Published: June 1, 2020

For 31 years, Rob Drugan (MPsych’81; PhD’84) has taught a course on behavioral medicine at Brown University and the University of New Hampshire. Last year, he decided to take his course — which focuses on the benefits of exercise — to the streets. He took a year of unpaid leave and, with his wife Connie Eppich (Psych’80), set out to cycle the continental U.S. starting in June 2019. They rode counterclockwise around most of the country, 9,560 miles in 285 days, until the COVID-19 pandemic halted their trip in Florida. 

Rob Drugan and Connie EppichWhat was your inspiration for an around the country bicycle trip?

Before we met Connie had gone on an eight-week, 3000 mile solo trip from Boulder to San Francisco through the Canadian Rockies. This has been a dream of ours for so many years that neither of us can remember where it came from. It just seemed like a good idea, spending the summer bicycling across the northern U.S., the fall down the west coast, winter across the south and spring heading north along the Atlantic coast as it warmed up

Have you always been an avid cyclist?

Connie has been bicycling all her life. I have been a runner and took up bicycling after we met. We've gone on numerous shorter tours (one to two weeks) throughout our marriage.

How did you train for the trip?

Not as much as we had hoped, given a wet spring in New Hampshire where we live. We went on a number of 30 to 50 mile rides, some with the gear we'd be carrying. 

What was the hardest stretch of cycling?

The second week riding through west Texas with few places to stop, barren scenery and lots of trash and dead animals on the side of the road.

Can you explain what is, and how was your experience?

Warm Showers is a worldwide organization of bicycling tourists and people who enjoy hosting them. It's sort of like couch surfing but is only available to bicyclists. No money exchanges hands. We met countless generous and fascinating people who often treated us like royalty, often cooking dinner and breakfast for us, offering beer and wine and use of laundry facilities. Perhaps more importantly than the free lodging was the opportunity to have an insider's glimpse into what excited people about the places where they lived.

What was your favorite stop?

Christmas in Tucson. We spent a week staying with three different couples through Warm Showers. One of our hosts took us on a hike Christmas morning, and a bike ride up Mt. Lemon the day after. We spent time exploring the many murals in the city and bicycling through East Sonoran National Park. 

What was the prettiest view during your trip?

The Oregon and Northern California coasts with so many incredible views of rocky cliffs and sea stacks.

Lastly, what were your biggest obstacles?

Headwinds, the invisible foe. With a mountain pass or long hill, you could at least celebrate getting to the top and enjoy the descent. Headwinds offered no relief and no end, just creative profanity.

Condensed and edited. 

Photo courtesy Rob Drugan