Among the hardiest tourists in Washington this week are Donald W. Mekelburg. 63. and his wife Dorothy. 60. of Ixonia. Wis.. who have done 8.700 miles of an 11,000.mile bicycle trip around the US since they both retired from desk jobs.
Whose idea was this trip? They pointed at each other.
He explained, "I said, ·When we retire, it would be nice to take a bicycle trip around the perimeter of the United States.' Before I knew it. she had sent away for information to all the states and we were getting ready to go."
Mr. Mekelburg was in charge of quality assurance for
the former Carnation Co. can division in Oconomowoc
and traveled around the country by plane.
Mrs. Mekelburg was director of the practical nursing
program at Waukesha County Technical College in Pewaukee.
Although both had office jobs. they had done some
cross-state bicycle trips in Wisconsin, and knew enough about long-distance riding to know they would have to
spend about six months in weight training and training
on stationary bicycles to prepare for the trip.
After they finished the body building. the Mekelburgs rented out their house. stored their furniture, loaded up
each of their Trek bicycles with about 60 pounds of
camping gear and headed west in May 1988.
They rode through 104-degree days in South Dakota.
through Yellowstone National Park, up the mountains to n
clear the 9,660-foot Powder River Pass in Wyoming and
headed for California.
"We never walked our bikes. We rode all the way."' she said.
Sixty miles north of San Francisco. her bicycle skidded
on a wet pavement, she took a tumble and broke her
They rented a U-haul, went back to Wisconsin and stayed with friends.
"We had rented our house out and couldn't stay there,"
Mr. Mekelburg explained.
When her wrist healed, Mrs. Mekelburg went back
.After all that work. I didn't want my leg muscles to aurn to jelly." she said.
In the middle of last December. they went back to
California to resume their trip.
In New Mexico, one of their five children rode with
them for two days, but turned back. Couldn't keep up.
Across the desert they rode to Texas, where· they spent four days waiting out an ice storm, then through
the South and up the East Coast.
They arrived in Dale City, Va., south of Washington,
along with a fierce rain storm, which caused flooding,
washed out bridges, closed roads and generally sent
Washington area commuters to seek shelter on higher
"We're from flat country and didn't know how quickly
The water can rise." she said. explaining why they ventured across the foot bridge over the swollen Occoquan River in Virginia.
When they got back on the road, they found that US Highway, Telegraph Road and other main highways into Washington bad been closed to automobile traffic
because of the flooding. no With detours, they made it into the District
of Columbia over the weekend, locked their bicycles in the
basement of a cyclist acquaintance of theirs and took the Metro train to the Capitol.
They ran into Sen. Robert W. Kasten Jr. (R-Wis.), 46,
who was puffing slightly after racing from a hearing
room to his office in the building next door.
Mekelburg suggested to Kasten, "We thought you al might like to do the next 40 miles with us."
Kasten laughed and said it sounded like a good· idea.
but senatorial business kept him in Washington.
They said they understood.
A Kasten aide asked Mrs. Mekelburg if she was not
afraid to be out on the road, on a bicycle, for months at a time.
"Not when he's with me,"' she said of her husband.
She said many of her friends are envious of what she and her husband have been able to do.
"A woman will say; 'I'd like to do that, but all my
Harry wants to do is sit in front of. the TV.' Or the husband will want to do it, and the wife won't."
As for their health, Mrs. Mekelburg said, ""I have
arthritis of the spine and I do better in the leaning over th
position (on the bicycle) than I do standing up."
He said, "I feel healthier than t have in years. We've been riding since December, and this the first winter that I can remember that I didn't come down with a cold."
From Washington, they planned to bead north,
through New York State. into Canada, then on a Great qt
Lakes route to Wisconsin.
'"We'll probably get home in the middle of July; we
had an extension on our income tax until Aug. 15 and we
have to get back by then," he said,
"We've had a CPA (certified public accountant) paying
all our bills; do you know how great it is to have a CPA M
paying your bills?"
[Milwaukee Sentinel, Milwaukee, WI,
Wed, May 10, 1989, Page 14]