Highland News Leader

Highland native plans to bike across the United States before turning 60

Learn why this man just biked from Highland to Cincinnati

A man just biked from the Square to Cincinnati, Ohio in order to raise funds for the Cure Alzheimer's Fund in memory of his father who is from Highland, Illinois, near Belleville, IL and St. Louis, MO.
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A man just biked from the Square to Cincinnati, Ohio in order to raise funds for the Cure Alzheimer's Fund in memory of his father who is from Highland, Illinois, near Belleville, IL and St. Louis, MO.

The death of a loved one can move someone in many ways. For Kurt Thuenemann, the passing of his father moved him to pedal a bike to Cincinnati.

It was 2015 that Vincent Thuenemann passed away, the year of his son’s 50th birthday. About three years prior, Vincent was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and complications from the disease would eventually lead to his passing.

“It was challenging over the course of a few years to kind of watch him,” Thuenemann said.

Thuenemann said that, though his father was gone, he left an impression with community as permanent as a hand print stamped in concrete.

“My father was semi well-known in Highland,” Thuenemann said.

Vincent his wife Pauline spent 55 years in the town and owned the local Sears store for a time. He was a devout member of the St. Paul Catholic Church Parish and played an instrumental part in the building of the Highland Knights of Columbus hall; he also served as the club’s grand knight for a number of years.

“He was really just a great guy,” Thuenemann said.

Looking back over his father’s life, Thuenemann said he began to consider his age. He said he no longer saw the age as a static number — it was a growing marker in the time-line of his own accomplishments. But, more importantly, it was a challenge.

Thuenemann said that he knew he wanted to accomplish something extraordinary by the end of the decade. After a few nights at his local bar, he decided that he would bike across the United States. This would be a daunting task, which he would eventually decide to take on in eight yearly segments with annual rides — each between 400 to 500 miles.

Two-years later, Thuenemann is 52-years-old and has ticked off two of his rides. He has ridden from northwest Kansas to Kansas City, Missouri and from Kansas City to St. Louis. This year, his ride brought him home to Highland.

Thuenemann took off from the Square at 6 a.m. on June 28 on a five-day trek to Cincinnati, Ohio. The ride took him 360 grueling miles through the countryside. But grueling might be an understatement.

Thuenemann was dealing with tendonitis and a possible torn ligament in his foot and ankle while riding through a heat wave.

“It was super painful the whole time I was riding,” he said.

Thuenemann also planned this segment himself, whereas other rides were guided tours. That meant he had to navigate the whole route himself with no support for when he got tired.

“It was by far the hardest thing I have ever done,” he said.

Challenges aside, Thuenemann finished strong with still enough energy to shower and walk across the street from his hotel to watch the Cincinnati Reds play. Next year, Thuenemann said that he plans to ride from Cheyenne, Wyoming to central Kansas.

While finishing the trip was just as challenging mentally as it was physically, Thuenemann said he knew this would not be a ride that he could just give up on.

This year, Thuenemann decided to dedicate the leg of his journey to his father. Thuenemann also started a donation page to raise money for the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund. The fund helps support targeted research with the highest probability of slowing, stopping or reversing Alzheimer’s disease through venture based philanthropy. The research the fund supports focuses on identifying all the genes and gene mutations that are linked to the disease.

Thuenemann has managed to raise more than $6,000.

“That was ultimately very encouraging to finish the ride,” he said.

Though he tripled his goal of $2,000, Thuenemann has also decided to leave the Facebook donation page open for anyone who would like to donate to the charity.

Overall, Thuenemann said that he has been overwhelmed by the generosity of his close friends, family and even strangers who have been moved by his father’s memory.

“I think he would be very honored,” Thuenemann said.