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Hawaii ride completes 50-state circuit

It was just an off-handed comment that Linc Blaisdell made one day to his friend Carl Meyers after the two had finished their second 100-mile bike ride.

The pair had cycled a century in New York and two years later, they did an organized century ride in Iowa.

"Two states down, only 48 to go," Blaisdell said. He was joking at the time, but as he said it, the comment stuck with him.

After he completed his third century in Vermont, Blaisdell thought that cycling 100 miles in all 50 states would be his athletic goal.

What started in 1989 ended two weeks ago in Hawaii as the 67-year old biked 100 miles to complete his 50-state century journey.

"It's something I've always enjoyed," said Blaisdell, who was an English teacher in the Williamsville school district for 36 years. "I'm healthy and fit and I've always been relatively athletic. I thought this was a good goal. It wasn't something I obsessed over. I thought, if it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen, but that it would be something cool to do. Kind of a lark."

Blaisdell knocked off states in bunches on summer vacations and spring breaks. A handful of them were organized bike events, but the majority of the rides he did by creating his own route. He rode some with friends and did 25 of them as solo adventures. On some of those solo rides, his wife, Millie, drove a van with supplies to meet Blaisdell along the route. This proved critical in certain western states.

"In Wyoming, we got out and there was no food, no water, no houses for 50 miles, maybe more," Blaisdell said. "Mil had to beg a woman in a post office to let her use the bathroom. In New Mexico, there was nothing out there either. I can carry a certain amount of water and energy bars with me, but without Mil I wouldn't have made it."

Blaisdell encountered no major disasters but a handful of bad weather. There was snow in Montana, where the starting temperature was 29 degrees and rose to just 36 by the time he finished, and heavy head winds in New Mexico and Hawaii. His most uncomfortable ride was this February at the Zion early Spring Century near St. George, Utah, where he endured temperatures in the 40s and a constant rain.

"The scenery that should have been spectacular was barely visible," Blaisdell said. "The same thing happened to me in Alaska. It was supposed to be one of the most beautiful highways in the world but we could barely see a thing because of the wind and rain in our faces."

Blaisdell's journey took a two-year detour as he recovered from an ACL injury in 2006 and broken ribs in 2007. After that hiatus, he knew he needed to be more directed in his riding if he was going to conquer all 50 states.

This year, he did six century rides -- Utah, Nevada, Wyoming, South Dakota, North Dakota and Hawaii.

"As it got closer and I had fewer and fewer states, I guess I was just hoping nothing would get in the way," Blaisdell said. "I was hoping I wouldn't get the flu or crash or something. That was the only time I was a bit anxious about it. When I finished, I was excited. Yes! I had done it. But at the same time I was a little wistful over it."

Blaisdell has not heard of other cyclists who have taken on the 50-state century challenge, though he doesn't believe he's unique in his accomplishment. And while he will keep cycling, he has no desire to set another goal.

"I like cycling and my favorite thing is cycling with my buddies in the [Niagara Frontier Bicycle Club] and being out with people," he said. "I have no new goals. I won't be trying to add territories, countries or continents. I have no bucket list because I've been doing the things I want to do for most of my life."

email: amoritz@buffnews.com