Bicyclist, 78, carries on a tradition by riding 78 miles on his birthday
TISKILWA — Francis Morse of Tiskilwa has an unique birthday tradition that is helping him stay healthy and fit at his elder age.
For the past three birthdays, he has ridden his bike the number of miles he is turning that year. Last month, he turned 78 and mapped out a 78-mile ride that extended south of Tiskilwa, about half-way to Peoria and looped back home.
Morse was not alone on his ride. He took a few family members, a couple of friends and his wife, Sandra, who drove behind them in the car in case anyone needed a break along the way.
Morse has kept this tradition going strong since turning 75. Each year, the summer bike ride has gotten longer by one mile.
Morse insists he does it just for the pleasure of riding a bike and enjoying the outdoors.
“I’m not a bike club deal,” he said. “I sit up straight on my bike and I just like to ride.”
Morse and his crew, which all sported matching neon green shirts on the ride that said “78 mile club,” averaged a 10-mile-an-hour round trip. The ride itself took about 7 hours and 40 minutes.
That time is not including two pit stops they made along the way. The first was in Toulon to visit Morse’s sister-in-law. The second was in Modena to check up on the town he was born in and pay a visit to the cemetery where his parents are buried.
When the trip was all over and done with, Morse said he felt “good and tired.” But not too tired to enjoy a birthday dinner with his wife that evening.
“It always feels good to get it done. It’s just one of the goals I set out to do each year,” he said.
Tiskilwa residents most likely have seen Morse out and about riding his bicycle around town. He said he enjoys getting outdoors and staying active, especially when the weather is good.
Morse said he used to do a lot of walking. In fact, he used to walk from his home in Tiskilwa to Bureau (about a 9-mile stretch) and back. But when his heel started bothering him, he switched to biking.
Morse has also been an active rider in the annual Z-Tour event on years when it does not fall on days he is working the Bureau County 4-H Fair.
This year, the Z-Tour event falls on the last day of the fair, so Morse won’t be able to ride during the event, but he is looking forward to biking the 30-mile tour following the event.
Morse has been an active guy most of his life. He worked a 50-year career at Pioneer and farmed, which kept him mobile, especially during harvest and detasseling seasons.
“People my age need to set goals, get out and enjoy themselves,” he said. “Even if it’s just a walk around the block. It’s what keeps me going.”
Morse is already planning and mapping out his 79-mile ride for next year. He is also talking about his 100-mile ride, too.
“For my 100th, I told them we need to find a stretch of road 100-miles-long that is slightly downhill. We will start from that end and ride down,” he said with a laugh.
Speaking of the Z-Tour ...
PRINCETON — The ninth annual Z-Tour bike ride event will be held Saturday, July 20.
Area businesses and organizations are already showing their support by participating in a bike decorating contest this week. The decorated bikes are being proudly displayed outside businesses. The winner of the contest will be announced during the street concert event Friday, July 19.
Nearly 700 riders are expected to be a part of this year’s Z-Tour event. Riders will choose routes of 10, 30, 65 or 100 miles. Also new this year is the 62-mile adventure route, which is geared for expert riders. Each route starts and finishes at Zearing Park in Princeton.
There is still time to register for the ride. Registration fee is $35 from now until July 18 and $40 July 19 and 20. Register at ztour.org.
All proceeds from the event benefit the Zearing Child Enrichment Center, a non-profit child care center that provides an education-based program for children ages six weeks through 12 years old.