A group of men prominent in the life of St. John's College is setting out on a quest to endow its members' bodies with the same classical dimensions the small, liberal arts college prescribes for its students' minds.
The men, including the college's president and vice president, will be bicycling cross-country from the school's Santa Fe, N.M., campus to Annapolis this month.
"I expect to be reading Homer's 'Odyssey' as we go across the country, and we'll be studying Genesis from the dresser-top Bibles in the hotels," joked Christopher Nelson, president of St. John's Annapolis campus.
The men will strike out from Santa Fe on their 21-day, 2,100-mile bicycle odyssey at 5:30 a.m. July 18 after attending a Board of Visitors and Governors' meeting there. They plan 18 days of riding and three of rest.
They will head for Las Vegas, N.M., on the first day, then wind their way across northern Oklahoma, southern Missouri, northern Tennessee and Virginia before arriving in Annapolis Aug. 8.
Although the trip could present its share of hardships, there won't be any camping or cookouts in the great outdoors. The bikers plan to eat the best meals and sleep in the best beds money can buy, said Mr. Nelson, 45.
"After all, we aren't crazy," said Mr. Nelson, who is charged with finding the best hotels the road will offer.
The idea for the trip was made formal in November between banquet dishes of tapenade with roasted peppers, capers en bicotte, Paella with sausages, scallops, clams, mussels and several bottles of a cabernet wine. But it was a 1991 quip by the daughter of Jeffrey Bishop, vice president of advancement for the Annapolis campus, that led to the birth to Team B.I.S.H.O.P, as the men call themselves.
"Dad, you don't look so good in a bathing suit any more," Lauren Bishop, then 15, said to her father.
As legend has it, Mr. Bishop told his daughters that the following summer he was going to bike 180 miles from Annapolis to the family's summer home in New Jersey. He told the girls they could come along but that if they didn't, "for the rest of my life you don't get to comment any more about the condition of my body," Mr. Bishop said.
The girls stayed at home. Instead, Mr. Nelson, Leo "Pick" Pickens, director of athletics at the Annapolis campus, and Bob "TT" Gray, a Baltimore writer, cycled the distance with him.
The cross-country bike trip is Mr. Bishop's baby, Mr. Nelson said. His teammates call Mr. Bishop "Old Man" because, at 46, he is the oldest member of the group. Mr. Bishop planned the route they will take and had dreamed of the trip before the others came along.
Jamie "Big Dog" Whalen, rowing coach at Annapolis, and Jeffrey "Cowboy" Morgan, vice president for advancement for the Santa Fe campus, also will pedal as part of Team B.I.S.H.O.P.
Mr. Bishop's wife, Susan, and their 7-year-old daughter, March, will drive a support vehicle carrying first aid and other supplies. The men will carry shirts, shorts, socks, underwear and water on their bikes.
Mr. Nelson summed up the purpose of the trip for the men, who have been training along roads in the area for about a year: "We're doing it for friendship, honor and glory."