By Richard Ledbetter
Peggy and Lee Muncy first met in the early 1990s when attending a master’s swim class at the Little Rock Racquet Club. Lee was in training for a Canadian Ironman triathlon, and Peggy simply liked to swim and wanted to get in shape. Romance bloomed, and they wed in October 1992. Of the twelve swimmers in the group, four paired off and got married. According to Peggy, “There must have been something in the water!” Twenty-five years later they’re still challenging each other to reach new heights. Last year, the couple completed their second Cycle Greater Yellowstone tour through eastern Idaho in the Tetons that was scheduled to take advantage of the total solar eclipse in that region of the country. “It was spectacular. I’ve never experienced anything like it,” she said.
In June 2017, Peggy completed a nine-year endeavor to cycle fifty miles in all fifty states.
She told Bike Arkansas, “In 1991, I began road biking, and within nine months my husband talked me into riding Pedal the Peaks, an annual organized bike tour of about 1,200 riders held in the Colorado Rockies. Looking back, I don’t know how I ever did it! For my first organized ride, we rode 500 miles in one week and climbed about 25,000 feet in elevation. The worst part was I gained 5 pounds and my husband lost 5 pounds! I was not happy about that.” Peggy and Lee rode four more of those rides, accumulating miles in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico. The cycling bug had bitten them both, and almost from the beginning of their marriage, bicycle travel became their favorite hobby. Over the years they’ve ridden four times in Italy, twice in France, the Czech Republic, Germany, Belgium, Finland, Denmark, New Zealand, Australia, Costa Rica, England, Ireland, Scotland and Tahiti. If they were going on a trip, you could be certain that cycling was going to be involved.
Describing the evolution of her “fifty in fifty” goal, Peggy said,
“In 1996, Lee and a friend from Chicago decided to ride Adventure Cycling’s southern tier route from San Diego, California to St. Augustin, Florida. They accomplished this in 37 days. Over the next two years, Lee rode the entire West coast from the Washington state/Canadian border to San Diego. A couple of years after that, he rode the entire East coast from Portland, Maine to Orlando, Florida.
“His trips inspired me, so after the kids left for college, I decided to start training and try to ride across the US myself. I signed up with a group called Cross Roads Cycling Adventures and chose them because they stayed in motels instead of camping! On May 11, 2008, which also happened to be Mother’s Day, I joined forty complete strangers and began a 43-day trek across the US from Los Angeles to Boston. We averaged 85 miles a day and had a rest day every seven or eight days. On days four and five we rode two back-to-back centuries, the second one being 115 miles. One of the hardest days was when the group was stricken with food poisoning in Tucumcari, New Mexico. Sixteen riders had to be transported by ambulance to an area hospital for IV’s. All forty of us completed the 3,415 mile trip by dipping our front wheels in the Atlantic Ocean. It was a very emotional moment for all of us.”
It was after that ride that Peggy started tallying up all the states in which she’d ridden and the miles she’d completed in each one. When she realized she’d already completed about 35 states, she said, “That’s when I set my goal of cycling 50 miles in all 50 states.”
At that point, Peggy sought out organized rides in the remaining states, participating in ones like RAGBRAI, which crosses the entire state of Iowa in a week, Tour de Nebraska, Bike Florida, Bon Ton Roulet in the New York Finger lakes, Cycle Oregon, Shoreline Michigan and Cycle Zydeco in Louisiana, to name a few. For her 60th birthday, Peggy asked Lee to join her in riding the big island of Hawaii. When she got down to the last 10 states, she and Lee did two big road trips two summers in a row. They drove to Montana to ride in Cycle Greater Yellowstone that took place in the southwest corner of Montana, and prior to that they drove over to Idaho to ride around Coeur d’Alene and the Hiawatha Trail--known as America’s most beautiful “rails to trails” ride. On the way home, she racked up miles in South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota. “While riding the Wildlife Loop in Custer State Park in the Black Hills, we got detoured by a herd of buffalo and another day by a big moose on the trail.”
Needing just four more states to complete her list (and a handful of others in which she needed odd mileage to make 50), she and Lee took to the road again and drove a total of 4,470 miles round trip to ride in West Virginia, New Jersey, Connecticut and Rhode Island. In Pennsylvania, she was only nine miles shy of 50, having done only 41 miles on the cross-country trip. She looped an industrial park off the interstate near their hotel to get those nine miles. Lacking 32 miles to complete North Carolina, she biked up and down the main road in the Outer Banks to check off her final state. “Lee met me with a bottle of champagne when I finished that one,” she recalled. Remarkably, she accomplished the entire feat with two total knee replacements.
During her vast travels about America and the world, her greatest difficulty occurred right at home. “I was riding in the Big Dam Bridge 100, in 2014, next to my friend Barry Hyde, who was running for Pulaski County judge at the time. Between the Big Dam Bridge and the I-430 Bridge, a startled deer jumped out onto the trail and blindsided me. I was knocked unconscious and fractured my pelvis in two places. I have no memory of it whatsoever. People around me said that as the paramedics were loading me into the ambulance, I was asking everyone to vote for Barry Hyde for judge!” Peggy was back on the bike again after only two months.
This bucket list wasn’t just for personal gratification, she told us, “Before I left on my cross-country trip, I decided to make it count for something, and I wanted to raise money for a charity. You know, get pledges for miles ridden, that sort of thing. I sent letters to everyone I knew asking them to pledge money to benefit the Boys and Girls Club of Central Arkansas. One of my happiest moments was being able to present Cindy Doramus, director of the club, and Marty Rhodes, president of the board, with a check for $25,000. That made all of it worthwhile.”
When asked what’s next on her bucket list, she laughed and said, “Nothing. I’m not going to make any more lists. And no one is happier about that than my husband!”