(This article was published Tuesday, May 8, 2007, in the Macon Telegraph.)
By Jennifer Burk
Until three months ago, Mercer University junior Clint Green wasn't into cycling. He didn't even own a bike.
But this summer, he and three other Mercer students will cycle from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., covering 4,000 miles during 64 days. Two other students will serve as their crew members and travel with them in vans.
"I'm only going to get one chance in my life to cycle across America," Green said. "I think if I can make it through the first week, I'll be good."
Green was the last of the Mercer students to sign up for the road trip, an annual event for Push America, an organization established by the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity that supports people with disabilities.
The Mercer students, all members of Pi Kappa Phi, will depart San Francisco on June 10. On average, they'll ride 75 miles a day, with the furthest being 130 miles a day and the shortest just 30 miles, said Bradley Bodiford, a senior crew member who first cycled with Push America in summer 2005.
Once the men reach their destination, they'll host community events and visit with disabled people in the area. Some events include wheelchair basketball games, puppet shows and dances, said Chris Kiker, a sophomore who's cycling with the team.
"It's kind of giving people an opportunity you take for granted every day," he said.
At some locations, the men present communities with Push America grants, funded with money they raised, said Ben Nelson, a Mercer junior who is cycling. So far, the Mercer men have raised $27,000, Bodiford said.
During their time on the road, the Mercer students will stay the night in high school and church gymnasiums, Bodiford said.
"We sort of have a slogan: You can sleep when you're dead," he said.
The men will join fraternity brothers from across the nation on the trek, which has three different routes: north, south and trans-America. All the Mercer men will be on the southern route, except sophomore Stephen Hammond, who will be trading in scorching heat for mountains on the northern route.
Now that final exams have ended, the four cyclists will head to their respective hometowns to train until they head west. The two crew members, Bodiford and sophomore Leighton Elliott, will train in Charlotte, N.C.
"We really started cycling because of this," Hammond said.
During school it's been tough to train, but the men cycle around Middle Georgia about three times a week, he said. They usually ride 50 to 60 miles during practice, Bodiford said.
Although some of the men said they worry about being able to pull through, Bodiford, the team's veteran rider, said camaraderie will help get them through it.
"It was certainly - as cliche as it sounds - the most life-changing experience I've ever had," he said.
To contact writer Jennifer Burk, call 744-4345.