By DIEGO JESUS BARTESAGHI MENA
Every year for the last quarter-century, Bill Zuppa, 65, has ridden his bike in memory for long, arduous journeys, in memory of his nephew, Georgie Caunt.
Past rides have taken him to the summits of Mount Washington in New Hampshire, Mount Mitchen in North Carolina. He’s been out to California and overseas.
And this year, Zuppa’s Georgie Caunt Memorial Ride took him from Mahwah to Whiteface Mountain in the Adirondack Mountains in New York, to once again raise funds for a family whose child attends the Piscataway Regional Day School. Georgie, who had cerebral palsy, had attended the special education school before dying at age 14.
“The ride doesn’t change the child’s and family’s life, but does make it a little bit easier,” Zuppa wrote in an email to Montclair Local. He said each year, the ride raises a few thousand dollars. This year, he said, the total was around $5,000.
This year’s ride was almost 300 miles long, from Campgaw Mountain to Whiteface Mountain, with an 8-mile climb to the summit.
Zuppa — who goes by the nickname OneMan — is a Montclair resident of more than 30 years, and works as a medical marketing courier for Montclair Radiology.
This year, the ride’s 25th, Zuppa set out on Sunday, June 20 — Father’s Day, to honor his own father, John, who died last year.
On the first day, he traveled 105 miles from Mahwah to New Baltimore, New York.
During the first day, Zuppa rode parallel to the New York Thruway along New York State Route 17, New York State Route 32, New York State Route 200 and U.S. Route 9W with a few back roads along the way.
“There were some hill climbs along the way, but nothing too severe,” Zuppa said. “Except for missing a turn or two on some secondary roads heading north, and temperature reaching 90 degrees before ride’s end that day, which can cause just a little distress for a 65-year-old cyclist with heart disease, all went well.”
Zuppa doesn’t ride alone. He is aided by his friend and long-time supporter Matt “Sancho Panza” Krautheim. Krautheim acts as a SAG, which stands for support and gear, carrying extra water, food, bicycle pump and any other support Zuppa might need during the trip.
On the second day, Zuppa covered 80 miles riding through New York State Route 32 and U.S Route 4, taking him past Saratoga, New York before heading inland to Lake George. During that portion of the ride, temperatures reached the low 90s.
On the third day, and after a set of thunderstorms the night before, the temperature cooled off, Zuppa said. Zuppa rode 77 miles from Lake George to the base of Whiteface Mountain in Wilmington, New York.
During his ride to the Whiteface Mountain, Zuppa got his first and only flat tire of the ride. He tried calling Krautheim, who was ahead in the road, but he did not have cell service, Zuppa said.
“While I’m fixing the flat an SUV pulls up behind me with flashers on and a fellow gets out asking if I need any help,” Zuppa said. “I said, ‘I’m all set,’ putting in a new tube after pulling out a small glass piece that had caused the flat.”
The driver, named Rich, said he saw Zuppa on his way to work and turned around to help him. Rich told Zuppo he’d be able to drive him down the road, where there was cell service.
Zuppa was able to reach the base of Whiteface Memorial Highway but wasn’t able to finish due to the hill climbing he did early in the day, he said.
Finally, on the morning of Wednesday, June 23, with temperatures in the 50s, Zuppa was able to reach the end of the 8-mile-long ride, with an 8.4% average gradient to the top of Whiteface Mountain.
Having minimal costs (mostly expenses that Zuppa pays out of pocket for hotels. food and some light bike maintenance), he was able to raise in total $5,000 for the family in need.
If you would like to contribute to the organization, you can send a check to: OneManOneBikeOneChild, PO Box 1172, West Caldwell, NJ 07006.