So, a post this morning on a local cycling forum I inhabit piqued my interest in this man, "Wrong Way" Wooten. There seems to be a lot of hear-say about Wooten, whose birth name seems to have been Tom (it has been suggested that he legally changed it to Wrong Way). A lot of people met him on his journeys, talked with him, and there are brief recounts spread across the internet. I am going to leave it up to you to search those accounts out, if you are so inclined. I was more concerned with published reports, interviews, etc, the links for three of which are shown below.
David L. Sloan photo
From what I have been able to gather, Wooten traversed the country, north and south, east to west, raising funds for various charities, including the March of Dimes, Multiple Sclerosis, Muscular Dystrophy, the Leukemia Society, and the American Heart Association. During one interview (Fort Lauderdale, Florida) the reporter notes that Wooten had been on the road for 45 months by that point, and covered 28,000 miles starting in Atlantic City, New Jersey, traveling west to Los Angeles, down to San Diego, up to Canada, back to Los Angeles, and finally across to Florida via Arkansas and New Orleans. And yes, those travels did indeed include a stop in our very own city of Claremont. Other references of cities he passed through, which I have found, include San Clemente, CA, Ft. Wayne, IN, San Jose, CA, Philadelphia, Santa Fe, NM, Phoenix, AZ, and at Stanford University.
As you may have gathered, Wrong Way did not pick up the name by being frequently lost; no, he gained the name by riding his customized bike backwards, sitting on the handlebars and using mirrors to see where he was going. According to the articles Wooten was an educated man with a degree in psychology, whose goal in life was to simply help his fellow man. Riding his bike backwards was the means to that end. If you check out any of the links you will see that Wooten became a bit of a celebrity (though I do not remember hearing about him), and even had an appearance on the 1980s television show Real People. I noticed some comments suggesting that Wrong Way passed away in 2004, though, in my research, I have not come across an obituary for him. Interesting man, who clearly lived an interesting life.
Once, when asked what he did when he got a flat, he is reported to have replied, "I set the bike on fire." With a straight face. I've known that feeling. Clearly, after so many miles, so many encounters, there must be some fascinating stories out there. Thanks to Erik for pointing me to this previously unknown (by me) story.
Three newspaper stories:
Palm Beach, FL