Eric Mitchell in the midst of cross-country cycling adventure
3/30/2005 3:09:09 PM
For some professors, a sabbatical means a time for research, relaxation and rejuvenation.
Not so for Eric Mitchell. He’s using part of his sabbatical to ride 3,159 miles on his bicycle.
Crazy? Maybe, but for Mitchell, it’s a chance to do something he’s only dreamed of – bike cross country. An economics professor at R-MWC, Mitchell has loved biking since he rode his first two-wheeler at age four. This is by far his longest ride yet.
And while he’s a little nervous, he has no doubt he’ll be able to finish the trek. The trip will last anywhere from 61 to 65 days and take him across the country.
“I’ve been training since September,” he said before leaving for his adventure. But he’s the first to admit the route he’s taking might present some obstacles. Starting in San Diego, Mitchell and the other 11 riders taking part in the Adventure Cycling run will tackle three sets of mountains, brave freeways and cross deserts on their way to St. Augustine, Florida. They’re carrying everything on their bikes, so the cyclists will camp at night and buy groceries when they stop.
“I’m hoping it will be the trip of a lifetime,” Mitchell said. The people in his group range in age from their early 20s to 60s. No one knew each other before the trip. But as Mitchell can tell from experience, there is a close knit community of cyclists out there – connected by their love of the outdoors and perhaps their need for adventure.
Serious cross-country cyclists know they’ll face difficulties during a trek, but they also know they’ll meet lots of people willing to offer a stranger a cold drink, shelter, even food.
“There’s a sort of network out there,” Mitchell said.
While Mitchell will be thousands of miles away from his classroom, his students won’t be far from his mind. He often uses his experiences bicycling in his classroom to describe the economic conditions of different parts of the country. This trip will bring him up close and personal to a variety of different styles of living, from the urban nature of San Diego to the Hispanic populations of the Southwest.
“You get a different sense of the terrain when you are on a bike instead of in a car,” he said. “You are right there in it. You smell the smells, and hear the sounds.”
No matter where Mitchell goes, he knows he’ll feel at home on his bike.
“I enjoy it,” he said. “I enjoy the experiences and the solitude and the peacefulness. It’s so quiet when you are out there.”
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