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Eight Miles At A Time, Man Fulfills Resolution

Sun., Dec. 31, 1995

Take heart all ye poor souls who ever failed a New Year’s vow of self-betterment.

I’m talking to gravity-impaired lardos who thundered heavily off the diet wagon. To nicotine fiends who couldn’t quit flicking their Bics and sucking tarry fumes.

And especially to the potty-mouthed who, despite their most determined efforts, continue to befoul our ears with profanity.

To all of you I give Rob Wagner, an average guy from the North Side who proves a New Year’s resolution actually can be kept.

Exactly one year ago, as 1994 teetered on the precipice of extinction, Wagner made himself a promise: Come rain or shine or nuclear war, he would pedal his bicycle to work and home again each and every day of the new year.

The goal appears modest in print. But anyone who has ever tried knows keeping a New Year’s resolution is tougher than banishing a Jehovah’s Witness from a doorstep.

First off, Wagner lives high atop Five Mile Prairie, eight miles away from his job as a computer jockey with Electronic Data Systems.

Second, his office requires a dress shirt, tie and slacks. That means Wagner must pack a proper wardrobe and change before work.

Which leads us to third - and here’s the deal killer: The man exits his driveway each day at an ungodly 6:15 a.m.

“They say it takes 21 days to form a new habit,” says Wagner, a trim 31-year-old man with light brown hair and an easy grin. “So I’m pretty used to this by now.”

Wagner completed his yearlong task early Friday in fitting fashion: amid a blowing, snowing storm.

About 35 minutes after leaving home, he rolled his red Univega mountain bike into the Washington Water Power Co. complex on Mission. Wagner’s firm processes statistical information for WWP.

“We just shake our heads when he comes in,” says an impressed Mollie Weis, one of Wagner’s co-workers.

To document this for the sake of journalism, I bravely accompanied Wagner on his journey.

Er, not on a bike. Whataya think I am, nuts?

I cheered Wagner on from the comfort of my wife’s Toyota. With the heater on high, I swilled strong java and listened to a National Public Radio announcer babble. Something about New Yorkers mad at their landlords because of exploding toilets.

Makes me want to keep giving my tax dollars to these public radio geeks.

But I digress. Just beyond my headlights, Wagner plowed through the freshly fallen powder, the scarlet safety lights strapped to his legs winking like Rudolph’s schnoz.

The man’s an animal. He zipped down snowy Five Mile Road doing 29 miles an hour. At 6:33 a.m. he passed the Garland Theater. In another 10 minutes he was done.

Dash away, dash away, dash away Rob.

Wagner is a married guy with two kids. He grew up in Spokane and graduated from Mead High School. He took up bicycling five years ago, dubious at first because of his chronic asthma.

To his joy he discovered biking helped his condition. When the year ends, Wagner will have finished two triathlons and ridden 4,000 miles on his bike.

He’s only had one encounter with a rude driver who told him to “go ride on the sidewalk.” Wagner caught up to the jerk at the next light and told him - in colorful language - that riding on the sidewalk was illegal.

A car full of inattentive kids nearly side-swiped him once. A snowstorm last February caused his only spill.

“It’s not for everybody,” says Wagner, who adds that he will continue riding his bike to work in 1996, but may opt for a bus now and then. “It’s not for the mother or father who has to drop off the kids at day care. It’s not for the 50-year-old man who lives 35 miles away from work.”

True, but Rob Wagner’s discipline and dedication can inspire us all.

He has even moved a slug like me to set a New Year’s resolution. For the coming year I will try, as best I can, to drink more coffee.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo

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