Talk about fulfilling family tradition.
University of Kentucky graduate and Danville native Andrew Crown-Weber has been threatening for four years now to bike across the country. His brother has done it once, and his father has done it twice.
Growing up watching Easy Rider and reading On the Road, he has always harbored the dream of a cross-country bike adventure.
On Sunday, Crown-Weber and his friend Stephen Eidson set off from Portland on a 70-day journey across the country, with plans to travel through 10 states on the 1976 Bikecentennial route to "dip their tires" in the Atlantic Ocean before school starts again.
And if the two are putting themselves through more than two months and 4,000 miles of physical exertion, why not do it for a cause?
Crown-Weber and Eidson are raising money for the Carnegie Center, entitling their charity bike ride "Riding for Reading." Inspired by Crown-Weber's 11/2 years as a literacy tutor in college, they are dedicating the journey to the Carnegie Center's mission of literacy and learning.
Crown-Weber does not consider himself an avid reader, but he recognizes the importance of books.
"It's hard to do the whole American pick-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps thing if you can't teach yourself through reading. Reading is the basis of learning," he said.
And the pair will take the spirit of the Carnegie Center along with them. They have to travel light — packing mostly bike gear, three sets of clothes and a bottle of Bulleit Bourbon for Eidson's sister — but Crown-Weber is thinking of bringing Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass and a couple of journals. He and Eidson will be buying and selling novels with used bookstores along the way, publicizing their reads and journey through an online blog.
But the blog won't be their only form of documentary. Eidson, who will be a senior this fall at the University of Kentucky, is carrying a tripod camera to record the trip as his final project for his film-studies major. He will interview "people from every walk of life" about their communities, and they plan to capture signs of the recession nationwide.
"(I'm) trying to find out what's out there — what hasn't been deemed newsworthy or brought to reporters' eyes," Eidson said.
Landmarks interrupting their ride will include Yellowstone National Park, the Rocky Mountains — "the big challenge of the trip" — and the route that passes by Crown-Weber's house in Danville. In Central Kentucky, some relatives will join them for the last leg of the journey (which they have named the "love train").
After his mad rush to prepare in the last few days before the journey, Eidson reported that he had reached an optimistic state of Zen. He was waiting to see where the journey would take them.
"The road will have its own story, and it will reveal itself to us," Eidson said.
They have set a fund-raising goal of $2,000. You can make donations on www.firstgiving.com/ridingforreading.
"Any support for these little tykes and their literacy would be very much appreciated," Eidson said.