Space.comÂÂ*LIFE | Wednesday, November 13, 2002

Rolling right on
Bidwell, Ohio, nursing home resident rolls up miles in halls
By BOB WITHERS - The Herald-Dispatch
Randy Snyder/The Herald-Dispatch

Scenic Hills Nursing Home resident Arthur Allison has rolled up a distance stretching from Los Angeles to Jersey City, N.J., through the halls of the nursing home. He averages 8.4 miles a day.

BIDWELL, Ohio -- Arthur Allison has traveled across the United States. Now, he's on his way around the world.

And he's doing it almost entirely without leaving his wheelchair or his home -- the Scenic Hills Nursing Center Inc. In the process, he's becoming an inspiration to couch potatoes everywhere.

Allison has been in a wheelchair since a 1969 auto accident destroyed the balance mechanism and much of the motor control in his brain. Two years ago, he was bedfast, overweight, taking medications for pain and high blood pressure, and wanting to die.

That was before Judy Allison Fellure, his Gallipolis, Ohio, cousin, "started in on him" about an article she had run across on the Internet about a man who had walked across the equivalent of the state of Washington in the hallways of his nursing home.

"I told Arthur he couldn't walk, but he could roll," Fellure says. "I suggested he roll across the state of Ohio."

Allison wasn't convinced.

"How many times did he tell us we were nuts, crazy, hair-brained?" Cinda Saunders, Scenic Hills' director of social services, asks rhetorically.

But Allison finally caught the vision -- rolling through Ohio, then Indiana, then through Texas to "visit" his sons. All that mileage he amassed in the carefully measured hallways of his nursing home, and all of it at night when the neighboring patients are out of his way.

"I kept right on going, straight to the Pacific Ocean," Allison says.

On the Web

To find out more about Arthur Allison's trip around the world, log on to or You can contact him by writing to Scenic Hills Nursing Home, P.O. Box 311, Bidwell, OH 45614 or by sending him an e-mail at

Somewhere along the way, he noticed something -- he was feeling better.

First, his weight started dropping; now it has plunged from 262 pounds to 172 -- a 90-pound relief. The four pills he had been taking for high blood pressure are no longer necessary, he explains. In fact, the staff gives him one pill a day now -- one-half strength -- to keep his blood pressure up because he's exercising so much. Before, he was bedfast, taking six pills a day to combat arthritis and bed sores. Now, he takes a single pain pill each day.

The results have been dramatic. When Allison started, it took him four hours to puff through 262 yards. Now, he "sprints" past 14,776 yards -- the equivalent of 8.4 miles -- by 3 a.m.

"When he saw what a difference it made in him, he was truly astounded," Fellure says. "His dismal outlook started to go away, and he became more motivated."

"Before, I had no reason to get up," says Allison, who hasn't missed a single night of rolling since he started Oct. 30, 2000. "I was just waiting to die; I felt old. But I don't now!"

"He loves racing," Saunders says. "One other resident tries to keep up with him in his wheelchair. He's a little more physically impaired than Arthur is, but he tries."

Others caught the vision, too. Home Care Medical Equipment of Point Pleasant, W.Va., gave Allison a new, lightweight wheelchair -- christened the "Buckeye Express" -- in which he obligingly pops a wheelie for a visiting reporter.

Rhonda and Brian Lucas of Ohio River Embroidery of Cheshire, Ohio, bought him a wind suit and added a "Buckeye Express" logo. Pepsi-Cola Bottling Co. in Cheshire also sent several cases of All Sport drink to keep him cool as he rolls.

Last February, Allison completed the 2,300 miles between Wheeling, W.Va., and Los Angeles and began working eastward from Wheeling to Jersey City, N.J. At Saunders' behest, donations were solicited and fund-raisers were arranged that provided the $5,000 Arthur needed to roll the final mile on location -- on the brick boardwalk at Liberty State Park in Jersey City, with an escort of smiling police officers to boot.

That milestone was April 25, 2002, Allison's 67th birthday, and it brought his total mileage rolled to 2,836.71.

"He was smiling the whole time, and we were trying to keep up with him," Saunders says. "It was one of the most awe-inspiring events I've ever seen."

Allison was glad at the time that it was over. But within minutes, his family was after him to go on around the world, to which he -- again, reluctantly -- agreed. As of last week, he had rolled another 1,574.04 miles.

"He's somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean," Saunders jokes. "He in the Bermuda Triangle; we're afraid we're going to lose him."

Even when Allison finishes his nightly run, he still doesn't go to bed --
because his good news has spread.

"I've heard from people all over the world," he says. "I average about a hundred e-mails a day, and I answer each one."

Sometimes that takes until noon -- he has to type with one finger and with one eye shut on the WebTV pad that's linked to his television. Only then does he hit the sack.

"A physical therapist in a nursing home in New Zealand got wind of this," Fellure says. "She wanted to know if she could use him as an inspiration for her patients. She has marked off an area outside the nursing home in its gardens, and offers small prizes for those who roll the most meters per day."

Fact is, Arthur wants to make his next on-location location New Zealand -- when he's ready to roll the last miles on his around-the-world trek.

"That will be four-and-a-half or five years yet," he smiles.

A member of the Church of Christ in Christian Union in Gallipolis, Allison believes God's plan for his life is to inspire others. Next to the calculator in his room that he uses to tally his nightly mileage is a handmade sign that serves as his credo:

Dear God
Your Will
Nothing More
Nothing Less
Nothing Else

Allison admits that he gave God an argument only with respect to the plan's timing.

"It took him a long time to get the message through this thick skull," he says with a chuckle.