Route leads bikers to Black Belt

Published 7:32 pm Friday, June 10, 2011

A group of nine students and mentors, who are on an 1800-mile bike ride along the route of the Underground Railroad, will make a stop in Selma next week. The group, which is part of the Spoke ‘n Revolutions program, from Chapel Hill, N..C., will reach Selma on June 17. -- Special photo

By Alison McFerrin

The Selma Times-Journal

Bicycling has come back into vogue as everyone “goes green,” but one biking group will be riding through Selma with more than healthy and green living in mind.

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“The historical value of the trip is monumental,” Spoke ‘n Revolutions leader Kevin Hicks said.  “Retracing ancestral steps, experiencing the difficulties — although we’re on bikes — the journey would have taken for our ancestors.”

The trip in question is an 1800-mile ride along the route of the Underground Railroad — a trek that will be made by nine high school students and three adult mentors, and will take them through Selma near the beginning of their journey.

“We came across Adventure Cycling’s Underground Railroad map, and they were excited and said they wanted to do it, even though it was 1,800 miles. They weren’t afraid of it,” Hicks said.

The group from Chapel Hill, N.C., will be making the journey from Mobile to Niagra Falls, N.Y., all in the space of 40 days.

“What we plan to do is ride early … before it gets really hot,” Hicks said. The group will ride 40 miles in the morning, spend time visiting a town along their route in the afternoon, and then put in another 20 miles before stopping for the night.

Spoke ‘n Revolutions will be rolling in to Selma on June 17.

“We will be on the lookout for the celebration of Juneteenth and are open to suggestions by any local townspeople,” Hicks said. “(We) hope to take in the sights at the museums and other historical places.”

The group will sleep in different locations along the way, such as churches or local YMCA’s.

“We’re kind of recreating the Underground Railroad, which was a loose network of communities and individuals,” Hicks said. “We call all of (our supporters) conductors, as they did on the Underground Railroad.”

The bikers have trained extensively up to this point to be ready for the ride, which will begin June 13, Hicks said.

“When the weather broke in February, we were just doing eight miles, and then we moved it up to 15 miles,” Hicks said. “We’ve been gradually moving up to 55 miles (a day).”

Hicks and his group have a tour van provided by the National Park Service in which they will travel home after reaching their destination.

Hick said he thinks the hardest part will be getting started.

“I think the hardest part will be getting up in the morning for the first two weeks and getting on the bikes,” Hicks said. “Everyone says that is something that the body has to get accustomed to … Other than that, it is going to be a blast.”

The other adult mentors are Hicks’ wife, Suepinda Keith, and high school history teacher Bob Brogden, who will provide the curriculum of study and point out interesting facts and history along the way, Hicks said.

“We’re still seeking donations if people would like to do so,” Hicks said. “We’re still in need of gas money, and any extra monies that are collected are going to a scholarship fund for the students.”