By CHUCK OFFENBURGER
ADEL, Iowa, Sept. 28, 2017 -- When you think about it, if you're lucky enough to reach 87 years of age and still are healthy, you damned well ought to celebrate!
And if you're turning 87, are in good health and are still an active bicycle rider, well, let's ride!
That's what Bob Peterson, a three-times-retired dentist from Marshalltown, has been doing for his last 15 or so birthdays. And "Bob's Birthday Bike Rides" haven't been leisurely little cruises around town. He "rides his age," as the saying goes -- covering as many miles as the number of years he's lived!
He does that again this Saturday, Sept. 30, on the Raccoon River Valley Trail, the same trail where he's done his birthday rides the last five years or so.
This time, Bob is riding as a "stoker" on the back seat of a tandem piloted by his longtime friend Bruce Pesch, of Ames. He expects a crowd of 25-30 bycling friends from Marshalltown, Pella, the Des Moines area and beyond to join the ride, if past years are a good indicator.
If you want to try to ride 87 miles with Bob, his troupe plans to gather at the RRVT trailhead in Adel in time to leave at 8:30 a.m., and ride west. If you want to ride about 50 miles total, you can start with Bob's wife Nancy from the trailhead in Dallas Center at 10 a.m. They all plan to meet about noon at ToJo's in Jamaica for lunch and birthday cake.
Most of the riding will be done on the 72-mile loop of the RRVT. However, Bob and others who want to ride 87 will pick up the extra 15 miles by riding the trail north from Herndon to about the Winkleman Switch trailhead and then back to Herndon before continuing east.
Bob Peterson, a native of Carroll in western Iowa, has "always enjoyed athletics, and I've always been pretty active." But the first 15 or 20 years of adulthood, he was focused on his career and family life.
"When I was about 40, I decided I should start doing a little more, and I started running," he said. "I ran about 15 marathons, including Boston a couple of times. I played a lot of handball, too. That went well until I was in my mid-50s, and then I started being bothered by sore legs. My tendons and ligaments weren't as strong as my muscles were, so I started having problems pulling them frequently. I learned that 'in-line' sports like swimming or bicycling would be better for me, and that's when I got active as a bicyclist."
He'd been competitive regionally and nationally as a runner, and he soon became very competitive in his bicycling, too. "When I was training had for races, I'd usually have 4,000 to 6,000 miles on the bike by the end of a year," Peterson said. "I don't do that much now, but I still usually have 2,500 to 5,000 miles a year. This past year, I haven't done quite as much because of some physical problems, and this 87 miles on Saturday will be my longest ride of the year. But being on the tandem, I shouldn't have any trouble with it. I think it'll be a whole lot of fun -- it always is."
His normal rides are on one of two road bikes -- his "favorite," a Seven Cycle brand "with really good components on it" or a Roubaix that "has bigger tires, a longer wheel base and I think of it as a 'comfort bike'," he said. "But last year I bought one these fat-tired bikes that have become pretty popular, and they're really a lot of fun, you know?"
Peterson had a 60-year career in dentistry. "I retired from my general practice in 1993," he said. "I started as an adjunct instructor at Des Moines Area Community College for three or four years, then retired again. Then I went to work for a low-income clinic here in Marshalltown and worked with them from 2005 to 2015 -- and retired again."
More time for bicycling.