As the years mount up for me, I get more and more interested in seeing how many older folks are remaining active on their bicycles.
One example is Jerry and Shirley Smith, who at 73 and 72, respectively, are riding a tandem on a cross-country bike tour that roughly follows the Northern Tier bicycle route.
Cyclists on that route all know about the beauty and hardships of crossing the Cascades and Rockies. This year, heavy rain, high wind and record heat has been added to the mix.
That’s no different for the Newton, Kansas, couple who are plowing through it all to raise money for Shriners Hospitals for Children.
Jerry chose the Shriners after they helped him as a child. According to the Fond Du Lac Reporter, Jerry was born with two club feet and his parents were told he would never walk.
Less than a year old, Jerry started treatments at a South Carolina Shriners facility. They’re responsible for his ability to walk, finish school, join the Navy and get a job.
Taking up bicycling for exercise some 25 years ago, Jerry has ridden his bike in 4/5’s of the states. His wife accompanies him on rides now; her first big ride was from Oregon back to Kansas.
The two left Anacortes, Washington, on May 25 and hope to arrive in Maine in August.
People seem to open their arms to these two cyclists; their journal at CrazyGuyOnABike.org is replete with anecdotes about people lending a hand.
After their rear hub blew out in Wisconsin, for instance, they were marooned for several days at a motel until a new wheel arrived. The motel owner’s family made sure they had rides to and from the restaurant in town, and they befriended other motel guests.
After one newspaper wrote of their exploits, a reader chased them down in her car the next day to hand them a check for their fund-raiser. They’re trying to raise $10,000.
There’s certainly a lesson for the rest of us in the Smith’s bicycle travels: You’re never too old to hop on your bike and head off down the road for the adventure of your life.