Young: Lucky 13 makes this land their land

September 2, 2013 

Jack Jensen, right, leads the Lucky 13 cyclists along a road somewhere near the middle of their 3,345-mile, 67-day trek across America.


In deference to writer and UNC alum Thomas Wolfe, you apparently can “go home again.”

After taking his Carrboro Scout Troop 845 on a bicycle trip across America in 2010 to raise money for cancer research, leader Brian Burnham has taken his adventurous crew on hikes in Europe and Patagonia over the past two summers.

This year, Burnham set the troop’s sights closer home, albeit a home with a nearly 3,500-mile wide backyard.

Starting at Havre de Grace, Maryland on June 10, with 10 riders and two leaders – Burnham and UNC student Aidan Kelly – the Lucky 13 Bike Trip cyclists set forth on a 3,345-mile, 67-day bike ride across America, arriving at Seaside, Ore. on Aug. 15.

As in the past, the 2013 trip raised money for the UNC Lineberger Cancer Center and Victory Junction, a camp for ill children.

UNC Lineberger special events coordinator Jennifer Bowman said she was in awe of the young riders.

“I just can’t imagine what it’s like for a teenager to willingly just give up 10 weeks of their summer to ride a bicycle across the country and raise money for cancer research,” she said. “They’ve inspired all of us at the Hospital and the Cancer Center.” The trip recreates similar journeys in 2005, 2007 and 2010, each led by Burnham, who has also hiked the Appalachian Trail and scaled Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Burnham lives in Chapel Hill and owns the multimedia firm, Cirque Productions.

The crew consisted of Hugh Kelley, Jack Jansen, Caleb Roenigk, Wes Malinchock, DJ Recny, Arthur Mouw, Holden Selkirk, Paris Buedel, Kyle Ferriter and Miles Rosen.

While Hugh Kelley pedaled alongside older brother and trip leader Aidan Kelley, Jansen was seeing for the first time countryside he’d heard about from older brother Zack, who biked across the country in 2010.

“I’d heard stories from my brother Zack,” Jack Jansen said, “so being out there doing all the things I’d heard about for so long was like a dream come true.”

The cross-country route took the cyclists along the Rails to Trails route through the Appalachians, across the farms of Ohio, into Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota before heading into the Great Plains.

The group often camped in town parks at night and grabbed food at local diners.

Burnham said every trip is inherently different.

“As a rider, it’s a slightly different route, and I really liked this route,” he explained, “and it’s a different group of kids every time: a different dynamic. Last time, we had 16 people; we only had 11 guys this time, and it was a little quieter. They were a sort of go-with-the-flow group.”

Sometimes “going with the flow” meant rigorously challenging rides however.

“The Little Big Horns (Mountains) were a 35-mile uphill and 8,400 vertical feet in one day,” Burnham said. “But this time, we had the Columbia River Gorge which cuts right through the (Cascades). Overall it was a great ride.”

Jack Jansen said he acclimated quickly to the rigorous rides.

“I didn’t really get sore after the first week – maybe after a really tough day a little bit,” he said.

“These kids built power so fast,” Burnham said. “By about two weeks in, their legs got huge, and they would just fly.”

But cyclist DJ Recny said the bicycling was only one of the challenges.

“It was really physically challenging,” he said, “but there were also the social aspects of always being with the same group of guys, plus being away from home and having to keep track of days on your bike instead of by looking at a calendar.”

Jansen admitted that the high points from the trip were, not surprisingly, the “high points.”

“Our tallest pass was 9,666 feet above sea level in the Big Horn Mountains, and finally making it to the top of that was a pretty good feeling.”

While the Lucky 13 trip has earned over $34,000 in fundraising, those interested can still donate by visiting the trip website at

Wherever Burnham or Troop 845 heads in the future, it’s certain that, when a summer vacation takes you over 3,000 miles under your own power for a great cause, participants in Troop 845 are likely to go that much farther in life.

“Every one of these kids is going to go on to do great things,” UNC Lineberger’s Bowman said.


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