Iowa bicycle trip coming up

W.Va. man set to pedal 500 miles

W.Va. man set to pedal 500 miles

April 27, 2006|by MARLO BARNHART

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - When Bill Wilcox sets out for Iowa this summer for his 13th bike ride across the entire state of his birth, he isn't going to be worrying about disappointing anyone but himself if he doesn't finish.

"I wasn't going to come up short," Wilcox vowed in 1994 when he first rode in the 500-mile challenge. He finished that year and in all the years since then - and 2006 will be no different, he said.

His confidence stems from a devotion to fitness that has served him well through his first 75 years. After all, Wilcox rode his bicycle across the entire country from Portland, Ore., to Portland, Maine, in 1998 - when he was 67 years old.

"My sister accompanied me in an RV," Wilcox said.

Each morning, Wilcox and his sister would determine a stopping point for the end of the day. Then they would meet at that point so that he could eat and sleep before getting on his bicycle and starting off again the next morning.


A native Iowan, Wilcox graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in electrical engineering. "There was no work in Iowa then for an electrical engineer so I moved to the Washington, D.C., suburbs," he said.

Single when he arrived in D.C., Wilcox met his future wife, Jo, who was from Ohio and was working for the U.S. Navy in the suburbs of the nation's capital.

"I credit her with civilizing me," he said.

They were married in 1962 and have three children, all girls, and three grandchildren, also all girls.

"I rode bicycles as a kid but not again until 1994," Wilcox said.

One day, he read about a bicycle event two men from his home state of Iowa organized in 1973 called the (Des Moines) Register Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa.

That story focused on an 83-year-old man who vowed to make the 500-mile ride and that inspired Wilcox to sign up.

Each year since 1994, he has made the ride, one year alone but most years with two of his sons-in-law.

Between 10,000 and 12,000 bicyclists annually participate in the ride held the last full week of July.

"There is no competition except with yourself," Wilcox said.

In the meantime, he will continue cycling regularly. And he is to participate in the June 3 Rock Now - Ride On for CASA Kids, a tri-county ride to benefit abused children in the Eastern Panhandle. Those interested can register online for that event at

An early riser, Wilcox starts his day watching C-SPAN's call-in show and then heads out to Shepherdstown Elementary School where he is the morning crossing guard.

Reading and riding his bike occupy much of the rest of his days.

"On the days that I ride, I usually cover between 10 and 20 miles," Wilcox said. "I usually ride over the bridge at Shepherdstown into Maryland - there are better shoulders for bikers in Maryland."

A self-described maverick, Wilcox said he doesn't belong to any biking organizations. "I have several friends who ride with me regularly," he said.

Those friends include two Shepherdstown ministers, Randy Tremba and Fred Soltow, and Bruce Anderson, executive director of the San Mar Children's Home near Boonsboro.

"Bruce is a powerful rider," Wilcox said.

Unlike running, Wilcox said, biking doesn't hurt his knees. It gives him pleasure and is great exercise.

"I would recommend biking to anyone at any age," Wilcox said.

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