Randy Wussler has retired, but he doesn’t take it lightly.
Wussler, 58, was a senior vice president at a company before his long-planned retirement in March.
Six weeks later, he dunked his bike’s tires into the Pacific Ocean and embarked on a two-month, 3,300-mile trek across the United States that is due to end in Manasquan on Thursday.
“It was kind of my way of immersing myself into my new lifestyle,” said Wussler, a Scotch Plains native who now lives in San Diego, when reached by phone as his trip passed by. Virginia.
“The idea was to start where I live and end where I grew up. I used to spend my summers, at least part of the week, in Manasquan,” Wussler said.
Wussler’s ride is Fund raising for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. The eldest of his two children, Lexie, 25, was 8 months old when she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. As of Tuesday, he had raised more than $19,000.
He traces his interest in cycling back to his childhood job as a 12-year-old delivery man for The Star-Ledger newspaper.
“That’s where the bike started,” he said, recalling saving enough money to buy a 10-speed model.
On his cross-country trip, Wussler strayed from “building businesses, chasing contracts, and day-to-day work,” as he noted in his Blogto totally different challenges and experiences.
He tackled swarms of midges in Kentucky, dodged wildfires in New Mexico and was chased by 30 dogs – none of which caught him – during an 82-mile jaunt through the Missouri.
Among its many highlights is “standing on a bend in Winslow, Arizona” – a line from the Eagles’ iconic song, “Take it Easy.”
“They kind of created a whole industry around that song,” he said of Winslow.
Wussler had a constant companion on his journey – his wife, Tish, a Bayonne native and retired aerospace engineer. Tish Wussler followed their Honda Odyssey, arranging accommodation and other details.
“It was daunting when he brought it up, but we managed to fit everything we needed in the van,” she said of her husband’s idea of crossing the country.
Tish is the COO, her husband jokes, when he’s just the pilot. They met at Penn State University and married in 1987. Their wedding song, fittingly, was Genesis’ “Follow You, Follow Me.”
She brought her Trek Verve 3 bike and on Wednesday joined her husband for a 16-mile sightseeing ride between Alexandria, Virginia, and Washington, DC, with a stop at the Lincoln Memorial.
“It was nice. We walked across the memorial bridge,” she said.
Randy Wussler began planning his cross-country trip three years ago almost immediately after completing a 112-mile race in an Ironman triathlon in Arizona.
“Something like that, you can’t do it when you’re working,” Wussler said of the journey he started on April 20.
He alternated between two bikes, a 2015 Surly Disc Trucker (“all steel, really comfortable, I don’t feel the bumps,” he said) and a 2019 Specialized Roubaix Expert.
Tish Wussler said they met her relatives along the way.
“I basically see my whole family on this trip,” she said.
There is a larger purpose to their common adventure. In addition to Fund raising for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, their goal includes raising awareness of a chronic disease that is sometimes misunderstood.
“It’s not because you eat too much sugar. It’s not because you don’t take care of yourself. It’s an autoimmune disease. It attacks the pancreas, so it no longer creates insulin,” Wussler said.
Her daughter Lexie, who has had type 1 diabetes since she was a baby, lives in Oregon. Their son, Bailey, 24, keeps house at their San Diego residence while they cross the country.
Wussler spoke to NJ Advance Media for the first time by phone Tuesday, a day after driving 88 miles in Virginia from Fredericksburg to just outside Washington – a busy stretch that can rival New Jersey traffic .
“I saw more cars than the whole trip combined,” Wussler said.
This is partly by design. His route emphasizes “the roads less travelled,” his wife said.
Remarkably, he only had one flat tire.
“The biggest surprise of this trip, for me, was its safety. In New Mexico I went two days and had a car pass me. I think I was in cell phone range 95% of the way,” he said.
While many cross-country cyclists opt for expensive horseback riding groups. Wussler said he ruled that out early on. He mused it might be because he’s a “cheapskate”, before acknowledging a larger guiding principle.
“I wanted this to be my trip. I wanted to plan my own path. I wanted to go from San Diego to New Jersey…I wanted to do it on my own terms,” he said.
Despite leaving 36 years ago, Wussler retains a strong connection to New Jersey. His mother, Judy, and sister, Valerie, still live in Scotch Plains.
By Wednesday, Wussler had covered 2,978 miles. He continues to arrange the details of his arrival in New Jersey with Tish, beginning with the Washington Crossing Bridge over the Delaware River in Mercer County.
“I can’t wait to get out into the farmland and see the more rural parts of New Jersey,” he said.
All of this is a far cry from what his day-to-day job was like not too long ago as senior vice president of product management for Green Street, a commercial real estate information and analysis company.
“I was very involved in my career. I was very lucky to retire at a relatively young age. It was always something I had planned,” he said.
He’s not sure what his next adventure is, but he says one thing has been decided. Tish chooses her next vacation.
“I think we are bound for Scotland,” he said.
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Rob Jennings can be reached at [email protected].