Some people need a cup of coffee to start their day and get going. At age 92, Jay Harold Mummau of Manheim needs a brisk bike ride of 10 miles or so through the countryside.
A small, upbeat and athletic former farmer and truck driver, Mummau sees riding a bike as absolutely necessary for keeping his diabetes in check and his zest for life intact. It has, he will tell you, saved his life.
Mummau lives with his hybrid cross between a mountain bike and racing bike at Pleasant View Communities on the outskirts of Manheim. His wife of more than 50 years, Darlene, is a resident in a skilled-care wing.
His first encounter with a bike was when he was 10, when a neighbor of the Mummau family farm — part of it is now Mummau Park — built the youth a bike. Mummau rode the bike to and from school daily, including his time on Manheim Central High School’s first football team in 1947. “We were a bunch of farm boys playing and we didn’t know what we were doing,” he recalls. “We didn’t even have our own football field. We just played practice a little and see what happens on Friday nights.”
But after high school he didn’t ride a bike until he was 58 and was diagnosed with diabetes. Then a truck driver for Yellow Freight, Mummau knew the company’s rules prohibited him from having a needle in the cab to inject insulin.
His doctors recommended diet and exercise. He tried losing weight first to control his diabetes.
He shed 35 pounds but the diabetes was no better. Then, he thought of bike riding again. He loved riding on roads as a truck driver, why not on two wheels?
He took up pedaling full tilt. He says it’s been an elixir for both his disease — along with taking alfalfa pills — and his mental health.
“When you’re riding, all your cares kind of peel off, and it’s very peaceful. I enjoy the country air and smelling alfalfa growing in the fields. You can stop wherever you want to stop and talk to people. I like to walk cemeteries,” he says.
He rode almost everywhere: to doctor’s appointments in Lancaster and Lititz, for charity rides, especially to benefit the fight against multiple sclerosis. He’d pack a lunch and pedal to Pequea, dine at a scenic spot and head home. It was nothing for he and a few friends to drag their bikes into a train bound for New York or Washington, D.C., ride for a day and come home. Days with 80- and 90-mile rides were not uncommon.
Once, at his deer camp near State College, he shot a buck in the back woods. He laid the carcass lengthwise on the bike and handlebars, straddled it with his legs to hold it in place, and pedaled back to the cabin.
When he wasn’t on his bike, he played in a local modified fast-pitch softball league for 60- to 77-year-olds. He played left field because he liked to chase down long flies. He reluctantly stopped playing when he reached the maximum age of 77.
After retiring from Yellow Freight, he worked another 21 years as a driver and dispatcher for the Manheim auto auction, riding to work daily.
He retired for good at age 83. But not from riding his bike daily, 5-15 miles on all but the coldest and rainiest of days.
According to his diary, he has ridden more than 80,500 miles since taking up pedaling as an adult.
“I can’t stop riding,” he says.
He has weathered bladder cancer, a bone-on-bone spine, arthritis and two shoulder replacements. In addition to his bike-riding therapy, he cites his faith in God as main influences on his life.
Some among his family of four children, seven grandchildren and 15 great grandchildren think it’s time to restrict his transportation to his Buick, especially since he doesn’t carry a cellphone, considering the devices a nuisance.
“I don’t think it’s any more dangerous than riding a car, if you know what you’re doing” he says in protest. In fact, in all his years of riding he has been in an accident only once, and it wasn’t his fault. He was standing off the road with a fluorescent vest on when a car drove by and its side mirror smacked Mummau’s elbow, shattering the glass but not his elbow.
He’s getting into cooking these days, making dishes over the phone with Darlene.
And he intends to continue pedaling around for as long as he can. “I don’t know how long that is. No one does,” he says.
Ad Crable is an LNP | LancasterOnline outdoors writer. Email him at email@example.com.