5-man St. John's cycling team gets medals for heavy pedaling

August 09, 1993|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Staff Writer

To strains of "When the Saints Go Marching In," a team led by St. John's College officials ended a 2,100-mile bicycle trip yesterday by riding up a brick walkway lined with about 200 cheering friends and one dog.

Led by Christopher Nelson, the 45-year-old president of the Annapolis campus, Team B.I.S.H.O.P. arrived at 5 p.m. to cake, balloons, streamers, a tolling bell and a rainbow over an aluminum pot filled with champagne.

"I've got a few saddle sores," Mr. Nelson said.

The bicyclists completed their trip in 22 days. They left July 18 from the Santa Fe, N.M., campus of the "Great Books" college. They spent three days resting and averaged more than 110 miles a day.

The men -- four college officials and one writer -- agreed that the most arduous part of the trip was the weather. For eight straight days, the temperature topped 100 degrees.

Mr. Nelson estimated they each drank at least 3 gallons of water a day.

Leo Pickens, 37, athletic director of the Annapolis college, said the toughest stretch was the climb onto the Cumberland Plateau. Midway up the climb of several hundred feet, thunderstorms broke out. The group kept riding through the rain, then stopped to dry off under the eaves of a church aptly named Church of the Living Waters, he said.

"All of us live hectic lives. This allowed us to focus on a particular goal for three weeks," said Jeff Morgan, 37, vice president for advancement of the Santa Fe campus. But he described the hot days as "like going to hell."

Although the odyssey was done in the spirit of adventure and for fun, inspiration came from a teen-ager named Lauren, daughter of Jeffrey Bishop, 46, vice president for advancement at the Annapolis campus. Last summer, she quipped that her father was getting a middle-aged spread.

Bob Gray, 38, a Baltimore writer, said he hopes the group can put together a travel guide or article about its journey.

The welcome home, with a police escort, was hastily organized by the Mice Will Play Committee, a group of a dozen people, most of whom work at the college. Nine members of the Eldorados Drum and Bugle Corps of Annapolis agreed only hours earlier that afternoon to play for the festivities.

In keeping with the traditions of a college that blends the classics with modern literature, the committee gave each man a laurel wreath and a medal for his accomplishment.

Each rider received a citation from Gov. William Donald Schaefer, a proclamation from County Executive Robert R. Neall and a certificate of distinguished citizenship from Annapolis Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins.

Mr. Bishop's wife, Susan, their 7-year-old daughter March, and Joyce Olin, Mr. Nelson's wife, followed the men in a support van carrying spare bike parts.

"It's awesome," said 21-year-old student Alison Brown of Toronto. "I'm going out to Santa Fe in 2 1/2 weeks. I'm flying, taking the easy way."

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