Nearly 50 years ago, Larry Mattson bought a brand new Chevy, and with his brother, drove out along Route 66 on his way to a new life on the West Coast. He had just graduated from the Case Institute of Technology, an aerospace engineering job awaited him at Northrop Aircraft Co. in Hawthorne, Calif.
In June, Mattson's 1957 graduating class will celebrate its 50th reunion, which sparked an idea—a 2,800 bike ride back along old Route 66 to attend his reunion. Mattson plans to leave Santa Monica, Calif., on April 1 and arrive in Cleveland on June 1. With 52 days of actual riding, that's more than 50 miles a day atop a carbon fiber Trek road bike that weighs all of about 19 pounds.
The most amazing thing about Mattson's plan is that he has only been bicycling since 2002, when he started riding as physical therapy for a fractured ankle suffered in a severe car accident on the Pacific Coast Highway—just a couple of miles north of the corner of Santa Monica Blvd. and Ocean Blvd.—the starting point of his two-month bike journey.
"The ironic thing is I did not ride before my accident," says the 71-year-old native of North Olmsted, Ohio. "After the head-on automobile accident, which I was lucky to survive, I started riding and got addicted. If the accident had not happened, I wouldn't be doing this ride."
Mattson turns 72 on April 3, the third day of his ride and the day he tackles his first big hill just outside of Los Angeles.
Mattson says he currently rides almost every day and averages about 100 miles per week. To get in shape, he is participating in organized metric century rides, which is 100 kilometers or 63 miles. These rides, coupled with some special seminars geared toward endurance athletes, will have him ready to tackle his grueling ride this spring, he says.
"I got my hands on a book written by a couple that did this ride on a tandem bike in the late 1990s and that really inspired me," Mattson said. "I then decided to get in touch with the Case Alumni Association (CAA) when I was back in Cleveland last August. Now, the CAA is helping sponsor me." Mattson is also soliciting "in kind" donations from his hometown riding club and other cycling-related organizations.
The longest leg of his journey is nearly 90 miles in one day, but it will be on relatively flat terrain. Mattson's 47-year-old son, Jeffrey, will accompany his father by driving a support-and-gear vehicle that will tow along comforts of home in a self-contained travel trailer. The pair will utilize KOA Campgrounds along the way wherever possible.
"If all goes according to plan, it will put me back in Cleveland with about a week's margin [of the reunion]. As long as I can stay healthy, it's very doable," said Mattson, confident he'll be seeing his fellow classmates on June 8 at the All-Classes Banquet at the InterContinental Hotel and Banquet Center at the end of his journey.
Anyone interested in making a donation on Mattson's behalf may contact Paul Stephan at the Case Alumni Association at 216-231-4567, ext. 2240 or visit the CAA online at http://www.casealum.org/ to find out more.
Case Western Reserve University is committed to the free exchange of ideas, reasoned debate and intellectual dialogue. Speakers and scholars with a diversity of opinions and perspectives are invited to the campus to provide the community with important points of view, some of which may be deemed controversial. The views and opinions of those invited to speak on the campus do not necessarily reflect the views of the university administration or any other segment of the university community.