Zac Holford, a 23-year-old cyclist and local bicycle mechanic, often goes by the nickname "Zac Attack." Starting in May, what Zac will attack is an 80-day, 4,200-mile bicycle ride to raise $15,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
The ride, which will be called "Zac Attacks Cancer," will take him through 12 states.
"I want to do something significant for as many people as I can and have fun doing it," Holford says.
He will be riding a long-distance touring bicycle, traveling an average of 60 miles per day, and carrying only the bare necessities. Every six days, he'll take a one-day rest stop.
Beginning in South Carolina, he'll cycle through his hometown of Aiken, South Carolina, up the Mississippi River trail, through parts of the Appalachian, Smoky, and Rocky mountains, and through Yellowstone National Park and end in Astoria, Oregon. Along the way, he will give speeches at service clubs, pass out pamphlets, and spread the word about his cause.
With him, he'll have two pairs of bike shorts, two bike jerseys, tools, a tent, a camping stove, one set of civilian clothes, a towel, and lots of soap. He's allowing himself $10 a day for food and will depend on the hospitality of others for shelter.
"I've been calling churches, charities, city halls, fire stations, and other places, asking, 'Can I sleep on your lawn?'" Holford says. "If I can't find places to sleep, I will have to do what we call ninja camping."
Ninja camping, he explains, is sleeping in inconspicuous places when campsites or other sleeping arrangements are unavailable.
In preparation for the trip, Holford is doing a lot of cycling. He commutes via bike to work from Midtown to Cordova. He also trains an additional 200 miles per week with friends. Even though he's been riding for years and is in good shape, he expects to encounter difficulties such as traffic, weather, and fatigue.
"I will be dealing with extreme hardship and difficult conditions, difficult mental and physical stresses," he says. "I think that, relative to the trip, everything after will seem easier. I'll be able to handle anything life throws at me.
"Hopefully, it will develop my character and my calves," he says.
Holford is currently seeking sponsors. Information about sponsorships can be found by going to his leukemia-lymphoma website link at teamintraining.org and typing his name into the "find a participant" box.
People will be able to make contributions and track Holford's progress from this site throughout his trip. He will later create links to blog posts and pictures to document his experiences.
"It will be fast enough to be thrilling but slow enough to take it all in," Holford says.