AKRON—The biker boys from Harwick Standard Distribution Corp. will be hitting the road again soon, but you won't find them on Harleys or Hondas. They are a lot greener than that.
Dave Schultz, Roger Read and Ernie Pouttu since 2006 have plied the back country of Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New York and Ohio on long-distance bicycle rides. They share a love of the challenge of riding as much as 100 miles a day, the many sights they see along the way and the camaraderie that comes from biking with friends.
They also share the connection of working at Harwick Standard, the Akron-based supplier of rubber chemicals. Schultz is the company's technical director and Pouttu its president and chief operating officer. Read spent 28 years at the company, retiring in 1995 as president and CEO.
Schultz said their adventures started awhile back, when Read suggested that someday they ought to go on a bike trek. He and Schultz already were bicyclists—Read had been riding trails in Ohio and Pennsylvania, and Schultz had been big in the sport for years.
“I got my first real bike when I just finished at the University of Akron, in 1977,” Schultz said—not counting bikes when he was a kid. Hired by Ohio Rubber, he biked all over Willoughby, Mentor and the east side of Cleveland with the Cleveland Touring Club.
Schultz left Ohio Rubber in 1982, returned to UA to get his master's degree, and moved to Medina, Ohio, where he traveled the country roads on his bike.
He also did more than that with the sport: He served as president of the Medina County Bicycle Club for a number of years, and started the club's “Ice Cream Odyssey Ride,” where the participants ride 20, 50, 75 or 100 miles on different courses, stopping at specific ice cream shops for refreshment.
“That started probably 25 years ago, and it still continues today,” he said.
Strength in numbers
The other Harwick riders are no strangers to physical exertion.
Read said he was a runner for 50 years. At the age of 65, while he wasn't having any physical problems, he decided perhaps he should go for longevity, rather than just the pure pleasure of running.
“I swapped out running for bicycling,” he said.
Now entering his 71st year in August, Read said he celebrates his birthday each year by riding his age in miles, accompanied by his biking friends. “He's in phenomenal shape for 70,” Schultz said.
Pouttu is something of a local legend when it comes to his running exploits.
He said he goes for quantity, not speed, in running. He ran his first marathon in 1982, at the age of 27. At 30, he decided he wanted to run 40 marathons by the time he turned 40—and did it by running the final three marathons within a month of his birthday.
Pouttu said he quit running for 71/2 years, but returned to the sport with the founding of the Akron Marathon. He is one of only 50 or so people who have run in all nine of the annual races.
The journey begins
In 2006, the three—plus Pouttu's son, Ernie, who was 17 at the time—took off on their first adventure, an unsupported, 41/2-day ride from Washington, D.C., to Pittsburgh.
That trip was special, Pouttu said, because it was the group's first big adventure, and planning the logistics was a challenge. They had to haul their bikes to Washington, ride the 184-mile C&O Canal Towpath to Cumberland, Md., then continue another 150 miles on the Great Allegheny Passage to Pittsburgh. They stayed in bed and breakfasts or other hotels along the way.
Schultz said they did a lot of “carbo-loading” when they stopped for the night—pasta and beer. They needed the carbs for the long haul, and Pouttu recalls on one day they did 100 miles, from Harper's Ferry to Paw Paw, W.Va.
The first day of that trip started inauspiciously. There was a downpour, it was rush hour in D.C. and they had trouble finding the start of the trail. Once they got rolling, though, the start of the trip was spectacular, riding along the Potomac River, the three bicyclists agree.
“It's amazing that such beauty can be just outside Washington D.C.,” Pouttu said. The group had to go through two tunnels on the trip—the Paw Paw tunnel, “not anything I'd like to go back and do again, dark, a little trail alongside water, you think you'll fall in,” and the Big Savage, “which was a pretty neat ride,” Pouttu said.
The trips since then have included Greenbriar, W.Va.; the Yellow Springs, Ohio, area, where the younger Ernie Pouttu attended school, at Dennison University; and the Kokosing Trail around Mount Vernon, Ohio.
Twice the younger Ernie Pouttu hasn't been able to make the trip. On one occasion Bill Lowery, former president of Annaco Inc., took his place, and on the other Pete Cookro, retired from Firestone and B.F. Goodrich, filled in.
Last year the group enjoyed a canal towpath adventure in New York, starting with a day around Syracuse, then Ro-chester and finally in the Buffalo area.
This year Schultz said the original four bicyclists will be doing the North Bend Rail to Trail route, Parkersburg to Clarksburg, W.Va., and the Adena Rail Trail in the Athens, Ohio, area.
Read summed up the appeal of the biking adventures.
“First there is a bonding while riding, then there is a bonding afterward, from the shared experience,” he said. “It's a combination of friendship, fitness and fun.”