Hartsville native Carter Forney took friends and family for a visual bike ride with his new documentary that chronicles a more than 3,000-mile journey across the southern United States.

Planned as a fundraiser to provide bicycles for kids who might not otherwise be able to afford one, Forney left San Diego, California, on Oct. 3 on a bicycle he put together at the airport there and headed for St. Augustine, Florida, arriving there Dec. 9.

He documented the entire trip on video, pledging to provide a copy of the video to those who contributed to his GoFundMe account to raise money for the Bikes for Goodness Sake Foundation, which allowed him to buy and give away bikes to kids.

Forney issued a group invite to those who had contributed to his cause, along with friends and family, to be the first to view his 45-minute documentary, “Via Bike,” on Thursday night at a pizza party at 450 North Brewing Co., located northeast of Columbus.

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It seemed nearly all of Hartsville showed up, along with many area residents who had followed Forney’s adventures across the country on social media last fall. In a corner of the banquet room at 450 North, newspaper coverage of Forney’s trip was chronicled along with a story board of photos showing milestones along the trip.

Forney’s Surley touring bike with a “long-haul trucker” frame was leaning against the wall nearby, with the storage bags strapped to it that had carried water, food and equipment.

Even after more than 3,000 miles, the bike still had the original tires, although one slightly loose pedal bracket that needed to be fixed. Other than that, it was ready for another adventure.

“I did pop nine tubes,” Forney said, referring to a series of flat tires he endured at the beginning of the ride until changing the equipment to add a Kevlar liner inside the tires. “It took me awhile to get the right setup. I didn’t know what I was doing.”

Taking off

Forney, 28, an emergency medical technician who does seasonal work as a wild land firefighter and hiking trails builder in Alaska, started his documentary with scenic vistas of departing California by splashing in the ocean there, and heading out.

Telling viewers he got the idea while cooped up in a cabin in Alaska during the middle of last winter, he said he wanted to go on an expedition.

“When I got to San Diego, I was anxious, because I really didn’t know what I was doing,” he said. “Also, I was thinking, ‘What if I fail?’ Everything about this trip was new to me. I put my fears and anxieties behind me and took off.”

One of the first observations drawing laughter from the crowd was a shot of Forney slightly out of breath under some brush at the side the road somewhere near the beginning of the journey.

“Come to find out being in good shape versus being in good cycling shape are two different things,” he deadpanned.

Forney did the entire trip without a chase vehicle or tech support. Although he met people along the way who helped him, he was essentially alone for the long cycling stretches of roadway through some of the seven states he crossed heading to Florida.

The film shows some brutal cycling conditions Forney faced along the way, from hills that seems to stretch forever, to 40 mph headwinds, sometimes happening in conjunction with hills. And several rain sequences showed nature’s fury, particularly in the Texas portion of the trip.

Using a website called warmshowers.org, which helps cyclists on long bike rides find other cyclists willing to give them a place to sleep and a chance to clean up, Forney said he met some amazing people along the way, and shows their pictures in the documentary.

Acknowledging that some people might shy away from staying in a home with a total stranger, Forney said it changed his outlook about people.

“After you’ve done it, your view on real safety is different,” he said. “Ninety nine percent of people are not here to hurt you. … It restores your faith in humanity. I met some awesome people who let me into their homes and treated me like family.”

Bikes for kids

The documentary also shows Forney giving away the bikes and helmets he purchased with about $2,500 raised through the GoFundMe account. In some, he puts the bikes together for the kids, in others, he delivers them to the families and in a few instances helps kids learn to ride. Some were Christmas gifts, others were surprises.

“This has been worth it when I saw the kids with the bikes and how happy they were,” Forney said.

Forney’s brother Ryker, who has accompanied him on some previous adventures, filmed the final miles heading toward the end of the bike ride in Florida.

“The home stretch, I’m pretty stoked to be here right now,” Forney said as he rode his bike toward the ocean. He lifts the bike up and yells, adds a fist pump, and then runs into the ocean — on a day with high winds and temperatures in the 50s.

Watching the video, Pam Mobley of Hartsville said she was near tears. Mobley taught Forney in Sunday school when he was about 3 years old, she said.

“I felt like I rode it with him,” she said as the lights came up. “I’m going to cry. It just made me so emotional. It touched me what he went through and I felt what he was feeling.”

Brandon Ress and James Schilling, both of Columbus, said they were impressed with the skill and types of camera shots Forney used in the documentary and his positive attitude throughout the trek. Forney’s sister, Jillianne, also helped put the film together.

As far as what’s next, Forney is preparing to return to Alaska and is mulling over training for an Ironman triathalon. The bike will be going to Alaska with him and he’s planning on using it in some “multi-sport” activities. That might include taking an inflatable kayak with him on a few hundred-mile bike ride, and then doing some kayaking.

He’s also thinking about climbing Mt. Denali, the highest mountain peak in North America, which happens to be in Alaska.

Saying that it was kind of sad that the bike trip across America was over, Forney also offered the insight that the trip had changed him in an unexpected way.

Trying something you’ve never attempted opens up your brain, he said. “It gets your brain charged. Every time you try something new, your brain is super-engaged.”

Forney said that will make time go by a lot slower, which has its own benefits. “It helps you see the subtle differences in the world around us,” he said.

“It took me 66 days and about 3,100 miles — it was a long trip,” he said. “Could I have ridden longer — probably. Could I have done it faster — probably. But I’m glad I did it.”

How to help

To contribute to Carter Forney’s Cycling Coast to Coast for Bikes for Goodness Sake, go online at: gofundme.com/2ky3gbsw

To watch Carter Forney’s video blog, go online at: riesen2ride.blogspot.com/2016/10/come-what-may.html?spref=fb

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Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.