August 19, 2022

Climbing the dragon: Biker discusses visiting family’s hometown

When Owen Gorman arrived in Newton on Tuesday, he planned on taking a picture at the welcome sign and then hopping back on his back and peddling away, never to look back. However, Gorman couldn’t just ride away. Something beckoned him to stay.

“My mother grew up in Newton,” Gorman said. “We had gone back every year and I had memories of going to my grandfather’s house, going swimming at the country club, and just little bits and pieces of the town.”

“My grandfather died when I was about in second grade and I hadn’t been back since,” Gorman said. “It’s kind of a rite of passage.”

Gorman’s is a part of the Gralnek family, known primarily for the Gralnek-Dunitz Co. scrap yard. Gorman, along with his biking partner/friend Rachel Horn, said he made the most of the trip back to his family’s home town.

“I got to see all of the highlights from my childhood,” Gorman said. “I went to the Maid-Rite and got a sandwich over there and I got to climb on ‘Sir Rust-A-Lot’ at the library.”

Sir Rust-A-Lot is the dragon sculpture at Newton Public Library and Gorman’s mother and her sisters had it commissioned from metals at their father’s scrap yard after he passed, as a final tribute.

“That’s a piece of our family folklore there,” Gorman said. “Sir Rust-A-Lot always comes up in conversations. I got to climb on him again and that was fun.”

In addition, Gorman also visited his grandfather’s scrap yard and was treated to some small-town hospitality courtesy of his mother’s former Newton Senior High School classmate, Bette Knott and her husband, Bob.

“I almost didn’t stay in town,” Gorman said. “I stepped one foot in town and I knew I had to stay. Bette put us up for the night and treated us really well.”

Gorman and Horn are riding their bikes from California to New York for their respective causes. Gorman is doing his ride in support of the Federal Safe Routes to School program and they are hoping to get to New York by late July.

Gorman said that his sister made a similar trip to Newton awhile back, except she drove. He also said his mother was really excited about his visit and kept asking him to send pictures of the town.

With a trip to his family’s old stomping grounds off the bucket list, Gorman mentioned what his favorite part of the whole ride has been.

“The best part has been the people,” Gorman said.

Follow Gorman's journey on his blog:

Staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 426, or at