Going coast to coast
Former Jackson residents set to bike cross country to help Project Rwanda.
Former Jackson residents, from left, John Franklin, Ryan Auster and Ben Kettle will bike across the U.S. this summer to raise money for Project Rwanda. The group, which also includes Dan Morris, plans to roll through Jackson on June 5. The men are looking forward to descending Teton Pass because the hardest part of their trip east will be completed. PHOTO COURTESY NICK STROCCHIAView our entire photo gallery >>
By Brandon Zimmerman, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
May 13, 2009
John Franklin knows it will get a little emotional when he and his team on the Tumble Weeds Bike Tour pull up to the top of Teton Pass in June and look down on Jackson Hole.
“I’m looking forward to finishing the pass and looking down into the valley,” Franklin said. “It will be a homecoming feeling. I think we’re all looking forward to that.”
Franklin and friends Ben Kettle, Ryan Auster and Dan Morris expect to return to Jackson on June 5.
The four, who each lived in Jackson at various times from 2003 to 2008, will be biking across the country this summer in an effort to raise money for Project Rwanda.
The group will leave from Oregon on May 22 and plans to arrive in Boston about July 10.
“It actually makes sense,” Franklin said. “But any excuse to get back to Jackson, we jump all over it.”
The four friends met at Davidson College in Charlotte, N.C.
Their love for biking was solidified in 2004 when they left their basement apartment on Crabtree Lane and rode from Jackson to San Francisco. It took two weeks.
“Ever since then we’d been talking about another trip,” Kettle said. “It just turned out that this summer was the time we could all clear two months off our schedule.”
The group is now split up.
Kettle lived in Jackson from 2003 to 2005 and now works for a consulting firm in Washington, D.C. Franklin lived in Jackson from 2003 to 2006 and now works for a health care research and consulting firm, also in Washington, D.C. Morris left Jackson in 2004 to get his master’s degree in divinity at Yale University and is currently working toward a doctoral degree in American religious studies at the University of Iowa. Auster lived in Jackson from 2005 to 2008. He was a Jackson Hole Ski School supervisor and is now in graduate school at Boston College.
The idea of using the trip to support a positive cause came from Franklin, who was intrigued by Project Rwanda while reading a story about it in Outside Magazine six months ago.
“I was moved by the article and what they were doing,” Franklin said. “Given our interest in bikes, we chose that as our theme for our trip.”
Project Rwanda is an organization committed to raising money for the African nation using the bicycle as a symbol of hope. The Tumble Weeds Bike Tour already has raised $2,500 through word of mouth and via the Internet. Auster has been notifying bike shops in Boston about the project. The group hopes to raise $10,000 by the end of the trip.
“A big part of spreading the word is meeting people on the road,” Kettle said. “People tend to be curious about you when you’re on the touring bike.”
The men are confident they can handle the physical strain of the trip in spite of the fact they haven’t had much time to train. All four bike to work, but they are not close enough to the elevation they will have to climb working east across several big passes in Oregon, Idaho and Wyoming.
“The training will happen the first week of the trip,” Franklin said. “That’s when we’ll do the majority of the training. We’ll be going over the Sierras and big passes in Oregon and Idaho before Teton Pass.”
There will be a big smile on all their faces as they hit the top of Teton Pass and cruise down into Jackson.
“I think we’re all really excited about that,” Franklin said. “We’ll be done with the hardest part of the trip, from a pass perspective.”
To follow the team’s progress, or to donate money to Project Rwanda, go to www.tumbleweedstour.com.