April 4, 2018 at 5:30 p.m.

Hauser grad wrapping up trip of a lifetime

By HSJ Online [email protected]

Weather permitting, Carter Forney should be pulling into St. Augustine, Fla. today -- finishing an epic bike ride across America.

Forney, 28, works summers in Alaska building trails for the state park system. In the winters he normally works as an emergency medical technician. But this year, when he looked at his options on what to do during his winter break, he decided to do something different -- bike from California to Florida. And that is despite not being an avid, or experienced long-distance cyclist.

"I met a couple people in Alaska that were kind of doing the same thing, from different places," Forney said. "I thought it would be something really neat to do. At first, it was kind of really like an adventure. Something new for me to get into, to try, to push myself."

Although he owned a mountain bike, he could only squeeze in a few weeks of practice before he set out on his journey.

"I wasn't really a cyclist... but I am definitely a cyclist now," Forney said.

But Forney did his research, bought a new bicycle he thought would survive the trip and purchased all the assorted gear he would need. And then he took all the unassembled pieces with him in an oversized box and flew into the San Diego airport. Finding a quiet corner of the airport, he put his bike together and set off on his journey on Oct. 1st.

There was a learning curve, in addition to the physical challenge. He originally thought that the narrowest tires would be the best for the trip -- allowing him to minimize resistance and increase his speed. But he soon found the problem with the skinny tires.

"The whole first two weeks of the trip, I was getting flats like one after the another," Forney said. "It took me all the way until about El Centro, Calif., which is right near the border of Arizona, I found a bike shop and they just so happened to have a set of tires. I bought those and I have been pretty decent ever since."

Otherwise, he has had no major mechanical problems.

Being unfamiliar with long-distance biking, he quickly found himself in the hardest part of the trip -- biking up the steep mountains of the American Southwest with a fully-loaded bike.

"It was hard at first, but I think the newness and excitement of being on a trip kind of persuaded me to keep going or at least kept my mind off how crappy it was." Forney said. "Now, if I was to hit those hills again, I wouldn't be as thrilled. Now that I am kind of seasoned, I would be like 'What a pain in the butt.'"

In the first weeks, as he grew used to the distances, he only planned to get about 30 miles per day. Now, he can get up to 90 miles per day.

Once of the worst days of the trip came in that early stretch, where he ran into 30 mph headwinds that slowed his travel to less than 20 miles in a day.

"The only way I can describe it is, it was kind of like the Terminator," Forney said. "No matter how much they run, they can never get away from this guy. He never stops.

"That is the way the wind is. No matter what you do, you can't escape the wind. The only way to go forward was to pedal. If I just stopped, who knows when the wind is going to stop? It could be weeks."

Forney said that the best part of the trip has been the people he has met along the way.

"I have met tons of really interesting and super generous people that opened up their homes to me and invited me in," he said. "And treated me like I was part of their family even though I was a total stranger. That restoration of the faith in humanity -- that I think has been a huge highlight for me."

When interviewed on Sunday, Carter said his parents, David and Heidi, and some friends have been planning to meet him today in St. Augustine, should the weather hold up.

Heidi Forney says her son has been chronicling his trip in text and videos through his blog.

"Everybody knows Carter is very adventurous," she said. "He rock climbs and him and his friends... when they were right out of high school they took a trip and backpacked all across the western United States. He is always been doing something. He wanted people to be able to enjoy the activity of being able to do something like this even though they can't take the time to get out and do it. Maybe vicariously live a little bit through him."

Before he started the journey, Carter decided that if he were going to make this trip, he wanted to do it to help a charitable cause. Investigating his options, he decided to set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for Bikes for Goodness Sake in Austin, Texas. The charity builds bicycles for children and his goal is to raise $2,500. As of this morning, he had raised $1,450.

To finish reaching the goal, he is thinking of holding a showing of a documentary about his trip he has been working on.

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