thinking about the end, so youre not really focusing on what youre doing. But in the middle, the beginning is past you and the end is before you, so youre completely focused in the now.
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