MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) – When Bruce Closser looked at his bucket list one thing stood out from the others, a monumental endeavor that would take him from coast to coast, clear across America, and end up in the Guinness Book of World Records.
“It’s the oldest person to ride their bicycle across the United States,” said Closser.
But the world record was really an afterthought. Bruce was at a crossroads in his life, he was in a time of transition, one that led him to take on the greatest ride of his life.
“My wife died,” said Closser. “Sally died just about a year ago, August 25th. So, I have a transition in my life. My life is very different now than it was before. And so, I think that’s what precipitated it now. I’ve been thinking about it for a long time. I actually brought it up when I retired, I thought maybe I could ride across the country. Sally was not excessively enthusiastic about spending a whole summer alone, you know? So I thought, well, maybe some other time. I just kind of put it off, put it on the back burner, then I started thinking about it again.”
A reception was held Wednesday evening at the Marquette Regional History Museum in his honor, where Closser answered questions and shared his adventure with his hometown fans. Bruce documented his trip each day, shooting amazing photos and videos as well as entries in his journal.
His journey began last May 5 in Yorktown, Virginia and would end 109 days later in Astoria, Oregon on the shores of the Pacific Ocean. During His three-month adventure, he logged an incredible 4,205 miles. Riding an average of 38.6 miles per day, Closser encountered steep mountain roadways, and countless hills, climbing an incredible 178,970 feet throughout his trip. Though beset with mechanical breakdowns, challenging terrain, and harsh conditions, through it all, he never thought of giving up.
“No, no there never was,” said Closser. “Always knew I wanted to do that. People told me there’ll be days like that, but I never had one. I kind of thought I might, but I never did. I never. I always got up in the morning and was ready to get on my bike and ride.”
His mantra was and still is, hard days are not always bad days, just more difficult. Bruce was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2019, and ironically, some of his greatest challenges along his cross-country trek didn’t come from difficult terrain or harsh conditions but from finding his medication.
“So, I would make an appointment at a Walgreens or order that medication and they’d say, yes, it’s going to be ready at 9:00 tomorrow morning,” said Closser. “And I’d be there at 9:00 and they say, ‘Oh, we’re out of stock.’ You know, like they would make the appointment without checking to see if they actually had any of this medication. And they’d say, ‘We’ll have it by tomorrow.’ I said, ‘Well, tomorrow I’ll be 50 miles down the road.'”
Closser remains grateful to all the kind people he met along the way who gave him shelter, food, and water, as well as companionship along those lonely highways.
“Don’t put off your dreams,” said Closser. “No, that was the lesson I got from that.”