Beverly Allyn's with her "fairy grandchildren" (left to right): Cristina, Noemi and Cristian.
Ginger and Orvin Grenden with their cycling friends at a stop in Budapest.
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More Trail Tales
For the Winter 2009 issue of Rails to Trails, we asked our readers: How do you play on a rail-trail?
One reader says she's become a "fairy grandmother" to a friend's children, riding with them on a neighbhorhood trail in New York. Another couple re-discovered bicycling while living in Germany, and they now join friends to ride together on rail-trails around the country. And a third reader recalls how cycling has meant freedom to him since an early age. For all three, playing on rail-trails has helped them stay young and active.
Beverly Allyn of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., writes:
My friend Claudia has the greatest kids. I've spent a lot of time with her family over the years and have become a "fairy grandmother" to them. They live in Poughkeepsie, and the children—Cristina, Cristian and Noemi—learned to ride bikes in empty parking lots in the evenings. When they were 5, 7 and 9, I wanted to share my love of bicycling with them, so I took them to the Hudson Valley Rail Trail.
This trail is only a few miles away, but a whole other world compared with the city neighborhood the kids knew. As we rode through the woods, they asked, "Is this nature?" We found lots to explore and no cross streets to worry about. We checked out the caboose parked at the trailhead, then took the stairway down to explore the creatures in the stream. We saw several chipmunks scooting through the woods. The trail is less than two miles in length, but back and forth made our first visit nearly four miles.
We've been back several times. We always bring a picnic to eat at Tony Williams Park after we build up our appetites (Cristian loves my deviled eggs). This summer their father bought a bike, and the whole family rode there every week. Every time I see them, they say, "Let's go ride our bikes on the Chipmunk Trail!"
Ginger Grenden of Tewksbury, Mass., writes:
In the early 1980s, my husband Orvin and I went to Germany, where he worked for a few years. While we were there, we took up biking with three other couples, all of us in our 50s. None of us had biked since we were children, yet we biked as a group over much of Europe during the next few years. In 1988, we returned to the United States, where we discovered that rail-trails were cropping up all over the country.
We can't do them all, but we are trying. In 1994 my husband and I strapped the bikes to the car and drove cross-country from Massachusetts to Washington, stopping every other day to spend the day biking on a local rail-trail. Then we repeated the exercise on the return trip with a more southerly route. Stopovers were all preplanned.
Our biking friends also returned to the United States. Their homes are located in New York and Florida. All of us are retired now, but we still meet once or twice a year for a week of biking on rail-trails. We take turns selecting the trail and making lodging arrangements. We have met in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New York, New Jersey, Washington, D.C., South Carolina, Florida, Massachusetts and Connecticut. We look forward to the next Rails to Trails magazine for inspiration. Biking keeps us young.
Andrew Shimshock of Lacy, Wash., writes:
From an early age, biking to me meant freedom. When I was too young to drive, this two-wheeled machine could take me places. My best friend and I would cycle miles every day during the summers to get to places too far to go on foot.
Now quite a bit older, I have an old Raleigh racing bike I bought for $33 off my brother. I love riding it all over the Olympia-Lacey-Tumwater area in Washington on rail-trails, with the Chehalis Western Trail being my favorite. I love the quiet solitude of the tree-lined trails winding by farms, lakes and rivers. Though I bike alone most of the time, I enjoy taking out-of-town guests and relatives for rides away from the car and city noise.
To me, rail-trails not only change individual lives but the lives of all those in the community who love to walk or ride. And it's not just for those cycling or on foot. My nephew's girlfriend gets out there on her horse. Heck, I even trade my bike for inline skates once in a while.