senior on bikeRappahannock Westminster-Canterbury Recognizes National Bike Month

The journey of a lifetime begins with a single step or in this case, a pedal. For RWC resident Bob Holley, that pedal led to an inspiring adventure that spanned the entire U.S. east coast.

Active all his life, the former school teacher joined the Adventure Cycling Association, and originally planned to bike the 3,300-mile TransAmerica Trail from Yorktown to Astoria, Oregon. However, he ultimately chose to bike from Bar Harbor to Key West – a 2,686-miles trek. He left for his trip on May 20, 2009, and completed the journey three months later – all while in his 70s.

Holley had to prepare extensively for this journey including purchasing specialized equipment – a $2,500 road bike, cycling shoes that clamp onto the pedal and panniers (small baskets that attach to the bike’s rear and front wheels).

Holley carried his clothes and belongings for most of the journey and spent every night in a motel. He ate at local restaurants along the way and only carried snacks on the bike. For the first few weeks, Holley’s wife Fran provided invaluable support, driving him up to Bar Harbor to start the journey and following his route. Along the way, she stopped at antique shops, making the most of the experience before they reunited at the end of each day.

As Holley continued the journey, he faced several challenges and close calls.

“In Florida, I almost got hit by a boat,” he said. “There was a really wide boat behind a pickup truck, and while the truck gave me plenty of room to clear, the trailer wheels were much wider. As the trailer passed by, it came mere inches from my leg!”

Man riding bikeDespite the challenges, Holley found the journey to be a lot of fun.

“Every day was a new adventure, and I looked forward to waking up in the morning and riding my bike for 100 miles or so,” he said. “I preferred doing it alone as I didn’t have to wait for anyone else or worry about their flat tires or chain fixes.”

For anyone contemplating such a trip, Holley’s advice is simple, but practical: “Just do it, but don’t forget to prepare and take it easy,” he said. “I had every day’s route mapped out, and my accommodations arranged in advance. I knew precisely where I was heading and what to anticipate.”

Holley also advises starting with smaller goals and building up to longer rides. “You don’t start out by saying, ‘I’m gonna get a bicycle and go to Key West, Florida.’ You start with a smaller goal, like ‘I’m going to ride to the next town over,’ and work your way up from there.”

Being in great physical condition is also a bonus. He still logs impressive daily distances on foot – up to six miles a day! In 2004, Holley hiked 2,176 miles on the Appalachian Trail, and in 2005, he hiked the last third of the same trail again.

“I enjoy living at RWC and staying active in the community. Some of my favorite amenities are the woodworking shop and the walking trails,” he said.

Reflecting on a recent 9,000-mile road trip to Dawson, Canada, Holley noted that living at RWC made it possible. “Prior to moving to RWC, I would never have been able to leave my home for long periods of time because I would be worried about my wife and something happening with the house while I’m gone. Now that I live here, I know everything is taken care of.”

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