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Deaf Student Cycles Across America

How did Tyler Swob spend his summer vacation?

The Rochester Institute of Technology/National Technical Institute for the Deaf Applied Mathematics major from Escondido, Calif., spent 60 days of it on his bicycle, riding from California to Washington, D.C. as part of Journey of Hope, an organization of Push America that benefits those with disabilities.

Swob traveled nearly 4,000 miles, averaging about 70 miles per day through 11 states and endured 15 flat tires and falling twice. He spent his nights sleeping in churches, gymnasiums, college dorms and even a senior center.

Swob started training for his ride last winter after finding two interpreters who would make the trip with him as crew members. He trained at a gym and began riding near the RIT campus.

“Journey of Hope was a physically challenging experience for me,” Swob says. “The first weeks were tough, then I eventually got used to the daily cycling exertion.”

Some of his most memorable days of the trip:

•    Day 9: Needles, Calif. An extremely hot day, the temperature soared well over 100 degrees for the whole 100-mile trip.
•    Day 17: Lakeside, Ariz. The roads went uphill out of canyons for 95 miles.
•    Day 20: Socorro, N.M. At 135 miles, it was the longest cycling day of the entire summer.
•    Day 36: Monroe, La. It was pouring rain all day for the 115-mile trip and the road conditions were very poor.
•    Day 43: Jackson Gap, Ala. Possibly the most difficult of the journey because the day consisted of scaling 100 miles of giant hills.

Push America is owned by the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity. Only Pi Kappa Phi brothers such as Swob are eligible to ride. Accompanying him on the trip was his fraternity brother, Jeremiah Thompson, a Business Management major from Olathe, Kan., and two interpreters, Noelle Corrado, an interpreting student at RIT/NTID, and Emily Balzano, a graduate student studying interpreting at Gallaudet University.

Swob says the best part of the trip was the almost daily “friendship visits,” where the team had the opportunity to interact with people with disabilities in the town they were visiting and support them after their cycling leg had ended.

“Some of these people were paraplegic cyclists,” Swob says. “Some were cheerleaders with prosthetic limbs and wheelchair basketball athletes. I thought I could inspire people with disabilities from my experience as a deaf person. On the contrary, they inspired me in innumerable ways difficult to express in words.”

Each cyclist raised $5,500 to participate in the ride.

“I would do it again, but as a crew member for a different perspective than a cyclist,” he says.

Swob wasn’t the only RIT/NTID student to hit the road this summer. Ronnie Cuartero, a second-year Information Technology major, spent 52 days biking mostly alone from Rochester to San Francisco. “I wanted to prove to everyone that I could do it,” he says. He visited friends along the way, and stopped in Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon.

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