Their lives would soon move apart again, so last spring brothers Donnie and Taylor Doolittle made plans for a big adventure.
Taylor, the younger of the two, had just finished college and would soon leave the family's University City home, headed for Minnesota.
The brothers decided to pedal across the country, about 3,500 miles from coastal Oregon to Washington, D.C.
Just for fun.
They would enjoy each other's company and get familiar with the vast territories beyond their native state.
Along the way, the graduates of Concord's First Assembly Christian School would raise money for a Brazilian orphanage run by the parents of one of Taylor's pals from Gardner Webb University.
They set a lofty fundraising goal of $20,000, but decided they wouldn't fret if they fell short on collecting donations of $5 per mile to reach the goal.
They mounted their bikes Aug. 5 and arrived in the nation's capital two months and two days later, with $6,000 pledged for the orphanage.
"We didn't get too many 'You're crazy-ies' before the trip," said Donnie. "Most of the 'You're nuts' came during the trip. Every day.
"I felt like they didn't know what they were missing out on," he added.
The brothers are thrilled that they are raising awareness about the Davis Lar Children's Home in Fortaleza, Brazil. Its staff cares for roughly 50 children who have suffered from neglect and violence. On the journey, Donnie, 24, and Taylor, 22, stood before majestic snow-capped peaks as sunlight streamed through clouds. They also shared awe at seeing wildlife roaming the great forests.
For Taylor, the greatest wonder was finding that hospitality exists outside the South.
"People invited us in and gave us a place to sleep and let us take a shower," he said. "Sometimes people even cooked dinner for us or invited us to eat with the family. It was incredible."
Taylor leaves for Minnesota in November, with plans for a job, graduate school and a life with his college sweetheart. He's still working out many of the details.
Donnie, a Central Piedmont Community College grad who spent six months hiking the Appalachian Trail last year, said he is excited to be able to sit still.
He expects to start work Monday in a bindery shop in Charlotte and share a house with friends in the Plaza Midwood area.
He knows he'll miss his brother.
"The relationship that mattered, the relationship with my brother, those are things that I really longed for when I was out by myself on my hike," he said. "He knows how to make me smile."
They will say goodbye next month with a greater appreciation for each other and their country. As they go, the bond between them will include hope for the children in Brazil.
"We want to encourage others to go out and fulfill those dreams that you have and do the things that you've always dreamt of doing - and help others along the way," Taylor said.