Greenwich resident Harris Pedaling His Way Across America
Greenwich resident Henry Harris is ready to have a summer break that he will never forget. For the past several summers, Harris has enjoyed a relatively quiet break from the typical stressful school year.
So when Harris realized that he wanted to try something just a little bit different, the 17-year-old Brunswick School student decided to get on his trusty bicycle and ride…across the country.
“I’ve had a couple of friends that have done this in the past two or three years and they said that it was pretty much a life-changing experience,” said Harris. “I’ve had pretty similar summers for the past eight or nine years now and I wanted to change it up. I’ve always wanted to challenge myself and I figured this was a really good way to do it and great way to see the country.”
Yesterday, Harris boarded a plane and head down to Charleston, S.C. to meet 12 other high schoolers from around the country and two leaders. From there, it’s off to a campsite to put the bicycles back together after they were disassembled to make the flight down to Charleston as well.
Today is show time for Harris and his group, as they kick off their cross-country bike journey, called the American Challenge, hoping to pedal the final leg of the journey in Santa Monica, Calif. by Aug. 6.
It’s 3,000 miles, about 85 miles a day, and we’re going to go dip our back tires in the Atlantic Ocean and our front tires in the Pacific Ocean,” Harris said.
The American Challenge is run through a program called Overland, a summer camp for students in fourth through 12th grades.
Training for a cross-country journey is something that Harris didn’t think of overnight. About 12 weeks before the trip Harris started doing two to three one-hour rides a week. Eight weeks before his bike group left South Carolina, Harris upped his total and went for two-hour rides two to three times a week.
Four weeks before the journey began, the training intensified, as Harris was now biking three hours a ride for two to three days a weeks. The final weeks leading up to the trip Harris was doing four rides two to three hours a week, and then two hours on fully loaded bikes.
Of course, family and friends will be wishing Harris luck along the way, but wishing him well along the way will also be thousands and thousands of children. Harris will be biking for the Marshall Legacy Institute’s CHAMPS program.
According to the institute’s web site, The Children Against Mines Program (CHAMPS) is an educational outreach program that engages students in the global effort to rid the world of landmines. The program raises awareness about landmines and gives students the chance to fund-raise and sponsor a mine detection dog.
In addition, students in the United States connect with students in mine-affected countries to promote global citizenship and cultural change.
“My school is raising money for a dog named after a late teacher named Robert Cosby, who was a huge part of the community and still is,” Harris said. “He’s famous for his handshake. So we decided to start a club for CHAMPS and to raise money for a dog in his name. My goal is to finish the fund-raising for this dog.”
During his adventure with Overland and the American Challenge, Harris and his bike group will travel through South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Arkansas, hitting the Mississippi River and Ozarks. Then it’s across the Great Plains before confronting the Rocky Mountains and the Continental Divide.
After spending a night on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, Harris will travel through Arizona’s Black Hills and across California’s Mojave Desert.
Farther into California, Harris will see the San Gabriel Mountains and Los Angeles before finishing at the Santa Monica Piers.
“I’ve been to South Carolina before, so that’s the only state that I’ve had any experience in,” Harris said. “Going into this, I knew it was going to be really hard, but I talked to my friends that have done it before and the things that are especially hard, I didn’t expect to be hard. They said that Oklahoma was the hardest state of them all because of the really strong headwinds. I was expecting the Rocky Mountains to be hard and they said it was the easiest. The Ozarks in Arkansas are hard, and they said that New Mexico is really hilly and you really wouldn’t expect it to be.”
While the hills and winds are going to pose a challenge for Harris and his biking group, the timing of the bike ride doesn’t help either. Nothing says fatigue like Nevada or New Mexico in late July, or a hot summer ride through the Midwest plains.
“In Nevada and in that area, we are going to be going through the Mojave Desert,” Harris said. “That’s the only time in the trip where we will have van support. We will have a van follow us with lots of water, two other leaders, bike parts. We are also starting that in the morning. I think we’ll start at 2 or 3 a.m. to escape the heat.”
To donate to help both Harris and CHAMPS reach their goal, click here.