Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The "Zac Attack"

Posted By on Wed, Sep 24, 2008 at 4:00 AM

Earlier this year, former Memphis bicycle mechanic Zac Holford set out on an 80-day, 4,200-mile coast-to-coast bike ride to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. His ride, dubbed "Zac Attacks Cancer," took him through 12 states, some bad weather, and a few mountain ranges. Holford traveled an average of 60 miles per day and carried with him only the bare necessities. The ride ended in Seaside, Oregon, and the Flyer recently caught up with him to see how it went. -- by Shara Clark

FLYER: WHAT WERE SOME OF THE RIDE'S CHALLENGES?

Holford: There were so many. Just getting up every morning, getting packed, and getting on the road was difficult.

Keeping food and proper nutrition was a big deal because I would just burn through food. It would stink to get into a rural town and not have food, so food was something I obsessed about constantly.

I'd say the hardest state to go through was Kansas. The winds were relentless, and the weather became very difficult -- thunderstorms and extreme headwinds. Wyoming was tough, too. It was high, dry desert. There was a stretch in Wyoming where there was only one gas station and one restaurant for 160 miles -- that was the scariest part. The Ozarks in Missouri were really tough, too. That was the hardest landscape because of the hills, and people weren't friendly at all. A lot of people forced me off the road, and some hotels wouldn't give me a place to stay.

HOW DID YOU FIND PLACES TO STAY?

Holford: I'd say, 85 percent of the way, I camped; 10 percent, I got hotel rooms; and 5 percent I stayed with random people I met on the way. But I mostly camped in state and city parks. And there were a couple of hostels out West. Colorado was my favorite place because the people there were super-nice and the landscape was beautiful.

HOW MUCH MONEY DID YOU RAISE?

Holford: Our goal was $15,000, but we exceeded it. I don't know how much we have yet. We're still totaling it because people keep giving me money. I've got almost $18,000 so far, but I still have to total the most recent series of checks.

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE TRIP?

Holford: It was just awesome in general. When the ride ended, I came back to my hometown of Aiken, South Carolina, and held a benefit, and we raised $2,000 in a single night. The South Carolina Senate recognized my accomplishment by presenting me a state flag, and the city government in Aiken gave me a plaque of character.

HAVE YOU MADE IT BACK TO MEMPHIS YET?

Holford: No, I haven't had a job for a while, so I kind of don't have any money. Right now, I'm in Chattanooga checking out bike shop jobs and places to live. I hope to finish school here because it's more conducive to cycling than Memphis. But I do miss Memphis. I kept telling people all over the country all of my crazy Memphis stories. I guess living in Memphis and riding my bike there really prepared me for dealing with people across the country. I never really felt scared on any of the roads because I was used to Memphis drivers.

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