Lots of college students these days raise money for various good causes. Many others take cross-country trips before entering the real world. A good number of them have probably incorporated both into one memorable and beneficial package. New Canaan 's Jack Sisson is among the latter, but he separates himself from most by the uniqueness of his transcontinental excursion. Having several friends who had already biked across, he took to the road for a charity named Action Against Hunger - using a few more wheels in the process. "Something that I like to do is inline skating so I appliedthat idea to what a few of my friends had done," he said by phone from California ..
In 72 days, The Dartmouth College senior traversed the country from Yorktown , Virginia to San Diego , California '" staying mostly on U.S. routes, a level below freeway traffic. In the process, family and friends donated about $4,500 to the cause with Rollerblade, Inc. matching the generosity.
Otherwise, though, the publicity he received from several newscasts along the way didn't translate monetarily towards the totals. "Still, "The publicity certainly helped raise awareness for the organization and they were really happy about that," he says.
For him, it meant a lot of horns honking in the days that immediately followed, but before beginning he took some traditional travel to get him going in Virginia . Needing to avoid Nevada , he cycled into the sun.
The 300 extra miles it would have tacked on were fine but the desolation and the dessert posed a safety problem. "For a whole week, "I'd have to go 70 miles, hit a hotel, wake up the next morning and go another 70 miles," he says. With nothing in between, any breakdowns could have left him facing a dangerous situation.
Nonetheless, long before bypassing Nevada , his stops were planned only a day or two in advance. "My mom would call churches in the area," he says. She'd explain the cause and they would set him up onsite or with a local family.
If nothing came up on his path, he'd hit a campsite or hotel. In fact, because of the generosity of many Americans in his path, he did a lot less camping than he prepared for. Among the kindness, one particular family in New Mexico really stood out and up for him.
Very generous and home to 30 foster children, they took him in for two days and showed him around the area. More importantly, they made California seem that much closer before hitting the road again. "They set me up with two or three people down the road, which really helped out," he says.
Also unusual and unscheduled was his approach and eventual avoidance of Colorado . On his way, to his surprise, he got word that rollerblading is illegal on the roadways in the rocky mountain state. "Of all places, I thought it would be the most receptive to people doing outdoor activities," he says.
That altered his route and forced his destination south to San Diego but that wasn't the only pebble thrown into his well planned path. "I thought I was going to be on a cycling route but that changed completely," he says.
Less traveled by powered vehicles, the bumps in the road put more fear in him than the extra traffic he saw elsewhere."The roads were not very good for rollerblading," he says.
Regardless, 3000 miles and he was not confronted with a single near miss. Helped by a rear view mirror and easy access off the shoulder, he'd take the blades over both the path he planned and those that choose to cycle it. "You can step off the road fairly easily compared to a bike," he says.
But the real uphill battle of rollerblading cross country has nothing to do with steep inclines. Uphill always gives way to down but flat means wind, and traveling west usually, has the gusts slowing the pace. "Also, it's much more monotonous," says the 21 year old.
Pressing on through fatigue '" even if not as dangerous as breaking down in the desert '" was still paramount to making it between all the small towns. Knowing that stopping would mean getting assistance from others, he said, "It's a matter of pushing yourself mentally and knowing that the day is going to be over soon," he says. Then, it's get up in the morning, hit the pavement and take it day by day.
On his back and in his pack, he carried one change of clothes, sleeping bag and a tent to go with extra wheels, bearings and axels. So how much did the poundage slow him down? "I never actually weighed it because I didn't really want to know," he says.
He guesses about 20 pounds but whizzing west through Dixie saw life moving a little slower than he's used to. It's more agricultural type communities that are less concerned with city bustle and business, he says.
Even further from stock exchanges, he realized no two-dimensional images could ever do true justice to the three dimensional reality of The Grand Canyon. Skating and stopping along its rim, he says, "It's enormous and every picture anyone has ever seen does nothing to describe how it really is," he says.
He rolled into San Diego on August 21, a little shocked by the finish line. "It was kind of like one second you're still heading towards the ocean and the next second it's just over," he says.
Still, he took the attention from local newscasters and his proud mother, who flew out to greet him, with a demeanor not doing justice to such an accomplishment. "I guess we went out to Applebee's," he says modestly of celebrating the end.
A few days from returning home, he seemed a little off balance by the idea covering 3000 miles in only a few hours. "I don't know, it's going to be weird," he said. So how is he going to top this feat next summer? "I have no idea," he concludes.
To donate or contact : www.skateforhunger.comMore Good Works http://rmgoodworks.blogspot.com/