Guys on Trikes

JACKSONVILLE, Ala.—Late afternoon. I am in the deep woods. It is raining. I’m riding a tricycle along the Chief Ladiga Trail, pedaling toward Georgia with my wife. We are soaked to the gristle.

We are far from civilization. This trail cuts through ancient farmland, abandoned pastures, cornfields, peanut fields, and miles of kudzu-laden forest. We have twenty miles left to ride.

The tricycle I’m riding came from the classifieds. I bought it a month ago. The man selling it said the trike had belonged to his older brother who’d recently passed. His brother’s name was Larry.

He said Larry had been excited when he bought this trike, he sorely missed cycling ever since his Parkinson’s disease made riding bikes impossible. Sadly, Larry never got to ride this trike more than a few times before he died.

When I first took this contraption for a test spin, the man nearly cried when he saw me ride it. He stood in his driveway, watching me pedal in circles.

He said, “Oh, Larry would be so happy to know someone was enjoying his trike.”

When he’d finally gathered himself, he handed me a little red flag on a long pole.

“What’s this?” I asked.

He told me the flag attached to the back of the trike so that approaching eighteen-wheelers wouldn’t run me over in traffic. Then we laughed.

But as it turns out, the reflective flag is an important piece of safety equipment. The flagpole is about four feet tall and the flag flaps behind you when you ride, signalling to all oncoming traffic that you are an official member of the dork squad.

Right now my flag is flailing in the rain. I am not only a member of the dork squad, I am also the president.

But this trail couldn’t be more lovely. The Chief Ladiga Trail was once part of the Norfolk Southern Railway line. The winding flat paths I’m riding used to be railways long ago, some dating back to the mid-1800s, back when the world was a very different place. It was an era of hoop skirts and Greek Revival homes. An era when hardly anyone wore surgical masks to shop at Target.

The trail spans two states, connecting with Georgia’s Silver Comet Trail. Together, the two paths form the second longest paved trail in the U.S.

And somehow I am on it.

I wouldn’t even be here if my wife wouldn’t have developed a sudden biking interest. Ever since the pandemic, she began biking like a crazed European.

Initially, I tried to keep up with her on a traditional bike, but I hate bikes. I’m not athletic. I’m a tall, lanky, big footed goon with the finely tuned hand-eye coordination of Eleanor Roosevelt.

Also, I have fallen off bikes at least eight hundred times in my life. I don’t feel comfortable on two wheels. It is my sincere belief that if God wanted man to ride bikes he wouldn’t have made cycling clothing look like human sausage casing.

I suppose this is why my wife suggested a tricycle. And at first, I’ll admit, I was embarrassed about riding this three-wheeled contraption. Especially with this obnoxious flag flapping behind me. But actually, I’ve been having a great time.

For the first time since this COVID-19 business began I’m getting out of the house and seeing new things. I’m lost in a gardenlike country that goes on forever, and it’s perfect.

This is the longest bike trip my wife and I have ever attempted. It was a spontaneous decision, too. This morning, my wife told me we were going to bike across two states and she said it without cracking a smile.

At first, I laughed so hard that I choked on my Hostess product. But then I noticed that my wife was already wearing very professional-looking cycling clothes. And that’s when I knew she was serious.

In a few hours I found myself on this secluded trail, somewhere near the Talladega Mountains, pedaling like a lunatic, uphill, through pristine backwoods.

Then the sky opened and it started to downpour. The rain came hard and fast, covering the entire world in white noise and water. We had nowhere to hide. So we just kept pedaling.

The surprising thing is that the rain doesn’t bother me. I am having fun, and this doesn’t happen every day.

It’s not every day you find yourself meandering through the Alabamian countryside, watching the a summer shower turn to steam when it hits the forest floor. It’s not every day you see kudzu leaves as big as Pontiacs.

I’m looking at enormous green trees that lean over a hidden trail that leads onward. I’m wearing a crumpled old hat that is soaked with rainwater. There are faded barns, hayfields, cattle, and the smell of wet grass is everywhere. And I can see it all. I’m not thinking about quarantines, and I’m not feeling sad.

We pass a group of very fit young men on expensive bicycles. I ding my little bell like a doofus and wave to them.

I hear them chuckle. I overhear one of them whisper to the other, “Hey, it looked like he was riding a freakin’ tricycle.”

But I’m not embarrassed. Not anymore. I ride my trike with pride. I’m taking in the whole world in, one mile at a time.

There is a flag attached to my bike, waving in the light rain. I inscribed a few words upon the flag with a permanent marker this morning before we started on our trip.

It reads: “In Memory of Larry.”

27 comments

  1. Toni - July 26, 2020 9:25 am

    Roll on. Thanks for taking your readers with you.

    Reply
  2. Sal - July 26, 2020 11:51 am

    Aw, I’d love to take Larry’s memorial trike out for a spin. What fun!

    Reply
  3. Jeri Bishop - July 26, 2020 11:53 am

    Larry’s smiling down, Sean. Bless you and Jamie.

    Reply
  4. Sue Rhodus - July 26, 2020 11:54 am

    Such a beautiful visual you leave in my mind…Larry would be proud !

    Reply
  5. Bev Clark - July 26, 2020 12:15 pm

    💞

    Reply
  6. Curtis Lee Zeitelhack - July 26, 2020 12:44 pm

    I think Larry would be happy about your rain-soaked trip.

    Reply
  7. Martha Black - July 26, 2020 12:55 pm

    Lord, I love you Sean! You got more panash than anybody I know. You never stop searching & finding ways to ge happy and at peace (with Jamie and a little prodding) & that my dear boy is what its all about, one pedal at a time.

    Reply
  8. vicki younger - July 26, 2020 12:59 pm

    Wonderful! So excited to read of someone who loves their adventures and not worried about the crazy people out there who are bound by what others think. Keep it up!!!

    Reply
  9. Jess Rawls - July 26, 2020 1:09 pm

    Sean, it’s cool and thoughtful that you put “In Memory of Larry” on your trike! Kudos to you.

    Reply
  10. Teresa Tindle - July 26, 2020 1:46 pm

    Sean, you have to post some pictures. I am so excited! I’ve never seen a tricycle made for am adult. What fun it must be. I’m jealous of you and Jamie.what an adventure this is. Please oh please post some pictures. I wanna see y’all.

    Reply
  11. Betty - July 26, 2020 1:50 pm

    Thanks for bringing up a good memory, Sean. My parents lived in Sun City, AZ. Mom rode her trike 2 miles to the grocery store. It had a big basket in back to carry the groceries. One time she weighed them when she got home & it was 50 lbs. One day she tipped it over turning into the grocery store. She didn’t hurt herself but after that she pulled the trike back & forth. A man stopped to asked her if she was having trouble & she said that she was just using the trike to carry her groceries. Yes, they did have a car but she did this for exercise. By the way, she was in her 80s!

    Reply
  12. Jenny Young - July 26, 2020 3:26 pm

    What a beautiful story.

    Every rain shower we’ve had this summer….which have been very few….my 2 yr old grandson begs me to go play in the rain. He asks every day if we can play in the rain. The sprinkler isn’t good enough. So I pray for rain every day so that we can run,squeal & laugh…getting soaked through.

    The only thing in this post that really offends me is that you eat Hostess products?! Don’t you know the real snack cake of the south is Little Debbie! You aren’t a secret traitor are you?

    Reply
  13. Karen Callis - July 26, 2020 3:48 pm

    You guys are so cool!

    Reply
  14. Tammy S. - July 26, 2020 4:35 pm

    What a fun day!! And in the rain no less! Larry was smiling down on you all, I’m sure!! Thanks for taking us along, yet again, on one of y’all’s adventures! Always so much fun!!

    If you all have never done the Virginia Creeper Trail bike ride, it is amazing!! Downhill, and halfway down there is a little shack where you can get delicious homemade soup and sandwich & yummy chocolate cake.

    Reply
  15. Linda Moon - July 26, 2020 4:58 pm

    Talladega Appalachians and Alabamian countryside can make bikers and the rest of us feel good. My people’s roots are there in those foothills. From beaches to mountains, there’s a lot to happily see and do in my home state. Happy….not sad. What great stories and visuals you’ve sent to us readers while on your Road Trip, and I hope it’s been adventurous for you and your wife! Come back any time and tell us more descriptive stories.

    Reply
  16. Ann - July 26, 2020 5:06 pm

    Vision…, laughter…and sweetness in this beautiful refreshing column… again thank you for your shared talent.

    Reply
  17. MAM - July 26, 2020 5:53 pm

    Too sweet. Larry was blessing you with the rain, having a good chuckle, and so happy that you were enjoying his tricycle!

    Reply
  18. Don Simms - July 26, 2020 6:19 pm

    Well, you had me hooked on the pastoral journey. Then you finished me off with the heartfelt close. I know Larry is pleased, and I hope even more that his brother reads this. A most fitting tribute

    Reply
  19. Berryman Mary M - July 26, 2020 9:39 pm

    Sounds like a wonderful adventure! Thanks, Sean!

    Reply
  20. J Walden (Wally) Retan - July 26, 2020 9:41 pm

    Sean…Trikes…recumbent trikes…are a special way to cycle. But a recumbent tandem trike is the next step toward heaven. My wife and I rode one for years…it’s still in our garage…though too many years leave me mostly smiling at it, these days. If you’re ever up this way again, not far from Anniston, let me know…..

    Reply
  21. Bill T - July 26, 2020 10:30 pm

    Wow! Your travels get more and more into familiar territory The last house we lived in in Jacksonville was on Skelton Street, a block and a half from the railroad.. I retired from the Army there in 1974 and moved to Florida in 1981. That house is now gone and homes have been built between that and the railroad or Ladiga Trail.
    Hope you got to see more in that area like Talladega Nation Forest (I raced my motorcycle there) and a visit to the Talladega Auto Museum (I worked as an EMT at the track)
    Enjoy being back on the road again and you could put an Alabama pennant on your bike for a flag.

    Reply
  22. Jonathan Machen - July 27, 2020 12:09 am

    YES!

    Reply
  23. Robert Chiles - July 27, 2020 1:06 am

    You paint with words, as good as Monet.

    Reply
  24. Brenda - July 27, 2020 3:18 am

    Thanks for taking me along on your trike trip. I enjoyed every happy moment! I just gave away my 1990 Schwinn road bike. Last time I road was 4 years ago before knee repair for meniscus tear and osteoarthritis. It was very emotional giving it away, lots of great riding memories. You gave me a glimmer of hope that maybe someday I’ll try a trike! 😊

    Reply
  25. Tawanah Fagan Bagwell - July 27, 2020 4:53 am

    I tried an adult trike too but the one I rode was sitting up like a big child’s tricycle. It was so heavy that I didn’t buy it from the lady who had listed it for sale. She had trouble with the weight of it too. I’m so glad you have discovered our Lidiga Trail. I live in Weaver and have walked it around that area.

    Reply
  26. johnallenberry - July 27, 2020 7:59 am

    This was just plain beautiful. I suspect Larry enjoyed riding with you, too. -Allen, PhDude

    Reply
  27. DiAn - July 28, 2020 5:55 pm

    Now This is the way to get out for exercise! Hooray for you and for your wife for inspiring you!!

    Reply

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