Pedal Power - The Great Ride to D.C.: Robert Morris University Pedal Power - The Great Ride to D.C. | Robert Morris University

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WEB EXCLUSIVE! From May 26-31, a group of Robert Morris University staff members, students, alumni, and friends embarked on a group bike ride from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C., with stops in Ohio Pyle (Pa.), Cumberland (Md.), Hancock (Md.), and Harpers Ferry (W. Va.). The following is an account of the journey as experienced by RMU Senior Writer Valentine J. Brkich.
Day 1
| Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | View pictures from the 150 mile journey.

BY VALENTINE J. BRKICH

Maybe I should have trained for this, I thought, as I pedaled my mountain bike along the wooded trail near Meyersdale, Pa. I was two days into a five-day journey from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C. And I still had well over 200 miles to go.

This spring, I joined a group of 22 Robert Morris University staff members, students, alumni, and friends in a ride to our nation’s capital.

During the first two days, we followed the Great Allegheny Passage, a 150- mile multi-use trail that snakes its way along the abandoned routes of former railroads. For the final three days we continued along the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Towpath, which runs 185 miles to D.C.

The trip, organized by a committee led by RMU strength and conditioning coach Todd Hamer, offered a chance to see some incredible sites, from the lush, rolling landscape of the Allegheny Mountains to the dozens of old canal locks along the C&O, to Great Falls, just outside of D.C. However, we also had to overcome a few minor mishaps, including several flat tires and a couple crashes that left some riders bruised and a little bloody. We came across a variety of wildlife, too, including grumpy snapping turtles, kamikaze chipmunks, poisonous copperheads, and some sort of beetle/ caterpillar/ crustacean-like creature, a.k.a. the Black Scorpion Monster Thingy from Hell.

The biggest challenge was riding through blustery thunderstorms that drenched us as we crossed into Maryland between Meyersdale and Cumberland. The torrential rains and hailstorms turned what should have been a comfortable coast down out of the mountains into an ordeal, and made the next day’s ride to Hancock one big muddy mess as we slogged our way along the C&O Canal Towpath.

Seth Dickerson, a student in the online M.B.A. program, was one of the lucky few who stayed ahead of the storms. The Natrona Heights resident, who completed the ride with a broken wrist and a broken toe from playing indoor soccer, says coming down from the Eastern Continental Divide was his favorite part. “We climbed uphill for almost 50 miles until we reached the Divide,” he says. “I believe I actually shed tears once I got there because I thought that hill would never end. Coming down into Cumberland was an awesome feeling. And I’m glad I made it to the hotel before the rains came down.”

Dickerson is a medical technologist at West Penn Hospital in Bloomfield, where he works in the stem cell processing lab in the cancer institute. He handles the harvesting, processing, and transplanting of stem cells to patients diagnosed with leukemia or a similar blood cancer, in hopes of putting their disease into remission. Once he completes his M.B.A., Dickerson plans to move into health care administration, banking, or human resources management.

He and his wife, Michelle, a high school history teacher, are the parents of two girls, Cera, 11, and Natalie, 2, with another baby due in September. With a third child on the way, Dickerson says he doesn’t have any new adventures planned for the near future. “Just getting sleep will be an adventure,” he says.

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