Alfred University News

Alfred University Alumni Reunion Bike Ride History: Part One (1998-2012)

The Alfred University “Reunion Bikers” is a group of alumni who spend the week preceding Reunion Weekend bicycling to Alfred. Following is the first of a two-part chronicling of the history of the Reunion Bike Ride, covering the inaugural year of 1998 through 2012.

The Alfred University “Reunion Bikers” is a group of alumni who spend the week preceding Reunion Weekend bicycling to Alfred. Join the group in a tradition that was started by a handful of adventurers from the class of 1958 who decided to bike from the Philadelphia area to Alfred University for their 40th reunion in 1998. They did it again for their 45th and 50th reunions choosing different routes in most years.

By 2010, the ride has become an annual tradition and continued each year, with the exception of 2020, when Reunion was canceled due to COVID. For the 2022 Reunion, the group has chosen Geneva, NY, at the north end of Seneca Lake as their pedal-off point. After arriving in Geneva June 4 and staying three nights, the Reunion Bikers will ride to Mount Morris and stay two night (June 7 and 8), tackling the challenges of Letchworth State Park, before moving on to Hornell on June 9, where they will stay overnight before celebrating with their “Victory Ride” into Alfred on June 10.

Following is the first of a two-part chronicling of the history of the Reunion Bike Ride, covering the inaugural year of 1998 through 2012. (Look for the second part in a future message in Alfred University E-news): 

1998, 1st ride, 40th Reunion

Participants: Russ ‘58 and Pat Fahey, Elliott Lasky ‘58, Stu and Helen Duff, Don and Marion Weisel

In late 1997 two Alfred University alumni from the class of 1958 got together and decided they wanted to do something memorable for their upcoming 40th class reunion. They agreed to spend a week bicycling back to campus from Elliott’s home in Colmar, PA (near Philadelphia), a distance of 286 miles. They went the most direct route, bad mistake – the Appalachian Mountain Range and local Poconos Mountains proved major obstacles to conquer. In Doylestown Russ had a flat and Don and Stu fixed it. They stayed at a motel in Upstate where a tornado was expected, but it did not happen. Along the way they stopped for a comic Sunday sermon conducted by Don Weisel at World’s End State Park (North Central PA) by a stream in a pretty wooded area. Was this the year Russ went out ahead of everyone on hill after hill? 

2003, 2nd ride, 45th Reunion

Participants: Russ ‘58 and Pat Fahey, Elliott ‘58 and Bonnie Lasky, Stu and Helen Duff, Don and Marion Weisel

Russ and Elliott had so much fun biking to their 40th reunion they decided to do it again for their 45th reunion. They started near the Delaware Water Gap in Pennsylvania. Bonnie drove Elliott to a hotel in Upstate PA where they met the others and continued the ride. 

2008, 3rd ride, 50th Reunion

Participants: Russ ‘58 and Pat Fahey, Elliot ‘58 and Bonnie Lasky, Stu and Helen Duff, Don and Marion Weisel were joined by Roger Eiss ‘58 and Andy ’58 and Fran Seaman

By now the 58’ers, as they later became known as, were on a roll and knew they had to bike for their 50th year reunion.  It didn’t matter to them they were now in their early 70’s.  A tradition had begun and the 58’ers were determined to continue it.  Elliott picked up Roger from the airport where he had flown in from Portland, OR.  Everyone met the day before the ride began for a get together and steak dinner at Elliott’s home in Comar, PA.  Russ gave out signed prints of his drawing of three bikers to everyone.  They started the ride in Carversville, PA (near Philadelphia) down a pretty rural road to the Delaware River.  The temperature for three days was 100 degrees.  Andy’s thermometer read 125.  They rode until lunch that day and ate in a cemetery.  Then they packed it in and drove to their motel in the Poconos.  The next day they biked over the Poconos.  Further north Elliott backed his car with Stu’s bike on the bike carrier into a car that was passing in the parking lot and bent the pedal shaft.  They couldn’t straighten it (really? most of them were ceramic engineering graduates) and the bike was un-rideable so they were fortunate to find a bike shop nearby that was able to straighten it so Stu could continue the ride.  Into New York they were met by a delegation of bikers from Elmira who escorted them to the center of the city where a special festival for senior fitness was taking place and where the Elmira bikers had arranged a surprise press conference for them and they were also welcomed by the mayor.  After that they went to their classmate Dick Bauer’s home in Big Flats for a sumptuous lunch.

Pat Fahey arranged a 50th class reunion parade through Alfred that was attended by more than 50 classmates.  The parade included floats, antique cars, blaring fire engines and a band.  It was a big hit and was the first time ever for a class reunion in Alfred’s history.  Local bike riders joined in too. 

2010, 4th Ride

Participants:  Roger Eiss ‘58, Jack Heims ’60, Andy Seaman ‘58   

In 2010 Roger decided not to wait another five years and that the bike trip should be repeated.  Elliott chose not to join the group, but Andy signed on for a second year and they were joined by Jack Heims.  This is the first year the bike ride took place outside of a 5 plus or 10 plus year alumni reunion date for the 58’ers.  Elliott had served as navigator, charting out the bike route on all previous rides.  Roger stepped up to the plate and organized this year’s ride.  Roger and Andy decided to begin the trip in Washingtonville, NY (near Newburgh in the Hudson River valley in Eastern NYS), where they attended grade school together.  They contacted AU alum Linda Rahl Nadas ‘58 who was also in their grade school class and she agreed to host a kickoff dinner for everybody.  Another AU alum, Robert Gropper ’83, who lived nearby agreed to cater the meal.  Robert is the founder and former owner of “My Brother Bobby’s Salsa”.  The ride started the next day in Newburgh, crossing the southern tier of NY, over the Catskill Mountains, and again passing through Elmira to Alfred. 

2011, 5th Ride

Participants: Roger Eiss ’58, Russ ‘58 and Pat Fahey, and Jack Heims ’59 were joined by newcomers Barney Hart ‘58, Dave ‘61 and Kate Perry, Dave ‘58 and Claire (“Tinker” ‘57) Wilcox

Roger had so much fun leading the 2010 ride he decided to do it again in 2011.  Had the reunion bike ride become an annual tradition?  Stay tuned.  This year he planned a trip that started in Lake Placid, NY (he was a graduate of Saranac Lake High School (nearby)).  Jack Heims ‘60 met the group in Lake Placid but chose not to join the bike trip. He was a “catch and release” fishing enthusiast and took advantage of Georgia Jones’ ’58 Lake Placid connections to leave the group for several days of fishing.  Georgia also organized the biking trip’s kickoff dinner that year.  They biked down through Blue Mountain Lake, Old Forge, and Booneville.  They connected with AU alumna Megan Hayes for dinner. The next day they connected with Russ Fahey ’58 who joined in on bicycle in Camden, NY where they biked to Russ’s home on the shores of Lake Ontario near Pulaski.  The next day they biked down along one of the finger lakes, and the following day arrived in Hornell for the reunion. 

2012, 6th Ride, “Bikers from Mars”

Participants: Dave ’76 and Rita Conrad, Roger Eiss ’58, David ’77 and Regina Holleb, Geoff Lowe ’72, Dave ’61 and Kate Perry, Jim Randall ‘77

With great times behind them they did in again in 2012. That year was the first time the group biked under a name. They rode under the banner “Bikers from Mars”. They started from Mars, PA, a suburb of Pittsburgh. Joe Stein ’58, a resident of Mars, was the local sponsor. He took the group on a tour of the town and hosted a kickoff dinner. Unfortunately their leader, Roger had a terrible bike accident on the second day of the ride. They hit a bad stretch of road and Roger was way out in front leading the group. Coming down a hill at good speed the front tire of his bike became caught in a rut. His bike stopped instantly, but he didn’t. Roger woke up in an ambulance. He suffered a concussion, broken sternum, three broken ribs, and numerous cuts and contusions. The group immediately suspended the ride and regrouped at the local hospital concerned with Roger’s condition and wellbeing. The doctor said if he hadn’t been wearing a helmet he would not have survived. They were allowed to visit Roger later in the day after some of the pain medication wore off and he woke up. The group was ready to discontinue the ride, but Roger insisted the Bikers from Mars continue the adventure without him. His body may have been broken but not his spirit. Roger’s sister from Georgia just happened to be in Pennsylvania on her way to Northern New York for a family reunion. She came and picked Roger up. Roger and his wife eventually made it home to Washington State via a train ride across Canada as the doctor banned any flying till he recovered from the concussion.

Thanks to the efforts of marketing major David Holleb ‘77, gold and purple Alfred University bike jerseys were introduced this year and are now available for purchase at the AU book store on campus. They are a big hit with most current and past veteran bikers purchasing them.

Biker Geoff Lowe from Ohio missed the hookup meeting with the rest of the group at the beginning of the trip in Mars, PA. But that didn’t stop Geoff. He ventured out on his own and made the 250 mile plus trip solo without sag support. He eventually rendezvoused with the rest of the bikers in Hornell on Friday morning for the traditional “Victory Ride” to campus and the King Alfred statute. Geoff has made the reunion ride in subsequent years but the other reunion bikers never know where or when Geoff will show up or be spotted. He has become known as the “Ghost Biker”.

While many of the rides have had local sponsors who provide much appreciated meals and hospitality to the bikers, another member of the class of 1958, Ed Law, has become known as the Alumni Reunion Ride “Sponsor at Large”.  At the “Victory Dinner” usually at the Sunset Grill (gone but not forgotten), the night before the “Victory Ride” into Alfred, Ed presents monetary stipends to the support sag drivers (usually the bikers’ spouses.)  Ed can be counted on riding his vintage World War II bicycle up the last hill to King Alfred cheering the rest of the bikers on.