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Group bikes U.S. for cause

Staff Writer

Most people who plan their summer vacations would not feature an indefinite itinerary where they never know where they are going to stay or be on a given day. But for six men, four from Michigan and two from Colorado, their summer vacation this year has been to ride their bikes across the United States, camping where they can and scrounging food from all over.

Steve Manor, 24, of Standish, Mich., and Paul Krzyzaniak, 24, are childhood friends who plan a trip together each year. This year, it was Krzyzaniakıs turn to come up with an idea, so he planned a trip following the TransAmerican biking trail, a 4,300-mile journey from Oregon to Virginia that roughly cuts the country in half. Manor and Krzyzaniak are both teachers, so an extended vacation wasnıt a problem.

The two were joined by friends Jason Shimko, a college student, and Dan Shafer in their adventure. Shafer, an electrical engineer, tried to quit his job for the trip but instead got a four-month leave of absence. He had just proposed to his girlfriend before the trip started June 15. "After I gave her the ring, then it was bye-bye," Shafer said, laughing.

The four planned their trip to help raise money for a new athletic complex at Concordia University in Wisconsin, but the newly-fledged Men on Bikes group were going to go the distance anyway, they said. They sold some sponsorships and T-shirts for the cause, then set off by persuading a friend to drive non-stop to Oregon to begin their journey.

At the start of their trip, they met up with fellow travelers Chris Borstad, of Fort Collins, Colorado and John Peters of Boulder, Colorado. Both college students, Borstad and Peters started their cross-country tour a little farther north than the official Men on Bikes.

The Trans-America route follows paved roads, mostly with wide shoulders for safety for the riders, Krzyzaniak said. They came through Perryville and Danville off their route Wednesday because they needed bike parts, which they picked up at Danville Bike and Fitness before heading out of town. The Men on Bikes have become adept at changing flat tires and replacing wheel spokes on their journey, they said, adding that Krzyzaniak has had a lot more experience with the spokes on the trip. The men planned $2,000 in spending on the trip, mostly for food, Shafer said. "Foodıs our biggest expense," Shafer said, adding that he budgeted $15 a day.

To make the miles go by faster, the group has come up with some road games, such as the "turtle relocation program." Krzyzaniak said when they find a turtle on the road, they "save" it from being hit by a car and let it tag along for a few miles. When they found a pond, they released the turtle. Other road games have been to run cattle, run over thousands of grasshoppers in Kansas and kick sunflowers as they pass by, they said.

The best part of the trip is the "element of the unknown" and the people they have met on the way, Shimko said. Theyıve encountered rude motorists along the way, but theyıve also been welcomed into private homes and a fire station to spend the night.

The men say they were in pretty good physical shape to start with, but after 3,700 miles through the Rockies, the "bloody hot" plains of Kansas and the hills and humidity of Missouri and Kentucky, they are much stronger riders. "I've become an animal," Shimko said.

Men on Bikes had planned to get back on the route Wednesday by heading to Berea on Ky. 52, but were talked out of it by a bike shop worker. Within a couple of hours after the group left, a construction crew working on the road blasted chunks of clay and rock and scattered it all over an area they would have been passing by. Sent the news of the blast via e-mail, which they check at stops along the way, Shimko wrote, "I am glad we didnıt go this way after reading this!" The group bikes about 75 miles a day and is looking to finish the trip Aug. 15 in Yorktown, Va.

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