Crossing America by bicycle

Brian Fleischhauer, an amateur radio and sports enthusiast, quit his job to ride a bicycle across the country with his childhood friend Mark Kelly.

The two friends with a Topsail Beach connection began their 92-day transcontinental bike trek as their first effort to raise funds for their new public charity, Outdoor Hams, Inc.

Fleischhauer, call letters KB3QZG, and Kelly, call letters KJ4EZV, began their trek in Oregon on Aug. 1. If all goes as planned, their journey will take them east through 11 states, and end at Topsail Beach on Oct. 18, for the Autumn with Topsail festival.

The two amateur radio operators and outdoor sports enthusiasts established their non-profit corporation this year. They want to promote the use of amateur radio as an educational resource and encourage its use in outdoor activity among North Carolina youths. At the same time, through creative applications of amateur radio in outdoor activities, they hope to influence adolescents to improve their general health and wellness by developing active lifestyle habits.

Fleischhauer and Kelly have been summer pals on Topsail Beach since they were both about 5 years old. Their parents had cottages three doors away from each other.

Fleischhauer’s parents have since moved to Topsail Beach, and Kelly’s parents maintain the cottage there, but reside in Raleigh.

Fleischhauer, 25, recently graduated magna cum laude from West Virginia University with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. He quit his job in Washington, D.C with a multinational electronics company to go on the trek.

“When he told us he quit his job, I said, ‘What do you mean you quit your full time job with benefits, and don’t know what you are going to do after the trip?'” said Kristin Fleischhauer, Brian’s mother.

“He said ‘This is a good time in my life to do it,'” said Brian’s father, Grier Fleischhauer.

Kelly, 25, recently graduated magna cum laude from N.C. State University with a bachelor’s degree in U.S. history and has set his sights on law school.

Though neither has attempted this trek before, Kelly successfully hiked the Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia in 175 days in 2006. It was then he developed interests in amateur radio and touring the country by bicycle. He passed the interest on to Fleischhauer.

The two planned the Outdoor Hams Inc., Tran-Continental Bike Ride as their inaugural fundraiser, to raise money for grants and scholarships for students in North Carolina who aspire to have careers in fields such as radio technology, radio history, communication science and media law.

“So far we’ve raised $1,800, so we will be able to award at least three $500 scholarships next spring,” Kelly said.

Their goal, Fleischhauer’s parents said, is $2,500.

“They hope to be able to award five $500 scholarships,” Kristin Fleischhauer said.

“One hundred percent of the money they raise will go for the scholarships – they are paying all the administrative fees and trip expenses out of their own pockets,” Grier Fleischhauer said.

Additional money raised through the charity will be used to benefit North Carolina students, teachers and schools and to design, plan, promote and implement outdoor-oriented amateur radio activities to provide adolescents with hands-on experience with radio technology, a chance to be active outdoors, and raise additional money for future grants and scholarships.

They also hope future fundraisers will draw participation from a wide range of outdoor sports enthusiasts and ham operators.

So far the two have averaged 50 miles a day, and are staying in tents in public parks, hostels or recreational vehicle campgrounds along the way.

“The Oregon coastline was amazing …. We have been breezing through towns and have had a lot of tourists and locals asking us a lot of questions about what we’re doing,” Kelly said. “It’s always fun to talk to them about our trip. We are trying to shed some of our gear, and purge some weight, since we will be biking into a headwind and have several miles of hills to do, so every ounce counts.”

They plan to journal and post photos of their progress on http://www.outdoorhams.org, the Web site they designed for the charity.

Information about making donations to the charity is available on the Web site, and donations can be mailed to c/o Mark Kelly, Outdoor Hams, Inc., 709 New Road, Raleigh, N.C. 27608

Contact Topsail area reporter Suzanne Ulbrich at 910-219-8454. Visit http://www.jdnews.com to comment on this report.

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