Redlining his reserve of physical strength and leaning on steadfast faith, 65-year-old Paul Nusbaum completed a 3,470 mile bicycle trek across the country in 31 days this spring.
“I had a six-word slogan for the ride that I posted by my computer and looked at for a long time before I even started it,” Nusbaum said. “ ‘Spiritual endurance, progressive sanctification, physical perseverance.’ I needed it all to finish that crazy ride.”
A Pandora resident, Nusbaum took on the Fast America Ride challenge to raise money for Putnam County Homecare & Hospice in an effort to recognize their true kindness and overall excellence when his mother and father were under their care. He was able to raise more than $16,000 from more than 125 individuals and businesses, about half of which funded his trip expenses.
Time in the saddle
A veteran rider, Nusbaum has been a member of the Hancock Handlebars Bike Club for 24 years, logging more than 108,000 miles in that time. He also completed the Big Ride Across America in 2000 at age 50, that time raising $7,000 for the American Lung Association. He is a retired educator and lives with his wife, Valerie.
The Fast Ride Across America began in Costa Mesa, California, where 11 bikers from the U.S., Australia, and Israel dipped their wheels in the Pacific Ocean. A support van and four personnel accompanied the riders and mapped their route each day. The riders, ranging in age from 26 to 66, stayed in hotels at night and took just two rest days.
Breaking it down still further, Nusbaum said there were 26 days the group rode 100 miles or more in one day, and six days the riders clocked over 130 miles. They climbed a total of 114,675 feet, crossed 15 states and Nusbaum spent 205 hours in the saddle.
Of the 11, Nusbaum was only one of three riders whose tires never left the road across the entire country— he was the oldest to complete the entire ride. Eight of the 11 were able to finish the ride, but as early as Day #2, misfortune began to rear its ugly head.
Bikers were forced to leave the ride for stays in the hospital or the van for maladies such as dehydration, nerve pain in the hands, mental and physical exhaustion, and a large saddle sore. Because of a crash involving several bikers, one rider suffered three broken ribs. Another, who crashed on a chunk of asphalt, broke his collarbone. One biker was hospitalized after being side swiped by a car, suffering bruised ribs. Many of those injured returned to the ride, when they could.
“We became like a band of brothers,” Nusbaum said of himself and the other riders. “The attrition rate was so high, we began to really look out for one another, trying to avoid incidents. … I just knew I wanted to do it all. I didn’t want to get in the van or out of the ride.”
Nusbaum fell, when a group of the riders crashed on Day #8, on his right shoulder and scraped his elbow, but was otherwise unscathed – a blessing considering he’d undergone two surgeries on that shoulder. He also had a close call with a car in Springfield, Ill., and had to sometimes fight off a bit of paranoia. (My knee is sore, is it turning into something? What’s going on with my Achilles tendon?…)
“(Ride organizers) warned us that there would be times you won’t remember where you started,” Nusbaum said. “And it was true. We stopped one night at our hotel and the desk clerk asked where we had come from, and I couldn’t think of the name of the town.”
When traveling through Marysville, Ohio, Nusbaum received a pick-me-up when he was greeted by his wife and about 25 people from his church, Pandora United Methodist. And finally, on the last day of the ride, the group of eight remaining riders made their way onto the beach in Amesberry, Massachusetts, where, amid the cheers of gathered family and friends, they dipped their wheels in the Atlantic Ocean.
“We carried a bottle of water from the Pacific Ocean in the support van and dumped it into the Atlantic,” Nusbaum said. “At the finish it was a great feeling of accomplishment as well as being so grateful and truly blessed to have made it here safely. I thank God for all he has provided and am humbled by his grace.”
Nusbaum said ride organizers instructed the bikers to give their body a rest from the saddle for at least five to seven days after the trek. He came home eight pounds lighter and joked that, gazing in the mirror, “I look like a tired old man, but then I realized that I am, in fact, a tired old man.” After doing it twice, Nusbaum is content to say this ride across the U.S. will be his last.
In the end, Nusbaum felt he grew spiritually, and was thankful for God’s grace and those who prayed for him along the way. He also gained a greater appreciation for the beauty of the United States, and feels very grateful toward those who donated monies for Putnam County Homecare & Hospice.
“I can’t think of a better cause to ride for.”