Projects That Matter
One Promise. Three Friends. The Journey of a Lifetime
Projects That Matter
One Promise. Three Friends. The Journey of a Lifetime
For Aaron: The Documentary
Notes from the Road
For Aaron: the Documentary is the award winning film that launched our Projects That Matter Initiative. In 2009 we followed a group of friends on the adventure of a lifetime as they traveled across 17 states, 6000 miles, and two support vehicles over the course of 65 days as they honored their fallen brother.
One of those cyclists was Kylar Krebs. This is his journal from the road.
The Family You Choose
When I was 4 years old, I met my very first of the two best friends I would ever have. His name was Aaron, and he lived right across the street from me. Shortly after we would meet Justin. For 18 years, we grew up together, shared our lives together, and became as close as any three people could in this world. We were brothers in all but blood.
On January 18th, 2009, Aaron lost his life in an early morning car crash. When it was finally confirmed, I felt a hurt that I didn’t think was possible to feel. Every memory, from the laughs we shared to the joys we experienced, brought a flood of tears to my eyes. Knowing that I would never look across the street and see him getting out of his car, and never being able to shout his name to him and hear him respond with mine. How could I ever come to grips with losing the person who helped mold a third of the person I had become?
Justin would give me the answer to that question.
My Call to Action
The previous summer, Justin and Aaron came up with the idea that the three of us should take a cross-country bicycle trip after we all had graduated college. Unfortunately, Aaron didn’t survive to see the idea to fruition. About a month after we laid Aaron to rest, Justin called me and told me that we should still go on the bike trip, as a way to honor Aaron’s memory.
However, Justin had more ideas than just the two of us riding bicycles across the country. He had decided that we should make a documentary out of the trip, chronicling not only our journey, but also the entire scope Aaron’s and our lives.
I was out in our family garage shortly after Justin had dropped the documentary idea on me, when I unearth my old bicycle. It was the same bicycle that I had rode the night Justin and I ended up being brought home in a cop car. I thought back to that night, and what I had told Justin. I told him sneaking out that late and riding that far just to meet up with a couple of girls was a really bad idea, but he was hell bent on going. When I realized how determined he was, the only thing that I could say to him was “Well, I can’t let you go alone…”
I called Justin, and simply told him “I’m in.”
August 20th, 2009
We found our crew in a couple of Justin’s friends and classmates from college: Geoff, Justin’s former roommate and friends would be our driver/navigator, and Jon, one of Justin’s film-study classmates, would be our cinematographer. Another one of Justin’s film-study friends, Travis, couldn’t come along on the trip, but offered to be our principle editor for the film. With that, we had our principal crew in place.
On August 20th, 2009, I left my home in rural Central Pennsylvania and drove across the country to Los Angeles. A week after arriving in L.A., I embarked on the return trip home. I experienced nature at its most fierce and witnessed it at its most awe-inspiring moments. I faced the most intense adversities I had ever experienced. Two months after leaving the west coast, I myself back in my hometown in Pennsylvania, and I had completed the entire journey…from the seat of a bicycle.
The day of our departure rolled around quicker than I ever thought it would. We said a tearful goodbye to our families, and on a cloudy morning on August 20th, our journey began.
i'll never let you down
The Mojave Desert
Over the next few days we made our way out of the Los Angeles area and into the remote areas of the Mojave Desert. I had thought the hot asphalt and metal buildings of the city would be as tough as it got, and I was so dead wrong it wasn’t funny. Riding around the humid country roads of Central Pennsylvania is one matter; braving the mean city streets of LA in 100-degree dry heat was another. It seemed like the heat was sapping my strength quicker than I had ever anticipated. I was going through water quicker than I should have, and with the temperatures super-heating our drinks in astonishing time, it was almost impossible to get refreshed. I had finally decided to give up, and admit I couldn’t get up this hill, out of this desert, across the country, and finally home. My mind and body had totally failed me, and I needed to flat out quit.
I was going to call Geoff to come pick me up and help me throw in the towel. As I opened the bag, my wallet fell to the ground. As I bent over to pick it up, I saw it had fallen open to a picture of Aaron I had stashed in it on the day we left for the trip. My mind turned to a thought that pained me almost as bad as when I first realized Aaron was gone. The thought that I was letting him down.
To this day I can’t explain what came over me, standing there in the New Mexico desert, 2500 miles from home. As far as the eye could see, I was alone. Just my bicycle and myself. As I stood there, tears rolling down my cheeks, I suddenly felt like I wasn’t alone. It was almost as if someone was right there, standing next to me. I closed my eyes, and just as I did, it felt like someone put their arm around my shoulders, as if to comfort me. When that happened, all the self-doubt and anger washed from my mind, and only one thing remained. A single sentence, as if spoken from Aaron himself: “You’re gonna be ok”.
There was only Aaron and I, and we were going to get up this hill together.
The Grand Canyon
As I pulled up to the RV, I saw for the first time where we actually were. We were parked on an overlook that looked out over the Grand Canyon.
We sat there, just taking in the marvel and grand scale of the place. It is simply amazing to think that nature could create something so majestic. On a bicycle, you can see things that you can’t take in at high speed. The world itself seems to move slower and open itself up to you. It was an amazing sensation.
Gallup, New Mexico
The trip went on without incident for a while until we reached a small town called Gallup. It was here that our RV, the Gary, decided that it could go no further, and completely broke down.
We informed our parents of what was going on, and they pooled their resources together to come up with a solution.
Justin and my parent’s came up with the idea that we could use Justin’s family’s pop-up camper, and use Justin’s father’s truck to tow it.
We were back on track.
That is, until I crashed my bike.
After some half-assed triage on my bloody appendages, we were back on the road. Over the next few days we covered some good distance. We rode across the Oklahoma panhandle into Kansas.
1 Day, 100 Miles
About halfway through the state Justin suggested we challenge ourselves to ride 100 miles in one day. At his point my body was starting get into cycling-shape. I told Justin lets try it, and the following day we went for it. Just as the sun was starting to set, Justin took us into a stone pull off. As I pulled off, he unclipped his pedometer from his bike and tossed it to me. I looked at it, and saw the big 1 followed by two zero’s, and couldn’t believe it.
“You can't understand beautiful until you know what I have seen.”
― - For Aaron
We reached St. Louis a couple days later, and camped out in an RV park. That night it began to rain. And it rained. And it kept raining.
While we sat there idle for those rainy days, I had a lot of time to contemplate. I realized how grateful I was that I didn’t have the same worries as other people normally do at this stage in their lives. For me there was only the road, the crew, and our destination.
After three days we decided that we couldn’t waste any more time regardless of the rain. We packed up, bundled up, and hit the road through some of the coldest slop I’ve ever endured. The rain seriously slowed our progress, and we could only put in about half as many miles as before. We traversed across Illinois easily enough, and made our way into Indiana.
People Along the Way
We left Indy behind and started putting fewer and fewer miles between our destination and us. The rain was becoming a big downer, however and our moods were turning sour. We were starting to run low on money, and to say that cabin fever was getting to us was an understatement. We had arranged to meet with a newspaper reporter in the small town of Ithaca, Ohio. After talking to the reporter, we decided to chill out there for the night, and started looking for a place to stay. We made our way to a local bed and breakfast, and we told our story to the woman who answered the door. She sympathized with our cause, and took us in for the night, on the house.
60 Miles To Go
Road Sign Salvation
We had gotten the idea that we would like to share the experience of riding for the documentary with our friends and family, and came up with the concept of inviting everybody who was able to join us on the final 60 miles of the trip. In the pouring rain, we met the first group of our friends in the parking lot of a local restaurant. Our friends celebrated around us, and after a moving prayer from Aaron’s father, we set out for our hometown. For me, this final ride was some of the most fun that I had on the trip. Sharing with our friends and family the experience of riding for all those miles brought me an amazing sense of joy.
We picked up a second group of our friends at the halfway point, continued on. We eventually rode into the parking lot of our high school, where the ending of our trip and documentary was to culminate. We rode in to a huge surprise, as a huge crowd of family, friends, and supporters were gathered to welcome us and celebrate our arrival. The high school marching band was even there to play us in as we rode to the celebration.
As I rode for those last few moments before the crowd swarmed me, my thoughts turned to Aaron. Silently, I thanked him for helping me to get over those hills, and watching over me and keeping me safe as I journeyed over this amazing country. I hugged The Klingers’, who had gave to the world one of the most amazing friends you could ever find, and for everything they had done for us. I went and hugged Geoff and Jon, and thanked them for sacrificing their time and giving of themselves to help make the journey possible. Lastly, with tears starting to well in my eyes, I went up to Justin, and gave him the strongest hug of the day.
We had fulfilled our promise to the friend we had lost, and together we had completed the greatest adventure of our lives. There was and is no one else who could have ever pushed me to help me undertake and complete the journey. There is no one out there who I could ever have seen myself doing the trip with. We are and always will be brothers.
And so, our amazing journey had ended. We had traveled over 3000 miles by bicycle, and over 6000 miles overall. We conquered the heat of the Mojave Desert, defeated the winds of the Great Plains, and faced down the cold autumn rains of the East. We discovered the depths of our resolve, and surpassed them. We sweat, bled, ached, shivered, raged and cried. And we did it all…For Aaron.
800 +hours filmed
9 monthsof editing
One year after the day we left to bike across America, we premiered the film in front of our hometown, Milton, Pennsylvania. We knew we were going on a film festival run and in the world of festivals the premiere is coveted. However, we didn’t care – we knew there was only one place, in one town, amongst our friends that helped to make all of this possible that truly deserved that premiere.
On August 21 – For Aaron: The Documentary officially debuted for the world to see.
Around the country & back again
From Emmy Award Winning Executive Producer James Brown of CBS’s NFL Today and Showtime’s Inside the NFL and Award-Winning Director Justin Jarrett, comes For Aaron, a documentary that pleads with the heart and soul to cope with the tragic death of a son, brother, and best friend by honoring life—not loss. Discover how a group of close-knit friends decide to pay homage to the untimely loss of their best friend by cycling 3000 miles across the country to keep one final promise. While the friends embark on this amazing journey to keep their friend’s legacy alive, we will find out just how far friendship, faith, and family will carry them as they come to terms with death for the first time in their lives.