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Another Week, Another 500 Miles (More or Less)

Jon Hatoun, right, and Austin Lehn
Jon and his father, Tony, in Utah’s Bryce Canyon
TOP: Jon Hatoun, right, and Austin Lehn start their cross-country biking adventure by dipping their tires in the Atlantic Ocean in Virginia.
BOTTOM: Jon and his father, Tony, in Utah’s Bryce Canyon
DURING THE SUMMER OF 2006, JON HATOUN’09 COMBINED doing something he loves with doing something worthwhile. By biking 3,968 miles through nine states — from Yorktown, Va., to San Francisco — over the course of 54 days, Jon raised nearly $9,500 to benefit CoSMO, the clinic P&S students founded in 2004 for uninsured patients in the neighborhood. More than $600 came from his fellow students in the Class of 2009.
   The summer between the first and second years of medical school — the only summer off during medical school, perhaps the last year to have the entire summer free — is a challenge for most medical students. Confronted by the choice, Jon decided to avoid the choice.
   CoSMO — for Columbia Student Medical Outreach — allows students to treat uninsured patients who can’t afford care in other settings. The center is open every Saturday and has grown each year. Attending physicians volunteer at the clinic alongside students. Jon has been able to volunteer more hours during his second year.
   Jon and a friend since college, Austin Lehn, a sixth grade teacher in Connecticut, started out June 20 after dipping the back tires of their bicycles in the Atlantic Ocean. Their adventures were documented on a blog that not only described the roads, the equipment mishaps, the weather, and the people they met, but also included photos they took along the way. They slept in public campgrounds, outside churches, or with friends new and old, and they occasionally indulged in hotel accommodations — with pools.
   Except for one free day, the two biked every day between June 20 and Aug. 13, when they arrived in San Francisco.
   The adventures posted on the blog — which they updated at public libraries along the route -- provided color commentary for their experience. Here are some examples:

Day 14, Hodgenville, Ky.: ...we saw a funeral procession of someone who must have been a trucker. We were climbing a small country road and saw eight fronts of 18-wheelers climbing slowly over a hill with all their lights on. The last one had a flat-bed with a coffin strapped to it. The body was followed by another 40 or so cars. Quite a site.

Day 41, Fruita, Utah: One really cool thing about the town of Fruita, a former orchard town, was that you could eat as many peaches as you wanted while in the orchard or take as many away for $1/pound.

Day 48, Ely, Nev.: About a week ago, we ran into an Austrian man who told us that Nevada has the most mountain ranges of any state. For the past two days we’ve been seeing exactly what he means, as we ride up one range, down into the valley, up the next range, and back down into another valley until we get to camp.

The blog tallied statistics, such as highest elevation, number of miles traveled, heat index, top speed, and number of Wal-mart stores and Confederate flags spotted. It also provided helpful information (how to pronounce the name of the town Bumpass, for example) and kept family and friends apprised of their whereabouts.
   Jon’s father, Tony, who lives in Boston, flew to Utah to join the bicyclists from Day 42 to Day 45. He also matched donations made during the days he rode with Jon and Austin. To parallel Jon’s fund-raising efforts, Austin raised funds for Orphans International Sri Lanka.
   The blog is still live at questwest.blogspot.com and Jon is still accepting donations to CoSMO.

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