For the average person, there may be times when they go out on a limb and leave their car keys in their purse or pocket and ride a bike to their local store. The thought of traveling long distances on a bike is not a challenge that most people are willing to take.
Working for ProHealth Care in Waukesha, Wisconsin, is Senior Biomedical Imaging Engineer Tom Roberts. Roberts has more in common with the cyclists at the Tour de France than he does with the person who might see a ride to the store as a challenge. Long distance cycling has been a part of Robert’s life for a long time.
“Back in the late ’70s, I was a teenager. I owned some incredibly unreliable cars — we called them ‘beaters’ back then,” Roberts remembers. “I developed a life style that required reliable transportation, and when the cars didn’t work, I jumped on my bicycle. In time, me and my other pals, with equally unreliable cars, learned that a state park 10 miles from our homes was within bicycling distance.”
Roberts says it wasn’t long before the teens decided a longer trek would be fun.
“And, why not bring lightweight camping gear and why not go for an entire week? That’s how it all got started,” he says.
Long Distance Training
Roberts rides a recumbent-style bike which is a model called the Tour Easy, made by a California company called Easy Racer.
“I don’t ride fast but, much like the Energizer Bunny; I keep going and going and going. I start in the spring with a few 15- to 20-mile rides. By the end of May I’m up to 50-mile rides. During the month of June, I start doing 80-mile rides. In July, I load the bicycle with roughly 30 pounds of lightweight camping gear – same stuff you’d take if you were going on a 100-mile hike – and start back at 30-mile rides,” Roberts explains.
By the end of July, Roberts is up to 70-mile rides with a fully loaded bicycle.
“At that point, I’m prepared to get together with my lifelong cycling pal and take a lap around Wisconsin without the aid of any sort of motorized back-up,” he says.
Roberts spent his teen years in Appleton, Wisconsin. That’s where the long distance, point-to-point bicycling began.
“We’d ride the 10 miles from Appleton to High Cliff State Park southeast of Appleton then ride back,” he says.
Organized rides or races aren’t Roberts’ thing. Libations should be a part of the experience.
“Those are for grandmothers and little kids,” he says. “And I don’t think those rides involve alcohol at the end of each day.”
While long distance cycling is, out of necessity, a spring and summer activity in Wisconsin, winter time camping is another adventure that Roberts has participated in since his teen years. This has been an annual tradition that happens each February.
“The winter camp has its origins back in 1980 when me and my high school pals were looking for a way to elude our parents for a few days to do the nefarious things that 18-year-olds will do,” Roberts says. “It died out for a few years, then was revived in 1985. We did it for a couple of reasons. We’re all football addicts. The weekend after the Super Bowl is a time in need of extreme distraction. Then, there’s the cabin fever thing that happens in Wisconsin in February. Winter camp provides relief. We also looked forward to testing our mettle back then. Now that we’re in our 50s, we do it because we’re afraid of what happens when we stop.”
These days, Roberts and his friends go to a deserted lake that’s located roughly 80 miles northwest of Green Bay in the Nicolet Forrest.
“It’s evolved over the years,” he says. “We’ve got a main camp site that acts as the kitchen/living room. We have a couple of cord of firewood delivered to the camp site to maintain a fire much like the Olympic flame that never dies out for the duration of the trip. There’s a lot more than what I’ve told you but you get the idea.”
On the Job
After obtaining his associate degree from Fox Valley Technical College in 1981, Roberts was hired on a week-to-week basis as a contracted technician at what was then GE Medical Systems in Waukesha.
“GE hired me directly on December 28, 1981, as a Tech III in the X-ray system staging department staging MPX X-ray generators connected to RFX tables,” he says.
“I was promoted to Tech IV in 1984 and did that until 1993 when GE moved production of their nuclear medicine cameras from England to Waukesha. I staged nuclear cameras from 1993 until 1997, when GE purchased Elscint and moved production of nuclear cameras to Israel,” Roberts says.
He says that for a brief time, he moved to GE’s PET manufacturing group before landing in the company’s MR staging group.
“A few years later, I was promoted to Senior Engineering Technician in an MR engineering group. In 2007, after 25 and a half years, GE very unceremoniously laid me off,” he says.
But I still had more gas left in my tank, and in October of 2008, I ended up where I am today as a Senior Biomedical Imaging Engineer at ProHealth Care.
Old habits die hard and when those habits are healthy, and include the company of friends, they are the best kind of habits.
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