Can transportation be a lifestyle? Paul Herburger thinks so

Paul-and-DebPaul Herburger is always going somewhere. From patrol car to bicycle-built-for-two to dragon boat, transportation shapes just about every aspect of Iowa DOT Motor Vehicle Officer Herburger’s life.

Herburger, a 28-year veteran of the Iowa DOT, and his wife, Deborah, are very active people. Part of their active lifestyle is spent with friends in a tandem bicycle club in Dubuque. On July 11, the Herburgers were riding their bicycle-built-for-two with six other tandem teams on Rockdale Road in Dubuque. The street lived up to its name and a rock punctured the front tire, sending the Herburgers tumbling down the hilly road.

“We hit hard on the right side and then slid about 40 feet on black top. We slid into a merge lane and past a stop sign,” said Herburger. “We were very lucky there wasn’t any traffic at the intersection.”

Luckily, a nurse and doctor were first on the scene. The nurse attended to Paul and the doctor to Deborah, whose shoe was still hooked into the bicycle pedal. “We were both pretty weak and disoriented. Being in law enforcement, I have friends on the fire department and ambulance crew. I was glad to see them arrive so quickly, and knew we were in great hands,” said Herburger.

Once the couple arrived at the hospital, doctors determined that Paul had fractured his pelvis. Deborah, whose glasses had caused a cut above her eye, injured her shoulder. “Later they found a fracture in her pelvis, too,” said Herburger. 

Herburger and his team in the dragon boat

So the long road to recovery began. But Herburger really didn’t have time to wait out a long recovery. “I am on a dragon boat racing team that was scheduled to go to Italy for a competition the end of August. I really didn’t have time to just sit around and wait to heal,” said Herburger.

So the couple decided to attack the healing process. “We live a pretty healthy lifestyle and I think that helped,” said Herburger. “I did everything I could to meet the goal to be back to work Aug. 1, even though the doctors were unsure that I could do it. I love what I do and I wanted to get back to it as soon as possible. Through chiropractic medicine, massage, and acupuncture, along with traditional medicine, we healed in record time. We had a lot of help along the way and I thank all the people who helped us.”

With a lot of hard work and determination, Herburger returned to work three weeks after the crash.  His love of transportation, both on and off duty also pushed him to continue his training paddling a dragon boat. “I have been paddling dragon boats for about 25 years and I needed to get back in shape to be able to complete. With the dragon boat, the stroke rate is about 85 strokes a minute. That’s a lot of twisting,” he said. “You can imagine that’s not very comfortable when your pelvis is fractured.”

Ravenna, ItalyCCWC2
On the medal stand in Italy

Six weeks after the crash the Herburgers, along with 32 teammates of the dragon boat family, were in Italy competing internationally. The 98 teams in the competition included paddlers from 29 nations. The Senior “A” team the Herburgers were a part of took home two gold medals, one in the 500 meters and one in the 2,000 meters. Herburger’s other teammates took home two bronze medals in the 500 and 2,000 meter ‘short boat’ or 10-person dragon boat. “We had a great time and it was a really impressive finish considering the circumstances of the weeks leading up to the competition,” said Herburger.

Courage, determination and a passion for getting where they need to go are just a few of the qualities of Paul Herburger and many other DOTers show every day, both on and off the job.


Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Have a comment?


©  Iowa Department of Transportation.  All rights reserved.