Kicking the Bucket(list)

Bike Friday owner Dr. Murray Fishel enjoying the beauty of Arches National Park while checking off Utah on his bucket list of cycling in all 50 States.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We recently received an essay from Bike Friday owner Dr. Murray Fishel, who discovered cycling and let it change his life. He retired from teaching and took up cycling.

The Background
In 1991 I was a professor of Political Science at Kent State University. In the previous 10 years I had become increasingly sedentary in my life. No major activities or exercise, only pacing across the front of the classroom. By this time I weighed about 250 pounds.

Then the University announced that it would offer a 5 year buyout to faculty members who had a minimum of 25 years of service. After buying 2 years of service from other universities at which I’d taught, I had 27 years, making me eligible for the buyout. I suspected, however, the program would be so popular with more senior faculty that I would not be included in the buyout, at least for several years.

My suspicion proved wrong. I was selected in the first year. While I had a skill that would allow me to continue to earn money —namely political consulting– I began to panic because I had no real outside interests beyond politics. So, here I am a 54 year old professor faced with early retirement and nothing to do most of the time.

Everything I’d read warned against allowing that to happen. The caveat was, “Don’t retire unless you have a variety of outside interests.” And, I didn’t. As luck would have it, around this time, I happened to see an article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer on mountain biking. Intriguing. That night I decided that I would take a chance and risk investing $300 on a mountain bike. Hopefully, I would like it.

In September, 1991, I went to the Wheel and Wrench Bike Shop in Kent and purchased my first bike as an adult… a Diamondback Sorrento mountain bike. Mark, the salesperson, persuaded me that I should also buy a helmet, tire levers, patch kit and a spare tube. I did, even though I didn’t have a clue as to how to fix a flat.

I vowed to myself that I would never spend a lot on biking “stuff.” and would NEVER EVER wear those funky looking spandex bike shorts!

Shortly after buying my Diamondback, I ventured out for my first ride. I was scared, a bit embarrassed at 250 pounds and was hoping I wouldn’t see anyone I knew. I put on an old pair of jeans, Cleveland Indians tee shirt and my vintage converse All Star shoes. I also wore my new helmet. I was the living incarnation of the anti-biking persona.

I rode 3 miles on the Summit County (OH) Bike Hike Trail. I took a radio so I could listen to the Cleveland Browns. (Yes, another loss.). I made every rookie mistake possible. I missed shifts, threw the chain on a hill and was unaware of bikes around me.

After the 3 miles, I thought my legs would fall off. The next morning I woke up sore with an aching butt and legs. It took me another few days before I was willing to try again. But I did. And, that was 113,000 miles ago.
From Retirement to Bucket List

After I retired I began to do political consulting around the country. I realized quickly that I needed some form of exercise or I’d go crazy. The consulting was high pressure work. Candidates and organizations expected me to be smart, creative and instantaneously give them answers to complicated questions. I always did the best I could; but by the end of most days I had a bad case of fried brain.

Sometime in the early to mid-1990s some biking friends, Greg and Judy, bought Bike Fridays. These bikes were remarkable since they allowed riders to fold them, pack them and travel with them. I decided to spend the money and get a New World Tourist from Bike Friday.

Pretty soon I was taking the bike on consulting gigs in different states. Sometimes, I’d ride very early or very late on a certain day; other times I’d build an extra day or two onto the trip itself.
Since getting the Friday, I’ve ridden about 20,000 total miles on the folding bike.

The convergence of political consulting and the Bike Friday in my life were the initial stimuli for my biking adventures outside of Ohio. The versatility of the Friday is remarkable. Without it and the consulting I’d never be writing this essay. It was years later–2007–however, that I actually put the goal of biking in all 50 states at the top of my bucket list. By that time I had pedaled in 40 states. I’ve used a Bike Friday to ride in 35 states and 4 countries. (See Table provided)

On Saturday, August 30, 2014, I flew to Anchorage, Alaska to bike in state number 50. And, on September 4, 2014, I returned home, having pedaled 160 miles in my 50th state.

Favorite Friday Tours

  • Seattle, WA to Crescent City, CA along the Oregon Coast (Self-Contained)
  • Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England to Edinburgh. Scotland (Coasts and Castles)
  • San Francisco, CA to Santa Barbara, CA (With the Bicycle Adventure Club)

Toughest Friday Rides

  • C-2-C, Whitehaven, England, to Newcastle. England
  • Ireland, Cobh Island to Galway
  • Death Valley and Lake Tahoe

Most Beautiful Friday Rides

  • Oregon Coast
  • Pacific Coast of CA
  • Big Island of Hawaii
  • Moab, Utah, Arches National Park

Best Friday Trail Rides

  • Centennial and Hiawatha Trails, Spokane, WA to Coeur d’Alene, ID to Hiawatha Trail
  • Bird to Gird, Anchorage, AL
  • Military Ridge Trail, Madison, WI
  • Ohio and Erie Canal, Towpath Trail, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Cleveland, OH

Most Satisfying Experiences on the Friday

  • Riding with my late wife Judy on the Big Island of Hawaii, England and Ireland
  • Using the bike to ride with my Grandson, Max, Stepdaughter, Amy, and Granddaughter, Jude
  • Using the bike to help fulfill the bucket list goal of biking in all 50 states

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