Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 8, 2013

SALISBURY — He’s ridden 4,164 miles on two wheels. Crossed the United States. Accomplished a dream.

And, with David Freeze now back home, those who followed his story via the Salisbury Post had a chance to meet and congratulate him Wednesday.

An ice cream social for Freeze brought about 125 people to the Post for a chance to meet the cyclist and hear about his journey.

They included friends and those who know him from the fitness classes and activities he’s led.

But many said they knew him only from the story of his trip.

“We’ve been following as a family,” said Charity Davis, of Kannapolis. She and fellow cyclists from the Early Risers club came out to greet him.

They, and some others, brought copies of newspaper articles for Freeze to autograph.

“We cycle and run,” Davis said.

“I found it very inspiring that he would tackle such a journey,” Davis said. “It seemed like it was really tough. I’m not quite sure that I’m that much of an endurance athlete.”

Starting in Astoria, Ore., on June 10, Freeze saw much of the United States in the course of his 56-day ride, which ended in Myrtle Beach on Sunday.

Crystal Karriker, another member of the Early Risers, said being out on the road alone would be the hardest part for her.

“That would be the biggest struggle,” Karriker said.

“We exercise together all the time, but I wouldn’t do it by myself,” Karriker said.

Clayton Armistead, of Granite Quarry, said he knew Freeze from the East Rowan YMCA.

“I read his column every day,” Armistead said. “I got to learn all about the country, I can tell you that.”

He said Freeze’s idea was the right one: travel the “backroads and byways.”

“You don’t see very much from the interstates,” Armistead said.

“I felt like I was on the trip with him,” Henry Goodnight said. A family friend of Freeze, Goodnight said he may plan his own overnight cycling trip as a result of reading about Freeze’s.

“I bike a little bit myself, not tremendously, but it inspired me,” he said.

When faced with a hill on a recent ride, Goodnight said, “I thought, if David can conquer those hills, I can conquer this one.”

As guests enjoyed free ice cream cones, courtesy of the Post, a line of people waited to ask Freeze about the journey.

After shaking hands with Freeze, Greg Dunn of Salisbury said he was impressed with Freeze’s attitude, as well as his accomplishment.

Dunn, who said he’s known of Freeze through local running events, said he thinks the story of his trip will inspire others.

“Just getting more people to say, let’s try to run, let’s try to bike around Salisbury,” Dunn said. “This is a beautiful place to ride, with the farmland we have here.”

Steve and Brenda McMath, of Kannapolis, said they missed a chance to see Freeze during their own road trip to national parks out west.

The McMaths said they graduated from Freeze’s “Fortify Your Fitness” class offered through Rowan-Cabarrus Community College.

They emailed the Post to get in touch with David when they saw their routes would nearly meet.

Sadly, they missed Freeze by about a day.

“We told people about you,” Brenda McMath said to Freeze, “about what you were doing.”

As her father held court across the lobby, daughter Amber Freeze said her father’s homecoming was emotional.

“A hug had never felt so good before,” Amber Freeze said.

Now that he’s home, she said the family still hasn’t heard all of his story. The three days since his return have been spent catching up on rest.

She said the family had been concerned about his decision to bicycle cross-country.

In the end, Amber said, “I guess I’m a lot like my dad. You should support adventure, just give them all of your support.”

“It was his dream to do this,” she said.

After the reception, Freeze told Post staff that there were definite hard parts along the way.

“The very first hill I had to climb seemed to be one of the hardest,” Freeze said.

But after weeks of cycling, including the 11,500-foot-high Hoosier Pass in Colorado, Freeze said he was now used to being on a bike.

Interestingly enough, Freeze said, his muscles have adjusted to the effort of cycling. “Running is really hard for me right now,” he said.

With his cross-country trip now finished, Freeze said he’s considering where he might go next.

“I might think about the Pacific or the Atlantic coast,” he said — somewhere with more people to see.

No matter where he goes, Freeze said, trips like this aren’t just sightseeing ventures or fitness quests.

“It’s an adventure,” Freeze said.

More than that, it’s a story that may inspire others for a long time to come.

Three generations of one family were among those who shook Freeze’s hand Wednesday at the reception.

Bill Weant, son Scott and grandson Coby all compete in running events.

Scott said they emailed Freeze along the way, and prayed he’d return safe and sound.

“It’s truly amazing, what he accomplished,” Weant said.

Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.