Gail Gillespie on the Bon Ton Roulet in upstate New York. The trip was a retirement
gift to herself.
No tassels on her handlebars anymore, but Kay Estes still loves flying along on two wheels.
Tell Us ...
In April, we asked you to tell us tell us how your cycling habit began—what did you love most about biking when you were a kid?
Gail Gillespie — Portland, Ore.
I was 36, living near Washington, D.C., when I finally learned to ride. A friend had encouraged me to buy a 21-speed hybrid and helped me with the research. I told the salesman, "You'll have to teach me to ride," and he said, "Oh, gears are no big deal, you'll get used to them very quickly!" When I explained that, gears or no gears, I didn't know how to ride at all, he told me he wouldn't sell me a bike unless I bought a helmet! Nice fellow, he did take me out behind the store* and taught me how to get rolling, a little about shifting, and how to use the brakes.
Several friends then took me under their wing and got me riding. It took me a while to figure out why my face ached after a long ride...until one of my son's friends pointed out that I never stopped smiling, even after a fall!
It's almost 20 years later, and I still love riding, especially as a way to explore a new area. You can see so much more than just walking, and smell and experience so much more than riding in a car. I'm taking as my role models those happy octogenarians I see pedaling along the trails. Life is good! I love the rail-trails!
* The store was Metropolis Bicycles in Shirlington, Va. It is no longer in business.
Kay Estes — Birmingham, Ala.
What I remember most about biking as a kid was the sense of freedom and being able to go anywhere my legs would take me. Did it get any better than flying down a road with the tassels on the handlebars flapping in the wind and just knowing that you were the coolest kid on the block?
Nancy Raney — Ft. Smith, Ark.
This isn't a story about me, it's about my dad. He was an officer in the U.S. Army. He joined when he was 19 and was in the Mounted Cavalry, then Armor. My first memories of biking were with Dad when we lived near The Hague, Netherlands, in the late 1950s. Dad had a little seat he'd attach to the bar in front of his seat, so I would be sitting in front of him between his arms while we went for bike rides.
Many years and many bike rides later, I remember him riding his bike to work when we lived in Fort Hood, Texas. He was the only dad I knew of who rode his bike to work (he was a brigade comander at the time; 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division). There was a long hill with a curve on our street, and I remember him coming around that curve on his bike in his uniform on his way home. Even later, when he had enough rank to have a car and driver, he would walk to work (this was later, in Germany) rather than ride, weather permitting.
Judith and Dennis Kane — Auburn, Mass.
I started biking when I was 7 years old. My grandfather made my first bike out of old pipes. It did not do so well, but it was a start. When I was 9, I received my first and last childhood bike. It was pure freedom, it was physical challenge, it was transportation to church. It was joy. Since I am now almost 70 years old and still biking thousands of miles each year, thanks be to God, I am sure that this childhood start was instrumental in my becomming an avid biker as an adult, after I raised my children.
For most of the last 30 years, my husband and I have been involved in all kinds of biking, from speed, to mountain, to city, and back to mountain bikes, as well as a try with recumbant bikes when my old back gave out for a while. We have belonged to two different biking organizations, the Worcester 7-Hills Wheelmen and the Wachusett Greenways. In between, we have worked for state parks in Vermont and state forests in Florida as volunteers. On the job, and in all of our off time at those locations, we have biked on the job and off since 1993. We have discovered history, old trails and old gravel roads in Vermont. In Florida, we are on the 47-mile Withlacoochee State Trail volunteering at the state forest. We actually bike on this trail every day for four or five months, using bikes as our only transportation and recreation, on the job as well as off. Our vacations are always planned on rail-trails, comming and going to Florida, as well as during the spring, summer and fall. This summer, we plan to participate in our first bike tour, the Michigander. I would have to say that without a doubt biking is our main purpose in living. It keeps us going, keeps us in touch with other people, and helps to keep us as young as children all over again. It is so healthfull.
I remember one weekend on Cape Cod when we apparently crashed a party held by David Burwell's mother to promote rail-trails [Burwell was the first president of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy]. It was at that happenchance time, when Mrs. Burwell spoke to us, and we looked at all the posters and photos on the walls, and all the celebrities, that we said, "Boy, we really don't belong here, but we do fit right in."
William Tucker — New York, N.Y.
My first experience with serious biking was in college. I attended an urban school in the Boston area and purchased a three-speed, which I outfitted with racing handlebars. I used it for commuting to distant classrooms but mainly for late-night excursions in and around Boston, usually alone. It became a kind of meditation and relief from the pressure of studying. Cars were not always bicycle-friendly in those days (1960s). Once, I was astonished to see a cab driver swerve to HIT me. Fortunately, he missed, but I did take a few tumbles over open car doors at other times.
I gave up biking after college but resumed it when I attended law school more than a decade later in Oregon, where bike trails were plentiful. I purchased a used 10-speed road bike there in 1980 which I still own (in Oregon, bumpers are a must if you want to avoid the "skunk" look, but I've long since jettisoned them as I now live in New York City). My only other acquisition was another used 10-speed bike I picked up for about $100 a few years ago. In the past five to 10 years, my wife and I frequently ride together, and it's a great delight for both of us. We've vacationed on Cape Cod the past few years, and it's hard to believe but we find the bike trail there is often more attractive to us than the beach.