Cyclist makes P.G. pit stop in Florida to Alaska ride

Rachel Burns knees gave out Saturday, 16 kilometres south of Clinton on Highway 97.

She needed a break from the gruelling grind she'd endured on her road bike, one that began four months ago in southern Florida.

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Burns, a 23-year-old from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, left her three friends and got a ride into town.

From there, she took a Greyhound bus to Prince George. Upon hearing her story, the Greyhound bus driver John Moxin offered Burns a place to stay with him and his family until her friends arrived in the city last night.

Burns, along with Brady Lawrence, 24, Tyler Deming 23, and Reese Wells, 23, all friends from Chapel Hill, are in the midst of a unique cycling tour called Keys to Freeze, riding in support of the U.S.-based National Parks Conservation Association.

It's a 14,484-km journey, one that began on Feb. 23 in Key West, Fla. the southernmost point in the U.S. and will take them all the way to Deadhorse, Alaska on Prudoe Bay, the northernmost point in the U.S.

Their goal is to raise $15,000 for the association. So far, they've reached a third of that total in their efforts to help preserve the beauty of the national parks.

With two more months and another 3,506 km remaining in the adventure from Prince George, Burns' knees were in need of some ice and rest. It helps that Moxin's wife is a nurse.

"John's been so nice. We went out to Bednesti Lake and he introduced me to canoeing," said Burns, an anthropology graduate from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill who'd never visited Canada before now.

"The day we arrived in Prince George we went to a block party (in the neighbourhood).

"People are really wonderful here and (in Canada). It's nice having people talk to you and it seems like Canada's parks are being preserved and not going to be developed."

Planning for the trip took six months to complete. They each raised $3,000 prior to the trip to support themselves for food, ferry and other support costs and living as frugally as possible along the way. They're carrying their own gear, up to 150-pound loads on their Surly Long Haul trucker 30-speed steel bikes. Any money they have left over from the trip will be donated to the association.

The group has known each other for years. Wells, Lawrence and Burns all went to UNC Chapel Hill together. Wells and Lawrence are roommates, while Deming and Lawrence went on a cross-country bike trip last year.

Starting from Key West on

Feb. 23, they travelled west along the Gulf of Mexico coast line to New Orleans and north through the Texas Panhandle.

New Mexico and Santa Fe were next and onto Utah, Las Vegas and through Death Valley in Californa. Portland and Seattle were next, before they hopped the ferry at Port Angeles and crossed over the U.S. border into Canada arriving in Victoria.

Cycling along the coast line to Nanaimo, they took the ferry back to Horseshoe Bay and weaved their way up the Sea to Sky highway to Squamish, Whistler and Pemberton, east to Highway 97 and then north through the Cariboo.

"The geography in the U.S. is quite diverse and Canada has all these alpine lakes," said Burns.

"It's exciting to escape in the beauty of it all."

They're tenting along the way, documenting the trip on their website (www.keystofreeze.com) with a journal and photos. A documentary film is also being created.

They're connecting to free WiFi when possible to update their website and social media. They are using a SPOT satellite tracker, a GPS system that delivers their co-ordinates to their families through email every day when they safely arrive at their destination.

The group is resting in Prince George today and will depart for Dawson Creek on Thursday. They will then connect to the Alaska Highway and travel through the Yukon to Alaska.

For those who want to donate, go to www.keystofreeze.com.

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