Denton to Fayetteville - 98 miles
By Karl Murphy
Murph is BACK!
Apparently “No" really doesn’t mean no to Ed Billings.
So scheduling two-deep adult leaders has been a challenge for this trip from the beginning. Ed approached me several times, lastly in Wyoming about another two week stint...I told Ed I just had too many family and work commitments to take another section with Bikeloud. So Eddy goes off and gets Steve and Dave to pick up 13 of the 15 days he is short and calls me…”Murph, I just need you Monday and Tuesday, can you make that happen. Please….as a favor to me.”
Fast forward two weeks later…here I am, Denton North Carolina unloading Steve Rothwell’s panniers and jamming a much leaner personal set of gear into them. Steve was kind enough to set up the shared leader tent so all that was left was a trip to the convenience store to satisfy Ed’s never ending desire for ice cream and to discuss the latest “new goal” from the boys - breaking the longest day record with a 150 mile pedal on Monday. Ed was kind enough to give me a heads up on the 150 chatter prior to me clipping in Sunday night.
The boys are spectacular. Each day tabulating the miles, elevation gained, etc. To the best of my knowledge they have broken almost all Troop 845 past bike trip records - longest trip, most elevation in a day, most miles travelled etc…There are rumors circulating about.. that they have completed the "Longest Boy Scout Trip Ever.” As a sales guy, I am quick to adopt the message that sells. The lawyers and scientists in the group can figure out the veracity of that claim.
In the “spirit of the bike trip” - which I have has some conflict with over the weeks - the boys make almost all the decisions. They really only get overridden when it becomes a safety issue. Our fearless leader Ed, laid out a very clear and logical thought process on why pushing for 150 on this Monday was a bad idea today… “Our mission was 7 scouts/3900 miles/raise $ for beloudsophie/safely…we have about 200 miles left, its gonna be super hot tomorrow, accidents happen when you stack risk factors, my mission is to get you across country safely and I am not going to fail 200 miles from home. There will be no 150 push today.”
A credit to their maturity, the crew took it very well…there was zero push back.
Afterword, during the morning pedal conversation…there is A LOT of chatter on the road…I was commenting to Ed how much the crew has evolved and matured since Montana.
In June, they were a group of boys on a bike ride…some would say a magic carpet ride... today they are a team of young men on a mission..and darn close to crushing it!
This evolution of maturity and leadership in the scouts is evident in the little things that define great teams. For example, we decided to get an early start Monday morning in anticipation of a hot day and a possible 150 mile push.
Ed, per usual for the past 65 days was awake first, firing up his stove for a cup of coffee….at 4:30...in the morning! He and I watched the crew wake on their own at 4:45. Pack their tents and gear in the complete dark with zero talk. They paired up in buddy teams and headed over to the adjacent c-store for breakfast and our planned 5:30departure. The leader of the day reported in around 5:20 that they were all present, fed and ready to go. No flats, no lost gear, no lost scouts….just an incredibly efficient and professional group of men on a mission and incredibly EARLY. That’s how great teams start their day.
As we pedaled out of Denton in the early morning twilight, I knew we were gonna have a great few days on the road.
About midday, as is norm on the bike trip, Ed starts to look for a place to stay.
At lunch he conferred with our adopted crew member and master mechanic Benjamin from Germany. Ben says there are some good options on “warm showers” a self organized group of people across the country who offer warm showers and a place to sleep for adventure cyclists….I am beyond skeptical..”dude how’bout we get a hotel.”
I lived in Fayetteville - lotta soldiers and a lotta locals who hate soldiers…for good reason…I can’t imagine someone opening their house to 6 scouts, two dudes and a German couple….sounds like the beginning of a Jud Apatow movie - help me with the titles
“The 40 year old Boy Scout”
“This is adventure cycling”
“Warm Shower and Boy Scouts”
“Crew Leader, The legend of Fast Eddy Billings…”
“Forgetting Carolina and the perfect pedal”
and my favorite “Get him to the beach"
As a back up plan (good assistant leaders always have a back up plan) I find a perfectly located Hampton Inn….and against my better judgement…Ed puts the decision to the boys….again…spirit of the bike trip. Predictably they choose the “warm showers” random options. My vision of 600 thread count sheets, perfectly fluffed pillows and a whirl pool hot tub dashed by the crews never ending goal to “keep it real.”
I was wrong!
I must give props to the boys decision making and “warm showers.” Our experience was both perfect and spectacular. After passing through a depressed, post-apocalyptic free fire neighborhood of Fayetteville around mile 90...where the boys met some locals who thought Oregon was another country (literally) and Ed for the first time wondered if I was carrying a hand gun…"because we may need it Murph"...we arrived in the very suburban and classy Haymont neighborhood of Fayetteville.
Haymont: Imagine Chapel Hill’s Westwood neighborhood meets Charleston set in Fayetteville. Beautifully redone Mid-century modern homes interspersed with Antebellum mansions, perfectly manicured yards backing up to a golf course.
Our host Matt and his girlfriend Mary - (form RAM winner 2010 - Mom’s your boys have met all sorts of hard core accomplished women athletes along the way) - have a nicely remodeled ranch set on a side street in this beautiful neighborhood. The back yard comfortably fits our crew, his former main dining room is a fully outfitted bike shop with the aesthetic of an operating room…it was pristine prior to our arrival and soon full of bikes getting tune ups. Adding to the experience was their Australian Cattle dog Meeka who met everyone with a lick and a wag. After showers, bike maintenance and much story telling, Matt took us to a local Italian place for a feast. We pedaled of course.
Fayetteville: The showers were hot, the air conditioning was cold, Mary drank more coffee than Ed and I combined and Matt showed us the ultimate in adventure cycling hospitality.
The Final Ride:
by Steve Rothwell
Currie NC to Wrightsville Beach 32 miles (note: there's no blog post for Fayetteville to Currie. Other than waiting out a rain storm, it was an uneventful 75 mile ride) .
The cycling crew arrived in Wrightsville Beach safely on August 19th, just one day beyond their target date. After lots of hugs and a press conference, the cross country riders dipped their wheels into the Atlantic and then dove in to celebrate.
Earlier in the day as we rode down Route 421 towards Wilmington, the crew stopped on the side of the highway to snap photos as they clicked over the 4000 mile point. I should point out that this is the longest Boy Scout cross country cycling trip on record. That isn't just for Troop 845 but for all Scout troops in the USA!
Once off the main roads and in the towns of Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach, the group rode at probably its slowest pace of the trip as we made our way to the finish. Chit-chat among the leaders was about how they made it safely across the USA, how a trip like this may have changed the Scouts' lives, and the kindnesses and characters that were encountered along the way.
Having not ridden all the way across the country, I'll leave it to the true cross country riders (Ed and the Scouts) to say what they were thinking as they approached the finish. I can only report on the events of the evening before and the ride in.
Earlier in the day on Tuesday, John de Figueiredo had secured lodging in a building at Moores Creek National Battlefield (and Scout camp) in Currie, NC. Rain had been falling and it was certainly better to sleep on a concrete floor in a warehouse-like building versus a tent in wet grass.
David and Alethea Hardy and Diane and I arrived loaded with dinner and breakfast food for the crew. We unloaded the car and the ladies made their way to Wrightsville Beach where the other families were waiting on the Scouts' arrival.
As we ate dinner the conversation revolved around what were some of the best moments of the trip. After 65 days you would think that the most recent events would be top of mind but that wasn't the case. The guys mentioned things like the homemade chicken & dumplings with lots of veggies at a church in Kentucky, the lava field and view from the top of Mt McKenzie in Oregon, the buffalo in Yellowstone, the pronghorn in Wyoming, how friendly and welcoming the people are in Kansas, Missouri floaters (people on inner tubes floating lazy rivers), using air horns to stop dogs in their tracks, and more. The "best of" conversation continued around a campfire later that evening.
After a 70+ mile day, sleep came easy to the Scouts. The adults, on the other hand, all mentioned that they barely slept. It could have been thoughts of the tight timeline for the ride into Wrightsville Beach, the anticipation of finishing safely, or just the fact that such a great trip was coming to an end. For both the full-time riders and the part-time ones, this has been a big part of everyday life for more than ten weeks.
For now it's no longer about new adventures but about recollections of an old one. Those recollections started as soon as we arrived to see family and friends in Wrightsville Beach. The day of celebrating was much anticipated and well deserved.
So what have I learned from the experience?
First, the American people, no - the human race, is made up of mostly kind and caring people. At every stop the acts of kindness and willingness to share overwhelmed me. I saw this though Oregon, Idaho, Virginia, and North Carolina and the crew saw it in every State that they traveled. However, I'm sure that our German friends, Benja and Caroline, would tell us that they've seen it in every country that they've visited. People are good and kind and want to get to know about you and to tell you about themselves!
Second, this crew of Scouts is made up of seven fantastic young adults. I feel good about the future knowing that we have young men like them in the world. Their work ethic was remarkable. Their attitudes were always positive. They never complained about anything. They generally made smart decisions. They gave back along the way by helping others when they saw the opportunity. And they were guided by a man who demonstrated all of the same characteristics. The perfect role model. I'd gladly join them on another similar adventure.