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Winner: Man and a mantis

October 17, 2004|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - This is a story about a man and a mantis and their fantastic journeys.

The man is Ted Garringer, who saw a large swath of America by bicycle.

He and his wife, Colleen, spent most of 18 months riding 8,300 miles. They called themselves "Fools On'a Mission" and documented their experience daily on a Web site.

The praying mantis traveled about 10 miles through Washington County one day - Smithsburg to Hagerstown - clinging to Ted Garringer's Ford Explorer.

The man saw the mantis, wanted to recognize him for his grit and photographed him.

The result: Best in Show for 2004 in The Herald-Mail FirstLook Photo Digital Photo Contest.

This was the 19th time The Herald-Mail has held the photo contest, but only the second time that all entries had to submitted electronically (film prints could be scanned and sent by e-mail). More than 1,200 entries came in.

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Other winning photos are in today's Lifestyle section. Starting Monday, they will also be displayed at www.herald-mail.com, where people can vote for their favorites. A slide show of the winning entries will run in the lobby at The Herald-Mail through Nov. 19.

For winning the Flora/Fauna category, Garringer will receive $40. For earning Best in Show, he will get $125 more, plus a $200 FirstLook Photo gift certificate.

Ted, 57, and Colleen, 53, of Hagerstown, were on their way home from Smithsburg, where their belongings had been in storage.

The praying mantis rode outside.

"He was hanging on for dear life," Colleen Garringer said.

"Every time we'd stop at a light, he'd relax a little bit," Ted Garringer said. "Then, we'd start up again."

When they got home, Ted Garringer took out his Sony Cyber-shot digital camera, which he carries with him.

He stood on tiptoe and shot down, toward the hood. The high afternoon sunlight bounced down on the red paint and reflected on the mantis as it descended the retractable antenna.

(It might be easier to understand the scene by holding the photo so the vehicle antenna is pointing down from the top right corner, and the praying mantis is facing down.)

Ted Garringer said he has made about 9,000 pictures with his camera, many of them during the couple's extended bicycle excursion.

The Garringers used to live in Connecticut. Ted was a drawbridge operator and Colleen worked for Mystic Color Lab, a mail-order film developing company.

Cycling enthusiasts, they decided to take off and go. Far. For a while.

But, just as Ted Garringer retired and prepared for their ride, he found out he had non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a form of cancer.

Because the couple planned to move to Washington County, where Colleen grew up, at the end of their bike trip, Ted came to Hagerstown and saw Dr. Frederic H. Kass III.

Kass told Ted Garringer to go ahead and ride.

"He said, 'Call me from the road.' ... If anything, it made us more sure than ever that we're going to do this bicycle ride," Colleen Garringer said.

On Jan. 1, 2003, the Garringers drove a rented car south for the first leg of the trip. They started their bike ride from Statesboro, Ga. They went through Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana and finished at the end of March.

They came back to Smithsburg - they were living with Colleen's mother - for Ted's doctor's appointment and to file income taxes.

They took to the road again in late April. They pedaled along U.S. 40 to the C&O Canal National Historical Park to Cumberland, Md., where they picked up the Allegheny Trail Alliance.

They went through Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana before reaching southern Illinois in time for a Memorial Day weekend family reunion.

They continued on into Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, crossed into Canada, looped back through New York and Pennsylvania and returned to Smithsburg on Sept. 3.

After another break for their daughter's wedding in November, the Garringers started the third leg of their adventure on Feb. 7, 2004.

They drove to New Orleans - then rode west, right through to San Diego.

At the end of April, they rented a car and drove home.

Using a laptop computer, they posted daily updates - the sights, the rest breaks, the people they met and plenty of pictures - at a Web site, www.garringer.net/foam.

On July 1, the Garringers moved into a home on Virginia Avenue.

Shortly after, they gave a mantis a ride.

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