Tuesday, August 4, 2009


When you have peddled over 3300 miles from Oregon to Ohio and an additional 2000 training miles beforehand you get a lot of time to think about the people who have had influence on the decision to attempt a trip like this and you come up with a pretty good list. Mine range from my dad who traveled a lot himself while in the Air Force during WWII and loved to talk about the world he saw, he would have been something else to ride with. My brotherinlaw Ned Kleinhenz and his boys are very real bikers and I still am intimidated by their ability. There are also some local guys who I would be remiss if I did not mention.

Bill Schuette was a year ahead of me in high school and like a lot of Versailles guys I looked up to Bill both as an athlete and an all around good guy. Bill came from some humble beginnings in North Star and was always a leader. He was the captain of his high school and college football teams and worked his butt off to maximize the opportunities that presented themselves . Bill retired from the Versailles school system after serving as principal of the middle and high schools.
He and his classy wife Connie have been positive contributors in the Versailles community and raised 3 very interesting kids who all are doing well in their chosen fields.

What impressed me about Bill is that he just did not talk about doing stuff , he went out and did it. Bill made himself into a real first class bicycler and has led tour groups on rides all over the country as well as some overseas trips. Bill has competed in high level senior olympics.He is also a big time walker and even trekked across England but the thing that really got my attention is that Bill walked the Appalachian Trail several years ago which in my opinion is a lot tougher than riding a bike across country. Anyone who can do a deal like the A.T. is tough both mentally and physically. Bill not only did it he wrote a pretty good book about his experiences called White Blaze Fever http://www.amazon.com/White-Blaze-Fever-Bill-Schuette/dp/1589394291 . To me that was a huge deal.

I had not thought too much about doing any long distance biking until I talked to Bill about all the stuff he was doing. His enthusiasm made it sound possible to do a long trip and for the first time I started to think it just might be doable. After spending some time with Bill my son Russ and I decided to try to bike the Mississippi River from North to South in 2003. This was a real big deal for us because we had not come close to doing anything similar. Bill opened the door for us and we did it.
That Mississippi trip was kinda rough because we were both unprepared raw rookies but we had such a good time that I started thinking about maybe doing a cross country if the opportunity ever presented itself.

I think about Bill a lot when riding long days or into head winds and how he walked that Appalachian Trail in all kinds of weather including snow-rain-heat etc etc. He carried his food/water/gear on his back and did not have convenience stores or motels or even decent campgrounds much of the time. He really had to grind it out every day which is real man stuff, so in comparison I have an easy deal. Those thoughts kept me moving .
Thank you Bill.

Harold Pohl is another Versailles guy who influenced me because he was the first person I actually knew who rode a recumbent bike. Harold is another guy who worked his way up to become a successful area businessman and community leader and I respected him a great deal. Besides riding a 'bent he is also an accomplished roller blader and in as good of physical condition for a guy his age as anyone I have met. When Harold gets interested in something he does not worry what anyone will think--he goes out and does it.
Even though I was thinking about doing some more long distance riding after the Mississippi trip I was hesitant because of how sore I was after riding the Mississippi. The pain in my butt, neck and wrists took a long time to heal. I was looking for a solution that would lessen the soreness associated with riding a regular bike long distance.
I had always been interested in recumbent bikes as an alternative to regular bikes but did not have the stones to even test one. Recumbents are an oddity in the regular bike world and something you do not see every day. Harold let me ride his bike and also gave me several recumbent magazines that I read cover to cover . I became sold on becoming a recumbent rider. There are very very few recumbents around this area and I was having trouble finding one but then Harold even located a used recumbent in Xenia that I ended up buying.

Seeing a guy like Harold Pohl riding a recumbent and encouraging me to do the same made it OK and got me over the hump and the rest is history.
Thank you Harold.

Jim Poeppleman of Versailles also was a big influence on my bike riding. When we moved back to Versailles after living in Toledo for 25 years Jim was one of the first guys I met and although we had not really known each other beforehand we hit it off right away. Jim was into bike touring and asked me to join the rides he orgnized with other local bike riders.

Up to the time I started riding with Jim I was a real Neaderthal bike rider in that I just got on a bike and muscled it . Being around Jim made me realize how much better biking could be if I took the time to get decent equipment , maintain it, and most importantly how to properly shift the gears for maximum riding effiency . I was a real crude dude biker beforehand, all I needed ws some death head tattoos.
Jim also taught me the value of planning a ride in detail and taking proper food/water as well appropriate tools for emergencies etc etc. He was forever recruiting anyone who was interested to join his group rides all over the area. He was always very helpful and encouraging to folks who showed up whether they were weak bikers or had poor equipment. Everyone was treated the same. JP made it fun/interesting for all who rode with him
. Those Sunday morning group breakfast rides to Greenville or Minster or wherever Jim led us were so enjoyable that I felt bad when I missed one. One of my favorite memories of riding with Jim on Sunday mornings was sitting in his truck waiting for others to show up and listening to the Blue Grass Gospel hour on WYSO.
Jim also organized the annual Poultry Days bike ride fund raiser that drew many bikers from around the state. He made it a very popular ride.
I could write a lot more about how Jim P. got local folks into bicycling----he was/is the man . When I got the crazy idea that I could ride the 150 miles from Toledo to Versailles in one day on my very old beat up mountain bike Jim loaned me his good touring bike for the trip. Although I completed that ride I would not have come close w/o Jim's bike and his advice on how best to do it. I followed his advice except for using any suntan lotion and paid for that oversight for about a week after.
Thank you Jim.

Although Jim Phelan liked riding bicycles he has some injury related physical limitations that restricted his riding time. Jim's influence on me went way beyond bikes. He has always been a mentor when it came to business and life in general. I credit Jim with helping me through some self imposed rough patches so that I could even get in position to even consider a cross country ride.
I had always looked up to JP as an athlete and as a successful businessman and community leader. I gained a lot of self confidence when Jim took an interest in me when I was struggling and took the time to talk me off some ledges I was standing on. He is one of those positive "all things are possible" guys that other people gravitate to.
Jim's wife Caroline ( also a Frenchtown Baltes) is a real strong biker and a real treat to ride with.
In recent years Jim has also turned into a regular biker (I think to keep up with his wife) and now rides a recumbent as well.
Thanks Jim.

1 comment:

  1. Impressive story. Being a bicycle enthusiast I am always inspired by these type of stories. I will be riding in the Bike MS: Waves to Wine Ride 2009 in September -- http://www.bikecan.nationalmssociety.org/

    Being a native of Darke county makes your post even more meaningful to me. Bill Schuette was my high school football coach in Ansonia -- many years ago.