Perhaps you have noticed we’ve been talking a lot about adaptive biking when you check in here. For the month of May, it’s been at the top of my “to do” list. You see, I am not only a National Park Volunteer with the Blackstone Heritage Corridor (VIP), I am also a participant in these adaptive biking events. There is still time to participate in the last two events, but you must register. To register for the remaining rides in May, call 413-584-2052.
Until my husband and I discovered a foot-forward tandem bike I could ride with his support, I was relegated to sitting on the sidelines when biking was on the agenda for others around me. My right leg and foot have little muscle control. My balance is not great. But the day we climbed aboard a rental Sun foot-forward tandem bike, I was able to see where my foot was, was able to (mostly) keep that foot on the pedal, and could sail along right behind my husband as I rode on the back of the tandem. We were hooked, and eventually obtained one of these bikes for ourselves. Joy!
Other folks have offered to take me for rides, but until All Out Adventures brought along their Sun Tandem to an adaptive biking event I was volunteering at, I had not been able to join in on the fun. And oh, these bike rides are nothing if not fun.
May 2019 has offered five chances for area folks to climb onto adaptive bikes and sail down the bike path. Some events have taken place in Blackstone, others in Worcester.
This third event (of the five) offered the opportunity for volunteers to hit their stride. We’d done this before, we knew what to expect, and many volunteers have been on board for all or most of the events.
And then the unexpected occurred, which we really should have expected. The weather cleared up, after countless days of rain. Hooray! A large school group arrived, with younger participants, filled with energy and all eager to get out and enjoy the bike path. One rider using a hand-crank bike had not quite mastered his brakes and went sailing off into the grass. We slowed down the parade and got him farther back in the pack, with a volunteer to keep him company (after making sure he knew how to use the brakes!). Almost every single bike that was available was out on the trail. Then we got word that one rider had had enough–he was walking back. A staff person grabbed a bike and sailed off to help retrieve the bike that was left over.
Everyone eventually got back in one piece, but the staff and volunteers all looked like they’d had a workout.
Then the TV station showed up with a camera. But everyone had just finished, and we received word that the next group had suddenly cancelled. What did we have for the camera? We had heartwarming testimonials from riders who had previously never ridden a bike in their lives because of their physical limitations. We had volunteers who have stood by through many of these events, ready to help, who were suddenly urged to grab a bike and help create a colorful parade of adaptive bikes for the camera.
We met a visitor who pedaled his unicycle on the trail. Turns out he’s a long-haul trucker who carries his unicycle wherever he goes. It was his lunch break. He joined us on the parade for the TV camera too. What fun.
We took in views of the sparkling waters of the Blackstone River, hidden behind the walls of the highway, behind the walls of stores, and railroad tracks. On this day, for all of us who pedaled, or received help pedaling on the bikeway, and for any visitors who make the effort to travel on the bike path, using whatever mode of transportation they can manage, the river is clearly visible.
The Blackstone River, which has had such an impact on this landscape, on the peoples who have lived here, and those who live here now, continues to flow. Such a simple idea–make available bikes so almost anyone can take in the beauty of the river. And yet, it takes a village to make it happen.
I, for one, am so grateful to not only be part of that village, but to enjoy personally the benefits of events such as this, as well. Happy trails!
Marjorie Turner Hollman is a personal historian who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, More Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, and editor of Easy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed. Just out is her latest book, Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are. She has been a freelance writer for numerous local, regional, and national publications for the past 20+ years, has helped numerous families to save their stories, and has recorded multiple veterans oral histories, now housed at the Library of Congress. She is a co-author of the recent community history, Bellingham Now and Then.