Our guest this week on the SFN Dad to Dad Podcast is Lon Haldeman, one of the world’s most well respected long distance, endurance bike riders of all time. He’s also and a mentor, of sorts, to our host David Hirsch. Lon and his wife Susan, herself a champion bike rider, have two children, Rebecca and Ericka, who sadly passed away just shy of her first birthday of Infantile ALS. It’s an incredibly interesting conversation and you’ll hear it on this Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast.
To find out about Pacific Atlantic Cycling Tour go to: www.Pactour.com
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For more information on ALS go to: https://lesturnerals.org
Dad to Dad 124 – Legendary Endurance Bike Rider Lon Haldeman – Daughter Ericka Passed Away Before Her 1st Birthday Due to Infantile ALS
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Lon Haldeman: You have to look on the bright side and make the best of it. And you can’t really. Just dwell on the, on the negative, that would be really overwhelming. So I guess even the way that we handled it with Eric, I mean, we, we kept her involved with our life traveling across the country.
And I guess you just have to try to be optimistic even in Erica’s case when there really wasn’t a lot of hope. I mean, that was probably [00:01:00] the hardest thing is that you just knew how predictable it was all going to turn out, but she just tried to make the best of it.
Tom Couch: That’s Lon Haldeman. One of the most respected endurance bike riders of all time and a mentor of sorts to our hosts.
David Hirsch, Lon, and his wife, Susan, also a champion bike rider have two children, Rebecca and Erica, who sadly died, just shy of her first birthday of tile. ALS. It’s an incredibly interesting conversation and it’s happening now on this Special Fathers Network, Dad to Dad podcast. Here’s our host David Hirsch.
David Hirsch: Hi, and thanks for listening to the Dad to Dad podcast, fathers, mentoring, fathers of children with special needs presented by the Special Fathers Network.
Tom Couch: Special Fathers Network is a Dad to Dad mentoring program for fathers raising children with special needs through our personalized matching process.
New fathers with special needs children connect with mentor fathers in a [00:02:00] similar situation. It’s a great way for dads to support dads, to find out more, go to 21stcenturydads.org.
David Hirsch: And if your dad looking for help or would like to offer help, we’d be honored to have you join our closed Facebook group.
Please go to facebook.com groups and search Dad to Dad.
Tom Couch: So let’s saddle up and listen to this conversation between Lon Haldeman and David Hirsch.
David Hirsch: I’m thrilled to be talking today with my good friend, Lon Haldeman of Sharon Wisconsin. Who’s the father of two co owner of PAC tours. And one of the most well-respected endurance bike riders, AKA ultra cyclist of all time.
For the record I met Lon five years ago when I was preparing to do dad’s on a ride 2015, a 2300 plus mile 21 day ride from Santa Monica to Chicago. I was very fortunate that he took me under his wing and helped prepare me for that challenge lawn. Thank you [00:03:00] for taking the time to do a podcast interview for the Special Fathers Network.
Lon Haldeman: Yes. Looking forward to it.
David Hirsch: You and your wife, Susan had been married for 37 years. One of the proud parents of two girls, Rebecca 33 and our younger sister, Erica born in 1991. And who sadly died before her first birthday of infant tile. ALS let’s start with some background. Where did you grow up? Tell me something about your family.
Lon Haldeman: Well, I going way back. You know, my relatives originally came from Switzerland and Germany to the United States in the 1730s, settled in the Pennsylvania, Regeneron were farmers. I’m not sure why they got run out of town, but probably it was some kind of religious persecution going on at the time. And that’s why they came and they were farmers and they settled.
And that region of New York, Pennsylvania, and. Then they eventually migrated into Northern [00:04:00] Illinois, Southern Wisconsin, sometime in the 1840s, homesteaded several farms in the state line area and 80 acre parcels. And I’m not sure the details, what the home setting involved, but I think if you settled it, you got to keep it or something after 10 years.
So I bet in the Northern Illinois, Southern Wisconsin area for a long time. So I grew up in Harvard, Illinois. I went to high school there. My actual, my parents went to high school there. They met in high school, both families, the Haldeman side, and my mom’s side of the Harbor side. They’d been in the whole region for a long time.
So after high school, Susan and I got married in 1983, we didn’t even have a house for. Four years or so we just traveled around the country, riding bikes, but then we decided to settle down. We found a parcel of land on the Wisconsin side of the Illinois border, [00:05:00] really only 10 miles from Harvard. And so that’s where we currently live.
And we’ve been here now for 28 years.
David Hirsch: Okay. So there’s some really long-term roots. If your family dates back to the 17 hundreds, as far as immigrating to the U S. And I’m sort of curious to know, what does your dad do for a living
Lon Haldeman: my dad while he was in the Korean war? That’s actually, I think he dabbled working at the Shamong Illinois milk factory Dean’s milk factory for a while.
Then he went in the service for three or four years, came back, was able to pick up his old job. And then he worked there for 40 years. Oh, wow. So she was at the factory a long time and my grandfather had worked at that as a maintenance fellow before my dad even started there. So then my, my grandpa probably didn’t even start there until he was 40 years old until he was [00:06:00] 65 issues, retirement age.
David Hirsch: I’m sort of curious to know, how would you describe your relationship with your dad?
Lon Haldeman: Great. I mean, you know, he didn’t have as much, many opportunities, uh, back then didn’t have really the chance to go to college that wasn’t even talked about back in 1949. You know, when he graduated high school, going to college, wasn’t even something you thought about.
So his big opportunity was to go in the Marines. And so he was a die hard Marine, you know, his whole life. And so anyway, I had a. A really good relationship with him. I mean, as far as encouraging us to do sports, things like that, even as a sixth grade or seventh grader, when our game started at four o’clock after school, he’d get off work at three 30 and you know, I have to drive 20 miles to get to a basketball game or something.
It started at four o’clock and he and my mom [00:07:00] never missed a game in all, all those years. And my dad, I mean, that was traditional is, you know, to go out and play catch, you know, every day after school, you know, he, he always had time for us. So we had, uh, we really had a good relationship. Well,
David Hirsch: thanks for sharing.
If I had to summarize, uh, he was very present in your life and your brother’s lives. And I’m wondering when you think about your dad, is there any. Like less than that comes to mind or something you always think about?
Lon Haldeman: Well, of course family always came first and it always wasn’t, you know, about him. He always put us first and even later on in life, you know, after I, I started cycling and we, we kind of got into this long distance cycling, um, almost together because without his support, There’s really no way I could have pulled that off.
I mean, doing what we were doing, these cross-country races, this is kind of back in the pioneering days of, and everybody thought you’re really crazy. If you [00:08:00] were going to go out and ride, you know, 200 miles a day, 300 miles a day, 400 miles a day. You know, across the state all night rides, you know, three day thousand mile rides, you know, it was a gradual progression for me as a cyclist over probably a five-year period and also for my mom and dad as a support car, a support crew, learning how to do it.
So everything that we were learning, we were learning together. And as. You know, I became more well known and I was his son, but I mean, it always said, you know, lawn’s dad, he referred Joanie or everybody knew him as lines dad. Well, so that’s how we referred to him. So.
David Hirsch: Okay. Um, any other father figures when you were growing up in addition to your dad and your grandpas?
Lon Haldeman: Well, I guess the football coaches, basketball coaches. You know, that was us was, was a big part of our lives through high school, for sure. You know, I [00:09:00] was all state in football as a quarterback kind of thing, but there was really no future in that. I understood that my heart wasn’t into it as much as cycling at that time.
And I said, well, if I better get a chance to do something, I I’d rather do cycling. So that’s kind of where I really had to make the decision. Cause people said I’m blowing a big opportunity to go play college football. And I said, yeah, but. I might get an education out of it, but I don’t think I really got to enjoy it.
And I’d rather do cycling, which again was, at that time, it was a real dead app. Nobody could understand why you would even want to be a cyclist, but, um, anyway, but my that’s where my enthusiasm and my heart was. And so that’s how we, we pursued, you know, cycling and it was a lot of, it was just for fun, you know, with no long-term plans or
David Hirsch: anything.
Well, I’ve been reflecting a little bit about your, your background, you know, your sort of German background and the discipline that you have, [00:10:00] and the focus, the fact that your dad was a Moraine, takes a certain amount of discipline to be a Marine. And typically Marines are known as pretty a regimented people, right?
As far as their parenting is concerned. And I’m wondering. Where is it that you’ve developed the focus that you have because it’s taken a lot of dedication to do this and the things you’ve done. Is there something in your background or something you would attribute that to?
Lon Haldeman: I don’t know. I know my parents always said I was just really stubborn.
I don’t know if that meant it was in a good way or a bad way, but they said I really hard. Hadn’t really stubborn. And in, I guess, in some ways that could be related maybe to perseverance, you know, to go shovel, the driveway was snow, you know, I would go out there and I would make sure I, I finished the whole job, even though I knew it was going to snow again in an hour, I still had to finish it.
And then. Two hours later, I go out and do it again. I mean, so I always [00:11:00] had, my parents had, I always had that attitude start a job, finish a job type of thing. And sometimes when, you know, I told something wasn’t possible. I was like, well, let’s, let’s figure out a way to do it. And so maybe there was that.
Part of it also, that was beneficial in later years when it came time to do these cross-country rides and people said there’s just no practical way to pull it off. And we, we figure out a way to do it. So I think probably as a kid, that was probably a benefit. I, I was pretty much a loner type of a kid too.
You know, I played with my Lincoln logs in my blocks alone by myself and try to use every single Lincoln log in, make a house. You know, and I would always be just doing stuff like that from start to finish. I’d always have to try to complete it.
David Hirsch: Okay. It sounds like it’s part of your DNA then. So I’m, I’m thinking about, uh, your education and I think it would be accurate to say that you graduated from [00:12:00] Harvard.
And that you were a Rhodes scholar.
Lon Haldeman: Yeah, well that’s when I started dating my wife, you know, that’s, that’s what she told her parents that she was dating a man from Harvard, tried to buy him up a little bit. And then it’s all printed. She’d have to say, but that’s Harvard, Illinois, high school, you know,
David Hirsch: and the road scholar comes from the fact that you’ve covered a wild, a lot of miles along the way.
Lon Haldeman: Yes. Yep.
David Hirsch: Okay. Well, I don’t know a little homework. I’ve known a lot about this, but just for our listeners benefit. So they don’t think I was just blowing smoke about your credentials. I think it goes back to 1979, the first big event, if I can call it that, uh, was this Wisconsin end-to-end from North to South and you rode a.
Over 400 miles, 407 miles and 23 hours, seven minutes. And then, uh, a couple of years later, he went from New York [00:13:00] to Santa Monica and 12 days and 18 hours rested for a little bit. And then you rode back to New York again and just under 11 days. Which reminds me of like Forrest Gump when Forrest Crump crows across the country turns around and he just starts running back again.
So you predated Forrest Gump and then, um, you did some track work. If I remember it was in Northbrook, Illinois in 1981. And you rode. 12 hours, 264 miles. And then, uh, over the next 12 hours in total 24 hours, 454 miles, which sounds superhuman. And then, um, in 1982, if I’ve got my years, right, uh, was the great American bike race, which was the predecessor to what we know today as Ram.
And that was a nine day 20 hour, 2,976 mile event. So you literally wrote like 300 miles a day. And, uh, one of the interesting things that I learned when I was looking this up was that there was a fellow by the name [00:14:00] of Thomas Stevens. And this goes back to 1884 and he was the first person apparently to cross the country by bike.
And it took him 103 days that it was like the four minute mile and that nobody would ever be able to do that. And then once. You were able to do that. It seemed like, uh, others sort of followed behind you and then not to give you all the credit, but, uh, Susan, your wife is a very, very accomplished writer in her own.
Right. And, um, my recollection was the following year in 1983. You and Susan did a tandem bike ride. And you cross the country in 10 days and 20 hours, which is a pretty amazing accomplishment
Lon Haldeman: chapter. You’re skipping a year in there. Uh, 1982, before I did the great American bike race. Susan actually crossed the country in 11 days, 16 hours, which at that time, the woman’s record had just been set a few months earlier at 14 days in which was considered.
[00:15:00] The all-time woman’s record because nobody had done it as a woman in less than 20 days. So this woman said it in 14 days and Susan came along a month later and did it and 11 day 16 hours. Wow. And that was kind of a predecessor to a lot of things too, because she did the last 600 miles non stop, basically from Columbus, Ohio onto new yeah.
New York city. And that was done in late June, early July. And then. I did the great American bike race in early August a month later. And having seen Susan do that last 600 miles nonstop at the end of a trans tech mantle. That’s what I did at the start of that trans continental, which kind of set a whole new precedent of riding 600 miles nonstop, right at the start of a race.
And I basically ended up with about a six, eight hour lead over the other writers. Cause they all want to sleep cause they thought that’s what you needed to do anyway. So as soon as, [00:16:00] you know, had done something to that kind of inspired and changed the sport really for what you did
David Hirsch: well, thanks for mentioning that.
And uh, were you married at that time or that, I guess that predates your marriage, right? Cause you weren’t married until 83.
Lon Haldeman: You know, we had done the double trans continental. She was on the crew in 81. She did her record attempt in say, June, July of 82. Then I did a gray Mark, a bike race in August. Then we got married in may of 83.
And then we did the tandem record together from Santa Monica to New York city in 10 days, 20 hours. Then I did race across America. Again. A month after that, you know, and then we were basically doing this customer America every year for the next dozen years.
David Hirsch: Well, uh, you got some amazing us credentials, but I know that, uh, you didn’t limit yourself to riding in the U S you both have [00:17:00] some pretty astounding records.
Uh, one was Susan’s in 1983. If the information is correct, 750 miles, the Paris Bay Paris, and a record 54 hours. Um, so you were. Bike riding over there in France as
Lon Haldeman: well. Yeah. Well, you know, in the Paris first predators event, it’s, you know, from Paris out to the Atlantic ocean and back is what it is. And it’s been going on for now since the 1890s for, for over a hundred years.
And so they only do it every four years, so that woman’s record had stood at around 57 hours. For quite a while, since I don’t know when it was set, maybe in the 1950s, these are something. So anyway, Susan came along and broke that record 1983. Yeah. That was a, that was, it’s a good accomplishment. And I think it, well, it’s been broken since then.
I think that there’s a better few women since Susan did it almost [00:18:00] 40 years ago, I guess 38 years ago.
David Hirsch: Yeah, pretty amazing to think of all the time that’s transpired. The technology has changed a lot, you know, the understanding about nutrition and hydration and things and amazing accomplishment on both your behalves.
I think you still have the mixed tandem record. Don’t you? The one that you said in 1986, the two of you nine days, 20
Lon Haldeman: hours. Yeah. So that was in April, which is, which is really early to be doing a cross country ride. And, uh, we really hadn’t. Had didn’t have that great of a training season. Uh, uh, earlier than that, you know, it just rained.
It was cold, whatever it, even, we went to Texas to try to train in January and it was rainy and cold, but we knew we, you know, we had a good crew, you know, we had our bikes, we had everything ready. So we did it. And freezing temperatures, water bottles, freezing in the middle of the night, you know, uh, in snowmobile, you know, bundled up all the time.
[00:19:00] Uh, the only benefit is we didn’t have to deal with any heat stroke in the desert. And we, you know, we finished nine days, 20 hours, we’re thinking, Oh gee, we should have, you know, broken 90 days. We were about 20 hours off our pace, but it turns out, you know, it’s been a long. A long time, 35 years in nobody’s really come that close to that record.
A lot of really strong men, women, tandem teams have tried it and they really find out after about three days, it’s really not fun anymore. You know, they’ll, you know, the sore sore rear end start to settle in and all the other problems. And that’s what people don’t really understand about a tan of. Is it.
It really beats you up and people say, Oh, Tanner should be faster. It should be easier and everything else. And it really isn’t because you dealing with two people’s problems and you’re only going to be as fast as the weakest writer when their knee gives out. And they’ve got saddle sores and they’re sick [00:20:00] and they’re, you know, off the bike with, uh, nausea and things like that.
So that’s why the tandem records are typically slower than the solo lights. So. When Susan, I set that record, you know, we weren’t that impressed with it, but it’s really stood the test of time because there’s probably a tandem couple in the race across America who tries it every few years. So there’s maybe been 30 attempts on that record and nobody’s funding below.
You know, 10 and a half days. I don’t even know what the existing record is now, but I there’s nothing below 10 days.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, it is amazing that it’s been well over 30 years since these records had been made and not broken. So, uh, anyway, um, I just wanted to emphasize the fact that, uh, When I say you’re one of the most well-respected endurance bike riders of all time.
That’s just proof of that. Um, so I’m bragging on you a little bit. So, thanks. So it was about that same time in the mid [00:21:00] 1980s that, uh, you and Susan started pack tours. So briefly, what is pack tours and what is it about to be
Lon Haldeman: PAC tour stands for Pacific Atlantic cycling tour. And we had this bright idea that if we could race across the country at 300 miles a day, We could do a fun tour at 200 miles a day and support people.
And that’s what our first cross country trip was 200 miles a day. Well, as it turns out, it was basically race across America with a sleep break at the how old are you still rode till dark and got a hotel in sunrise and try to. You know, knock off, uh, 200 miles, you know, daylight hours. So that’s pretty intense, you know, after you’ve done it the next year, we said, no, we can’t do this.
We get, we got to drop it down to 160 miles a day, which we did. And even that was hard. And then we said, no, let’s drop it down 135 a day. So these cross-country rides, you know, [00:22:00] instead of being 15 days or 19 days were 22 days. And then eventually in the mid nineties or so we had to really concentrate on the business that became our real priority is to impact your as a touring organization.
And we actually tried to stay in business and not just do it as a training.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, it’s a testimony to the experience that you create for people. That they want to come back and do it again and again and again. So thanks for sharing.
So let’s switch gears and talk about special needs first on a personal level and then beyond. So I’m sort of curious to know before Erica was born, did you or Susan have any experience with special needs? No,
Lon Haldeman: not really. Nobody really in our family had any, any specialty needs or any kind of disabilities and things like that.
So we didn’t know [00:23:00] anything at all about that. And, and, you know, back then, you know, the kinetic testing wasn’t maybe as good as it is now. I suppose you could probably almost do some predictions, but we had no idea that. You know, when Erica would be born, that she would have this, uh, warranted Hoffman syndrome, which is like, uh, an infant tile, Lou Gehrig’s disease.
And they said, well, it’s genetic. So, you know, we were really shocked and surprised that, you know, we’d have a daughter that, that had that kind of a
David Hirsch: disability. How did the diagnosis come about?
Lon Haldeman: Well, When Erica was born as a baby, she was rated in the hospital as perfect. You know, she was kicking in, you know, crying and, and everything was fine.
And then after about two months, she really wasn’t crying that much. And people said, Oh, what a nice baby? She’s so quiet. [00:24:00] You know? And then, because she was our second kid, Rebecca had been, you know, three years older, but I remember. Rebecca was, you know, I hold her and she was squirming. And, you know, we watched the fireworks, even when she was sleeping as a baby she’d she’d flinch and react.
You know, when the fireworks, she heard the big boons and stuff, and Erica wouldn’t do that, she wasn’t responsive. And then I said, you know, she just doesn’t feel like she’s kicking in crawling and has any desire to roll over any of that. We went to Milwaukee and we did some at a children’s hospital and they did some testing.
And then eventually I think they did a, like a nerve biopsy or something is how they actually have to do it. They take care of nerve out of the leg or something. And then they said, you know, and I remember the doctor was a friend of ours and he comes in the roommate calls, you know, This is not good.
She’s, she’s got worse off her disease. We’re 90% sure of that. It was like, well, okay. So what’s the [00:25:00] big deal with that? And they go, well, it’s like, it’s Lou Gehrig’s disease and it’s, it’s a hundred percent fatal. And we’re like, okay, what does that mean? And they’re like, well, you know, Lou Garrick, you know, some strong strapping athlete, it might, you know, you might have.
Three five, 10 years of gradual decline, but with a, with a baby, they’re not, they’re not that strong to start with. And they said, you know, it, it probably would have take 10 months, you know, she’s going to lose 10% every month over the next year. And you know, that was, that was getting hit by a ton of bricks.
When we got that. Diagnosis. And, and the thing is, is, you know, the doctor was right. You know, we could tell month by month that she was losing a little bit, you know, first of all, it’s, uh, it’s the kicking and, uh, and they’re moving the arms and stuff, and then it becomes, um, you know, even swallowing, you know, [00:26:00] she ended up, we had a feeding tube put in.
And then, you know, the next step would be all the other involuntary muscles, you know, respiration and stuff like that. And you know, at that point we had made the decision nowhere. We’re not going to prolong this any more. So we basically made her as comfortable as possible, but she had a very active life.
You know, we did a. She was with us on bike tours. I made her a special cradle. Wouldn’t crate all because she couldn’t sit in the car seat cause she couldn’t sit up that well, but she had a cradle that she’d laid down in putting strapper in the seatbelt and stuff. And she did the Mexico to Canada trip with us.
And at every rest out people get out and lead. You know, riders would carry her around and everybody’s holding her. And so we tried to keep her involved as much as possible. So she did a Mexico to Canada trip in June and then the rest across America a month later and, uh, across the country. So [00:27:00] she was with us, you know, a hundred percent of the time, even though, you know, she wasn’t that healthy.
And then finally it was, I remember February. 15th of, uh, the next mile, next winter, I was holding her, you know, and she started having these spouses where you could just tell her breathing wasn’t good. And, uh, she starts turning purple and we had already done, you know, lifesaving measures on her many times because she was just losing it.
And she basically. Went to sleep as I was holding her. I mean, and I was like I said, well, enough’s enough’s enough. She’s already suffered enough. So it was, it was a very traumatic experience for me and our family Emily’s and, you know, it takes a long time to get over that. Um, but eventually we’re, [00:28:00] you know, we will learn to, you know, deal with it as a family and personally.
So when did, anytime anybody’s kids kicking and screaming in a restaurant or something, I’m like, that’s much better, much better a kid that’s kicking and screaming because you don’t want the alternative.
David Hirsch: So, yeah. Well, thanks for sharing. Um, um, just saddened as you re call the story, but, uh, No, that was the destiny.
Right. And, uh, you can’t change that, but you, some I’ll have to figure out how to move on and maybe it helps, like you were saying, put things in perspective. So when you see a kid that’s acting up or who’s kicking and screaming, if you will, you know, not everybody has the perspective that you and Susan or your family would and the appreciation for, you know, that’s not the worst thing that could happen.
[00:29:00] So let’s talk about some of the work that you and Susan have done over the decades. I know that, uh, in the past, as we were getting to know each other and the very first, uh, ride that we went on together was a memorable experience for me. It was, um, I think at 200 kilometer. 125 mile ride. And I had never written that far before.
I don’t know that I would have mentioned that to you beforehand, but I remember you inviting me to do this prepay with you and Rebecca, and you said, Oh, we’re going to be doing this, uh, you know, the next week or so this is where we’re meeting and, uh, that date works out for you. You know, it’d be great. If you could join us.
So I thought, well, it’s sort of put up or shut up time for me. I’m serious about riding a hundred plus miles a day for 21 days in a row. I better kick myself into gear. I know that when we were on that first long distance ride together, uh, we were talking about a number of things, things that are really close to your heart, which are the burn [00:30:00] camps.
And. The work that you’ve been doing in Peru and then Ghana. So I’m wondering if you can reflect on each of those and, um, share with our listeners what that’s about.
Lon Haldeman: Well, and I guess in some ways, or leaks back to what I just mentioned about how things happen for a reason, and there is a higher, higher purpose of, of how things tend to fall into place.
And in 2009, we had a really bad house fire, you know, we had. You know, we had built this house here in a 4,000 square feet, three stories, whatever, you know, tons of custom woodwork and everything that I had made in the, inside the house. And we had a fire total loss, although, you know, the frame still there.
So the lady that came in with the cleanup crew and I got to know her over a period of a month there. The restaurant DePaul Davis restoration company was supporting a burn camp for a Wisconsin kids. And the definition of a bird camp kid is they had to have been hospitalized [00:31:00] for burn injuries. And I said, Oh yeah, what’s that about?
And they said, Oh, they, they get together. And they go swimming, canoeing and things. And I said, Oh, would they like to go on a bike ride? And she said, Oh yeah, probably. And so. I went with them with a bunch of donated bikes I had. And I, then we got it is Friday and they had to be teenage kids. So it was like age 13 through 17.
Lot of these, they knew how to ride a bike, but their idea of going on a bike ride was, you know, four blocks to school. So we got them, you know, you get ’em a bike and we’re going to ride across, uh, was constant from across the walkie, you know, and about. Six days, 40 miles a day. And that was the might’ve well told them we’re right under the moon, you know, they, well, we had no comprehension of that.
Surrounded by tries the first few days doing 25 miles, one day 35 miles an X. Eventually we’re doing 50 miles. And at that age, the kids [00:32:00] develop really fast and turned into really good writers. And so by the end of the ride there, they’re doing 60 miles in thinking that we’re invincible. So then these two streets made bike across Wisconsin and stuff, and they went back to school and, and they were just bragging rights that they have done this.
Right. And so the next year burn camp, You know, we’re going to do it again. And I said, you know, you really want to do this because it really only was limited to about 10 kids. And they said, you know, it, those 10 kids, they were bursting with confidence. We got to do it again. So we did it for like five years.
So, you know, that was really neat to see that transformation from, you know, a kid who, you know, barely could ride a mile to all of a sudden is riding 50, 60 miles. And the other kids at school really respected them for what they were able to do. And then other projects though, that, that developed, um, I was down in, in Peru, on a, on a [00:33:00] truck with my dad.
I, you know, the typical tourist kind of thing to do on the Amazon. And then I ended up down there in the city of Aquinos, which is 400,000 people, but it’s in the middle of the jungle 400 miles of every direction. There is nothing. This is like, no man’s land. So, anyway, we got, you know, I was hanging out in there and I knew some people in the back neighborhoods, and these are really, this was tar paper, hot neighborhoods, but they said, you know, really what we need is a school.
And I said, Oh, okay. So it was kind of like a city and lilies of the field, you know, the nuns say, why don’t you build this a school? There was a church. And so that’s kind of what it was. So I went back home, we raised. Maybe, and I asked them how much the school go to cost. So he said all $10,000. Well, it turned out it was more like $25,000.
Um, by the time we outfitted it. And so, but we had through the pack tour organization, we had a lot of good donations, built a [00:34:00] school. And then we started doing these other projects too. You know, some of the projects were RAs are really easy. There’s a, at the time there was a lot of street kids, kind of homeless kids that, that lived there and, uh, We would take them on a birthday party.
We go to a restaurant, put this big meal together for them, and everybody got a new change of clothes, shoes, shorts, t-shirts flip-flops sandals, all kinds of stuff. And, uh, what I remember most is that, you know, we have like 40 kids come to this big party and we give them this dinner. And they wouldn’t eat it.
They would take a few bites and then they’d want a plastic bag to take it home because they knew they might not get anything else eat for several days. And then eventually we built other schools. So that’s what we’ve been doing in Peru. And that’s been going on since 20 years.
David Hirsch: Very amazing. And, um, that you’re doing this work, not only locally with the burn camps, but on in Peru.
And then more [00:35:00] recently, uh, you and Susan have a. Created this a million miles for ALS, uh, with the goal of raising a hundred thousand dollars over the four years. So what is that?
Lon Haldeman: Well, a couple things, you know, pack tour, we’ve been doing it now for close to 40 years. All of our events every year, the riders accumulate about 250,000 miles.
And we said, okay, if we have everybody. Contribute 10 cents a mile that’s, uh, $25,000. So we do that for four years. That’s a hundred thousand dollars and 250,000 miles a year, times four, that’s a million miles. So that’s how we started this million miles for ALS, um, to raise a hundred thousand dollars.
David Hirsch: Excellent. Well, um, it’s an ambitious goal. It sounds very doable when you break it up, you know, the way you did. Thinking that, you know, uh, [00:36:00] on an average year, your customers, your clientele will ride 250,000 miles cumulatively. And if everybody puts a small amount in just 10 cents a mile, um, it’s $25,000 a year and a hundred thousand dollars over four years.
So it seems very achievable. So, um, anything we can do to help support that or spread the messages is very worthwhile. So I’m thinking about advice. And I’m wondering, thinking back to a special needs, if there’s any advice that you can offer a young dad who finds himself in a similar situation to your own, with a child that’s born with, you know, something that might be chronic or something that might be life-threatening terminal.
Um, what advice would you offer?
Lon Haldeman: Well, that’s a, that’s a heavy question now. Um, I guess you’ve got a. You’ve got to stay. You’ve got to stay optimistic about it because it can, you know, [00:37:00] I mean, as you know, with your, with your association, talk to the so many fathers that have dealt, dealt with their, their problems. I mean, you, you have to look on the bright side and make the best of it and you can’t really.
Just dwell on the negative. That would be really overwhelming. So I guess even the way that we handled it with Erica, I mean, we kept her involved with, with our life, you know, with traveling across the country and, um, and everything. We, we tried to keep everything as normal, as practical for, for our family and also show her a good life.
Um, And I, uh, I guess you just have to try to be the optimistic, you know, and, uh, even in Arabic, because case when there really, really wasn’t a lot of, I mean, that was, that was probably the hardest site is that you just knew how predictable it was all going to turn out, but you just [00:38:00] tried to make the best of it.
And, uh, and so I think that’s what kind of
David Hirsch: Sue it. Okay, well, thanks for sharing. Let’s give a special shout out to our mutual friend, Bibles and owner of wheel works in crystal Lake, Illinois for helping introduce us, uh, more than five years
Lon Haldeman: ago. Yeah, Bob does a great job there and his shop.
David Hirsch: Is there anything else you’d like to say before we wrap up?
Lon Haldeman: Well, no, I, I think with your, your networking is, is really important that that fathers have a, an outlet and a way of gathering. So I think that’s really important because just so you know, that other people have similar, similar problems. I think sometimes you start to feel really isolated when you’re just home dealing with a child, that’s got problems, you know, that can be so overwhelming in that you really don’t understand that too.
It could be happening thousands of times with other people and did to get those people together as a network, I think is really important. And I think [00:39:00] that’s why your organization is so beneficial to, to everybody.
David Hirsch: Well, thank you. So if somebody wants to learn more about pack tours in PenTile ALS make a donation to the million miles for ALS campaign or to contact you, what’s the best way to do that?
Lon Haldeman: Well, our website is pactour.com. There’s no S unpacked tour. So if you search that pactour.com and I. And I believe on the homepage right now, we’re in the process of redoing it because of our tour schedule coming up for next year. But there should be a link in the lower right-hand corner.
I believe it says ALS a million miles for ALS, and you can go on that and that basically then links you to the Wisconsin ALS. Donation page. And there’s some more information about us and about Erica and things and just what our history is. So that’s the best way to [00:40:00] probably us down. And then there’s, I believe our email addresses.
Are on there also and our phone numbers. So if anybody ever wants to try to reach us in person, you know, we talk to people all the time, you know, call us. So we’re very available. If somebody else wants to chat.
David Hirsch: Well, we’ll make sure that that gets into the show notes. So it’ll be as easy as possible for people to follow up.
Lon, thank you for taking the time in many insights. As a reminder, lawn is just one of the dads. Who’s part of the Special Fathers Network, a mentoring program for fathers raising a child with special needs. If you’d like to be a mentor father or are seeking advice from a mentor father with a similar situation to your own, please go to 21stcenturydads.org.
Thank you for listening to the latest episode of the Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad podcast. I hope you enjoyed the conversation as much as I did, as you probably know. The 21st Century Dads Foundation is a 501 c3, not for profit organization, which means we need your help to keep our content [00:41:00] free, to all concerned would you please consider making a tax deductible donation? I would really appreciate your support. Would you also please share the podcast and post your review on iTunes to help us. Build our audience also remember to subscribe. So you’ll get a reminder when each new episode is produced.
Lon, Thanks again.
Lon Haldeman: Thank you.
Tom Couch: And thank you for listening to the Dad to Dad podcast presented by the Special Fathers Network. The Special Fathers Network is a Dad to Dad mentoring program for fathers raising children with special needs through our personalized matching process. New fathers with special needs children connect with mentor fathers in a similar situation.
It’s a great way for fathers to support fathers, go to 21stcenturydads.org.org. That’s 21enturydads.org.
David Hirsch: And if you’re a dad looking for help for we’d like to offer help, we would be honored to have you join our closed Facebook group. Please go to facebook.com groups and search Dad to [00:42:00] Dad. Also, please be sure to register for the Special Fathers Network, biweekly zoom calls held on the first and third Tuesdays of every month.
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