Veteran plans to hand-pedal 530 miles to 9/11 sites

September 07, 2011|By RICHARD F. BELISLE |
  • Bill Czyzewski of Berkeley County, W.Va., is going on a 530-mile ride on his handbike from ground zero in New York City to Shanksville, Pa., and eventually winding up at the Pentagon.
Photo by Richard F. Belisle

BUNKER HILL, W.Va. — Bill Czyzewski’s longest bike ride so far was a 110-mile trip in April.

On Sunday, the 62-year-old disabled Vietnam War veteran will sit back on his hand-pedaled bicycle and begin an eight-day, 530-mile round trip from ground zero in New York City to a stop in Shanksville, Pa., then east to the Pentagon.

The event, called Ride2Recover, or R2R, will honor the 2,977 victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center, the field where Flight 93 crashed in Shanksville, then on to the Pentagon.

The estimated 350 riders will include disabled veterans from the Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan wars, first responders in the 9/11 terrorist attacks and active military personnel, Czyzewski said.

He will be among about 15 percent who will pedal by hand.

Czyzewski was adopted and grew up in Beaver Falls, Pa. He enlisted in the Army in October 1968.

He was a member of an Army tank crew on March 1, 1970, when his squad came upon a Vietcong bunker near the village of Tay Ninh, he said.

“My CO ordered out one man in each of the five tanks to investigate the bunker on foot. That’s when the sniper got me,” he said. The bullet hit me in the upper thigh.”

His wound eventually cost him his left leg below the knee. He is on permanent disability.

The R2R is not a race, according to the event’s brochure.

“It is an experience that will challenge you physically, mentally and emotionally. For most, riding the R2R means riding every mile,” the brochure said.

Czyzewski said he’s up for it.

 “I’ve been working at building up my endurance,” he said.
He began his training regimen with twice-a-day rides at the Musselman High School track. He also rides the Western Maryland Rail Trail in western Washington County.

Czyzewski is having a friend drive him to New York Friday so he can be on time for Saturday’s memorial service at ground zero and the mandatory orientation dinner Saturday night.

The cyclists will ride out of New York Sunday morning.

They’ll bunk down in hotels in Princeton, N.J., the first night after a 49-mile ride. Monday’s 56-mile ride ends in Philadelphia, followed by a 72-mile stretch Tuesday to Lancaster, Pa.

They leave Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. for Gettysburg, a distance of 55 miles. The longest single day’s ride begins Thursday morning and ends 95 miles later in Bedford, Pa.

Friday’s 65-mile ride stops in Shanksville to honor Flight 93’s heroes, then goes on to Cumberland for the night. Saturday night should find them in Winchester, Va., after pedaling 63 miles before beginning their final leg Sunday morning on a 71-mile ride to the Pentagon.

Support vehicles will follow with spare parts, first aid, drinks and snacks, Czyzewski said.

Riders who can’t continue will be taken to the next stop or hotel by the support staffers, he said.

“They can start again the next day,” he said.

Czyzewski said the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs paid for his German-made hand bicycle after he saw another disabled vet riding one at the air show in Martinsburg, W.Va., three years ago.

“It’s great for exercise and getting out in the fresh air,” he said.

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