Coast to coast crusader

Posted 8/24/10

So Prizio, with no previous hardcore bicycling experience, hopped atop his cycle and pointed the front wheel to the west. He rides with no support vehicle, meaning everything he needs —food, water, a tent for shelter, clothing, etc. —he …

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Coast to coast crusader


Connecticut man pedals cross-country for MSWith the start of classes at Northwest College steadily swelling the ranks of Powell's young adult population, Brookfield, Conn., native Ryan Prizio could easily have passed through town without drawing attention. Another face, another cyclist out for a summer ride. In reality, there's hardly anything ordinary about the 23-year-old Prizio. On July 1, he departed Brookfield, leaving behind his information technology job at a local hospital, to pedal cross-country to Portland, Ore., then south to San Diego to raise awareness of and money for multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease that affects the brain and spinal cord.

So Prizio, with no previous hardcore bicycling experience, hopped atop his cycle and pointed the front wheel to the west. He rides with no support vehicle, meaning everything he needs —food, water, a tent for shelter, clothing, etc. —he carries with him on his bike. His route is only loosely planned — from Powell he planned to make his way to Missoula, Mont., via Yellowstone National Park, but was uncertain of the route he'd take to reach that destination. His options last Friday were a ride up the North Fork and a possible encounter with the Arthur 2 fire at Yellowstone's East Entrance or up the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway, over Dead Indian pass and into Cooke City —a grueling, leg-taxing climb.

In the end, the threat of being set back two days by a possible entrance closure was simply too much. Prizio opts for the Dead Indian route. Having pedaled over the Big Horn Mountains from Dayton the previous day, he is all too aware of the sort of day he faces ahead.

“Originally, I had thought about running across the country, but decided that would take me too long,” Prizio said. “I thought the first two weeks were going to be the hardest, because I'd never really done any road biking like this before.”

Then came his first encounter with the mountains of the West as he took U.S. Highway 14 up the east side of the Big Horn Mountains before steering onto 14A and heading through Burgess Junction, past Bald Mountain and down into Lovell.

“I thought, you know, that you'd go up, and then you'd go down. I didn't realize you'd do this,” Prizio said, snaking his hands and arms like a pair of charmed cobras in an effort to visually recreate the switchback-filled climb and descent into the Big Horn Basin.

Later that evening, he summarized the day on his website,

“Today, I biked through a magnificent, beautiful, awe-inspiring Hell,” the entry begins. It ends with the confession that the day was “the hardest day of my life and of the trip yet. I wouldn't wish that upon my worst enemy.”

As Prizio has made his way across the country, much of his trip has been dependent upon the people he has met. With no ride-along support to plan his trip, Prizio often finds himself stopping for the night where ever he happens to be when evening approaches. He asks people he meets if they know anyone “down the road” that might be able to give him a hand or a place to stay when he comes to town. Since exhausting his cash supply for the trip earlier in August, he has also become dependent upon people to provide him with manual labor jobs to help keep him on the road.

“It's the people that are really making this trip what it is,” Prizio said of his journey. “I've met some truly amazing people.”

In many ways, it is only the people and the scenery that seperates one day from the next for Prizio. His daily routine rarely changes.

He wakes around 5:30 a.m., eats breakfast, showers if possible and re-packs his gear on his bike with the hope of being back on the road by 7:30 a.m.

Once aboard, he pedals until lunch, when he consumes roughly 5,000 calories of food, from there, he continues until he reaches his pre-determined destination for the evening or until the threat of losing daylight prompts him to stop and pitch camp where ever he is.

Prizio hopes to arrive in Portland within the next four weeks. There's no significance to the city, other than it being recommended to him as an accessible western portal by others making cross-country treks.

“The whole goal here is just to raise awareness and money toward a cure for MS,” Prizio says of the motivation that gets him climbing back atop his bike each morning. “This really has been an amazing experience.”

(Editor's note: Those wishing to follow Ryan on his continued trek west or to send along messages of support can do so by following him on his website, Donation information to help find a cure for MS is also available on the site.)