MIAMI -- Savannah Sill's summer break is a fantasy vacation for even the most fervent travel buff.
She will start out in New England, hang a right past the Great Lakes, drop in on Minnesota's Twin Cities, cruise through America's heartland and scale the Rockies before finally winding down in Seattle.
But her cross-continental holiday has one major catch: no trains, planes or automobiles.
Aboard her Trek 1000 bicycle, she will pedal the 4,295 miles, a 69-day journey through small towns and national parks, sleeping in a tent and bathing in lakes as she goes.
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Sill, an environmental studies and geography major at Florida State University, is one of 18 cyclists about to traverse the country along its northern tier, all in the name of adventure -- and to combat multiple sclerosis, a chronic nervous-system disorder that afflicts 400,000 Americans.
The ride is part of the annual Bike the U.S. for MS tour, which has raised more than $150,000 this year alone. Each participant is obligated to collect a dollar for each mile of the course. The proceeds fund MS research and treatment, as well as home-modification programs for people with the disease.
"It's one of the causes that's really not well-known," said Sill, who grew up in Coconut Grove, Fla.
"You hear about the American Cancer Society or lung cancer or breast cancer or Crohn's, but not very often do you hear about MS. I really want to bring about a change, and [hope] the money I raise can help them get closer to a cure."
And in the process, experience an adventure of a lifetime.
Sill bikes competitively at Florida State, and learned about the MS ride from teammate Leigh Graziano, who is a group leader this year after participating in the 2010 trek.
Sill, 19, grew up with a love of the outdoors and usually spends her summer working as a camp counselor. With the only costs of the MS ride a plane ticket and bike shipment, she figured, "Why not? What else do I have going on?"
The journey began May 28 in Bar Harbor, Maine, with a 60-mile ride to Searsport. The group will cross the Mississippi River in late June, and spend the Fourth of July in Bemidji, Minn., known for its giant statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox.
The cyclists will really start climbing in North Dakota, then conquer the Rocky Mountains in Montana and Idaho before cruising down to Puget Sound, Wash., where her excited -- not to mention relieved -- family will meet her in early August.
"Of course, we're concerned," said her dad, Murry, a professional photographer who rides recreationally. "Anytime you get on the highway with a bike, you're taking your life in your hands. But a support van will never be too far away."
That 18-passanger vehicle will travel with the group, transporting the riders' essentials in a trailer. Each participant is allowed a small storage space, so Sill packed light. A small tent will be her home most nights, although riders are allowed the occasional luxury of a cheap motel room.
On those nights, she's guaranteed a shower, but some campsites aren't that fancy, so personal hygiene will consist of biodegradable soap and a nearby body of water.
"I can rough it," Sill said with a grin. "I don't mind sleeping on the ground. I'm used it."
Every few weeks, there will be a scheduled rest day, but the riders won't be seeking out the nearest spa. Instead they'll help to renovate the bathrooms of MS patients, reconfiguring the showers to make them accessible by a wheelchair.
"Some people don't have enough money to pay for bathroom renovations, so the money's going to that," Sill said.
"MS is mostly genetic, so you can't really [prevent] it. You have it, and there's no cure for it yet. I really want to help bring about a change."
And see the country along the way.
Tracking the trek
Savannah Sill is chronicling her cross-country bike ride on Twitter. Follow her adventure @savannah--biker.
The website for the trek is www.biketheusforms.org.