RENO – The cars come by and honk horns; people wave from the vehicles racing along Pyramid Highway near Sparks just before the heavy morning rush hour.
Bruce Osgood, 72, is picking up trash along the highway between Queen Way and the Walmart store, a six-mile round trip, and sometimes from Queen Way to Eagle Canyon Boulevard, a 12-mile round trip.
It’s something he’s been doing four days a week since shortly after he suffered his second stroke in three years in 2011.
A black sedan rolls by, giving him a long honk.
“She’s one of my regulars,” Osgood said, waving back to the car. “No matter where I am, she will honk.”
Osgood’s effort to boost his health with exercise while cleaning a stretch of Pyramid Highway has drawn national attention from wire services and some national press and made him a bit of a local celebrity.
He said he’s not doing it for the attention , but jokes that if he picked up trash on a highway from Reno to New York City, “I’d probably make the cover of People magazine.”
Osgood said he’s just glad to volunteer and keep the highway clean.
His fans praise him for not being self-absorbed, and one admirer, Gina Hinckley, who often passes Osgood on the way to work, said, “he makes me feel guilty.”
“I can barely clean my own yard, let alone everyone else’s load,” she said with a laugh. “And he does the hiking every day, and I can barely do a half an hour on my treadmill without complaining.”
Hinckley said the road looks clean and nice, “and it’s literally because of him.”
Going out for long treks is not new for Osgood.
About 20 years ago, he rode his bike across Nevada from California to Utah. He said he stopped in Eureka for two or three hours to sleep but completed his journey in 32 hours and 10 minutes.
Osgood left the insurance business to become a cabdriver, which he believed would give him more time and flexibility for his physical activity.
“But as a cabdriver, I was sittin’ all day,” said the Massachusetts native, who moved to Southern California in the early 1950s.
After he had moved to Sparks, he said he hiked from his house off Queen Way, where he’s lived since 1971, to Mount Rose.
“I was going to try and do it in one day from 12:01 Sunday morning and get back 11:59 p.m. Sunday night,” Osgood recalled. “But I chickened out and didn’t leave until 2 a.m. and I got back 1:24 the next morning, so I did it in less than 24 hours, and it’s about 70 miles.”
Osgood began hiking Pyramid Highway to train for bigger feats, like hiking Mount Whitney and the Tahoe Rim Trail, but after suffering from two strokes in the past few years, his Pyramid journeys now serve as his pathway to a healthy life.
He said he doesn’t consider his four-times-a-week sojourn from Queen Way to the Walmart picking up trash a challenge. Osgood even does the trip in the winter.
“The only thing that keeps me away is snow,” Osgood said. “Because if there’s two inches or more of snow on the ground, it covers up my trash.”
He always tries to find unusual debris on the side of the highway. One morning he turned up a five-gallon water bottle, license plate, car bumper and a note under a rock thanking him for his service.
“People stop and give me thank-you cards, notes,” he said.
Osgood said he was contacted by the Sparks City Council about receiving recognition for his efforts, but he declined.
He’s more pleased that his wife, Diane, is proud of him.
“She knows it’s good exercise and keeps me fit both physically and mentally,” Osgood said.