Twenty years ago, Bill Iaia rode his bicycle more than 3,000 miles from San Francisco to a Centereach bar. He wanted to make the trip one more time, but he died before he got the chance.
On July 18, his son will take him on that cross-country journey, carrying Iaia’s ashes on the back of his bike until he reaches the same bar in Centereach.
“He thought he had it in him to achieve that goal, but he ran out of time,” said Iaia’s son, Will Iaia. “I’m gonna give him that one more ride.”
Iaia was 58, a runner all his life who regularly competed in triathlons, when he died of a heart attack in December 2016, his son said.
Iaia, originally from Centereach, made several long-distance rides, all ending with a party at McCarthy’s Pub. In the mid-1990s he rode from Denver in 18 days, and when his friends teased him about only “going halfway” he embarked from San Francisco two years later, Will Iaia said.
With his friend, Jay D’Agostino, Iaia also rode from Florida, Chicago and Niagara Falls to raise funds for Angela’s House, a Hauppauge-based nonprofit that provides housing and in-home care for medically fragile children.
“I will always remember how enthusiastic he was to help bring attention to our cause and the kids in our community,” said Angela’s House founder Bob Policastro, who met Iaia about 10 years ago. “He had an amazing peppiness and gusto for life.”
After his father’s death, Will Iaia, 35, of Littleton, Colorado, came across a video interview Iaia recorded in 2011 while working as a counselor at a youth running camp in upstate White Lake. In the video, he talks about his ride from California, which he completed unaccompanied in 26 days, and how challenging it was riding at high elevations through Colorado.
“I’m thinking I’ve got one more left in me,” Iaia says at the end of the video. “Wanna see if I can do the 26 days again.”
The interview inspired Will Iaia to make the journey himself and raise money for Angela’s House and Project ReCycle, a nonprofit in Colorado, he said.
Will Iaia will sprinkle some of his father’s ashes at the Golden Gate Bridge before departing on his 3,400-mile trip on July 18. He’ll follow the same route his father took and plans to arrive Aug. 12 at McCarthy’s to celebrate with Iaia’s friends and family.
“If he were here, I think he’d want to race me across,” Will Iaia said of his father. “I think he’d be proud and honored.”