For years, Byron Payn’s mother put money aside so that she and her husband could take a dream vacation: a cruise to Europe.
“When they got to the point where they felt they could do it, she passed away,” said Byron, 65, of Cobb Island. “I decided, ‘You know what? I’m going to take this trip in honor of you.’ ”
But a fancy cruise wasn’t really Byron’s style. He’s ridden a motorcycle most of his life. He vowed to ride his Harley-Davidson through the Lower 48.
“I went into my boss’s office and told him I needed a little time off — maybe four or five months,” Byron remembered. “He said: ‘Whoa. I can’t make that work. That job may not be here when you get back.’ ”
Byron told him that when he’d walked in the door, the job hadn’t been there, either. A man has to do what a man has to do. And so in June of 2002, he set off.
Over the next 41 / 2 months, Byron rode his motorcycle through every contiguous state, putting 22,381 miles on his bike. The highlight? “In all honesty, meeting the people,” Byron said. “When you pull into a restaurant in your car, you go inside and sit down, the waitress brings you your food, you leave. When you ride up on a motorcycle that’s packed to the hilt with gear, people come up to you.”
He remembers the steak dinner he was treated to in Amarillo, Tex.
What would his mother have thought of his epic journey? “My mother was in total fear every time she knew I was on the back of a bike,” Byron said, laughing. “That was not one of her favorite modes of transportation.”
On July 12, 2007, Bob Ohm lined up his putt on the 18th green of a golf course built atop an old copper smelting facility in Anaconda, Mont. He can’t remember exactly what he got on that last hole — probably a bogey — but even so, the sound of the ball tinkling into the cup was like the angels singing.
Bob had completed his quest to play a round of golf in all 50 states.
Bob caddied growing up in western Pennsylvania, playing about a dozen times each summer. He joined the Navy and played a little then, too, especially when he was stationed in Hawaii. When he started working in the private sector, he packed his clubs for business trips.
“One day, after a round of golf, I was sitting talking with friends about where we’d played,” said Bob, 72, from Eldersburg, Md. “One guy said, ‘Gee, Bob, you’ve played in like half the states.’ ”
That’s when he decided to bag the other half.
All the courses he played were public, many of them municipal courses. The strangers he played with were always keen to learn about his quest.
He burned the last of his frequent-flier miles to get to Alaska, where he played a round at 10 p.m. June 21 — the longest day of the year. (Bad decision, he says in retrospect. It’s practically still winter there then.)
Cross-country road trips to play golf allowed Bob and his wife of 50 years, Pat, to visit friends they hadn’t seen for decades. Pat doesn’t golf.
“I don’t know if the marriage is strong enough to sustain both of us on the golf course at the same time,” Bob said.
Larry Dickerson of Burke ran track in high school. He ran when was he was in combat in the Marine Corps in Korea. And then, after that, he stopped running.
But at age 48, he decided to get back into the sport. He’d smoked for most of his adult life and was feeling pretty unhealthy. He signed up for the Chicago Marathon and asked a friend to send him some training tips.
“I was grossly unprepared for the Chicago Marathon,” Larry said. “I finished it in just under five hours. My calves were so tied up I was afraid I couldn’t get to my car and get home.”
But Larry kept at it, running road races whenever he could. He tried to fit them in when he was traveling for his job in facilities management and human resources for a defense contractor.
“Then I realized, ‘Hey I’ve run in 20 states. Why not just keep going?’ It hasn’t been a fevered chase until about now. I know I’m running short on time.”
Larry is 80. He’s often the oldest participant in any race he runs. This month, he knocked off two states, running a 5K in Tulsa on a Friday evening and another 5K in Wichita two days later. He has eight more states to go, including most of the Great Plains. He plans to run his final race in Alaska.
“I’m getting closer,” Larry said.