Last year we had one opportunity to participate in an adaptive biking program in the Blackstone Valley. Thanks to the generosity of the MADCR Universal Access Program, which funded these rides, 5 different dates in May 2019 have been made available to area residents who might want to take advantage of getting out on a bike regardless of one’s capabilities. Registration is required. To register for the remaining rides in May, call 413-584-2052.
In the past we have had participants who are visually impaired, mobility impaired, cognitively impaired, injured (temporarily impaired) or simply weakened with age. Our second event of May 2019 included folks with many of these challenges, and took place at the Blackstone Greenway, which invited folks to enjoy the stunning scenery along the trail, one of my very favorite outdoor spots for biking.
Volunteers, including Heritage Corridor VIPs, (full disclosure–I am a VIP 😉 ), folks from Millbury Federal Credit Union, Seven Hills Wheelmen, participants, and Blackstone Heritage Corridor staff gathered at 93 Canal Street, Blackstone, where MADCR Universal Access and All Out Adventures staff pulled up with vans full of adaptive bikes suited for almost any person’s needs. For many of us, it was not our first time volunteering, and even though the location was differently set up than where we met in Worcester last week, the routine was pretty close to the same.
“I think they need some help unloading the bikes,” one volunteered noted, and several volunteers soon headed over to lend a hand to the staff who had brought the bikes.
The registration table folks had gotten a well managed system down pat the past week, and set up registration forms with little extra guidance needed from those in charge.
Soon bikes in every shape and size lined the bike path, and volunteers from Seven Hills Wheelmen, and Heritage Corridor Bikeway Ambassadors stepped up to be paired with those needing a helping hand piloting their bikes. Other volunteers brought friends with them, and once the first group of riders were registered, the parade was ready to process.
I love to point out to those interested that this portion of the bikeway is spectacular for many reasons, the first being the 8 bridges that cross traffic as well as multiple twists and turns of the Blackstone River, on its way to Millville and Uxbridge. Riders can stop to take in the views, enjoy the ease of crossing roads without the worry of tangling with traffic, and enjoy the sunshine.
Yes, it was one of those perfect days in spring, dry after a period of almost constant rain, and not so hot so as to make life uncomfortable. Goldilocks could not have asked for a more “just right” day.
Heritage Corridor Volunteer coordinator Suzanne Buchanan provided lots of extras, including a tent for shade when needed, water, snacks, chairs, and tons of energy and enthusiasm. She also piloted down the bikeway a Sun tandem bicycle, with me on the back, a twin to the bike my husband and I own and have enjoyed for a number of years. Its foot-forward design and beachcruiser frame have made this a great adaptive bike for us. And no, I own no stock in the company!
Suzanne and I joined a parade of seniors from St. Camillus Health Center of Whitinsville who had come to the bikeway and gamely climbed onto various bikes we had waiting for them. Some seniors were excited, saying they had never been on a bike. Others confessed that they were frightened of falling as they were transferred from wheelchairs to the recumbent tandems waiting for them. When I checked after the ride, every single senior had a huge smile on her face. And the woman who had been most frightened? “I had a wonderful time. I was brave,” she told me. Would she do do it again? “Oh, yes!”
And for some, it was a family event, multiple generations enjoyed time outdoors and on the trail.
At the turn around spot in Millville, additional volunteers waited for riders to arrive. At the snack table there was fruit and cheese, courtesy of Cabot Cheese, which donated the cheese snacks for riders and other attendees.
Adding incredible color to the day was Tina Guenette Pedersen, Ms. Wheelchair Rhode Island 2018, who not only took a spin on an adaptive bike, she also spent the rest of the day zooming about the gathering area. In her motorized wheelchair, which comes complete with a sparkly crown on the headrest of her chair, Pedersen took videos throughout the event. She also transferred out of her wheelchair into a handcycle and recorded portions of her outing, which she posted on her Youtube channel.
Our very own “Bark Ranger,” Rocksie, made friends wherever she went during the event. The smiles said it all. A magical time on the trail. Happy trails!
Marjorie Turner Hollman is a personal historian who loves the outdoors, and has completed three guides to Easy Walking trails in Massachusetts, “Easy Walks in Massachusetts 2nd edition,” “More Easy Walks in Massachusetts,” and edited “Easy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed.” A native Floridian, she came north for college and snow! Marjorie is a Certified Legacy Planner with LegacyStories.org, and is the producer of numerous veterans interviews for the Bellingham/Mendon Veteran’s History Project. http://www.marjorieturner.com