Temple cycling advocate shares stories from cross-country journey
Biking has become a popular sport among members of the Temple community. The number of students, faculty and staff who commute to campus or participate in Bike Temple events has risen steadily each semester.
But for Glenn Eck, grounds superintendent in Temple’s Office of Facilities Management, simply commuting regularly to Main Campus from his home in Ambler wasn’t enough.
For 30 days from Dec. 16-Jan. 14, Eck, who has been cycling for more than 20 years, traversed the country on a 2,754-mile solo bike trip.
“Don’t forget that four on the end,” said Eck of his recorded mileage. “Those last four miles were the hardest.”
Eck’s journey took him from San Diego, Calif., to Jacksonville, Fla. as he followed the Adventure Cycling Association’s southern tier route, which hugs the Mexican border and the Gulf of Mexico.
“The whole thing started with commuting to work,” Eck said. “At some point I realized that if I can carry a knapsack and bike back and forth to work doing 40 miles a day with a 10-hour work day in the middle — well, what if I didn’t have to work? Instead of going in circle, what if I took my bike and knapsack and went across the country?”
In 2010, Eck undertook a similar trek from the Gulf of Mexico to the Great Lakes — a 1,100-mile journey.
“After that, I got my brain turning over and thinking that I could get enough time off in the winter — the only time I could realistically get 30 days off of work — and go west to east. It took a little more discipline and a little more focus,” he said.
Eck averaged 92 miles a day on his Southern Tier journey, passing through several states he hadn’t previously visited.
“My favorite part of the ride was the desert southwest,” he said. “The desert was the most interesting landscape because, as a horticulturalist, the vegetation was interesting. And it kept changing — a desert in one state was so different in another. I could go through a desert for a couple of hours with a particular group of plants and then go through another part that had completely different plants.”
Eck said he was most impressed with the dramatic landscape of the In-Ko-Pah Pass in California.
“I came down through a cut in the highway and all of a sudden, this vast landscape opened up before my eyes, with mountains and hardly any vegetation. It’s an incredible descent of 12 miles from a landscape with nothing but rocks to a desert that is below sea level. It’s an incredible scene. I would put it on par with the Grand Canyon.”
Along the way, Eck also spotted unique animal life, including a coyote and a tarantula.
“That was pretty neat,” he said of spotting the arachna. “I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a scorpion, but I never saw one. Instead, one day I saw this giant spider coming down the white line of the road.”
Eck hopes that his journey inspires others to challenge themselves and consider taking up cycling. He's a passionate advocate for Bike Temple, the university-wide program to promote bicycle use by Temple Students, faculty and staff. And he is taking a leading role in planning the Philly Phlyer Temple Criterium, an annual collegiate bike race at Temple that will be hosted by Bike Temple and the Office of Sustainability on March 17.
“I was completely unathletic in my younger life,” he said, adding that he still only considers himself to be of average athletic talent. “I don’t have much speed but I have built up endurance. I think that’s the lesson: If you find something you enjoy — and in my case it’s cycling — if you put the time in, it’s amazing what you can accomplish. You don’t have to be a super athlete.”
Eck hasn’t decided where his next adventure will lead him.
“I have no idea what my next trip will be,” he said. “But something will happen. I enjoyed the trip so much. There will something sometime, I just don’t know where.”
Eck will discuss his cross-country trip, the equipment he used and highlights from his weeks on the road at a Feb. 6 presentation from noon-1 p.m. in the Mitten Hall Wellness Resource Center classroom.