June 11, 2007
CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine:
Slippery Rock student's Florida cycling trip
ends with success
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Cyclist Brian McCandless, a Slippery Rock University sophomore, pedaled up the final hill of his 2,000-mile bicycle trip to Florida and back Sunday, raised his fists in the air and let out a whoop. "Amazing," he said.
It was time to party. And party his friends and family did.
More than 100 family, friends and supporters turned out to greet McCandless at Rider Lutheran Church in West Sunbury as he completed his trek to raise awareness of cystic fibrosis, the life-threatening genetic disease affecting the lungs of 30,000 Americans. Diagnosed with the respiratory disease as an infant, McCandless pedaled to Tallahassee and back in 26 days.
"Georgia was the toughest because it's a long state and it's flat," McCandless said. "You're just kind of staring at the horizon all day - eight or nine hours just pedaling along. It can be tough on the mind. Plus, it was 100 degrees with high humidity."
McCandless covered 2,045 miles. He experienced four flat tires, got sick in Tennessee and slept in campgrounds every other night. Sunday was his 20th birthday.
"Quitting never crossed my mind," the physical education major said.
McCandlesss kept a blog during the trip, writing on day 17, "The state of George and I had a battle and although the hot, flat 427-mile stretch left its scars, I came out on top." On day 20 he wrote, "Virginia's mountains proved to be as tough as they were on the way down, however, they were no match for my strong lungs and my legs of steel!"
Cousin Jake Gray and SRU student Ben Gahr of Franklin, who also has the disease, shadowed him in the van. They hauled gear, including replacement bicycle tires. None of McCandless' pre-arranged lodging accommodations fell through.
McCandless said he conceived of the trip after his doctor asked him to speak to a family whose child had just been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis.
"I told them their child should not feel limited by the diagnosis," he said. "A person with this disease can do extraordinary things."
His father, Bruce McCandless, and Steve Roberts, SRU director of Outdoor Adventures, accompanied him on the final leg of his trip, as did other cyclists.
Slippery Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.