Four Tennessee students set out from Los Angeles in June on a cross-country bike ride to Savannah, Georgia to raise awareness for human trafficking. The Freedom Cyclers arrived in Knoxville on Friday.
Four University of Tennessee students are in the middle of a coast to coast bike ride from Los Angeles to Savannah, Georgia.
The Freedom Cyclers- Jason Elliot, Jeff Maier, Taylor Carlisle and Matthew Roelofs- are using the trip to raise awareness for human trafficking.
They started the 3,200 mile journey with their tires in the sand on Newport Beach.
"March is when I started training," said Knoxville native Jeff Maier.
"Same thing with Matthew and Taylor. We have one cyclist of the four. So he's kind of our leader and then we all just kind of pretend behind him, little ducklings."
The idea started with Jason Elliot, the only one with cycling experience.
"We said we wanted to do it for a cause and be apart of something bigger than ourselves," said Elliot.
After a week of prayer and talking to people, Jason and Jeff both thought human trafficking was an important issue.
"Not long after, at Cedar Springs in their missions conference, a guy from the Mekong Club who we're supporting came and spoke and really just enlightened us and explained to us all about it," said Elliot.
"And that just kind of sealed the deal like this is what we should be doing," added Maier. "These people are struggling, they're being forced to have sex or being forced to work in some kind of factory or something like that and nobody's really fighting for them or loving them. I guess what people don't know is the fact that even in America it goes on. Our main goal is just to get the word out."
The Freedom Cyclers have been able to spread the word about human trafficking by talking with media outlets throughout the country and educating people they've met along the way. They have also raised about eight thousand dollars so far to help three organizations working to stop human trafficking.
The journey started with a grueling ride through the desert.
"It was like 100 degrees and my body just wasn't used to it," said Maier. "My butt was unbelievably sore. It was rough. It was still beautiful even in the desert. We didn't see grass for like two weeks."
The foursome has ridden along the rim of the Grand Canyon, climbed the Rocky Mountains and sped through the plains of Kansas.
"Kansas was dang boring, but we could go fast because it was so flat," said Maier.
Taylor Carlisle and Jason Elliot of the Freedom Riders tell us their favorite parts of the trip and what it's like biking across the country.
And now they've hit the homestretch, getting a chance to see family and friends in Memphis in Knoxville. The Freedom Cyclers arrived at West Bicycles in Farragut at about noon on Friday. There they collected some friends to join them on a ride down Kingston Pike to Tennessee's campus.
The four guys were all friends before the trip, but have grown even closer.
"On this trip you're physically destroyed after the day and you get an opportunity to just like serve the other three guys in a way that you don't usually get to do unless you're with your family," said Taylor Carlisle.
Just six biking days and about 550 miles separate the Freedom Cyclers from the finish line.
"We're definitely sprinting to the ocean and relaxing," said Elliot with a laugh.