2012-08-30 / Community
Rider, 75, returns from trip across U.S.
“When you’re on your bike, you’re not enclosed in a car, you’re not enclosed in anything,” Magpiong said. “The decisions you make on the bicycle are in the moment. . . . You get to make those decisions that make the trip enjoyable or brutal—whatever you want.”
A member of the Adventure Cycling Association and Old Kranks Bicycle Club, the cyclist’s most recent journey was a little bit of everything.
From June 18 to Aug. 14, the 75-year-old Newbury Park resident rode his bicycle 3,500 miles from Anacortes, Wash., to Boston—the entire length of the United States.
“It was tedious, hot, humid, at times lonely, exhilarating, boring, truly satisfying and, in a sense, fun,” said the senior, who sports a yin-and-yang symbol on his big toenail. “It’s a quiet inner joy.”
In 1997, Magpiong, his wife, Susan, and two of their friends, rode from Florence, Ore., to Yorktown, Va.
“It was so much fun,” Magpiong said. “In Yorktown, when I was asked if I’d do it again, I said, ‘I’d turn around right now and go back.’”
More than a decade later, he got that chance.
Last spring, on a trip to Boston, Magpiong met Robert Cohen, a high school teacher and colleague of his son’s. With a cross-county trip already in the works, Cohen, 52, invited Magpiong to join him.
“We talked about it and decided to do it together,” Cohen said. “I’m less experienced than he is (and) just decided it was good thing to do.”
Cohen said the trip was full of little surprises.
“Somewhere in Washington state, we saw this little dog chasing a moose back into the woods,” he said. “It was pretty funny.”
In addition to its fickle wildlife, the state had beautiful scenery, Magpiong said.
“The first three or four days in the Cascade Mountains were wonderful. The rivers were rushing and beautiful and wild.”
But the trip wasn’t all mountains and wildflowers.
“In Iowa and Minnesota, there are miles and miles of flat road,” said Magpiong, who wore Hawaiian shirts throughout the entire trip.
Despite their tow of food, supplies and camping equipment, Magpiong and Cohen camped only one day.
“We ‘motelled’ it,” Magpiong admitted with a laugh. “You just want to shower, vegetate, watch the Olympics and do nothing.”
In Bismark, N.D., after three weeks of riding between 30 to 100 miles a day, the friends had a parting of ways. Eager to prepare for the upcoming school year, Cohen went on ahead.
“Rob’s working, I’m not,” said Magpiong, who wanted more days to rest. “At the border between Wisconsin and Minnesota, you can go in two different directions. He went north and I went south.”
After Susan, Magpiong’s wife of 18 years, sent him a new set of maps, he set out again, on his own this time—a decision that left friends and family worried.
“I was concerned for his safety,” said Glen, Magpiong’s son. “I said Dad, you’ve done this before. You don’t have to prove anything to anybody.”
But Magpiong, who is in excellent health, was steadfast in his decision.
“There was never a day I wanted to quit,” said the rider, who stayed in close touch with family.
With admiration for his father’s resolve, Glen, a Wellesley, Mass., resident, met Magpiong in Buffalo, N.Y.
“It was a huge lift,” Magpiong said.
For the last seven days, father and son rode together, an experience Glen says he will never forget.
“Just following behind him, watching him continue to pedal, I was inspired and in awe of his drive,” Glen said.
Ending at Revere Beach, Mass., the starting location of the Boston Marathon, Magpiong stuck his front pedal into the Atlantic Ocean. ICING ON TOP—Earl Magpiong and Otto Sanders examine the cake the Old Kranks Bicycle Club got for Magpiong to celebrate his successful cross-country ride.
“It brought tears to my eyes,” Glen said.
Back home, Magpiong was met with congratulations from friends, family and the Old Kranks crew, who followed his journey online.
Last Thursday, the 50-and-up riding club surprised Magpiong with a congratulatory cake.
“Earl’s a mentor for many of us in the Old Kranks,” said Otto Sanders, his friend and fellow club member. “Even though he can ride at any speed he wants, he usually rides with the last person. He doesn’t want people left behind.”
Magpiong has his reasons.
“If you eat fast, if you drive fast, if you run fast—speed kills,” Magpiong said. “I usually don’t go fast.”
The athlete, who rides an average of 100 miles a week, said people can cycle at any age.
“It doesn’t matter how old you are,” he said. “Just get on the bike and go around the block. It’s just one pedal at a time.”
With two cross-country trips under his belt, Magpiong said he feels satisfied.
“It’s like, ‘wow, I did that,’” he said. “It hasn’t completely hit me yet.”