Leg Work: 3,400-Mile Bicycle Trip Raises Funds for Foundation
How do you plan to spend your summer break?
College students across the Sandhills are answering that question in a variety of ways, but none is likely more unusual than the planned 3,400-mile bicycle ride being taken by Stephen Prince and Wyatt Akin.
Prince, a junior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has been planning the trip since March, in honor of his brother, Andrew Prince.
"He was my best friend and my hero," he says.
"He passed away June 22, 2006, at the age of 23, having been born with a genetic disorder called neurofibromatosis, or NF for short. I wanted to do something in his honor that would raise awareness about the disease and help the Children's Tumor Foundation raise money for research to fund treatments and hopefully someday find a cure for NF."
NF causes tumors to grow along various types of nerves on or in the body, and can affect the development of
non-nervous tissues, such as bones and skin.
show that NF occurs in one out of every 3,000 births, and about 100,000 Americans have the disorder.
Prince moved here with his family when he was in middle school, while Wyatt Akin, who attends Sandhills Community College, grew up in Moore County.
The two were classmates at Pinecrest High School.
The Moore County pair will take off from the northeastern tip of Maine Wednesday, June 10, and ride their bikes from Lubec, Maine,diagonally across the United States to Imperial Beach, Calif., a distance of 3,466 miles.
They figure that the journey will take a little less than two months.
Riding at least 70 miles a day, the two are going to allow themselves one day a week of "down-time."
Taking the Back Roads
Staying off Interstate highways and using lesser-traveled roads, Prince and Akin will be traveling primarily through small towns or secondary cities. No matter the size of the town or city, they will publicize their arrival in advance by use of the Internet, by word of mouth, and hopefully local radio or TV stations will take note.
In each location they will unveil a banner calling attention to the purpose of the trip. Wearing brightly colored T-shirts emblazoned with the NF logo, they will be hard to miss as they cycle through the population centers along the route.
The Children's Tumor Foundation (CTF) has put them in touch with families across the country that have been affected by NF through the 16,000-member CTF newsletter.
"We will meet with as many families and individuals as possible," Prince says.
For the first two weeks of the trip, the pair will be joined by fellow Pinecrest classmate, Brandon Tew. However Tew, who is driving them to their starting point in Maine, will follow them leisurely by car, taking a photographic record of their trip and carrying their gear, before heading back to North Carolina.
Prince has been busy rounding up more drivers who will follow them for short or long distances as they travel across the rest of the country.
As difficult a task as that may seem, Prince turned to the wonders of modern computer technology, and accessed Facebook, putting out the word for drivers.
"In the first few days of exposure, I reached more than 3,000 people, and already have gotten several volunteers," he says.
Planning on camping out most nights, Prince is also contacting churches and synagogues along the route, and has used the Web site at couchsurfing.com for places to stay.
(For those who aren't familiar with the Web site, Couch Surfing is a volunteer-based worldwide network connecting travelers with members of local communities who offer free accommodations.)
Prince and Akin have both traveled throughout the United States and have been back and forth across the country -- but never on a bike. They aren't novices when it comes to bike riding for medium to long distances, although they have never done any trips that required overnight stays.
They have ridden up the coast of North Carolina and have taken all-day jaunts of 60 miles or more.
"During the last month we have been getting in shape, taking multiple-mile trial runs," says Prince.
Both Akin and Prince ride Trek 1000 road bikes that have an aluminum frame and carry a good performance rating. They have had their bikes for several years, so they are fully familiar with their operation. Even so, their on-the-road tool kit contains a universal Allen wrench, extra tubes and chains and other equipment for on-site repairs. They both have had their share of falls and scrapes over the years. Consequently they also carry an all-purpose first aid kit with lots of Band-Aids.
The most worrisome thing that concerns the two of them are the drivers of cars.
"Particularly those who want to pass us on a hill," Prince says. "We have seen several accidents involving drivers who become terribly impatient in those situations."
Both of the young men's families are very supportive of the trip, and are among the more than 60 contributors who have already donated sums ranging from $25 to $3,300 to speed the young men on their way.
Contributions can be mailed to The Children's Tumor Foundation, 95 Pine Street, 16th Floor, New York, N.Y. 10005, and should be designated "nfbikenation #4670."
For more information, visit Prince's Web site at by clicking here, where you can also see a map of the 3,400-mile bike journey.
Contact Pinehurst freelance write Mary Elle Hunter at email@example.com.
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