October 3, 2013 | XLIII 39

Kemp takes long road to college

Chandler Kemp took the idea of “biking to school” to another level, cycling more than 2,000 miles from Prince Rupert, B.C., to San Francisco to attend Stanford University.

“I thought it’d be fun to bike there. I loved the idea of waking up in the morning and having nothing to do but ride a bike…Plus I heard that the road was really beautiful and there were cool places to see along the way. Really, I thought it would be kind of a neat way to get to school, rather than flying on a plane,” he said.

During six weeks on a 24-speed, Kemp, 23, slept in the woods, bathed in lakes, and consumed about 15 jars of peanut butter.

A man at a tuna shack in Oregon called him crazy and an environmentalist in British Columbia couldn’t resist giving him a hug. He treated his water, hung his food in trees, and subsisted on Hot Pockets, instant potatoes and salami.

A collegiate runner, Kemp averaged more than 50 miles a day, but also swam, hiked and ran during the trip. Leftover energy was used to climb a tree or take a barefoot, sunrise jog on an Oregon beach up a notch, turning it into a sprint.

“It is fun to be fit, especially if there is some application for it,” he wrote in a blog post after tackling a coastal road in northern Washington.

An elk with “ridiculously large” antlers interrupted a planned 16-mile run through California’s redwood forest when it wouldn’t move out of his way. He often spent more time than planned in towns, he said, as it was easy to get wrapped up in a cheese factory in Tillamook, Ore., and an all-you-can-eat joint near Clinton, B.C. He downed four plates of barbecue.

Kemp said a cycling trip from Fairbanks to Haines earlier this summer taught him lessons like eating more salt and not riding shirtless. This trip, he said, was more of an adventure. “I made a point of trying to take my time along the way and enjoy places.”

The ride’s rough spots included a one-day, 150-mile mountainous ride from Clinton to Whistler, B.C., in 90-degree heat, and being thrown from his bike when his front tire got caught in a railroad crossing near Vancouver, B.C.

While eating dinner with two women campers who invited him to join them for stir fry, he was forced to excuse himself for an upset stomach that he battled for days. He also got four flats in the course of two days and lost necessary parts of his camp stove.

Highlights, he said, were the “incredibly diverse” people he met, including a young woman making a living pedaling around the country selling bracelets, and a bicycling couple traveling with their 9-month-old baby.

Fellow cyclists he encountered included one carrying a dog in a handlebar basket, a Californian whose career included screening people for exorcisms and one named Chandler he chatted with until they ran out of things to say about the name.

At one pull-out, a bewildered Kemp became surrounded by a cycling army of eight talkative Swiss men.

Toward the end of the trip, he began riding with three other cyclists also headed to San Francisco. “Although I had been reluctant to join them at first…it was great to have people to ride with after so much time by myself,” he said.

A man who owned a winery invited the four to his house, which Kemp described as a “man-cave museum.” There, they feasted on abalone and wine.

Kemp said he was amazed by the kindness of strangers. A waitress at a diner insisted on paying for his breakfast and campground neighbors shared food ranging from brats to a massive raw oyster. The owner at one roadside stop handed him a Popsicle during a routine water-bottle fill.

Despite the Adventure Cycling Association maps that helped guide him to low-traffic areas, the scariest parts of the trip were traffic related, particularly the sight of a semi coming head-on while riding through a dark, shoulderless tunnel, he said.

While most nights he camped – often sleeping on top of his tent to watch the stars or to avoid oversleeping – he also stayed in a Canadian college dorm room while passing through Vancouver, B.C., couch-surfed in Whistler, and visited family and friends in Seattle.

As for advice he’d give to someone hoping to make a similar trip: Bring a friend. While there was always plenty to think about – from his future to cars whizzing by – he would have appreciated a cycling partner.

Kemp is studying toward a master’s degree in energy resource engineering at Stanford, where he’s still riding his bike, commuting three miles a day to classes. To see Kemp’s trip blog, go to www.chansstrips.blogspot.ca.