January 2006. A super obese man had a health scare a couple of weeks before, and he finally gets focused enough to start making steps in the right direction. Posting to a support group online, he gets encouragement from a woman named Beverly, herself a weight loss success story.
A year passes. That super obese man is now 125 pounds lighter, and he contemplates getting a bicycle. Beverly, having been encouraging him in his weight loss, now encourages him to get onto two wheels.
July 2013. That man and Beverly finally meet…..
While I credit God, and many people, with helping change me from potato to potential, Beverly has an important role. While her fellow poster Matty was the person who showed me, by example, that weight loss was joyous, Beverly taught consistency. She’s been at goal weight for a quarter century. She’s led an active life, one that shows no signs of slowing as she enters into her eighth decade. And she’s been busy sharing the joy she finds in activity, leading her Weight Watchers group, riding with a group in her local Metropark ….. and encouraging a fat Pennsylvanian years ago.
Beverly and I had plans to meet over the years, but always something came up. However, my being in Ohio prompted her to drive three hours to ride with me. The ride was happening.
Bev’s interest in riding the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath caused me to select one of my favorite stretches of that trail for our ride. We started at Vanderhoff Road trailhead and headed south, towards Canal Fulton. The trail is paved for this section, and especially well planned to avoid the green tunnel syndrome that plagues many trails. We swooped up and down bridges, rises and dips, and I found myself pushed to keep up with a 70 year old rider on a 26 mile ride.
As we neared Canal Fulton, we crossed from Summit County to Stark, and the smooth pavement became coarser gravel. We paused at the Visitor’s Center to get water, look at exhibits, and chat. Once we had more water, we continued down to the turnaround point of the canal boat ride. Again we took photos. Beverly, to my delight, is a cyclist who understands the ride IS the destination, and who enjoys seeing things rather than riding past them.
Our turn around was the bridge at Crystal Springs. We crossed the span, which is now restricted to cyclists and pedestrians, and rode back to Canal Fulton on the parallel Old Muskigum Trail. The trail surface was more dirt than gravel,and we had some mud patches to navigate, but it made a nice change of view being on the other side of the river. I saw a bald eagle flying low as we approached Canal Fulton, which only added to the good feelings I felt on the ride.
At Canal Fulton we crossed back to the towpath, and rode back to our cars. As rode, I realized Beverly was once again teaching by example. At an age when men and women are told they should stop being active, Beverly leads a life enriched by the outdoors. I was reminded of an elderly couple I knew a decade ago who explained their 62 year marriage was successful because “we always found something to talk about.” Beverly is successful because she always finds something to DO. That’s a lesson this “formerly sedentary man” is working to internalize so it becomes as natural as breathing. Perhaps, God willing, I’ll be riding again with Beverly when I’m her current age. I’m pretty sure she’ll still be riding then.