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Martin Berndt: Cross-country Biker

This summer, on a day when most people were hiding in air conditioned offices, SLAC engineer Martin Berndt was cycling through the Badlands of South Dakota in 115 degree heat.

It was one of the toughest legs of a 3,300-mile trip from Seattle to Washington, DC. "I biked every bit of it," said Berndt, who turned 73 on the ride through Ohio.

The oldest member of the 40-person group, Berndt rode an Italian Guerciotti he salvaged from a dumpster and restored. "It fits with my record at SLAC, where I have salvaged and reused a lot of equipment," he said.

"We averaged 85 miles a day, with periodic days of rest," he said. The trip was supported by a truck that carried camping gear and exhausted cyclists unable to finish the day's ride.

The seven-week trip was not without incident. The party was barely out of Seattle when one member was killed by an inattentive motorist. "It was a sobering experience," said Berndt. "Getting through each day safely was our biggest priority."

Berndt came through the trip safely, although at one point a dog chased down his bike and bit him on the leg. He shrugs it off. "What better thing is there for a dog to do on a beautiful Saturday in the middle of Minnesota than chasing after cyclists?" he said.

A life-long cyclist, Berndt retired in 1993 after 28 years at SLAC. He still commutes by bike to the site to work part-time on magnet power supply systems. Since retirement he has participated in a number of projects, including BaBar, the rebuilding of SPEAR, the South Arc Beam Experimental Region (SABER) project, and the International Linear Collider (ILC) test magnet.

The cross-country trip ended at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial, with Berndt and the youngest rider leading the pack. "Seven weeks is a long time," says Berndt. "My wife met me there, and said, 'I'm glad you did it, but don't you ever do it again.'"

Nonetheless, Berndt is already thinking about his next long trip. He'd like to ride Route 1 from Vancouver to Tijuana. "There are prevailing tail winds and a lot of hills, " he said, "but it's not seven weeks, so maybe my wife won't object."

For more information on the trip, see the blog of Berndt's traveling companion, Bill Cook.

—Rachel Courtland
    SLAC Today, November 15, 2006

Above image: Martin Berndt (middle) with two of his traveling companions, Bill Cook (left) and Earl Wooten.