Henry Howell ’03 is bicycling to his 10th Reunion.
He lives in London.
So, a long trip. Luckily the transatlantic portion of the roughly 3,300 mile journey will last only about eight hours, via airplane. Howell, an investment banker who has taken up bicycling in a big way, will finish the trip – about 75 miles – on two wheels, from his family home in Pound Ridge, N.Y.
“Reunion will be even more memorable heading up to Wes by bike,” Howell said. “I’m already looking forward to it.”
He won’t be the first alumnus to bike to Wes for Reunion. Paul Tractenberg ’60 has been traveling that way since his 35th reunion, when he was reluctant to suspend his training for a planned 200-mile ride.
Since then, Tractenberg, professor of law at Rutgers, has tried out two different routes to Middletown; one from his home in New Jersey and one from his summer place on Long Island, crossing the Sound by ferry.
“You might say I’m addicted to (bicycling)” he said. “I biked as a kid, the way kids bike, never a racer, but as I think back over the years, bikes have never been that far away from me.”
The bike commuting he did in law school turned into a serious hobby and then a passion, and he regularly rides for charity and on long-distance treks like New Jersey’s Longest Day ride, traversing the state from Sussex County to Cape May. A cancer survivor, Tractenberg is most proud of his 70th birthday charity ride in Israel, when he was the top fundraiser of 80 cyclists.
Howell also rides for charity, and his obsession with cycling also began with commuting. He moved to London in 2007 from Chicago, toting a “ratty” mountain bike. The six-foot-six Howell found getting to work by London’s Tube uncomfortable and city bus too long, so he pulled out the bike.
After a few years of city riding “on the wrong side of the road,” Howell was given a shot at a real road race.
“A friend of mine offered the chance to take part in a charity ride in the French Alps,” he said. “So I thought I’d go for it. London is a pretty bike friendly city … but it didn’t compare to the Alps.”
He described that first race, the Piste to Plage (mountains to beach) which includes some of the Tour de France course, as “a thrill and a rush. You put your head down and you work your ass off in the morning, and you get your payoff in the afternoon.”
Like Tractenberg’s first trek to his 35th reunion, Howell’s ride to Middletown is planned so that he doesn’t have to break training for another French charity ride, “L’Etape du Tour,” in July.
“It’s pretty crazy, pretty hard core,” he said. “Training is in the absolute highest gear now, and I didn’t want to sacrifice either that or Wes Reunion.”
Tractenberg fully expects to pedal to Middletown for his next reunion–his 55th–although he doesn’t know yet which route he’ll take.
“I’m not sure I’ll ever stop [biking],” he said. “I have a 75th birthday coming up in a month and I was thinking of doing something monumental in terms of that.”