Monday, April 30, 2012

My Hiking, Biking Friend

We hear a lot these days about the seemingly insurmountable health problems of retired folks. We might be inclined to think heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure are all we youngsters have to look forward to in our “golden years.” Oh, and don’t forget about arthritis! I guess we should all just get out the old rocking chairs and park ourselves on the porch for the duration. 

Well, now… If this is all you think you have to look forward to in your golden years, let me introduce you to my hiking, biking friend John.

IMG_1255Riding TheTrails
John pauses on the Virgin River bike trail in St. George

I first met John about 14 years ago through a local hiking club when we were all much younger and had fewer aches and pains. Over those years I have hiked and biked with John on hundreds of miles of routes and trails. These days, though, he doesn’t go on very strenuous hikes – he said that the rugged seven and half miles we hiked a month or so ago was the last time he’ll ever go that far again! Perhaps five miles is his limit anymore, depending on the terrain. 

As the organizer of a small bicycling group, though, he finds that he is more comfortable these days going the distance on two wheels rather than two feet. Each week he puts together a ride of about 20 miles around the trails of St. George. 

Ready to ride with friends!  John is on the left

John retired in 1985 and moved to southern Utah in 1989.  He is 91 years young.  Recently I asked my dear friend about his life on two wheels. 


N)  How old were you when you got your first bicycle and what kind was it?  I mean the VERY FIRST ONE!  
J)  I do not remember when I got my first bicycle or what kind it was. I was probably seven or eight years old. I still had a tricycle when I was six, and rode with a friend about a year older a mile to an old bridge for autos with wooden planks to carry the traffic across the Cedar River (Iowa) that was approximately 100 yards wide. 
     When I was 12 I carried newspapers by bicycle in our neighborhood. When I was 13 (I believe) I arranged with a friend to ride our bikes 45 miles to a state park to camp with a friend who had moved away from our neighborhood to a different town.

N) When and where did you go on your bicycling tours in Europe and who did you go with?
J)  In 1939 when I was graduating from high school I went to Europe with my family and left them for five nights, I believe, to bicycle through the Loire River valley in France on the first derailleur type bicycle I ever saw which I bought in St. Nazarre, France, where our ship from the US landed.

     Fifty–five years later I did the same part of France with a group organized by International Bicycle Tours, Inc., which was headed by a Dutchman who lived in Connecticut. I took nine more trips with International Bicycle Tours in Western Europe: England, Ireland, Holland, Denmark, Po River area of Italy and Austria, the Danube River in France, Germany and Austria, and the Bordeaux and Provence areas of France. Most were in the 1990's and the last was in 2002, I believe.

NWhy did you start the Sun River Bicycling Group?
J) I wanted to ride with others. In early 2007 I had seen a poster on the bulletin board in the community center proposing a bike group. As I recall there was no name of the author or date for a meeting. I signed the sheet and heard nothing for at least two weeks so I put up a notice of a meeting and, as I expected though was not seeking, I was selected as the head of the group.

Enjoying a ride on St. George city trails

I sincerely hope that when I’m 91 I will still be hiking and biking and living life to the fullest. 

Cheers to you, John! 

IMG_1237JohnUp Ahead
John takes the lead up a long hill on River Road


  1. Amazing! John sets a good example for us "youngsters."

  2. This is awesome! Reading John's story and his determination and dedication to biking has really motivated into taking out my bicycle. Cheers to you John!

    1. Steven - John motivates a LOT of his friends younger & older to keep active, just by being himself and getting out there.

  3. One oar in the waterMay 1, 2012 at 3:39 PM

    John is fun to ride with. He sets a good pace. You go John!!!!!

    1. Hey One Oar - I often have to pedal faster just to keep up with him! But yes, he does set a good enjoyable pace. Plus we get to stop a lot and enjoy our surroundings and rehydrate.

  4. Your friend is in good company. Here's a local character who's still downhill skiing at age 95 (I saw him on the slopes just a couple weeks ago):

    And though he's passed on, here's another amazing ironman: Jackrabbit Johannsen was cross-country skiing well past his 100th birthday.

    We should all be so lucky!


    1. Howard -

      I have been to Sunshine Meadows and would love to sit and have a beer with Trapper Jerry and listen to some stories.

      And how cool to learn about Jackrabbit Johannsen - It would be an honor to ski on some of the cross country ski trails he developed.

      My friend John is definitely in good company!

  5. Wow, what an inspiring guy! I'm visiting Southern Utah (Zion, Bryce and Route 12) this month-- maybe I'll see him on the hiking trails :)

    1. Leslie - Yes you may very well see John hiking on the trails or riding his bike. Be sure and keep an eye out for him, and say Hi if you meet him. He's a great guy!

      Enjoy your stay in southern Utah.