There are out-of-state alumni who fly to Durham for their class reunions, and there are those who opt to drive. But there is probably only one person who pedals in, at least from more than 1,000 miles away.
For his 50th Duke Law School reunion in April, Bill Bundschu bicycled from his home in Independence, Missouri, just as he had for his 40th reunion in 1996.
To get from Independence to Durham, Bundschu, seventy-five, was in the saddle for twenty days in a row, carrying about twenty-five pounds of gear. He rode 1,243 miles, or an average of sixty-two miles a day, staying in motels at night as he passed through Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, and, finally, North Carolina.
The ride was "pretty uneventful," he reported on the sunny spring day he arrived in Durham. "I didn't get into any accidents. I had a couple flat tires, but I didn't have to go to any bicycle stores. The machine worked pretty good."
And what about the human machine? "I'm pretty beat up," said the tall and lean retired tax attorney. "I'm just not as strong as I used to be." Bundschu credits year-round riding, gym workouts, and, during the ride, a steady supply of anti-inflammatory medication with keeping him going.
This year he even rode 110 miles out of his way, mostly to explore the Mississippi River Trail through southeastern Missouri. But ten of those miles came on his final day of pedaling, thanks to his only wrong turn in three weeks.
"I had all day to kill, so it was okay," said Bundschu, who ended his ride at Duke Chapel, just as he had done a decade ago. "Well, really, I can't figure out how to get on the road to the Chapel, so I ride to the hospital and then walk from there.
I'd rather do that than keep riding around trying to find the Chapel."
His wife, Betty Bundschu, drove to the reunion and took husband and bike back home.
For many years, Bundschu was a recreational runner. In 1989, not having ridden a bike since he was a child, he won one in a store drawing. "That got me started, and I've been riding ever since," he says. "I didn't do a really long ride until 1991, when
I rode across the state of Missouri with a group."
He says he loves historic trails like the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, which winds through eleven states; the Oregon Trail, which goes from St. Louis to Oregon City, Oregon; and the C&O Canal Trail, near Washington. "You gotta have some type of destination," he explains.
Cycling is only one of Bundschu's passions. After retiring in 1996, he returned to school, earning a master's in history from the University of Missouri at Kansas City. He has written several books, two on the history of his own family, published by his local historical society, and a third about the first legal hanging in his home county of Jackson, in 1839, titled Abuse and Murder on the Frontier.
Although he cycles several times a week, Bundschu does only one big trip a year. "I always think the last one is the last one," he says with a laugh. "They're hard. Then you start thinking, just one more. I've tried three times to do Route 66. I haven't gotten it finished, only sections of it. I might want to finish that some day." And what about his 60th reunion?
"Well, sure, I'll only be eighty-five," he says. "If I'm going, I'm going on my bicycle."
William B. Bundschu, '53, J.D. '56
August 1, 2006