Seen on a Rail-Trail:
Jeff Doppelt, at right, poses with Lance Armstrong as they hold a previous photo of themselves in Rails to Trails magazine.
RTC's Jeff Ciabotti, at right, spent a day riding with Greg LaMond, second from left, as part of the 2000 Face of America ride.
In November, we asked you to tell us about the most famous people you've ever seen on a rail-trail. One response came from a long-time trail enthusiast who went to great lengths to see—and meet—a cycling icon for the second time. Other responses came from random celebrity sightings on local pathways, or from an RTC staff member who got to ride with a former Tour de France winner. Enjoy these stories of rail-trails and the high-profile personalities they attract.
Jack Welch —
My guess for the most famous person would have been Anthony Quinn, who moved to Rhode Island several years ago but has since passed away. He was a frequent walker with his family on the East Bay Bicycle Path, a former rail line converted to a 14-mile trail which will be extended considerably next year. He often strolled the path with his family and would engage in small talk with bikers.
Jeff Ciabotti — Washington, D.C.
In the spring of 2000 I had the great fortune to pedal all day in a foursome with Greg LeMond, the first American to win the Tour de France. As part of the Face of America ride hosted by World Team Sports (WTS) and sponsored by RTC, this cross-country ride brought together exceptional able-bodied and disabled athletes from around the world to demonstrate the power of determination and teamwork in overcoming great challenges. The personal physical challenges I saw play out were extraordinary.
Greg, who is a board member and supporter of WTS, rode with us to Chicago on a day that included a number of rail-trails. His upbeat personality, riding tips and commitment to the cause made the day fly by. He laughed off several attempts to "engage" him in a race, always reminding us why we were there. But every once in a while we'd see a short burst of speed that reminded us of his world-class credentials. It was an excellent day riding for an important purpose, and Greg was part of our team.
Rich Monterosso — West Hartford, Conn.
During a recent summer, I spotted Senator Bernie and Mrs. Sanders with their bikes on the Island Line Rail Trail in Vermont. They were on the bike ferry, which runs on weekends in August connecting sections of the three-mile causeway between Colcester and South Hero, Vt. (north of Burlington).
Bill Blessing — Leawood, Kan.
In the 1990s my family was hiking just off the C&O Canal towpath on the Goat Rocks trail near Great Falls, Md., and we passed Judge Bork, who was then a controversial Supreme Court nominee.
Tony Barrett — Harpswell, Maine
While walking on the Hudson River Greenway in Manhattan, I passed Whoopi Goldberg on skates. Whoopi was accompanied by what looked like a bodyguard (he was big and burly). She had earphones and seemed to be enjoying a cruise down the trail just like everyone else.
Jeff Doppelt — Great Neck, N.Y.
As if it wasn't enough to bump into Lance Armstrong in the men's room of a New York City hotel after we had both been profiled in Rails to Trails magazine, our next meeting took a lot of luck and persistence on my part.
When I first met Lance, we had our picture taken as we each held the issues of the magazine that had featured us. That photo then appeared in the Spring 2007 issue of Rails to Trails. At the time, RTC President Keith Laughlin had joked that I should try to get another photo with Lance, except this time we'd both be holding the magazines with our previous photo—a picture of us with the pictures of us.
Then, this past November, I was invited by my firm Merrill Lynch to the Managed Solutions Group seminar in Orlando, Fla. After reviewing the list of guest speakers, I was shocked to see that Lance Armstrong would be one of them. Suddenly, Keith's joke was becoming a distinct possibility. I made several enlargements of our original picture, got several copies of the magazines in which we had been profiled, and I headed down to Florida for the convention.
Upon arriving in Florida, I was told by Lance's sponsor that his talk would be at the end of the day on Monday. The Ritz Carlton Hotel did a marvelous job in securing his safety, and he appeared in the large conference room from a side door on an inside wall near the head of the room. Prior to Lance's arrival, attendees were mulling around the outside of the conference room hoping to get an autograph or a sneak peek at this phenomenal athlete. I had my pictures and magazines ready but started getting the feeling that this was not going to be easy.
At the conclusion of Lance's talk, my worst fears were realized. Lance quickly disappeared behind the same inside door he entered, and two hotel security guards immediately blocked the entrance. Despite my pleas and displaying the magazine with our picture, the security guards were given strict orders not to let anyone pass. It seemed that the opportunity was lost. I walked out of the conference room to the hall and started to think where he could possibly exit the hotel. But even if I found him, there would not be a photographer, so at best I could give him copies of the magazine I was sure he had never seen. After about 10 minutes, I walked back into the conference room and discovered the security guards were gone and the doorway was free to enter.
I walked inside and found myself in a big kitchen between conference rooms. I asked a few workers if they knew which way Lance Armstrong had gone, and they took me to the chef, who walked me through the kitchen, through another conference room, into another hallway and pointed me to a door. In fact, what very few people were aware of, including myself, was that Lance's sponsor had arranged a short private reception after his talk. However, once again the door was manned by a security guard with a list of allowed attendees, of which I was not one.
Going through my routine again, I showed him the picture of me and Lance and telling him that Lance knows me. Of course, he really doesn't, but it was starting to work. The guard made some radio contact, and several minutes later miraculously told me I could enter five minutes before Lance was to leave. Finally, my moment came. They let me in, but they were apprehensive to allow me near Lance. Once again, I showed them my picture and finally I got the okay to proceed.
Surprisingly, Lance was just standing there all alone (I guess everyone in the room had already gotten their autographs and pictures taken). I walked up to him and I said, "Do you remember me? Let me show you something. You see this picture? It goes to 100,000 members across the country." I pointed to the photo of us and said, "This is you and this is me. I brought you some copies of your profile as well as this magazine." Lance's business manager came by to take the copies since both were somewhat surprised to see these pictures. I told Lance that RTC is a great organization because it provides a place for recovering cancer victims to exercise in a safe and controlled environment. I told Lance that there were some great articles on new and future trails in the magazine with our picture, and that he would enjoy reading about them on his trip back to Texas.
I then told Lance I had one more request. "Can we take another picture together for potential use in the magazine?" I asked him. His reply, "Let's do it." I got a little scared when I was asked if I had a camera, because I didn't. However, a professional photographer in attendance (thank you, Marc Auster) took the picture. Afterwards, I asked Lance if he would autograph the enlargement (which he graciously did right across the spot where he was holding his profile). As I walked out I asked Lance and his business manager if we could use this photo in another magazine issue, and they both (almost as if rehearsed) said a resounding "yes." Getting the picture from the photographer later was all I had left to worry about, but I received it by December. What a story.