Mike and Nate bike the statesPublished 10:57pm Saturday, July 21, 2012
Suffolk motorists on Friday may have gotten a glimpse of a couple of brightly-clad men cycling through the city on their way to Norfolk.
Nathaniel “Nate” Frankoski, 25, and Michael “Mike” Buonaiuto Jr., 22, are bicycling from Key West, Fla., to Niagara Falls this summer to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project. Their goal is to make the trip in 50 days, bike 50 miles per day and raise $50,000.
“We have a heart for those that fell down for our freedom,” Buonaiuto said. “We want to pick them up and encourage them financially.”
The two friends, who go to church and Florida Atlantic University together, decided to do a bicycle trip to see part of America while raising money for wounded warriors.
“When we decided to do this trip, we wanted to do it for a reason that was selfless,” Frankoski said. “We love God, love America and love people. To marry all those ideas together, we chose the Wounded Warrior Project.”
In addition to asking people to donate along the route, they’ve also set up a website — www.mikeandnate.com — where people can donate by credit card. In a fundraising move common within the world of cyclists, they’ve also sold space on their spandex biking suits to companies.
The duo rode through Suffolk on the 26th day of their journey, just past the zenith of the trip. But they have yet to raise even half of their goal — they’ve only gotten to $6,000 so far.
But they believe people will step up and donate as they get further into the trip, they said.
“Our job is to bike. Americans’ job is to pay,” Buonaiuto said.
They certainly haven’t spent much money on room and board. They’ve mostly arranged their accommodations on www.couchsurfing.org. They’ve stayed at fire departments and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts, as well as with college students, working professionals, musicians, biker gangs and groups of surfers.
“We roll into the town believing that a place is provided, and it always is,” Frankoski said.
They’ve only paid for one meal along the way, finding friendly managers at local restaurants are more than willing to share after hearing their goal.
Never having been out of South Florida on their bicycles before, the two have seen some interesting things. They ran over alligator roadkill, saw a truck dragging a boat on a trailer that didn’t have tires, and got chased by half a dozen dogs in North Carolina. Much of the trip has been recorded on the camera strapped to the helmet of one or the other at all times.
But they’ve also come across reminders of why they embarked on the journey in the first place.
“We met a veteran named Hector that said the deepest wounds are the ones you can’t see,” Frankoski said. “You can’t take back what you saw.”