SANTA MONICA, Calif. - Challenges abound when cycling across the country, but one challenge Ashley Haynes didn't foresee,was being "T-boned" by a deer.
"Yes, the deer hit me; I didn't hit the deer," said the 25-year-old from Clinton, Ohio, in southwest Summit County.
"I felt like I was hit by an NFL linebacker with no pads on, but I got up and I walked away from it."
The deer incident happened as she was cycling outside Slidell, La., about three weeks into the "Young and Wild Expedition 2013" ride.
Her bike's handlebars slightly bent and the bike, like Haynes, a bit scratched up, she gathered herself up and rode.
Young and Wild may be in the title, but young and involved is more of what her group of eight cyclists is.
They do charitable works and community service projects along their 7,000-mile route, under the Young Philanthropists four core principles: inspire, explore, connect, celebrate.
"That's been the most rewarding part for me," she said describing works she has done at ministries in Louisiana, Texas and Arizona. "We have done everything from cleaning up trash to painting to serving hot meals to homeless folks. "
Adding to the charitable pillar to their ride, they are also helping people in Central America.
"The place we are supporting in Honduras is called Casa De Luz. Casa De Luz is a day care and school that feeds and provides assistance to children," she said.
She was able to raise $1,000 for the charitable ride.
The ride began Jan. 7 in Jacksonville, Fla. heading to San Diego. If that isn't enough then how about a right turn at San Diego and a short hop to Seattle?
Haynes, a Kent State University student, works for her parents' cleaning company. She took the spring semester off school and her parents allowed her to take time off from work for her adventure.
She didn't decide to do the ride until two weeks before the Florida kick off, giving her little time to fund raise or train.
"I also came on the ride to push myself out of the box. I needed to be pushed out of my comfort zones to truly grow as a person. "
Underscoring the self-sacrifice. they sleep in tents and eat on just $5 a day, not including food donated by charities along the way.
All their needs are carried in four panniers per bike, with no chase or support vehicles. Panniers are similar to saddlebags that go over both the front and rear wheels.
Marty Ethington, also 25 and Coventry High School classmate of Haynes, is the only other rider from Ohio.
Haynes is proud of the community building they've done on the ride but is also awestruck by the beautiful scenery our country offers.
"Unlike a plane or a car, when you are biking you notice so much more detail," she said. "You get to experience the full effect of nature and what it has to offer when you are riding by at 10 to 15 miles per hour or you can stop and just capture the moment and take it all in."