87 miles for 87 years

Retired dentist is a bicycling enthusiast

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO Retired Marshalltown dentist Bob Peterson recently completed an 87-mile-long bike ride in honor of his 87th birthday. He made the journey alongside several friends. Pictured from left, Gregg Mings, Bruce Pesch, Carole Leneau, Peterson and Paul Black.

Gifts. Cake. Ice cream. Balloons. All solid additions to any birthday celebration. But for Dr. Bob Peterson, 87, who is retired from a 60-year career in dentistry, no birthday bash is complete without a “Bob’s Birthday Bike Ride” with friends and family. The octogenarian recently completed an 87-mile long bike ride on the Raccoon River Valley Trail, in honor of his 87th birthday.

Peterson said he got the idea to “bike the number of miles as his age” about 15 birthdays ago. This year, he made the trek on Saturday, Sept. 30 (his birthday was Oct. 1).

“Some people just like to ride, but I like to have a goal,” he said.

He started in Adel, and riding clockwise, biked the trail, stopping for lunch and birthday cake at a restaurant in the small town of Jamaica. The bike ride got off the ground at around 8:30 a.m. that morning, and ended around 4:30 p.m.

“We made stops to refuel and rehydrate,” he said.

Most of the riding was done along the trail’s 72-mile “loop.” However, to equal the 87 miles needed, Peterson and company also went up through Jefferson and back. He completed the journey on a tandem (bicycle built for two). The bike was piloted by his long-time friend Bruce Pesch, with Peterson riding in back as the stoker.

“It’s less stressful as the stoker, because the captain (person in front) is steering the bike and breaking, so all I had to do was pedal,” Peterson noted.

While he and his wife Nancy own a tandem bike, the retired dentist said he had limited experience being the one who rides in back.

“We had a system,” he said. “We had to each put a foot down at a time to stay balanced. Bruce is a premier cyclist, and a really good, safe biker.”

Peterson, who is a native of Carroll, first got interested in marathon running in 1965, participating in competitions across the country including the Boston Marathon and the Drake Relays. After a leg injury, he transitioned into cycling. Since his retirement in 2015, he and Nancy have gotten in trail riding, as well as spending time with their five children, and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

“I hope I can do it again next year,” he concluded.


Contact Sara Jordan-Heintz at 641-753-6611 or sjordan@timesrepublican.com