Tenn. natives cycling across the country for worthy cause

Published 7:14 am Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Flash floods put Jesse Murphy on the road.

Rampaging water that killed at least 29 people in Kentucky, Tenn., and Mississippi in early May shocked Murphy, 22, and Daniel Finney, 23, into action. The Nashville residents, who saw first-hand the homes and lives that were damaged in record-breaking floods, decided that they had to do something to help.

There were already people sorting through debris, so the two decided they could help best by raising awareness of their home town’s plight, and by raising funds for Graceworks Ministries, which is helping Nashville residents whom the floods have made homeless.

“We wanted to help out our community. We had never seen anything like this,” said Murphy, who graduated this spring from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. Finney will be a senior this fall at Belmont University in Nashville.

So Murphy and Finney loaded up their bicycles, drove to Yorktown, Va., and began a westbound cross-country ride, telling people they meet along the way about Nashville’s plight and handing out flyers seeking donations for Graceworks.

They were in Austin on Tuesday afternoon.

“The coolest part (of the ride) is experiencing the goodness of the people across the country,” Murphy said.

Finney is an experienced cyclist, but Murphy is making the trip on a Trek bicycle he got at Christmas. “I pretty much started training in May,” he said.

The worst part for the two riders has been the prevailing westerly winds blowing in their faces — something they are not likely to see the end of until they cross the Rockies. The two riders and their film crew — they’ll be the subject of a documentary once the ride is complete — were spending the night at the Sterling Motel and planned to roll on west to Jackson, Minn., in the morning.

Their remaining route will take them across South Dakota and Wyoming, through a chunk of Idaho and on into Oregon, before veering south to end up in Crescent City, Calif., — although the details aren’t certain. “We’re pretty much planing a day or two in advance,” Murphy said.

They began their ride June 11, and they aim to finish on Aug. 11.

For more information, see Murphy and Finney’s web site: www.bikingfornashville.com.