Gary Yaker sporting the 2004
RTC bicycle jersey.
Kathleen Pagan, helmeted as always, overlooks some Florida prairie just off the Gainesville-Hawthorne State Park Trail.
Diane Kjeldsen, with her trusty basket, and husband Erik along the C&O Canal
towpath in Maryland.
More Trail Tales
For the Fall 2010 issue of Rails to Trails, we asked our readers: What does your trail or bicycle gear say about you?
Gary Yaker of Tampa, Fla., writes:
In 2001, my wife and I retired to Tampa, Fla. Up north, I was a hiker. But I soon discovered the Withlacoochee State Trail just north of Tampa. I used my wife's recreational bike for several months to see if this was what I wanted to do as a retiree. After cycling the Withlacoochee, I changed my mantra from "hike on" to "pedal on."
I purchased two bikes, one for everyday use and one for distance riding. I decided to attempt a century ride in 2007. This was going to be a special event for me, so I wanted to select a special shirt for my century attempt. I chose the 2004 Rails-to-Trails Conservancy bike jersey. I felt it represented me best. Right knee surgery in my 50's meant I had to keep chugging along like the trains of "old." Twelve hours later and sore to the bone, I completed my century.
I then completed two more wearing my RTC jersey. Each time its sentimentality grew. At 63, my knee has become too much of a limiting factor to attempt more centuries on the Withlacoochee. I've permanently retired the 2004 shirt and fondly recall the three centuries we did together. Unless, of course, I give Brett Favre a call to see what he thinks about a fourth century.
Kathleen Pagan of Gainesville, Fla., writes:
When I can head out after work on Fridays to the Gainesville-Hawthorne State Park Trail in Florida, I always wear a helmet. Even in the 90-plus degree Florida summers, if I ride a bike I wear a helmet. Some of my good friends—a group of 50- to 60-year-old trail riders—bike without a helmet, but I guess I'm not too concerned with my hair "blowin' in the wind." It is not just crash protection I seek, but in the Florida wildlands—and Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park along the rail-trail is one area left in north Florida that is wild—head gear wards off ticks. In Florida, insects still invade our personal space, and this is one peril of the prairie. As Tolkien wrote, "there is danger at the edge of the wild."
When I ride my bicycle, I can experience the wild close up and personal, and the helmet keeps my head safe if a deer darts in front of my path at sunset, or a snake slithers across the trail. And since when I ride my bike I often find I do my best thinking, I want to protect my thought process center. As locals here say, "See you 'round the prairie!"
Diane Kjeldsen of Amherst, Mass., writes:
My favorite piece of biking gear was a gift from my Danish mother-in-law, Helga, almost 30 years ago. It was her much-loved wicker biking basket that she brought over in the 1950s. I have used it constantly all these years.
It has been on countless trips: from the P'tit Train du Nord in Canada to Hilton Head in South Carolina; from Castine, Maine, to the Erie Canal, C&O Canal towpath and many others. The basket would have gone on the biking trip along the Danube, but it didn't fit in my suitcase very well.
My basket has held countless picnic lunches, berries and corn from roadside stands, and many groceries. Once, a woman in a pickup truck drove beside me and asked where I got my basket, and I'm often asked the same thing by people along the bike trail. But the one thing my basket has not held are the little dogs the Danes often take in their baskets. Our cat doesn't think much of that idea.
Over the years, my basket and I have seen some wear and tear. There was the encounter with a pothole that got the better of both of us. I got some metal pins in my elbow, and my basket got some fancy weaving to hold it together for a bit longer. Eventually, though, we both mended enough to ride again.
It pleases me to have the memory of that lovely lady along with us whenever my husband and I set out for a ride. Thank you, Helga.