Bound for Alaska
On a custom-made bicycle built for five, the Harrison family of Mount Vernon, Ky., pedaled on the edge of Folly Road on Tuesday, trailed by heavy slow-lane traffic that steered around them.
They're on their way to Alaska.
Mom looked back to make eye contact with drivers coming up from behind. Dad stayed tuned to the traffic situation by glancing into a rearview mirror. When a red light turned green, dad counted down "Three, two, one" and the family began pedaling in unison.
The Harrisons' daily travels have ranged from as little as five miles to as many as 62 miles. Things have gotten easier since leaving behind the hills of Tennessee and Kentucky.
"We just take it one day at a time," said the mother, Amarins Harrison. The trip has taught the children, Cheyenne, 6, Jasmine, 4, and Robin, 3, values such as persistence, she said. "From time to time, we have been very tired. Giving up has not crossed our mind. Now my kids know if we don't give up we'll make it to the top," she said.
The Harrisons have been on the road for about a month, discovering the kindness of strangers who have given them cash, food and shelter.
The father, Bill Harrison, said his family hopes to travel to San Diego by Christmas, although they may spend the winter in Texas before tackling the higher altitudes of New Mexico. Next spring, the Harrisons plan to continue the bicycle journey with their girls to their final destination, Fairbanks, Alaska.
"This is one of the few times in my life that I'm learning to just listen to that inner voice," Bill Harrison said.
They home-school the children, play counting games on the road and visit a library once a week.
Cheyenne, who sits at the back, knows to look at the sprockets and chain and yell out to her dad what gear he is in when he shifts the 27-speed bike.
"I have no clue what gear I'm in," her dad said. The father-and-daughter gear identification system was an affordable alternative to keep costs down on the bike built in Oregon, he said.
The family had its first accident of the journey after 600 miles when they got to Charleston. The bike's rear tire snagged on some railroad tracks and everyone tumbled sideways. The kids were wearing helmets and no one was hurt, although mom showed a scab on her right elbow. On Tuesday, the family left Folly Beach for the Charleston Bicycle Company on Savannah Highway for repairs to pedals damaged in the accident.
Otherwise, Charleston and South Carolina have been a good experience for the Harrisons. They ate for free twice at Applebee's on James Island, once because a stranger picked up the tab and the second time courtesy of the restaurant. They got a reduced room rate at Folly Beach. A stranger gave them $50 at The Battery. Before arriving here, a McCormick minister put them up for the night. A Branchville resident did the same.
"We control nothing. We're just relying on the universe to supply our needs," Bill Harrison said.
They left home with $300, including $100 for emergencies. They have a cell phone to call a doctor or nurse back home. They carry food and a tent. On Tuesday, mom said they might camp for the night four miles down Savannah Highway.
Dad, a home remodeler, said the family dwelling in Kentucky uses solar energy and has a root cellar. Simplicity and quality of life are their priorities. She is 33 and from the Netherlands. He is 48. They met at the Grand Canyon.
"I hope we inspire a lot of people to live their dream," Amarins Harrison said.