350South: A 17,000 mile bike ride for a good cause

In 2008 Lee Saville rode his bike 700 miles from Portland to San Francisco. Now, he's about to embark on a much more ambitious ride: 17,000 miles. Saville, along with his friend Ian Lacey, will fly from Denver to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, this July and begin their biking trip from the northernmost accessible point in the Americas to the southernmost: Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. They plan to do it all in 350 days. Saville says the ride was Lacey's idea. Lacey is originally from Ireland, and the pair met while he was on work study in Denver. "When I met Ian, we got along really well," remembers Saville. "It's kind of hard to find people you get along with really well that are willing to do a ride that long." Lacey proposed the idea over drinks and Saville, who'd been wanting to do a longer ride after his west coast trip, thought it sounded like a great idea.

The pair will be mostly camping and occasionally staying in hostels along their year-long ride. Saville says they're bringing everything you would typically take backpacking. "There will be portions of the trip where we'll be off the grid for a number of days," explains Saville. "The only thing past the airport until Fairbanks in Alaska is one truck stop 250 miles into the 500 mile leg to Fairbanks. So we're basically gonna take everything we need as if there aren't gonna be services for two weeks."

They will also be taking two tents in case they need some time apart.

"Another factor of the trip is, you know, that we're going to be hanging out with each other for a whole year straight, so as part of the peacekeeping strategy we're going to have two separate tents," adds Saville. They are encouraging Irish diaspora to meet and ride along with them for portions of the journey, and plan to make a documentary about the experience.

But the trip isn't just for fun. Saville and Lacey have a goal of raising €100,000 for the Carers Association of Ireland during their trek. "It's a charity that's close to Ian," says Saville. "Ian had been a part-time carer with his mother for his grandmother before she passed away. His mom had to make a lot of personal sacrifice during that time, just because caring for someone 24 hours a day takes so much." The Carers Association, as Saville explains, is "a lobbying group that tries to get rights and money for home carers."

In preparation for the trip, Saville has just finished a Wilderness First Responders course, and will have his last day at his coffee shop job in the beginning of July. From there, the two will set out on a journey that will take them through 15 countries. "It's a really particularly excellent way to travel, because you experience every climate you go through and you experience all the sights and the smells in a really firsthand way," says Saville. "You're not cloistered by the interior of an automobile. It's not like you just flew in to the one nice area of Mexico and are at an all-inclusive resort. You see the whole package."

For more information on 350South and to donate to the Carers Association of Ireland, visit the website. If you'd like to become a sponsor of the trip, shoot them an email.

Follow us on Twitter!