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  Jeter completes her birthday ride © Katherine Jeter
Jeter completes her 70-mile birthday ride.
She felt so good at the end, she says she could have ridden another 30 miles.


The whole crew at the start of the ride © Jacquie Hawkins
The whole crew at the start of the ride.

A Call for Voices

Do you know someone we should consider for a "Trail Voices" profile? If so, please e-mail Karl Wirsing at karl@railstotrails.org with a brief description and contact information for your nominee.

Selected interviews are published on the Web site the first of each month and e-mailed to subscribers of our eNews.

Check out the archives to read previous Trail Voices profiles.


More Information
Jeter has close personal ties to the charities her ride will benefit. The Yellow Ribbon Fund helps pay local travel and accommodation expenses for wounded veterans being treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., which has assisted Marine 1st Lt. Andrew Kinard, a family friend who had both legs amputated while serving in Iraq in 2006.

Jack's Place, a cancer caring house in Edwards, Colo., provides housing for patients at the nearby Shaw Regional Cancer Center—where Jeter was successfully treated for breast cancer several years ago.
 
Trail Voices: Katherine Jeter:
70-7
0-70 and Counting

Cycling 70 miles in one day is an achievement. Cycling 70 miles at age 70 is even more impressive. But Dr. Katherine Jeter planned to up the ante by cycling 70 miles on her 70th birthday in order to raise $70,000 for charity—all on Ohio's Little Miami Scenic Trail.
 
About two years ago, Jeter, who lives with her husband, John, in Spartanburg, S.C., began considering meaningful ways to mark her 70th birthday on October 25, 2008. "She's an active girl," John says, noting that she had already swum across the lake and back that morning. He says she's known as the "Silver Tornado" for her snow-white hair, physical drive and risk-taking nature.
 
Katherine Jeter realized that neither swimming nor skiing—two of her favorite activities—could provide quite the scope of accomplishment she sought for her 70th. When a friend suggested she dust off her old Trek in the garage and shoot for the 70-70-70 feat, her competitive fires lit up.
 
At first she had her doubters. After all, Jeter had virtually no cycling experience at the beginning of her training. "I didn't know a seat from a saddle," she says. Then she called Van Epps, a longtime friend and cyclist who lost a leg in an accident in his 20s and had given up cycling. At Jeter's urging, he agreed to coach her and took up another form of cycling himself—using a handcycle. "Now I have this guy riding his handcycle 120 to 180 miles a week," Jeter says. "I could never have done this without him. I wouldn't have known where to start."
 
Epps was not among the skeptics. "Katherine is very, very athletic and strong-willed," he says. "She has more energy than any other human being I know. I can't keep up with her." He coached Jeter on everything from learning to eat on the bike to pumping up hills. And through their partnership, Epps rediscovered his own love of cycling.
 
Jeter's next step was to kick-start her fundraising drive. Writing letters to friends and press contacts, Jeter had raised $42,000 by August and collected more than a dozen commitments from other riders, including Epps, to pedal with her. The most challenging task proved to be selecting the route. But after riding on the
Virginia Creeper Trail in southwestern Virginia, she knew a rail-trail would be the way to go. She settled on the paved Little Miami Scenic Trail—not more than a day's drive from Spartanburg—which has a rather fitting length of 72 miles.
 
As the day of the ride approached, the weather forecast wasn't promising around the trail. The day before, in fact, looked about as cold, wet and unpleasant for a ride as Jeter could have imagined. "I have to tell you, the weather that Friday was so horrible," she says. "It rained, it blew, it was cold. The clouds were about eight feet off the ground. But we woke up to bright sunshine Saturday morning."
 
As it happened, everything came together rather perfectly. "The ride was spectacular, and everybody who rode it—and there were a number of really seasoned riders—said it was the prettiest trail they'd ever been on," she says. "That was unanimous."
 
She also exceeded expectations for company and ended up pedaling with 21 of her closest friends and immediate family, including Epps, as well as three other late joiners. "Van made it all the way and finished strong," Jeter says. She too enjoyed the fruits of her training and sailed through the day. "My husband and I had thought the last 10 miles of the ride would be the most difficult. In fact, I'm sure I could have ridden another 30 if it hadn't gotten dark."
 
What struck her the most, though, was that she managed to blow away her initial goal and raise $86,333 for her two charities, the Yellow Ribbon Fund and Jack's Place. "It started out as a physical feat," she says. "I don't have cancer anymore, I'm going to be 70! But it ended up being an enormous spiritual pilgrimage."
 
Jeter is still beaming from the experience, and she says she's completely hooked on cycling. Indeed, she's already planning her next adventure—a century ride within the coming year or two, possibly on Georgia's
Silver Comet Trail.
 
*This is an update to a story that appeared in the Winter 2009 issue of Rails to Trails magazine.

 

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