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May Graduate's First Venture: A Bike Trip Across the U.S.

When Brian Carion graduated with his MSE-ME in May, he had a job lined up at Guidant Corporation in St. Paul, where he interned last summer. He will be working in the company's Advanced Manufacturing division, taking the products from R&D and setting up the manufacturing process.

Such quick job placement is to be expected from a 7-term honor student who completed both his undergraduate (BSE-ME '01) and masters degrees in only five years, at the age of 22. But before Brian moves to Minnesota later this summer, he's undertaking a more physical challenge: a 3,400-mile bicycle trip from Los Angeles to Boston.

Brian and lifelong friend Joe Godek, 24, left LA Friday, May 24, lugging 50 pounds of gear each, and they expect to reach their destination by early July.

"We're riding self-contained (carrying all of our gear)," writes Brian, "and we are self-supported (we have no one supporting us or following us in a vehicle). We are on a true journey!"

And what a journey it has been, pedaling 100 or more miles per day through mountains, 30 mph headwinds, 100 degree weather (101 in the shade at one point), and unfamiliar territory! Brian and Joe have never biked this far in one stretch, but they have been riding all their lives. Brian previously rode from Hazel Park, MI, to Washinton, DC, and Joe rode from Hazel Park to Cincinnati, Ohio. During his undergraduate career, Brian ran cross country and track for 1-1/2 years and competed with the Athenian Athletics Track Club.

Despite their physical fitness and experience, the trip has been a challenge at times. In e-mail updates he sent to friends and family, the U-M grad describes some of the trials of the weather and terrain:

(May 27) "Day 4, this was the hottest and longest of all. We managed to squeek in 35 miles in the morning with 10 of them spent climbing up and out of Quartsite, AZ. It was awful! The thermometer peaked out at 101 in the shade. This sure makes for some hot biking for some Michigan boys."

(May 28) "We're hiding out under a tree trying to rest up for this evening's 'scaling'...and I say 'scaling' cause we'll be climbing a total of over 4,000 feet hoping to get into Prescott tonight."

(June 6) "... just as we were leaving the gas station we ate at, the man working there told us that a hail storm was working its way north and coming toward Logon... As soon as we got back into the gas station building, hail the size of golf balls on steroids started plummeting out of the sky. No joke...the hail was two inches in diameter, and the sound of it hitting the roof and the ground sounded like hundreds of shootguns all going off at the same time."

On the other hand, they've met plenty of friendly people (some of whom gave them brief rides) and seen some beautiful scenery:

(May 25) "We rode by the windmill farms preceding Palm Springs and through downtown Palm Springs. Pretty place and a lot of expensive cars!"

(May 29) "Once in Sedona, the sun was setting and the mountains were astonishing. Their red brilliance almost seemed artificial."

(June 4) "The mountain skyline in NM is outstanding and the awesome downhills send the adrenaline racing through our veins. Joe and I flirted with 55 mph on some downhills yesterday coming into Tucumcari. (And yes, Mom, we're being careful.)"

More Updates

( http://me.engin.umich.edu/news/news/2002_06_briancarion.shtml#updates )

Professor Noel Perkins, a fellow biking enthusiast and the former undergraduate programs director who knows Brian well, notes that Brian previously completed internships at GM's Truck Validation Center, Pontiac, and GM's Desert Proving Grounds, Mesa, AZ.

"I find it ironic that Brian has now proved himself again in the Arizona desert, this time by pedaling across it. He'll also be proving himself over and over again as he crosses the lower Rockies and tackles stiff headwinds in his ride.

"What makes his ride doubly ambitious is the pace he and Joe are setting. It's not easy riding back to back centuries (100 miles) day after day, and I know from experience how draining this pace can be!"

Draining it has been, but they're not about to quit. They can endure or wait out unfavorable conditions, and for the rest, they rely on the charity of strangers, sheer determination, and prayer.

In Brian's words: "Well, that's all for now. Oh, and yes... Prof. Perkins, our rumps are killing us still and we're praying to the big man in the sky every night that they feel better soon!"

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