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Michael Dubovsky ('07) celebrates graduation with cross country bike ride
By Brittany Lebling ('08)
JMU graduate Michael Dubovsky looks and acts more like Bob Dylan than someone who would ride a bike for 100 miles a day. But last summer, he rode from Oregon to Virginia in 41 days.
He conceived the idea during the summer after his freshman year. As a member of the JMU Triathlon Club, he became intrigued when two of his best friends from the club biked cross country from east to west. The pair's last blog post "was when they made it to the Pacific Ocean, and I was like, 'I'm doing that when I graduate,'" said Dubovsky.
A visual of Dubovsky's route across the U.S
So last June after getting his diploma from JMU and passing his exams in order to become a registered nurse at Rockingham Memorial Hospital, Dubovsky flew out to Portland, Ore.
Reactions from family members were mixed when he left. "To the surprise of almost everyone, I was not worried when he left for the trip... I knew that he had planned it well, and he had done his homework," said his mother. His father James said that the trip was on a list of things "we thought he would outgrow once he got a girlfriend. Once Michael graduated JMU, we knew there was nothing to stop him." Dubovsky's girlfriend Loretta Vitt used television to soothe the feelings of distance. "I bought all of The Office DVDs, and I told myself I wouldn't watch any of the Law and Orders, or anything on TV that wasn't a comedy because otherwise I would get bad ideas in my head about stuff that could happen to Michael."
On day two Dubovsky was concerned he wouldn't be able to finish. "It just dawned on me how much country there was to cover," he said. "I glanced down at the map and I was like 'I'm here, and home is... here.'" In order to deal with the overwhelming distance, he learned to be patient and realize that "with time, the miles would come and pass."
To catalog his trip and calm anxious minds back at home, Dubovsky created a blog and updated it almost daily from libraries with his latest musings and pictures.
The people Dubovsky met along the way were always interested in his journey. In Sisters, Ore., after a day of riding 102 miles and climbing well over 8,000 feet, complete strangers took him out to dinner at a Mexican restaurant. "It was great to talk about anything and everything," he said. "It made my day worthwhile to say the least."
The hardest parts of the trip were passing through the Ozark and Appalachian Mountains due to the "short steep hills and impossibly steep grades," said Dubovsky. "I thought I was going to fall over. I have never in my life seen that steep of a grade." In addition, the increased humidity and heat got to him as June turned into July. "There were some days in there where I just wanted the day to end," he added. "Knowing you have to bike 130 miles of that terrain makes for a long day."
As he crossed into Virginia, Dubovsky felt strange, "but at the same time, I was just thinking about where I had to be at the end of the day." It took three days to ride from the border to Sugar Hollow Dam, near Crozet, Va., an area he grew up exploring. With family and friends waiting anxiously, he made the final climb.
"I eagerly peered through the trees hoping to see his red spandex," said his father. "Once we spotted him, it was a moment I think we can all say 'we were glad it was finally over.' No more wondering, no more questions, no more blog checking!"
Dubovsky looked at his trip as a vacation -- a vacation that provided an opportunity to learn a lot about the world he lives in. "Obviously people live in so many different types of geographical locations, but everybody still boils down to be the same," he said.
So what's next for Dubovsky?
He's going to hike the Appalachian Trail in spring 2010.
"Hiking the trail is [something] I've wanted to do since late middle school," he said. He will have family and friends to support him through that journey as well. "If you can't try to live your dreams and face challenges when you are in your 20s, then when can you?" said aunt Pat Bilinski.
Brittany Lebling is a JMU media arts and design major