A Very Unparked Domain
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Round and Round We Go (updated)

My mom likes to call my brother and I “upsidedown cakes” when we do something completely backwards. Neil’s mom calls her kids “wrong-way Wooten.”

Well, the Moms sure have us pegged.

After approximately 202 miles of driving, tonight we are right back where we started, in Richmond, Virginia.

Neil has 2 days of training in the office this week, so we drove down I-95 this afternoon, staying just a few yards ahead of thunder storms and torrential downpours all the way.

But, we don’t have a home any more, so for the next few nights we’re staying at the Quality Inn (and not, as our friend Janet feared, a “no-tell motel”).

The good news is that we get one more shot to visit Richmond friends, eat at some of our favourite Richmond places, and take all the pictures we meant to take but ran out of time. Plus, we can fine tune just what goes in the storage unit and what goes in the car.

And, we can give our moms a chance to laugh at us for being wrong-way Wootens and upsidedown cakes.

We should have the show back on the road by late in the week.

Neil’s mom has emailed us a correction:

I never heard of “Wrong-way Wooten”, but when we lived in Florida we used to go to the stock car races and there was a young driver named Boaty Boatwright and he would spin out all the time and he would always end up going backwards. They called him “Wrong-way Boatwright”. I would call the kids Wrong-way Boatwright because of him.

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1 Neil { 07.13.08 at 11:04 pm }

“Wrong-Way Wooten” was apparently a person somewhere who rode his bike backwards (or was it the guy who scored a goal on his own team? Mum stories can be hard to track…) I’d always thought it was an English thing, but perhaps it harkens from Pennsylvania. As with so many things; Mom would know . . .

2 Larry { 08.04.08 at 4:03 pm }

Your mom was right!!
It was Tom “Wrong Way Wooten”
It was covered by some news stations in the 1980’s, he rode his bicycle backwards accross the country. Last I saw him he lived outside of Philidelphia.

3 Neil { 08.05.08 at 1:02 pm }

Thanks, Larry (and welcome :)

Sad thing is, Mom denies any knowledge of the matter (I’m certain I picked it up from her) so we have an additional mystery.

4 fenderman { 11.23.08 at 1:40 am }

I remember Wrong Way Wooten vividly. He stopped in at our factory in San Jose one day on one of his trips cross country. The bike weighed 450 lbs and had everything INCLUDING the kitchen sink. The only reason I found your site is I just googled wrong way wooten and your post came up second…I was wondering what happened to him; apparently he may have died some years ago (this is internet info so treat it with the skepticism it deserves)…

5 Spike { 11.24.08 at 2:14 am }

Reading some other link, I see that he may have died from AIDS. He had been featured on Real People and the attention led to his cross country trip. He was in fact living outside of Philly at the time of his death.

6 Steve { 01.08.09 at 3:51 pm }

I also have memories of Wrong-Way Wooten. He was a charming and muscular black man, probably nearing his forties. We became friends in the early eighties during his cross-country bike trip when he passed through Santa Fe, New Mexico where I ran a bicycle shop. His ultra-heavy bike (an old blue Schwinn Varsity with one-piece forged crankset) was punishing his stock spoked wheels which were continually operating at well beyond their designed capacity and he complained of having to replace several broken spokes on the freewheel side of his rear wheel at town after town. I was able to build a custom rear wheel on a 44-hole tandem hub and rim that gave him the ability to carry all his 300+ pounds of possessions without bending or stressing to the point of breakage. As a point of note: He actually did ride his bicycle backwards ALL THE TIME. It was not altered in any way other than to wrap some tape-covered padding on the stem and handle bars for a bit of comfort. He had removed the seat and seat post which permitted him to cover that portion of the bike with more tied-down possessions. He sat on the bars facing to the rear and pedaled backwards. The shift levers were in their original stem-mounted position which now placed them between his legs. He used two rear-view mirrors on extra-long brackets to provide cues to what was “up ahead”. He claimed to be traveling for charity and readily took advantage of any offerings of food, shelter, and money.

7 Andrew { 01.14.09 at 5:19 pm }

Wooten was indeed a black muscular man. My dad was really good friends with him; however, I don’t know how and when exactly he died but it was a few years ago. I vaguely remember him because I only saw him a few times and I was kinds young. He did live outside of Philly, about thirty minutes away in a small town called bryn Mawr, although it might even be ardmore because I remember his house was relatively close to the towns border. He was also a karate expert and was very skinny and muscular like I said but also ate alot of food. He also worked for a tow truck company but I don’t know the name. I do know that he died somtime during this month from a massive heart attack. Wooten was aged some where from 45-50. And he was raising money for a charity fir cancer.

8 Neil { 01.18.09 at 5:30 pm }

fenderman, Spike, Steve and Andrew, welcome, and thanks for the additions. We seem to have cornered the market on Wooten, here. It’s nice to fill out the story, somewhat.

It’s also nice to hear that Wooten was philanthropic. No better reason to do something.

9 Rich Cast { 02.06.09 at 10:13 pm }

I also knew Wrong Way. I met him when he came into my bike shop in San Clemente. We hung out for months and met up at different locations. I built him a FRONT wheel with 72 spokes and delivered it by bike to San Diego.

I have been looking for him for a while and found various links leading me here. I am saddened to hear of his death.

10 Radnor Cat { 05.03.09 at 12:26 am }

Tom Wooten, a/k/a Wrong Way Wooten was a really nice guy – he lived in the area I lived in – he did die a few years ago.

11 cie { 05.24.09 at 8:14 pm }

I met Wrong Way in San Clemente in the ’80s. There’s a search for him on facebook. I am tremendously saddened to hear of his death. He was a wonderful person.

12 Cie { 05.26.09 at 9:12 am }

For anyone who wants to post pictures or stories of Wrong Way Wooten. I think he’s still out there for us to discover.

13 Cie { 05.26.09 at 9:14 am }

(just click Cie, it will take you to the blogspot)

14 Tom Packer { 08.02.09 at 9:10 pm }

I saw on the news a story about a new world’s record for riding a bicycle backwards and searched for Wooten, which led me to this site. My roomate at UC San Diego brought him to our condo in the early 80’s. He was one of the most remarkable people I have met in my life.

15 Tom Packer { 08.02.09 at 9:34 pm }

He stayed with us for a few days. He said he would teach me how to cook spaghetti if I bought the ingredients. We went to the store and he created a great meal. He had his bicycle with mirrors set up for riding backwards. He said he was fundrainsing for charity. He told me he lived in Bryn Mawr, PA.

I had a dream during the night and he visited me in that dream! The next morning he talked with me about it before I told him anything about it! I was astounded. He said anyone could learn to communicate in this way. He gave me a technique toward attempting this aim. How amazing!

I remember going over with him to see him off at the UCSD campus. I remember sitting with him quietly on a bench before he left. I was thinking a certain thought, and without my speaking, he responded to this thought out loud. Again, I was blown away!

I wish I could have talked with him more. I am sorry to hear he has passed away. I would like to correspond with anyone who knew of these incredible abilities he posessed, or his friends. Is there an obituary for him? Does he have surviving family? Those few days and experiences remain emblazed upon my life. I would enjoy learning more about him. He was a most remarkable person! Somehow his nickname seems most ironic!

16 Paul { 08.08.09 at 9:34 am }

Wrong Way visited our T-shirt shop in San Clemente in the mid-80’s. He created some very unusual multi- colored designs and we had a good time printing them in our little back-room print shop. He struck me as remarkably ego-less, given his flamboyant style. We had some great conversations! He may be gone, but he’s still out there…..
Maybe someone will make a movie.

17 Craig Wooten { 08.14.09 at 12:59 pm }

Tommy was my Uncle. He passed away in January of 2004 from heart attack. I am glad to read some of these stories. It makes me tear up a little. I’m gonna make sure his son Paco and his grandkids read this post. I have so many fond memories of him. I don’t know which ones to share but I would love going towing with him late night and when we were done around 4 in the morning, he’d say “Let’s go to Waffle House.” And we’d drive from Bryn Mawr, PA to Elkhart, DE about 45 minutes just to eat. So much fun. I miss him.

18 Craig Wooten { 08.14.09 at 7:05 pm }
19 Craig Wooten { 08.14.09 at 7:06 pm }
20 Kevin G Wooten { 08.14.09 at 8:21 pm }

Very nice to hear stories from some of the people my brother knew, and met along his travels. He did more in 47 years than most people do in a lifetime.

21 Maryellen Toland { 02.16.10 at 8:43 pm }

I was looking for a fellow named Nathan Van Wooten from Bryn Mawr
I believe he was “wrongway’s” brother. I knew him from a dental practice I worked in around 1979-1980+.

22 Craig Wooten { 02.21.10 at 7:18 pm }

Hey Maryellen, I talked to my Uncle Nathan and he would like to hear from you. Hit me with your e-mail and I’ll give it to him. My e-mail is VicGrimes210@gmail.com.

23 Huck Cronin { 03.02.10 at 5:17 pm }

I met Wrong Way back in the 80’s at Arizona State University. He stayed with us in the SAE fraternity house for nearly two weeks. We rode together, did nunchucks, were on the news, were cited by the poice (for haveing nunchucks on campus – I considered them an art form, rather than a wepon) and partied together. He …read poetry, philosphised and told us about his son and family. He was a very interesting guy, to say the least. I am sorry to hear that he as passed.

24 Ray Moore { 03.18.10 at 5:47 am }

I ran into Wrong Way while swimming at a swim meet (high school) between events in Phoenix sometime in 1982-84. (It was BCP vs I think Apollo for those of you in Phoenix.) He stopped and talked to a group of us. He gave us advice on girls. I won’t repeat it here, but everything he said was good advice–I wish I’d taken it!. He seemed like a gentle, honest decent man.

25 Dan Updegrove { 04.15.10 at 10:57 pm }

I met this remarkable fellow near the Stanford University campus in 1983, when my eyes were drawn to a bike overloaded with bright nylon bags. I asked the tall fellow in bright nylon clothes, “How much does that bike weigh?” and he responded, “a couple hundred pounds” … “How long you been riding?” …. “4 weeks” … “Where’d you start?” … “Philadelphia” … “Amazing!” … “So guess how I ride it.” I looked at the bike long and hard: A TV was mounted where the seat should be; two mirrors hung on long brackets, facing front; the bars were padded in a peculiar way — and the toe clips were mounted backwards! “No” I said, “Can’t be.” So he showed me clippings from his numerous ocean-to-ocean and Canada-to-Mexico charity rides, and then jumped on the bike and pedaled around. I’m dumbfounded to this day. RIP, Mr. Wooten

26 cr { 11.05.10 at 9:50 pm }

i want to school with wooten at radnor high in radnor pa he was a bully always picking on younger kids for money

27 cr { 11.05.10 at 9:52 pm }

not a nice guy at all he was a real a..hole

28 Kevin G.Wooten { 11.06.10 at 12:05 am }

@CR- I’m sorry my brother bullied kids at Radnor -from the stories he told me he was also beating up some of the teachers,lighting bathrooms on fire and so on…Anything for attention….In his later years, much older and wiser he was the exact opposite of his juvenile alter ego, and wouldn’t hurt a fly…the bike,the parrot, his litte Citroen 2cv…all for the attention he loved so much…we all can change.

29 Old-Friend { 08.30.13 at 4:32 am }

Tom was also a great psychologist. After pushing your buttons and having a few laughs at your expense, he was always willing to hear you out and help if he could (no charge!). To CR, I know he rubbed some people the “wrong way” (pun intended), but if you really got to know him like some of us did, you would bury the hatchet in a heartbeat. He told me many things from his past, and I don’t recall those stories so he must not have been proud of it. Tom was not a phony and his intentions were always for good. Not many of us can stake that claim. I remember when he passed away like it was yesterday, and I still believe it was January of 2003 not 2004 like many people have indicated.

30 Peggy { 05.29.15 at 4:07 pm }

I remember Wrong Way very well. I live in Ardmore and used to see him on his bike and in his car with his bird. We always waved to him and of course he wove back with a smile. I found a picture of him on the internet that I wish I could post here. Fond memories!

31 TR4 { 04.07.16 at 1:03 am }

I remember meeting him as a child… My father owned a high-end specialty automotive shop on RT. 30 in Haverford and used to service his Citroen 2CV. I never saw him on his bike but I Do remember him with his Parrot and as being very funny.

32 Joe { 06.18.16 at 3:50 pm }

If you lived or drovesRt. 30 on main line Philadelphia, you saw WWW either on his bike or in the citron with the macaw standing on the roof. ( via the sunroof)