(Posted June 14, 2023)

Vincent Francischetti ’73

Vincent Francischetti ’73

When Vincent Francischetti ’73 wheeled into Huntingdon, Pa., for his 50th class reunion at Juniata College during his alma mater’s Alumni Weekend celebration, he became the stuff of legend. 

After all, he was the only one of his classmates to arrive by bicycle after a more than 2,250-mile trek from his home in Montana. 

“I left Billings, Montana, on April 7. It was still snowing out that way,” said Vinnie, as he is better known to his friends. “I got to Huntingdon in about six weeks. That included several nights—almost a week—at my brother’s (Mark Francischetti ’76) house in Ohio. I spent a couple of nights here and there with some of my classmates and friends along the way. I did delay it a little bit, but I got here a lot more quickly than I planned.”

Once he arrived in Huntingdon, Pa., Vinnie enjoyed a visit with his friend and classmate Keith Black ’73, who hosted him throughout his visit. 

The idea for his epic journey to Juniata, and the longest continuous ride of his life, has been on Vinnie’s mind since he was a recent college graduate. 

“I’ve been riding bicycles all my life. It can be hard to get out when you have a family and kids, but I’ve always ridden,” he said. “I thought about a long-distance bike ride in my 20s, but life got in the way. Now that I’m retired, I decided I’d give it a shot.”

Calling another friend and classmate, Roger Rockwell ’73, Vinnie enthusiastically shared his plan to pedal all the way to Pennsylvania.

“He says, ‘Do you really want to go out and freeze your butt off?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I do.’ I don’t think he thought I was serious,” said Vinnie with a laugh. “He eventually came to the conclusion I was going to do it.”

Leaving blustery Montana on a bicycle laden with camping gear and warm outerwear, he soon encountered blizzard conditions in Nebraska. Vinnie shipped the winter gear home as conditions improved to lighten the load. 

“I would put in generally anywhere from 50 to almost 80 miles a day,” he said, adding that he has often done 30-50-mile rides with friends, but never as long as his “reunion ride.”

The former history student enjoyed many scenic vistas as he crossed the Great Plains and the Midwest to arrive in the Allegheny Mountains of Appalachia. 

“I saw a lot of cool things. Probably the most fantastic view was on the bike path in Ohio,” Vinne said. “I got to the natural break between east and west. The railroad had erected a pillar there. The old steam trains couldn’t handle more than a two percent grade, so one way was uphill and one was downhill.”

This reunion was not Vinnie’s first return trip to Juniata College since moving to Montana in 1977—even if the 50th will be the one no one will soon forget. 

“I’ve not made it back for all of our reunions, but I’ve made a fair number of them,” said Vinnie. “Our class is really tight-knit, and it’s always been that way. I love coming back to see the Class of 1973 and all my friends.”

For the return trip, Vinnie and his well-traveled bicycle will each get a rest as they ride the rails on the way west. 

*Updated with corrected mileage 6/16/23

Contact April Feagley at feaglea@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3131 for more information.