It’s hard to say which is more remarkable”that three teenage boys (ages 16, 16 and 19) were allowed to hop on their bikes for a lightly planned, late summer 155-mile excursion to and from rural north central Indiana, or that 40 years later the three men (now 56, 56 and 58) relived the event.
It was in 1966, after less than three days of planning, Riverside natives Tom Sisulak, Randy Sisulak and Mark Hoglund, hopped on their bikes (one of them an old-fashioned, balloon-tire Roadmaster one-speed) and pedaled to visit the Sisulaks’ relatives in Rochester, Logansport and Lake Cicott, Ind., a nine-day trip along country roads. They were armed mainly with maps and determination.
“It came up sort of spur of the moment,” said Hoglund, now a hospital administrator in Brooklyn, N.Y. “It didn’t involve any advance thinking or planning. It was hatched on a Sunday, and we left Wednesday morning.”
During that trip, the trio slept in corn fields and pedaled through some downpours. But apart from some mechanical problems with the old one-speed”The Bomb, as it was called”the tour was a success.
Fast-forward to June 11-16, 2006.
The trio celebrated the 40th anniversary of that first ride (as they had in 1986 for the 20th anniversary) with another trek to Indiana to meet the Sisulak relatives and reconnect with that long-ago adventure. They didn’t go it alone this time, however. Along for the trip were Randy Sisulak’s wife, Mary, and Hoglund’s 15-year-old son, Aaron. No one had to ride The Bomb, and there was plenty of advance planning.
For one thing, the Internet”unthinkable even in 1986″made picking a safe route easier.
“It made it possible to look at satellite photos of the whole area,” Hoglund said. “You could look at the roads and figure out the best routes. That was really an issue in the past.”
For example, the trio had biked up and down Harlem Avenue between Riverside and 183rd Street, a harrowing stretch for cyclists even in 1966. This year, they headed east toward the lakefront, where they picked up bike paths that led to Indiana.
“In 1986, we thought we were technologically advanced by having maps that showed county roads in Indiana,” Hoglund said. “If [the route taken in 2006] existed as bike paths in the past, we didn’t know it.”
The Sisulaks and Hoglund grew up in Riverside and graduated from Riverside-Brookfield High School. Tom and Randy Sisulak’s father, Frank, now 97, still lives in their boyhood home on Herrick Road. Hoglund grew up next door before his family moved elsewhere in Riverside.
Since the time of that first trip, the three have moved far from Riverside and each other. Tom Sisulak, the eldest of the group, is a retired teacher living in Stoughton, Wis. For 31 years, he taught math and coached cross country, track and gymnastics at Madison-LaFollette High School. Randy Sisulak, lived for a time in Minneapolis before moving to Crownsville, Md., where he works for the U.S. government.
Both Sisulaks graduated from Carthage College in Kenosha, Wis. and were both athletes there. Since that time both have continued staying active, competing as runners and cross-country skiers.
After graduating from RB, Hoglund attended Stanford University and moved to Brooklyn in 1978, where he has lived and worked ever since.
While the 20th anniversary trip in 1986 (which included Mary Sisulak and Hoglund’s wife, Becky Renaud) also went relatively smoothly, the 2006 trip was beset with problems almost from the start.
“This year we had the most misadventures,” said Tom Sisulak. “We didn’t make it to all the pre-planned destinations, and I came down with food poisoning midway through the first day.”
The trip this year also included three bike crashes on the way back to Riverside. Fortunately, the group had the foresight to have enlisted one of the Sisulaks’ cousins to follow the group in a van.
While rebonding as friends was part of the motivation for the 40th anniversary trip, Tom Sisulak said that this year’s ride was also dedicated to the memory of 13-year-old Mattie Stepanek, who died in 2004 after a long battle with a rare form of muscular dystrophy. According to Tom Sisulak, all three men had become friends with Stepanek, who became something of a media sensation in recent years as a result of his poetry. Before his death, Stepanek appeared on several TV talk shows, including Oprah, Larry King and Good Morning America.
Despite this year’s mishaps, the three men”at least for now”would like to keep the bike ride tradition alive as a way to celebrate their friendship and connect with that first adventure back in 1966.
“There’s never enough time to spend catching up with your friends,” Hoglund said. “I guess it’s nice to be able to say we were able to do it again and share the experience. I look forward to it in another 20 years. If I’m able to move, I’d vote for doing it again.”