Westmoreland Notables: Greensburg man, 67, to cycle across U.S., help city's homeless
Retirement has been good to Dale Dix.
The 67-year-old Greensburg man has been able to pursue his passion for the outdoors and cycling since retiring from his job as a technician at West Penn Power more than five years ago. Now he's hoping to use his passion to give back to others who haven't been as fortunate.
On June 18, he'll travel to Astoria, Ore.
“I'll dip my bike in the Pacific Ocean there. Then, hopefully on Aug. 7, I'll dip it in the Atlantic Ocean,” Dix said.
In the interim, he's planning to put 3,650 miles on his bicycle, a carbon fiber Specialized Roubaix road bike. He'll ride an average of 81 miles a day, with several 100-mile-plus days and five rest days along the way.
Just as important as the ride is his cause. He's hoping to raise funds and awareness for Feeding the Spirit, a Greensburg volunteer organization that provides food, warm clothing and emergency temporary housing for the homeless.
Dix said he was shocked when he saw his first homeless encampment one morning more than a decade ago when he was running along the Five Star Trail.
“I thought this just isn't right, but I didn't do anything about it then. When she saw it, Deb did,” Dix said.
Deb is Deb Thackrah, 56, of Greensburg. Dix knew her as the light-hearted young woman who led his 6 a.m. spinning class at the city's Aerobic Center for many years.
Like Dix, Thackrah eventually stumbled across a group huddled in blankets and cardboard on an early morning run along the Five Star Trail. It was January and Thackrah was heartbroken to see their plight.
When she reached out to friends and local groups, Feeding the Spirit was born in 2011.
Each Thursday evening, the volunteer organization sponsors a free warm meal at the Otterbein United Methodist Church. The event is open to anyone in need of nourishment for the body or spirit.
Dix, a longtime supporter, decided to dedicate his ride to the effort.
Thackrah said she's grateful that her friend is turning his personal challenge into an effort to bring awareness of the hidden problems many face in the community. Last year Feeding the Spirit served 4,578 meals, provided $17,810 to house 309 displaced families and individuals in need of overnight shelter, and spent $19,462 to assist 127 local families facing rent problems and/or eviction.
“I'd like to do anything I can to help what Deb is doing. Anything anyone can give would be welcome. ... 100 percent of the money I raise is going to Feeding the Spirit. If you pledge just a penny a mile, that's $36,” Dix said.
Friends weren't surprised to learn of Dix's impending journey.
“If anybody in our group was going to do it, it would be Dale,” said Barry Premoshis.
Premoshis, 81, of Youngwood, heads the Rowdy Riders, an informal group of avid cyclists who meet three mornings a week in Youngwood for 20- to 40-mile loops around the region.
He said Dix will have his work cut out for him, logging 1,500 miles in the saddle to train for the tour.
“We're getting a late start this year with the weather,” he said Friday in 54-degree weather as rain pounded the pavement outside.
Dix, a tall, thin figure with a ready grin and shock of wavy hair, has always been up for an adventure. In his late 20s, he completed two coast-to-coast motorcycle trips. He took up distance cycling about 25 years ago and is still proud to have been part of the first cross-country cycling tour of Vietnam in the early 1990s just as the country was opening to American tourists.
Later, he did charity rides for multiple sclerosis, toured Italy's Adriatic coast on two wheels and cycled through Cambodia and Laos on a second trip to Vietnam.
Sharing the roads with Pennsylvania drivers in his early days as a cyclist was dicey. But Dix said that's been changing as the sport gathers more adherents.
“Very seldom do I get a horn now,” Dix said as he went over preparations for the ride of a lifetime.
Debra Erdley is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-320-7996 or firstname.lastname@example.org m.