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More than Spinning Wheels
New grad bikes America for Alzheimer’s

Some bright-eyed college graduates join the Peace Corps; others don business suits and enter the workforce with aplomb; and then there are those who bum around Burlington, clinging to the apron strings of alma mater just a bit longer. But Andy Brown ’03 chose a post-college path a bit less traveled.

“All of sudden it hit me. I was going to graduate in May,” Brown says. “I remember thinking, ‘I’ve got to do something with my life.’” So, he set out about doing just that from the seat of a bicycle.

At the end of last June, Brown embarked on a 69-day transcontinental bike ride. His tour, “Coast to Coast: A Ride to Remember,” was much more than an extended vacation before settling down to more serious things. Brown rode in honor of his grandmother, who suffers from Alzheimer’s, and along the way raised more than $3,000 for research to fight the disease.

The former computer science major’s trek began in Portland, Maine. Spanning northern New England brought him back up to Burlington for a stop before pointing his handlebars toward his hometown on the Lake Ontario shore of New York. From there, Brown swung below the Great Lakes, taking a line through states such as Missouri, Colorado, and Utah before he stopped pedaling in San Francisco.

But such a journey can’t be fully finished without a touch of ceremony. “I dipped my back tire in the Atlantic Ocean and my front tire in the Pacific,” Brown says with a laugh.

Brown biked through 14 states in all and was left with some vivid and distinct memories of each. “I really appreciated a sense of what America is, its diversity and beauty. I remember passing by so many cows in Oklahoma. They would all turn and thoughtfully stare at me. And in southern Utah, I felt like I was on another planet; it was the most surreal place I have ever seen.”

Brown says the Rocky Mountains were the hardest part of the journey, but that the whole experience — biking 100 miles a day carrying 50 extra pounds on his rig — got him in the best shape of his life. Compared to the riding, the fundraising was the easy part. Brown teamed up with the Alzheimer’s Association of Vermont and New Hampshire, assuring that all donations to the ride went directly into research.

Prepped for the challenges of the “real world” by coping with realities such as four solid days of rain and nothing to do but pedal or survival on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Brown has set up housekeeping in Utah where he hopes to develop an Internet business. But his passion for cycling is still in gear and his thoughts return to the road often. He puts it simply — “There’s something to be said for seeing the world at 15 miles per hour.”

—Carly Baldwin ’05