Eagle Scouts brake for Franklin during their cross-country challenge
Published 10:20 am Friday, August 15, 2014
FRANKLIN—When the members of the Eagle Scouts Cycling Across America team stopped in Franklin on Thursday afternoon, they were coming off a 55-mile ride from Lawrenceville that morning. Already these young men of Troop 165 in Fredericksburg had put nearly 3,800-plus miles behind them since they began on June 14 at Stinson Beach in California. Their goal — Virginia Beach — awaits them on Friday, but in the meantime they stayed overnight as guests of the James L. Camp Jr. Family YMCA and Boy Scout Troop 17.
Bruce White, scoutmaster of troop 165, explained the origin of the trip.
“I’ve been scoutmaster for 16 years and each year we would do a bike trip. Each group of boys through the years would do a little more than the previous one. The longest was 2,000 miles in 30 days in 2010.
“Almost two years ago, a group of boys — now in college — said, ‘How about across the country?’ I’ve wanted to do that since I was 17. We started meeting twice a month and put it on the table. They bought into it and here we are.”
Planning, which included fundraising and training, took 18 months before the team made its way West.
Soon after parking his bicycle at the local Y, Eagle Scout Max Atkinson spoke about the journey’s purpose and his participation. Atkinson, 15, had only been with the troop for a few months when the project started. He could have gone to Philmont or Sea Base, which are two other High Adventure outings for Boy Scouts, but this trip he recognized as something special.
“It’s once in a lifetime,” said the senior patrol leader for Virginia. The other states they traveled through were Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky and a bit of Tennessee.
“There was nine boys and nine states,” said White. “They worked with me on the itinerary, course and budget. They were very responsible. They grew up quite a bit taking charge like that.”
To get in shape, the team not only rode their bicycles, but also took spin classes and lifted weights. There were periodic training tests such as bicycling 100 miles or the 24-hour bike trip.
Not only was the cross-country expedition “a bit of an adventure,” Atkinson said, but it also served to promote “healthier living. To encourage kids to get off the couch and get outside.”
Indeed, the mission statement on the ESCAA cards states: “Our mission is to demonstrate how motivated young men, committed to the values of exercise and healthy living, practice the 12 points of the Boy Scout Law while challenging themselves to reach new heights.”
“There’s already talk of another [cross-country] ride in 2019,” he said. “That will give everyone time to plan and train. I hope the newer generation will pick it up.”
There were, of course, tough times on the journey. Developing saddle sores and tipping over are two such examples. Just yesterday morning, White took a spill with another adult rider, which put them out of the last leg. But he’s not bitter.
“I’ll be there, I just won’t be riding. The finish line and the accolades are for the boys,” White said.
Weather and terrain could be major obstacles. Just ask Robert McGroarty and Alex Prevost. They recalled a “miserable” time when hot temperatures and strong winds beat down on them in Nevada during one of the 100-mile goals.
“It was really hard day,” McGroarty said shaking his head.
But both agreed it all was worth it.
“Hiking’s not my thing,” said Prevost, 16. “Cycling’s something I enjoy. Something I’m good at. There was no other option.”
McGroarty, who turned 17 just 10 days ago in Kentucky, agreed.
“This is the only choice,” he said.
Troop 165 is chartered by the Ron Rosner Family YMCA, Fredericksburg. To learn more about the Scouts’ trip and see photos, visit www.escaa2014.org.