May 5, 2011

Commencement 2011: Graduate Spotlight

Heading across America on a bike built for two

Emory College senior Anna Snyder and her boyfriend, Kevin Kelly '09C-'09G, will pedal across the country.
Anna Snyder '11C and Kevin Kelly '09C-'09G are biking across America after Commencement. (Photo courtesy of Kevin Kelly)

By Margie Fishman

Not long after graduation, Emory College senior Anna Snyder and her boyfriend, Kevin Kelly '09C-'09G, will pedal under the famed Gateway Arch in St. Louis, nosh at the Taste of Chicago and hunt down aliens in Devils Tower, Wyo. during their 5,000-mile adventure on a bicycle built for two.

Stretching from Savannah to Seattle, the couple's tandem trek will raise money for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital for pediatric cancer to honor the memory of Snyder's father, an avid cyclist who died of cancer when she was still in high school.

"This is the kind of adventure he would have loved to do," Snyder says, adding that her father rode his bike to work in the 1980s before it was cool. "The way my parents raised me was to do what you love and enjoy life."

The three-month coast-to-coast tandem tour begins at Tybee Island, Ga. and will end on the breathtaking cliffs of Cape Flattery, Wash., the northwestern-most point of the continental United States.

"Our plan is to dip the rear wheel in the Atlantic and pedal until we can put the front wheel in the Pacific," says Kelly, currently a program coordinator for Emory's Office of International Affairs.

On a budget of about $25 a day, they will camp, "couch-surf" with other cyclists and stay with friends and family.

Taking advantage of free WiFi along the way, the couple will blog regularly about their travels from their website,

A mutual appreciation for wanderlust

Snyder met Kelly three years ago on an Outdoor Emory trip to build affordable housing in Juarez, Mexico. They shared a "strange sense of humor" and a travel itch bordering on addiction. By the end of the weeklong trip, they were an item.

An anthropology major who hopes to join AmeriCorps upon her return, Snyder has scaled mango trees in Cuba, braved a flooded Venetian canal with a boot on her injured foot and camped in sub-freezing temperatures in the Grand Canyon. Her goal is to visit every continent before she turns 30 (she's only missing South America, Australia and Antarctica).

Kelly, an Emory Bobby Jones scholar and sociology major who earned his masters degree at the same time as his bachelors, climbed a 20,000-foot mountain in Bolivia and has finished multiple triathlons.

Shifting gears

Kelly has always wanted to cycle across the country. Snyder was more of a commuter rider and took some convincing — but it "wasn't twist-of-the-arm convincing," Kelly notes.

Adds Snyder: "If we don't do this trip now, we don't know when we'll do it. Sometimes, you just have to take the time out to make things happen."

The couple bought their first tandem bike off Craigslist in 2009, an inexpensive model that belonged to a comedian who used to take it out on dates. Last month, they upgraded to the elite Santana Arriva, took out a personal insurance policy and bought an industrial-strength lock.

Among onlookers, "riding tandem inevitably causes a double-take and a smile," says Kelly.

It also brings the couple closer together. Both 5-foot-10, they learned to trust each other and communicate constantly, calling out commands to shift gears and warning about inevitable bumps in the road.

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