Ph.D. student and pro cyclist Geno Villafano finds the craziest things on the 30-mile commute between his Rockville home and a Storrs genomics lab. He posts most. He eats many.
It started when he posted a video of himself taking a bite out of an onion he found on the side of the road. TikTok went nuts.
His partner was the one who pointed out that it was about eating. Most people don’t eat stuff they find on the side of the road, she said. They don’t even touch it.
Really, there are two types of people in the world. One sees something lying in the street and thinks, “Trash.” The other sees something lying in the street and thinks, “Yes! A 30-pound package of frozen cookie dough!” Geno Villafano, Ph.D. student and pro cyclist for Cannondale, is one of the latter.
He scored the cookie dough along Storrs Road last summer. It was still frozen. Had to have fallen off a truck earlier the same day. Other stuff he finds isn’t always obviously fresh, so he uses his background in biochemistry to judge safety.
“I’m acutely aware of how many heat cycles that sandwich or bag of chips has gone through,” Villafano explains. The finds come on his 30-mile commute to and from Rockville, Connecticut, to Storrs, specifically Leighton Core’s genomics lab, where he is developing assays to measure how genes are expressed — so we don’t question his precision calculation credentials. Other favorite food finds include fresh asparagus, sacks of potatoes, and oyster mushrooms.
But Villafano also finds stuff that isn’t food. He usually picks that up, too. Pool cues, socket wrenches, sleds, foot-long framing nails, Bose headphones — it all gets put in his backpack or tied to the bike frame and either used or decently disposed of. He posts them all on his TikTok channel as ride finds.
Villafano cleans up trash, rescues baby turtles, returns lost phones to their owners, and is not above tucking the occasional half-drunk bottle of Hennessy into his waistband. And he does it all with zero carbon footprint. The man may just be the superhero of our time.
But Villafano begs to differ.
“As a kid I was very turned off by road cycling because it has a very pretentious vibe, a lot of gatekeeping. I post videos of myself eating stuff off the road because I like to make a joke of it. You don’t have to train religiously or take it seriously. Biking and eating is fun!”
By Kim Krieger
Photo by Peter Morenus