The Long Way to Bennington: Two Students Cycle From Pennsylvania

Oct 16, 2012

By Dawson Raspuzzi, Bennington Banner (photo by Peter Crabtree)

BENNINGTON, VT – Pick a cliché of your choice about one's journey to college staying on track or on the road to college, or the route to college requiring a lot of hard work and sweat. The story of Jackson Hughes '16 and Hytham Hanna '16 and their bicycle ride to Bennington College last month fits them all.

The friends who attended middle and high school together in Phoenixville, Pa., about an hour's drive west of Philadelphia, arrived at the gates of Bennington College following a six-day, 350-mile back road trek.

Surprisingly, neither had done a tremendous amount of cycling prior to the trip, but both freshmen said in a recent interview they are always looking for new experiences.

"We just both really like adventures," Hughes.

"It started the year out with a bang," added Hanna.

The pair bought a map and found a route prior to leaving, although once they hit the road they spent little time worrying about their progress. That may not be much of a surprise, given riding their bikes to Bennington was somewhat a spur of the moment decision.

"It was pretty spontaneous"

"We kind of, by accident, both applied and decided to go to Bennington. When we found out, it was pretty spontaneous, one day one of us was just like, ‘Hey, we should bike up to school,'" Hughes said.

Having given themselves plenty of time to arrive prior to freshman orientation, the pair pretty much rode when they were ready, rested when they were tired, and enjoyed the scenery along the way. They spent four days focused on covering ground, but also spent two days enjoying the scenery around Copake Falls in New York.

With family bringing their belongings up separately, each student brought with them a bag containing only the essentials.

"We had a tent, some snack foods like Cliff Bars and trail mix. We actually took more than we planned and we needed even more than that," Hanna said.

Other than one night when they stayed with a family they found through a website for cyclists, the friends camped at parks along the route.

"We met some really nice people at different campsites. We found a couple really nice railroad bridges to jump off into the Delaware too," Hughes said.

Other than general soreness and nerve damage in Hughes' hands from pressing down on the handle bars for so long, the pair said they arrived at college in good shape.

"If anything, there were less problems than we expected. We didn't have any tire blowouts or anything," Hughes said.

The adventure gave both students a story to tell -- which quickly spread across campus -- and left them both with bicycles on campus, which they have found to be invaluable since the start of classes.

"It's definitely nice to have a bike when you're on campus. I have a class in Jennings, which is on top of the hill, so I can get there really quick since I have my bike here," Hughes said.