Kelly: Cycling across U.S. for a good cause -
Published Tuesday, August 21, 2012 at 1:00 am / Updated at 6:42 am
Kelly: Cycling across U.S. for a good cause

On a cross-country bicycle trip a couple of Omaha guys are drawing attention with signs: “Tour de Tourette.”

People along the way ask them what it means. Some already know.

“I have Tourette's,” a young man said as he donated $20 for the Tourette Syndrome Association.

The two bicyclists are longtime friends Bill Staley, a former judge and a retired college professor, and Frank Jenson, recently retired as Nebraska deputy probation administrator.

They are making the two-month trip from Bellingham, Wash., to New York City to raise research money and awareness. Since childhood, Bill has had Tourette's, a neurological condition defined by involuntary rapid movements — tics and twitches that come and go.

As one who has endured facial tics myself (though never diagnosed as Tourette's), I empathize with Bill. The cause of Tourette's syndrome and other levels of tics — some cases are milder than others — is unknown, but it's believed to have a genetic tie.

Males are affected four times more often than females. About half of cases are resolved without treatment by age 18, but it is lifelong for many. It can be embarrassing.

“When I was a teenager, it was horrible,” Bill said. “I never talked about it to anybody.”

He graduated in 1963 from Ralston High School, where he had played second base and batted leadoff for the baseball team. A good student and avid reader, Bill graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he also earned a law degree and later a Ph.D. in sociology.

He was diagnosed with Tourette's in his 20s.

Bill served for 17 years as a judge of the Sarpy County Juvenile Court, and then spent 17 years teaching at Midland Lutheran College, now known as Midland University, in Fremont, Neb. He retired a year and a half ago.

“Until I became a teacher,” he said Monday, “I never talked about Tourette in public. But it was so obvious in front of a classroom that I started using it as a teaching tool.”

Bill and Frank are longtime bicyclists in events such as BRAN, the Bicycle Ride Across Nebraska. They had talked for five years about a cross-country ride, and the time finally had come.

“Just to see if we could do it,” Frank said. “To prove to ourselves that we're not over the hill, even though we're retired.”

Relatives of Frank's drove them to Washington state, where the pair began their tour on July 14.

“The Cascades were gorgeous,” Bill said. “After we got through a pass and came out of the mountains, all of a sudden there were no trees. That dramatic change in topography was striking. The plains have a different beauty.”

They ride recumbent bikes with back support, and pull small trailers of supplies with the “Tour de Tourette” signs on the back. They gradually have lightened the load, even mailing unneeded things home. The friends have shared a tent, and at times stayed in motels.

Over the weekend, Bill's wife, Janet, drove from Omaha with his dog, Izzy, and met the bicyclists in Princeton, Minn., north of the Twin Cities. The riders rested on Saturday, but by Monday had made it to St. Croix, Wis.

They had surpassed 2,000 miles, with about 1,200 to go. They plan eventually to ride through Canada to Niagara Falls and then down the Hudson River valley to New York. The tentative plan is to end in the borough of Queens, home of the Tourette Syndrome Association.

They enjoy meeting people, and they have given some interviews. To read their blog or to donate, go to

Bill and Frank's speed across the northern tier on their Tour de Tourette surely wouldn't compete with cyclists in the Tour de France. But for a pair of 66-year-old retirees who keep moving in all kinds of weather, the excursion qualifies as a tour de force.

Contact the writer:


Contact the writer: Michael Kelly    |   402-444-1000

Mike writes three columns a week on a variety of topics.

Primary battle between Battiato, Morrissey may be only race
UNMC appoints new dean for the college of dentistry
Jeff Corwin hopes to build connection with nature at Nebraska Science Festival
Metro transit recommends streetcar, rapid-transit bus line for Omaha
6-mile stretch of Highway 75 is the road not taken
After decades looking in, Republican Dan Frei seeks chance to take action
Cause of Omaha power outage along Regency Parkway unclear
Ben Sasse, Shane Osborn try to pin label of D.C. insider on each other
Curious about government salaries? Look no further
Easter Sunday temperatures climb into 80s in Omaha area
Omaha police investigate two nonfatal shootings
City Council to vote on adding Bluffs pedestrian safety lights
Sole big donor to Beau McCoy says he expects nothing in return
Convicted killer Nikko Jenkins might await his sentence in prison
Kelly: 70 years after a deadly D-Day rehearsal, Omahan, WWII vet will return to Europe
Midlands runners ready for Boston Marathon
Families from area shelters treated to meal at Old Chicago
Firefighters battle brush fire near Fontenelle Forest
Sioux City riverboat casino prepares to close, still hoping to be saved
Omaha high schoolers to help canvass for Heartland 2050
Mizzou alumni aim to attract veterinary students to Henry Doorly Zoo
Grant ensures that Sioux City can start building children's museum
Party looks to 'nudge' women into public office in Iowa
For birthday, Brownell-Talbot student opts to give, not get
Two taken to hospital after fire at Benson home
< >
Kelly: 70 years after a deadly D-Day rehearsal, Omahan, WWII vet will return to Europe
A World War II veteran from Omaha will return this week to Europe to commemorate a tragedy in the run-up to D-Day.
Dickson’s Week in Review, April 13-19
On Twitter some guy tweeted that the spring game isn’t taken as seriously as a regular-season contest. What was your first clue? When the head coach entered waving a cat aloft?
Kelly: A California university president returns to her Nebraska roots on Ivy Day
The main speaker at today's Ivy Day celebration at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is a college president who grew up roping calves and earned her Ph.D. at the prestigious Oxford University in England.
Breaking Brad: Stuck in a claw machine? You get no Easter candy
I know of one kid in Lincoln who will be receiving a lump of coal from the Easter Bunny, just as soon as he's extricated from that bowling alley claw machine.
Breaking Brad: Mountain lion season's over, but the bunny's fair game!
Thursday was the last day of a Nebraska Legislature session. Before leaving town, legislators passed a bill to hold a lottery to hunt the Easter Bunny.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
Meridian Med Spa
50% Off Botox®, Botox® Bridal Party, Fillers and Peels
Buy Now
< >
Omaha World-Herald Contests
Enter for a chance to win great prizes.
OWH Store: Buy photos, books and articles
Buy photos, books and articles
Travel Snaps Photo
Going on Vacation? Take the Omaha World-Herald with you and you could the next Travel Snaps winner.
Click here to donate to Goodfellows
The 2011 Goodfellows fund drive provided holiday meals to nearly 5,000 families and their children, and raised more than $500,000 to help families in crisis year round.
Want to get World-Herald stories sent directly to your home or work computer? Sign up for's News Alerts and you will receive e-mails with the day's top stories.
Can't find what you need? Click here for site map »