The week after the 200 kilometer bicycle tour, I did another ride of 126 miles…pushing the limits a bit. I really had no life anyway.
An Airman who worked with Phil, named Bill Coble, an experienced racer, was doing a 24-hour, 300-mile charity ride to benefit the Make-a-Wish foundation. This foundation granted wishes to terminally ill children, such as trips to Disneyland, meeting a celebrity, or whatever. Bill was in the base newspaper, asking for other riders to come along in support.
Some co-workers pointed out the article to me, asked me if I was going to ride with him, and I replied,” Are you crazy? That’s way out of my league”. But, as the thought kept popping up in my head, what first seemed crazy, eventually seemed worth a try. I thought maybe I could just give it my best shot and see what happens, or at least inquire about the ride.
I phoned Bill and discovered he worked just down the hallway from me. He told me there would be a van following him with food, water, equipment, and he needed riders to keep him motivated. I told him that if I did it, I was going for the full distance--not just to sit in the van and clap for him. We met, and did a 26-mile ride together. Bill decided I wouldn’t slow down the mission. I was in.
To prepare for this, I had very little time to improve my endurance. On October 4th, I rode to Rockport, Missouri and back, a distance of 151 miles. I took 9 hours, 56 minutes (including an hour eating). My only problem was a leg cramp which had me coasting through the 100-mile mark, but it soon went away and I finished. I was very tired, but I made it fine.
Not wanting to appear soft by riding for kids, I told my office I was riding for the "Headers for Humphrey" foundation (my car’s name was Humphrey). I told them the charity was for "those cars who want to reach 100 miles an hour before they died". I made a T-shirt, and Stacey Steinle, a friend at work, collected money. I made her give it back; I didn’t want to go to jail. The T-shirt showed a cyclist towing a Honda Civic, which was rolled over on its roof. I drew the picture and a T-shirt shop made it. I still wear it.
We met at Omaha's Rockbrook Shopping Center at midnight, October 18, 1987 (it snowed the previous week so we had to postpone). Bill Keller was to come along too, but as it turned out, I was the only other rider who showed up, and we had three guys riding in the van supporting us. Bill (Coble) was buzzing around and directing his crew, as I sat motionless and quiet on the sidewalk in the fetal position, praying,”Dear Lord Jesus Christ, please don’t let me screw up”. A security guard was watching the whole scene and said to me,”He looks like he’s better prepared than you”. I was terrified of failure. I didn’t reply.
From the start, Bill kept a blistering pace…about 25 miles an hour. I kept losing contact in the dark, and then I’d eventually catch up, exhausted. I didn’t know how I’d be able to do this for 300 miles. It's obvious from the videos that I was in a lower gear than Bill, which made keeping those speeds difficult.
Once the sun rose, we began a more comfortable pace and did a few videos of us riding and talking. The first video shows a distance check at 109 miles, the second is an impromptu interview at about 125 miles, and third and fourth show us riding into Grand Island, Nebraska at 150 miles. We reached Grand Island way ahead of schedule. Bill kept phoning television stations which had agreed to interview him, but they never showed up. We ate at a restaurant, chilled out, even took a nap in the van, and started back home.
About that time Bill began experiencing minor knee irritation...we slowed down, but then had to stop periodically, sometimes for extended periods. While he massaged his knees and applied cream, I laid on the shoulder of the road and napped again. I felt fairly