Cynthia Smith on her favorite pathway, the Withlacoochee State Trail.
J.K. and wife Stephanie near Lake Erie
on the Buckeye Trail.
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More Trail Tales
In the Fall 2008 issue of Rails to Trails, we asked our readers: Has a rail-trail changed your life? For one reader, discovering a rail-trail led her to sell her home and move next to the pathway to enjoy the riding lifestyle and trail community. And for another, a routine trip to the trail introduced him—via a near collision—to his future wife.
For both, cycling and exploring trails has become a rewarding, lifelong passion.
Cynthia Smith of Floral City, Fla., writes:
In 2004, I was a 50-something woman with two grown daughters. Any morning there was enough daylight before work, I rode my Cannondale R800 down the A1A Scenic & Historic Coastal Byway in Flagler County, Fla. All that changed in October of that year, when a group of folks from the Daytona Bicycle Club planned a trip to Floral City, Fla., to ride the 46-mile Withlacoochee State Trail. Three days of meditative riding through small towns, pastures, forests and cypress swamps later, and I was hooked. I left my job, sold my beach house, and moved lock, stock, barrel and three bikes to live by and ride the trail.
The adjustment from bohemian beach town to rural small town is still in progress, but every day I am sure this trail has changed my life in a most positive way. I have been blessed with a challenging part-time position facilitating training classes for Publix Supermarkets, which allows me the flexibility to enjoy this trail and the wonderful people who live here. I would love a snowbird of my own to share this with, but I am grateful to say, "I am not doing everything I would like to do, but I am not doing anything I don't want to do." This rail-trail moved me to semi-retire in my 50s and truly do what I love.
J.K. Byrne of Garrettsville, Ohio., writes:
To say a bike trail changed my life is an understatement. In the spring of 1968 I bought a new 10-speed Peugeot road bike (for $98!) in order to ride the C&O Canal towpath out of Georgetown in Washington, D.C. In those days, the towpath trail was open as far as Cumberland, Md., but mud and tree roots made it slow going in places.
On my way to the trail from an apartment in Arlington, Va., one day, I was riding through Arlington National Cemetery. The lady who would become my wife was walking down the road, and I literally almost ran into her. As they say, the rest is history.
One of our first purchases as a married couple was a 10-speed bike for her. Thirty-nine years and three daughters later, we ride a da Vinci tandem and are members of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. We ride our local rail-trail in northeast Ohio as well as the many trails throughout Ohio and Pennsylvania. We are chipping away at the 1,400-mile Buckeye Trail that circumnavigates Ohio.
Would I be riding a bike today had I not taken that path through Arlington? Perhaps. But had the C&O Canal towpath not been there, I would not have bought the Peugeot, and I certainly would not have ridden through Arlington National Cemetery that unforgettable day when my wife was out walking.