Thomas Perich ’23 sheds the pandemic year and embraces freedom, cycling from campus to his home in Laurel, Maryland.
At the end of the semester, Thomas Perich ’23 decided that he wanted to return home to Laurel, Maryland in an unconventional way. Rather than driving, he rode all 353 miles on his bicycle. Averaging about 78 miles each day, he cycled home in four and a half days.
Cycling was a large part of Perich’s sophomore year as he became a member of the HWS Cycling Club while academically he declared a double major in American studies and history with a minor in French.
His passion for cycling started when he rode nearly 40 miles roundtrip to Seneca Falls after completing his two-week quarantine mandated by New York State for out-of-state residents. Perich says he just kept riding, interested in the historical markers between Geneva and the birthplace of the Women’s Rights Movement.
“I spent the entire day riding and visiting and listening to park rangers speak at a wide range of historical markers. When I made it back to campus, I was exhausted but happy,” he says. “This was truly my first long-distance bike ride and I loved it. As people started to return to campus, I discovered a friend of mine was a pretty avid cycler and she invited me to ride with her. Neither one of us rode fast, but we would take an hour or two here and there and just ride around, rarely planning a route, just exploring, chatting and peddling.” And in October, they rode more than 70 miles around the hilly terrain of Seneca Lake.
Perich then decided to participate in the Great Cycling Challenge to raise funds for the Childhood Cancer Research Fund in honor of Lexi Speight, a friend and former classmate who died of cancer. “When her family gave me their blessing to represent Lexi in the event, I was honored. I plan on doing the same thing this year as well,” he says.
In the spring, he set his sights on cycling home. “When I look back on the trip, there are several moments that I can vividly remember. My first day got cut short due to bad weather, and I stopped just north of the Pennsylvania boarder. On my second day I rode a massive 101 miles through northern and central Pennsylvania which is mostly mountains. At about 9 a.m. I crossed the state line and spent the rest of the morning climbing the stunning hills riding through small towns,” he says.
“The most memorable moment has to be when I finally achieved my dream of making it home. I climbed the last hill a mile from my house and looked down on Laurel, Maryland,” Perich says. “I stopped so I could start the GoPro mounted on my handlebars to capture the last mile of my trip … as I turned the last corner, I saw my family waiting for me with smiles on their faces. They set up a finish line that I rode through and as I pulled into my driveway, they were there with confetti in hand.”
“After living through a year that was defined by a life confined to the indoors, cycling home was a way to express a level of freedom that a year in the pandemic robbed us of,” he says.
On campus, Perich is a member of the Orange Key Honors Society. He is the captain of the club frisbee team. This fall, he is also helping to launch the HWS Quizbowl Club.