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Coast-to-Coast Journey Ends Successfully in Miami

They did it.

It once seemed a nearly impossible feat, but recent Willamette University graduates Kevin Dean, Alex MacKenzie and Wes Randall did it -- they successfully biked 3,200 miles from San Diego to Miami to honor their friend Kalan Morinaka and raise money for the ALS Association. Morinaka, 22, died this fall of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease, a progressive neurodegenerative disease that causes loss of muscle control and typically is diagnosed in people older than 40.

The young men left San Diego Jan. 10 and arrived at Miami Beach Feb. 26. At the beach, they honored Morinaka further by spreading some of his ashes in the Atlantic Ocean. Morinaka was a longtime athlete and national competitor in judo, and the three riders befriended him through the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity at Willamette.

"It's an amazing feeling to be done and to know that we've completed something great and challenging," Dean said. "Even though it was tough, it was for a great friend."

So far, the men have collected more than $14,000 for the ALS Association, and they are still accepting donations. Their online blog detailing their adventures contains numerous comments from friends, family and other followers offering support.

Along the way, the men met many kind people who opened their homes to them, bought them dinner and helped them fix their bikes to continue their journey. They braved frigid winter temperatures, are in better shape than ever and have a plethora of unforgettable experiences -- from singing karaoke with Elks Lodge members in Arizona, to watching cows run alongside them for miles in West Texas, to viewing the devastation that still exists on the Gulf Coast from Hurricane Katrina.

"This trip opened my eyes to the facts of life," MacKenzie said. "Every day we were reminded of the goodness of people and how wonderful this country is."

To read their blog, learn more about Morinaka and the riders, or donate to their cause, visit www.coast2coast4kalan.net.

02-28-2007