Jim Tranquada

Nineteen college counselors from 13 states are bicycling 400 miles through Southern California to visit Occidental College and other area colleges and universities in a 12-day trip nicknamed the "Tour de California."


The group arrived at Occidental on July 7, staying overnight in one of the College residence halls. The tour participants met Oxy admissions staff and tour campus the next morning, then hopped back on their road bikes and cycled 10 miles south to USC for a visit, then headed another 15 miles west to tour UCLA. This is the group's eighth annual bike tour of college campuses, but the first to hit California pavement.

All of the cyclists are athletic, and some have completed triathlons and marathons, said tour participant Laura Schroeder, associate director of college counseling at the John Cooper School near Houston, Texas, a private pre-K-12 school that enrolls 350 students in grades 9-12.

However, this was Schroeder's first bicycle trip, and it gave her both a physical challenge-she biked 15 to 25 miles a day in May and June to train for the tour-as well as a mental one.

"It's a good personal challenge for me to push myself and a good professional opportunity," Schroeder said. "It's the first time in a long time that I've been so nervous about something, and it helps me identify with students going to college because they're also anxious about what to expect and how they will do."

The peloton arrived in the Southland on July 4, having flown in from Texas, Missouri, Connecticut and all points east. After taking in Independence Day fireworks at the University of Redlands that evening, the group hit the road the next day, cycling 40 miles west to the Claremont colleges. The fact-finding group then visited the University of La Verne and Caltech before heading to Oxy. After cycling throughout the Los Angeles area and visiting local colleges and universities, the group will head south to Orange County and San Diego for the second half of the "Tour de California."

You can follow this saddle-based tour online. Co-leaders Kirk Blackard, director of college guidance at the Christ School of Asheville (N.C.), and Bruce Hunter, director of college counseling at the private, pre-K-12 Rowland Hall school in Salt Lake City, are blogging about the experience on the New York Times' "The Choice" blog at http://thechoice.blogs.nytimes.com/.