MatSE alum completes lifelong goal of biking across U.S.

David Kubarek
December 02, 2019

At age 65, Dan Hurwitz was facing a decision at a crossroads. Was he going to complete his dream of biking across the United States — some 3,900 miles of mountains, deserts and plains over a stretch of four months — or would he wait longer, perhaps missing his window for the feat?

Knowing that his ride could serve as a fundraiser to help those with cancer — a disease that claimed both his parents and touched several other members of his family — also weighed favorably in the decision. 

A quick check with his spouse yielded a yes and he could pause his workload as a software contractor. So, early this spring, all that was left to do was gear up and train for the ride. He shelved his light and spry carbon fiber road bike in favor of a titanium-framed touring rig, loaded with close to 60 pounds of gear, and rode with the rig a scant few weeks before flying out to San Jose, California, where extended family saw the seasoned biker off.

He had a few loose deadlines. He wanted to make the Pan-Mass Challenge, an annual charity race in Massachusetts in August, and leave after seeing his daughter graduate from Penn State in May, but the rest was open road.

Using a pace he set during a ride seven years earlier on a ride from Massachusetts to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Hurwitz calculated 75-mile days. Just a few days in, he confirmed two things: One, that age 65 was a much better age to trek across the country than 67 or 70; and two, that his pace had surely slowed within the past seven years.

“I figured, well heck, I did 75 miles back then, I’ll do 75 miles now,” said Hurwitz, a ceramic science graduate of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. “It just didn’t work that way. The difference in age between 58 and 65 is a big deal.”

In addition to the pace, Hurwitz said the extra weight of his supplies slowed him down. In talking with others who completed similar trips, they told him he would be mailing supplies back within days. That proved true — twice — as he mailed about 13 pounds of niceties back within the first week.

He averaged a pace of about 44 miles per day, the details meticulously logged through near-daily posts from his personal blog site. More importantly, he net $20,308 for cancer research.

Hurwitz set out to spend a lot of time camping but that proved difficult after a long day in the saddle. 

“I like to camp,” Hurwitz said. “But what I really wanted to do after a long, hard day was pull into an air-conditioned hotel, cool off and take a shower.”

A few times he relied on hosts found through the organization Warm Showers, which links bikers to friendly hosts.

He carried emergency food only, relying on the nation’s vast infrastructure of diners, to largely fuel his trip. His own personal favorite, Perkins, because it’s not found in his hometown, was a frequent stop.

Still, despite the diner-heavy diet, Hurwitz lost 15 pounds on the trip.

With a revised pace and a few struggles in the Rocky Mountains and Utah desert, Hurwitz didn’t make it in time for the annual charity race. But he did make it home to see his oldest daughter, who flew in from Miami, and his wife, during a ceremony at the finish line at Revere Beach, Massachusetts, on Aug. 22.

Perhaps surprisingly, Hurwitz said there were no epiphanies gleaned from his countless hours on the road. There were just some small nuggets of truth, he said. Like the Rocky Mountains are even bigger than one might think. That the Great Plains aren’t all that flat. That large swaths of the nation, viewed at bike speed, are breathtakingly beautiful.

“It was a great ride and a great experience,” Hurwitz said.

To donate to the Pan-Mass Challenge under Hurwitz’ name, visit the website and search for “Dan Hurwitz” in the “Find a Rider” field.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated December 02, 2019