A cyclist traveling cross-country to raise awareness for diabetes rode through Parkesburg last Friday afternoon and parked for the night in an accompanying motor home in the parking lot of Grand Sport Auto on First Avenue.

Ernest A. Neupert, of Florida, is in the last leg of his tour, as he is heading back home. He has named the ride the "Smiles Tour" or "Uncle Sonny's Bike-a-thon to Battle Diabetes."

He left his home - his wife and stepson following in their motor home - April 16, to tie it in with the American Diabetes Association's Tour-de-cure. Neuport worked on the committee.

Neuport traveled west in the southern states to Los Angeles, Ca.; then north along the coast to Spokane, Wa.; then east along the Canadian border to Bethel, Maine; and the East Coast back to Florida.

As of 3:30 p.m. last Friday - when he met with the Parkesburg Ledger at Grand Sport Auto - he had traveled 8,235 miles.

"I've been chased by wild fires, ridden with snow on both sides of the street, rode inside a rainbow and looked 3,000 miles down the horizon," he said, recounting some of his adventures.

"I have seen some beautiful places," he added.

When asked by Grand Sport employees the best place he's been, Neuport said, "They're all spectacular in their own way... people just have to see it."

Neuport said the least number of miles he's ridden on a day was three miles when it was 120-degrees temperature. The most was 105 miles.

Neuport, 65, is a retired construction worker and a native New Yorker who has lived in Florida for four years. He calls himself a recreational rider when it comes to cycling. His reason for riding for the American Diabetes Association is that his wife has Type II Diabetes. His tour is dedicated to her.

Neuport also did a bike tour in 2000 for the American Cancer Society in memory of his first wife, who he lost to cancer, and for himself, a cancer survivor. That time he rode 8,038 miles from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean, along the central states.

"I've been in 48 states in a five-year period," he said.

And, he's not finished yet. Neuport said he plans to do another one in five years, when he's 70, for the American Heart Association on behalf of family members who have heart disease.

He said he raises funds for research through pamphlets he gives out along his tour. He said people see him cycling, read his shirt, which has the American Diabetes Association written on it, and are curious. He gives them a pamphlet, which has donation form in it.

Anyone wishing to make a donation can do so by sending a check or money order to Uncle Sonny's Bike-a-thon, c/o American Diabetes Association, 1101 N. Lake Destiny Road, Ste. 415, Maitland, Fl. 32751. Anyone having questions should contact the American Diabetes Association at 800-676-4065 ext. 3037.

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