A Hartsville native with an adventurous spirit is cycling across the southern United States raising money to give away bikes to kids.
Carter Forney, who graduated from Hauser High School in 2007, started off on a 3,093-mile bike ride in San Diego, California, on Oct. 3, and is heading along a route through the southern tier of states with the hopes of reaching St. Augustine, Florida, by the middle of December.
He has a GoFundMe page and video blog, hoping to raise money on social media for the Bikes for Goodness Sake Foundation.
Forney is riding on his own — no chase vehicle or tech support — and hoping to gather contributions for the Austin, Texas-based charity, which provides bikes to underprivileged children through corporate-sponsored bike-build events.
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Forney has raised about $2,000 out of a $2,500 goal so far — enough to buy about 10 bikes. He put a few of them together Monday with kids in Austin at the foundation headquarters, and hopes to do the same in Columbus in December or January at the local bike co-op.
“I originally wanted to do this bike ride as an adventure for myself,” said Forney, who made his decision to purchase a bike and sign on to ride for more than 3,000 miles over a period of a few months.
“Then I heard of all these rides for charity and so many of them are so big you don’t see where the money goes.”
He settled on the Bikes for Goodness Sake Foundation because the organization gave him control over where he could help put the bikes together and give them away, and gave him a chance to meet the recipients.
“The cool thing is, I send them the money, and they send me a bike in a box,” he said. “What I plan to do, after I get the box, I want the recipient to help me build their bike. And they get the helmet and the bike.”
For those who donate to his cause, Forney has different levels of rewards.
He plans to personally thank donors who send at least a $20 donation. Others who donate $50 or more will get a documentary that the cyclist is filming as he travels across the country.
North to Alaska
Forney, 28, lives in Alaska and does seasonal work as a wild land firefighter and hiking trails builder. He also works as an emergency medical technician on an ambulance for the Matsu Bourough EMS.
At one point, after graduation from Hauser High School in Hope, Forney tried to study to become a heating and air conditioning unit repairman. But his heart and love of the outdoors just wasn’t a match for that career, he said.
He wasn’t even a diehard cycling enthusiast before coming up with the idea of a bike ride across country. He bought his bike about three weeks before starting the trip and didn’t train at all.
The longest distance he had ridden a bike before leaving on this trip was 55 miles — and now he’s attempting 80 miles or more per day, depending on the terrain.
Austin London of Hartsville, a close friend who has known Forney since kindergarten, said his friend has been doing adventurous things since childhood.
“He’s just very dedicated about it,” London said of Forney’s cross-country trek.
“He’s an outdoor enthusiast — and he’s very smart. That quality is something that people see in him,” London said.
The son of Dave and Heidi Forney of Hartsville, Forney also has two siblings: Ryker, 24, who has accompanied Carter on some of his adventures, including a trip to Hawaii; and Jillianne, 21, a college student.
His mother said Carter was never afraid of anything when he was growing up in northeastern Bartholomew County, laughing as she said, “I’ve gotten used to it, but I’ve never stopped worrying about him. But he’s doing what he loves.”
Heidi Forney said her son has always enjoyed the outdoors and has found a way to combine that with helping people.
Inspired to ride
Forney’s initial inspiration for riding across America came from reading books about people who took off on interesting quests, and what happened to them on the journey.
“I’m just like an adventurer type of person,” he said. “I read some books that inspired me. The first one was an audio book about cycling, and then I read ‘Planet Walker’ about a guy who renounces riding in cars and takes a vow of silence. He does some amazing things, and he changes the world without talking at all.”
Before heading out on his trip, Forney did a little practice.
He bought a bike, took it apart and put it in a box. He then took it with him on a plane to San Diego, where he unpacked it and built it in the airport before starting the ride.
He has four bags attached to his Surley touring bike with its “long-haul trucker” frame, where he stashes about $30 worth of food and water at a time to carry with him. He has a lightweight tent, a laptop for his video blogging and a camping stove for a hot meal while on the road.
Most of the food he buys are “add water and heat and eat,” he said.
“I’m trying to eat 3,000 to 6,000 calories a day and I’m still losing weight,” Forney said.
He buys food where he can, from convenience stores to park concession stands, depending on what he passes during the day.
A solar panel on his bike allows him to charge either his phone or his GoPro camera, but not both at the same time. So he’s constantly on the lookout for a coffee shop or McDonald’s with free Wifi and brings all his electronics in for a recharge whenever possible.
“When you’ve been on a bike for so long, you start looking for a reason to stop and get off the bike,” he said. “When I do stop, it looks like I’m setting up a mobile command station.”
Making friends along the way
Forney has connected with other cycling enthusiasts through a website called warmshowers.org, where people within the bicycling community opens up their homes to cyclists on long trips. Similar to couch-surfing with friends, cyclists can find a place to get a shower and get some sleep, instead of camping out on the road.
“A lot of times, you don’t know what you’re going to get into, but I’ve met some incredible people so far,” Forney said of the places he has stayed. “It’s like, here I am, a total stranger, and people just say, ‘Feel free to chill out,'” he said.
He occasionally picks up a cycling companion who is also riding the southern route, which can be enjoyable, but he doesn’t mind the solitude either.
While there is a great deal of physical challenge to what he’s doing, Forney said he doesn’t want to lose track of the mental aspect of the trip.
“I’m trying not to rush. Because wherever I’m going, it will be there when I get there,” he said. “If you go too fast, you’ll miss a lot of stuff,” he said.
Forney said that as he was watching the McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis, Texas, open its windows to the sky.
“At the end of the day, this is about people,” he said of his journey. “I’m living my life 50 or 60 miles at a time, and I try not to get too far ahead of myself.”
Bikes for Goodness Sake is a charitable organization with a mission to share to Goodness of Bicycles with underprivileged children through sponsored corporate charity bike-build events.
It has been working through hundreds of sponsors to build and donate thousands of bikes to kids all over the country for the past eight years.
The foundation works local bike shops, corporations, groups and individuals to create charity bike-build events and distribute bikes to children local to the sponsors. Each bike comes with a custom-fit, bike-shop-qulity helmet.
To learn more about Bikes for Goodness Sake, visit bikesforgoodnesssake.org/.
To contribute to Carter Forney’s Cycling Coast to Coast for Bikes for Goodness Sake, go to gofundme.com/2ky3gbsw
To follow Carter Forney as he completes his bike adventure, follow his video blog at: