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GROTON — Despite a last-minute mishap that cut short a nearly 3,000 mile journey, a local student said he still intends to finish the last several hundred miles of a bicycle trip that began in San Francisco and ended abruptly in western Virginia.

“I’d very much like to go down and maybe try and finish that last stretch,” said Spaulding Lane resident Steve O’Brien of the epic journey he began with friend Rex Radloff of Dedham on May 28. “Or maybe I might just try to do another ride. In the end though, I think I’d just like to get back on my bike again.”

O’Brien, a marine biology student at UMass-Lowell, first conceived the idea of riding his bike across the country over lunch.

“Basically it was my friend’s idea,” explained O’Brien. “We were sitting at lunch one day and he made the suggestion and I said ‘Let’s run with it!’ I liked where he was going with it and that’s how it all started.”

An athlete even before he graduated from Groton-Dunstable Regional High School in 2006, O’Brien had little doubt he could tackle the daunting challenge of cycling such a long distance.

“Once we’d decided to do it, we did a lot of research and looked up journals on line and got directed to some sort of cycle mapping system,” said O’Brien, 19. “We looked at some maps and they were extremely informative. They showed what the terrain was like that we’d have to cross, all the towns and cities that we’d be going through. These maps were so amazing, they really got us pumped up.”

“As kind of a tune-up for the cross-country ride, I rode about 93 miles from Groton down to Hamden,” O’Brien said. “That first long ride was a big motivator for me.” Running track and cross-country at the university had put him into good physical condition.

“There were a lot of different routes we could have taken,” said O’Brien. “There was one that went from Oregon to Colorado to Virginia but we just wanted to take a straight shot across the belt of America; through the Rockies. It turned out to be one of the shorter routes.”

“We traveled relatively light compared with other people,” said O’Brien. “Most of my luggage consisted of a sleeping bag and bivy, a sleeping pad, water, a couple pairs of bike shorts, shirts, a pair of shoes, some food and water. All together I probably had about 30 pounds of stuff that I carried in two side panniers and a bag fastened onto my rear wheel.”

Then, on May 28, the two young men set forth from San Francisco with plans to arrive on the East Coast by July 10.

“We started right off climbing from sea level in California to the top of Carson Pass, which was the entry point into Nevada,” said O’Brien. “That was pretty tough. It was pretty much an upward climb from sea level to 8,574 feet. By the time we finished that it was probably about three days into the trip.”

Continued next week.

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