Just learned the sad news that June Curry, the “Cookie Lady,” died on Monday at age 91.
This wonderful lady was the personal friend to the thousands of touring bicyclists who passed through Afton, Virginia, on the Trans America Bicycle Route since its inception in 1976. The walls of her home were papered with postcards that bicyclists sent from their travels.
Although she had health complications in recent years, she did her best to keep the Bike House open on the steep road that leads up and over the Blue Ridge Parkway. Others came to help her with the house for bicyclists because of her disabilities, but she was able to live at home nearly to the end.
I had the pleasure of meeting her in 1984 and again in 2000.
The first time my friend Bruce and I were struggling up that 5-mile climb under full cross-country touring gear. We stopped at a hand-painted sign “Water for Bike Rides” on a post that had an old rusted bicycle leaning against it and a hose coiled at the bottom.
We were going to tank up and trudge off, but a woman came charging out of the house and introduced herself as the Cookie Lady. She already was well-known in the bike community through word-of-mouth and to the world at-large when she was featured by Charles Kuralt’s “On the Road” series.
She invited inside the shade of her house, where the walls were literally papered with postcards from traveling bicyclists. We rested up, talked for awhile (she passed along some useful information), and looked at her photo albums. She had hundreds, maybe thousands, of polaroids — sorted by year — of bicyclists posing at the bicycle sign. As we left, June took our picture at the water sign. I felt that snapshot gave us the prestige of TransAmerican bicyclist immortality.
Jump ahead 16 years and I’m riding in Bike Virginia. The route took us over Rockfish Gap on the way to Charlottesville. On the way downhill a sign pointed to Afton. I veered off that way to see if the Cookie Lady was still there. As I coasted into the collection of buildings that is Afton, I saw the sign and the post with a hose and a bicycle leaning against it. I knocked on the door and out comes June Curry, just as warm and friendly as 16 years ago.
Inside, the walls were covered with more postcards, if that’s possible. She said that she regularly correspond with the bicyclists and told me some of their stories. You’d think she was talking about her children.
We talked for a while and she fed me some cookies and lemonade. Then she took another Polaroid of me for the 2000 album.
Whenever I talk to people about my cross-country bicycle ride, the Cookie Lady always comes up in the conversation. She’s a prime example of the interesting people you meet while bicycling and how many people are willing to help bicyclists.
The Adventure Cycling Association created the June Curry Trail Angel Award several years ago to recognize those who lend a hand to traveling bicyclists. I can think of no greater honor for her.