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Cross-country cyclists roll through Tallassee

By Leigh Anne Butler

When you ask most high school juniors and seniors what their ideal summer vacation consists of, most wouldn’t say it was biking over 3,000 miles across the United States.

“We are all a little crazy,” laughed Scott Batchelder, one of 12 teens (and two leaders) who are biking from Charleston, S.C. to Los Angeles, Calif.  The group, organized by Overland Summer Camps in Massachusetts, took one of five buffer (rest) days here in Tallassee.

“We are very thankful that Tallassee High School allowed us to use their gymnasium for our stay.  Tallassee has been awesome,” stated Chris Fogler, one of the group leaders.  The group arrived Tuesday evening and departed at first light Thursday morning.

The group consists of 12 teens from all over the country and two group leaders.  Although none of the bikers knew each other before their trek began, after only seven days of cycling they were “family.”

Their journey began as they dipped the front wheels of their bicycles in the Atlantic Ocean in Charleston.  During the first seven days they crossed two state lines, Georgia and Alabama.  After their rest day in Tallassee, they headed westward. 

After crossing the Mississippi River, Arkansas and the steep climbs of the Ozark Mountains are to follow.  The broad expanse of flatlands in the Plains states follows as they set their eyes on the hardest part of their journey, the Rocky Mountains. 

The Southwest and its beautiful deserts are next and they reach the Grand Canyon, where they will spend the night on the South Rim.  The final days of the trip will take the group through Arizona and California and the Mojave Desert. 

The last night of their journey will be spent high in the hills above Los Angeles before heading to the Santa Monica Pier.  At the conclusion of the trip, the teens will end their journey with their front tires in the Pacific Ocean.

Each of the cyclists carry their own equipment and belongings with them, as well as some shared group equipment.  The average added weight is around 40 pounds.  They start each day at sunrise and average around 85 miles per day, with rest days rotating every seventh day.  They have prearranged sleeping locations, mostly consisting of campsites, churches, and community centers. 

At the end of each day, they visit a grocery store to purchase food for their evening meal which they prepare, as well as food to make sandwiches for the next day for lunch. 

Chris Fogler of Orrington, Maine and Liz Mace of Springfield, Mo. are the group leaders.  They are both recent college graduates who have led similar trips in the past, including tours in New England the Pacific Coast and Paris.  Group leaders are recruited from colleges all over the country and have to go through many hours of evaluation before selected, and then must go through strenuous training before leading their group.

The duration of the journey is approximately six weeks. 

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