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Bike New York | Osteoporosis | Appalachian Trail
Bike England | Retirement


Bike New York: The Five Boro Bike Tour, Spring 2005

By Emily Kimball

Marie Hertzler and I ducked under the marquee of the Millennium Hilton Hotel directly across from the World Trade Center subway stop, attempting to protect ourselves from the rain. We had just pedaled 8 miles from the Youth Hostel at 103rd and Amsterdam Ave. following the lovely Hudson River bike path to reach The Battery, where the 42-mile Five Boro Bike Tour began. On the way it began to sprinkle - by the time we got there it was a steady drizzle. Arriving at The Battery we found ourselves about midway in the long line of 30,000 cyclists waiting to begin the Tour.

The crowd was raring to go. Starting time was 8 a.m., but since the starts were staggered, we didn't move until almost 9 a.m. Thirty thousand cyclists stood shivering in the rain - many dressed in jeans and cotton sweatshirts; others wearing green garbage bags as ponchos. This didn't seem like a good omen to me.

People were very tightly packed. When our section was called to begin the pack spread out and there was a little more riding space. Bikers ranged in age from 8 to 80, though those under 40 predominated. One heard several languages spoken and there were people from many different backgrounds. Every kind of bike was in evidence - balloon tired Schwins, off road, racing, recumbents, and trailers carrying toddlers.

We were off, riding down The Avenue of the Americas and right through the center of New York City. Pretty heady stuff! I felt eclipsed by the huge tall buildings on either side. As we rode into the spring time beauty of Central Park and over the Harlem River into the Bronx the sun began to shine. We passed the first rest stop but it only had First Aid and Bike Repair. Where was the food? With the rain and the tension I am starving!

Returning to Manhattan we cruised along the East River on FDR Drive and arrived at our first real rest stop. Volunteers held two bananas high in the air for us to grab and passed us balance bars and plastic bags of cut orange slices. Yum. We think we might make it now. After a long wait in the line for the toilets we continued on FDR Drive over to the 59th Street Queensboro Bridge and soon were in Queens. This is usually the busiest bridge in Manhattan, but today it was ours. We rode through Queens and over the Pulaski Bridge into Brooklyn, then up and over the Verrzaano Narrows Bridge into Staten Island. The final celebration was at Gateway National Recreation Area.

Have you ever ridden in a crowd of 30,000 cyclists? Boy, I hadn't and it was intimidating. There were the hotdoggers weaving throughout the crowd and leaving a trail of near misses. There were the non-bikers, just out for the day, who weren't used to riding on city streets much less in crowds. It was daunting to ride beside them with their weaving bikes and cell phones. One high school age girl on a wide-tired city bike rammed Marie hard. She was able to recoup and not fall over, though it shook her up.

Going over the bridges was especially trying. People would stop to take pictures of the great views below - when would they ever again have a chance to be on these bridges with no traffic? Others walked their bikes up the incline to the bridge because they couldn't manage the hill.

For me it was a tense ride. My back hurt from leaning over with my hands on the brakes, prepared to stop. One had to be super alert as people passed you on the right and wove in and out in front of you. On the Pulaski Bridge a lady bumped into me, and we both hit the side wall, but it was not serious. On the Verrzaano Bridge, I was so busy trying to avoid walkers and photographers that I didn't see a small rail-like indentation that fit my road bike tire perfectly. My wheel caught in it, and I fell slowly to the ground. Thank goodness for a marshal who immediately got everyone to go around me so we didn't have a pile up. I only bloodied my knee and bruised my elbow. It was no big deal, so I got to the side and continued. Believe me I was glad to see the end of that bridge and therefore the end of the ride.

People had unique ways of keeping track of the group they came with. Most had something affixed to their helmet - magenta feather dusters, iridescent orange soda bottles, plastic American flags. I am sure there were many accidents. I saw only one. A girl went down, and about 10 bikes went down with her. She appeared to be the only one seriously hurt. It was scary to behold.

After celebrating our accomplishment at the Festival we began to pedal the 3 miles toward the Staten Island ferry, but only got to ride about a mile before becoming part of a huge mass of bikers. There must have been a problem because we waited for two hours. By the time we got to The Battery it was 7:00 p.m., and we were exhausted. We rode our bikes toward home until it got too dark to see and then pedaled up 34th St. to catch the subway.

The final straw occurred on 34th street. Suddenly my pedals wouldn't turn. Luckily I was able to slide out of my toe clips without falling. On examination we found an 8 x 2 foot long piece of plastic wound around my derailleur. It took us about 10 minutes to unravel it. Up the subway stairs and down the subway stairs and up again and down again and finally by 10:00 p.m. we were back at the hostel.

The Event T-shirts read, I Survived The Five Boro Bike Ride. These were exactly my sentiments.



Balance Magazine, Spring 2003

Creative Aging: Living Well with Osteoporosis

By Emily Kimball

In my early 60's I was diagnosed with osteoporosis. This was a total surprise to me as I had absolutely no symptoms, and lead a very active life. I call myself "The Aging Adventurer!" At 62, I rode my loaded touring bicycle 4,700 miles across America. Between the ages of 61 and 71 I hiked the entire, Appalachian Trail (AT) carrying a 45 pound backpack. On August 7, 2002, ten days before my 71st birthday, I summated Baxter Peak in Mt. Katahdin, Maine to complete my 2,168-mile Appalachian Trail hike. The doctor called osteoporosis a "silent killer" and said I should immediately get on medication. I take very few medications and at first resisted taking medicine. It was actually hard to believe I had osteoporosis since I had no visible symptoms. However, bone scans don't lie, and the picture showed just how porous my bones were.

I eventually agreed to take medicine for my condition - especially after the doctor said the next ten-years period in my life was the most severe for bone loss in older women. A second mediation was ordered later as they weren't satisfied with my progress.

So I had to accept that I apparently had osteoporosis and have had it since age 60. But from 60 to the present I have continued my ambitious schedule of outdoor adventure activities. Besides my long distance trips, I play tennis twice a week, walk for an hour each morning and hike and bike on weekends. I'm happy to report the only fracture that I have ever had was at the beginning of my AT hike when I was carrying a too heavy pack (60 lbs!) and increasing my daily mileage in too big bites. My bone doctor and the sports medicine people I consulted called this "a young person's Injury," and they did not associate it with osteoporosis.

All this is to say that life is not necessarily over when you are diagnosed with osteoporosis. I lead an active life as a professional speaker flying all over the US, lugging suitcases up and downstairs, tramping through airports and strange cities. In fact, I just came back from a speaking tour in Alaska where I spent a week in the bush with some trail friends and then flew to Portland, Oregon to present a Creativity Workshop at the Grandma Moses Exhibit at the Portland Art Museum, under the sponsorship of AARP. So I try to make life full and exciting.

In my "Lifestyle Planning" business, Make It Happen! I speak about creative aging, making dreams happen and risk taking, at any age. I share with my audiences that I have osteoporosis, wear two hearing aids and have had a bout with sciatica. When they see me as an active older woman leading an exciting life it gives them encouragement about their own health conditions. As one of my workshop people said, "I intend to be as active as my body allows." I admire and encourage that type of attitude.

I have a real love and passion for the out-of-doors, and am most happy when I am outside biking, hiking, playing tennis or canoeing. This love of demanding outdoor activities has outfitted me well to deal with health problems. On the trail I have had many exciting experiences that sometimes left me breathless. Once on an exposed mountain peak in the Bigelow Mountain Range, in Maine, I was caught in a sudden, strong lightening storm. Big bursts of fire were exploding all around me. Being the tallest thing around I was a ready target. Crying and screaming I ran as fast as I could to get below tree line, my whole life racing before my eyes. Once safely in the trees I thanked God that my life had been spared, put on some dry clothes and continued my hike. On my cross country bike trip we rode right into a hurricane in Kentucky. We scattered in different directions as the wind blew lawn furniture, mailboxes and other debris right by us. Luckily the friendly people scooted us into their garages and cellars to sit out the storm.

I have learned to handle all of these experiences, as just part of the landscape, as I pursue my dream of long-distance hiking and biking. It is this attitude that carries over to my health conditions. When you have a passion for something all sorts of obstacles can be overcome. So don't be discouraged if you are diagnosed with osteoporosis. Remember that weight bearing exercises like walking, hiking, tennis, can actually help to build bone mass. Leading a physically active life will add years to your life and help prevent health problems. I encourage you to be "as active as your body allows."

Emily Kimball is an author, speaker, motivator, leisure professional and aging adventurer. She is a longtime outdoor enthusiast who takes lessons learned from her adventures and applies them to everyday life. She can be reached on line at http://www.TheAgingAdventure.com



Richmond Times Dispatch, September 14, 1998

'Tooth' Takes a Hike

'Section hiker' tells of consuming Appalachian Trail one bite at a time

By Emily Kimball, Special Correspondent

The Appalachian Trail is a day trip from most places in Virginia. The AT stretches through mountains that invite you to commune with nature, get a workout and take a break. Hike for a day, a weekend, or the entire 2.160 miles that some 2,000 pack-laden "thru-hikers" start annually and some 200 finish, walking from Georgia to Maine.

This summer I hiked 246 miles through the rocky terrain of Pennsylvania, down New Jersey's Delaware River Valley and across the Hudson River in New Your. I set off in mid-July with two women hikers located through the "hiking partners wanted" column of the Appalachian Trail News. Everybody gets a trail name: My fellow hikers are "Meltdown." 47. from West Virginia, and "Raindrop," 66, from Indiana. My trail name is "Tooth." For my deer's tooth necklace. Here are some journal highlights.

July 14 Meltdown and Raindrop are waiting when I arrive in Pine Grove, Pa. Meltdown runs a gym and is a body builder. Raindrop is a vigorous woman with white hair and a sense of humor. Talk with other hikers is about rabid raccoons, injured hikers and bear sightings. We turn in early; our hike starts at 8.

July 15 Pennsylvania is known for being rocky; it doesn't disappoint. The difficult trail consists of small, jagged, pointy rocks or piles of huge boulders we have to scramble over. We hike 11 miles and arrive exhausted at William Penn Shelter. We agree to each walk our own pace but camp together at night.

July 18 The downhill into Port Clinton, Pa., is so steep you have to lean backward to keep from somersaulting down the incline. I'm so hot and thirsty I feel I couldn't take another step without relief. In town, I holler to a lady with a hose, "Would you mind spraying me with that?" "It's cold," she replies. "All the better," I answer, and am happily drenched. A man brings ice-cold sodas. This is what we call "trail magic" - random acts of kindness from townspeople and weekend hikers.

July 20 I hike four miles to Pinnacle Rocks to eat my breakfast of hummus and bread sticks. Hiking in the early morning is delightful, even though you have to shatter last night's spider webs as you go. Eight vultures soar on the thermals below.

July 23 Today we tackle "Knife's Edge." Picture 20 sharp carving knives turned sideways, cutting-edge up. Now enlarge them and turn them to stone, and sit them high on top of a mountain with deep drops on either side. It's a horrendous climb. I stop to do a watercolor of the rocks until Raindrop catches up. It's nice to have company on this dangerous stretch. We go slowly called out encouragement as we hold on for dear life.

July 25 We arrive at Lehigh Gap, a steep mountain of loose shale remaining from an earlier smelting operation that left the soil sterile. It gave us a bitter view of manmade destruction. We walk along the top for five miles through an eerie moonscape of dead trees, red soil and gray rocks. Shelter at night is in a Palmerton, NJ hostel located in the police station. Meltdown is called home by a family emergency.

July 28 On to Delaware Water Gap, Pa., where wee rest, resupply, wolf down giant frosted bakery cupcakes, eat restaurant meals and socialize with other hikers.

July 30 We cross the Delaware River on a bridge's pedestrian walkway into New Jersey. Raindrop and I pass Sunfish Pond, which reminds me of Walden Pond in Massachusetts without tourists. We camp high up with an inspiring view of the winding Delaware River. We wake to our first rain. Packing in rain is no fun. We hike three miles to the Mohican Outdoor Center where we spread our tents to dry. Raindrop decides not to continue. I'm on my own, with mixed emotions.

July 31 I continue alone, camping on a high ridge overlooking the Delaware River Valley. The river weaves through farmland; beyond are distant tiers of forest ridges - no sign of civilization anywhere. I feel I'm the only person in the world. The next morning, drifting up from the sea of green below, come the sounds of a bugler playing reveille.

Aug 1 At the Brink Shelter, there are bear warning signs everywhere: I'm spooked. Other hikers pile in. I go from feeling alone to feeling like I'm in a crowd.

Aug 2 Big excitement: The trail drops into Culvers Gap by the Worthington Bakery, where we load up on sweet rolls, ice cold drinks and fruit.

Aug 4 The heat's just pouring over me from the road's hot tar. Stop at a house to refill my water bottles before a grueling walk through a wildlife refuge without a speck of shade, followed by a buggy trek on boards through a wetland. When I reach the pump for Pochuck Shelter, I splash myself and fill every container. I struggle up the steep half mile to the shelter. As I approach, a voice welcomes me.

Aug 5 Only 7.5 miles today to Vernon, NJ. The fire department built a pavilion for hikers with a water pump and a shower in a semi-truck. Hikers sleep on picnic tables, a first for me.

Aug 7 Enter New York: The New Jersey-New York state line is painted on a large boulder. I head toward Wildcat Shelter - 12 miles. The trail goes over the top of all the mountains, and I mean right over the top with no switchbacks. Much of it is like rock climbing. One rock pile has a ladder to help you get over it. Only by placing my foot on the very tip of the ladder did I find the strength to pull myself and my 50-pound pack up to the next rock. The sun is blistering; there's no shade. The reward is a view of the beautiful Hudson River Valley. After 10 miles I'm exhausted and almost out of water. As I approach a road, I dream of a car in the parking lot with a cooler of cold drinks. I find only two locked vehicles. I sit on a rock to ponder my situation when a grandmother pushing a toddler in a stroller walks by. " Do you have any water?" I ask. She pours the baby bottle's contents into my water bottle. I could have hugged her. After two more miles and two rock climbs, I struggle in at 6:30p.m. to find other hikers. Too tired to pitch my tent, I put my sleeping bag and mat on the shelter floor and fall asleep, but not before taking an Advil and elevating my throbbing feet.

Aug 8 Two "trail magic" events today. At a road crossing, Fishdance and I find 7 gallons of water, bananas, Cokes left by hikers by YoYo's mother. Later, as I make a call to report my whereabouts, a lady jumps out of her car and hands us shortcakes and brownies. I ask her if she's YoYo's mother; she's not. In Harriman State Park, I catch up with Earl Shaffer, who in 1948 was the first person to thru-hike the AT. He's celebrating the 50th anniversary by repeating it. Hikers were reporting sightings of the 79-year-old, equipped with an old Army pack that hung from his shoulders without hip belt support, a pith helmet with mosquito netting, a long-sleeved flannel shirt and long pants; he carried only a bedroll and foam pad from a chair - no tent or stove. Trail relocations, he says, have made the trail more rugged. Earl and I weren't the only seniors; there were plenty of retirees hiking the trail.

Aug 9 Here's the" lemon squeezer,". Two tall, wide stone slabs standing sideways with a narrow passage between them. I get stuck. I'm on my knees with my face in the pine needles laughing hysterically until a hiker behind me takes my pad off my pack so I can pull myself through

Aug 10 I'm camping just a half mile from the Palisades Interstate Parkway, and just 34 miles from New York City. The trail crosses over the four-land divided highway. I arrive at 4:30p.m. in time for rush hour traffic, but heavy tree cover and the noise of Beechy Bottom Brook block traffic sounds.

Aug 12 A special night: I'm at the serene Graymoor Monastery in Garrison, N.Y. The monks offer AT hikers dinner, breakfast, a private room, showers, a washer/dryer and an awesome view of the Hudson.

Aug 14 Fahnestock State Park - the last day of my hike. Trail magic provides a way back to my car in Pennsylvania, appropriately supplied by a thru-hiker named Alice In Wonderland. She and her mother end their trek at the park. The mother happily agrees to take me back to Pennsylvania on her way to Michigan.

Aug 16 I'm back home in Richmond. I sleep, pig out and take showers. It will take awhile to get back to my normal routine. As I lie in my bed, I think about next year's hike: Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont. That gigantic goal of hiking the whole 2,160 miles feels within my grasp. Only 763 more miles to go.

Emily Kimball, 67, is a professional speaker and owner of Make It Happen!, a lifestyle planning firm dealing with life balance, simplicity, adventures in aging and daring to dream.



Richmond Times Dispatch, July 9, 1999

RETIREMENT LIFESTYLES
Take time now to order priorities in planning for your dreams, later years

Didn't you live a fast and rewarding life in those middle years between 40 and 60? Experts say you will have another 20 years of healthy living from 60 to 80!

Those hectic midlife years didn't offer the luxury of time to relax and plan for your dreams. Take time now as you plan for retirement to think about your real priorities. Imagine you have only a year to live. What would you choose to do in that year? Try to order your priorities from the most important to the least.

Retirement offers an opportunity to concentrate on what you value most. You have the power to guide your life in any direction you desire. Take charge. Use this power. Express your authentic self, your unique creativity.

Experiment first
Finding the lifestyle that suits you best in retirement is a matter of trial and error. Experiment with some new behaviors.

Think you want to buy an RV and travel across the country with your significant other? Why not rent one and try a two week vacation together. Experience how well this cozy lifestyle really works for you. See if you're still on speaking terms by the end of the trip.

Think you want to start a small business? Sign up for one of the many courses offered for new entrepreneurs. Ask for a mentor from SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives). Research your field. You'll be that far ahead when you retire; or you may decide it was a bad idea.

How about a sabbatical? I took one to try out long distance bicycle touring. I learned that I wanted to continue touring in my retirement years. This knowledge convinced me to retire early while I still had stamina. It also made me aware how much more money I needed to save.

Develop your leisure ethic, so you won't feel guilty when you're having fun. Our culture stresses a strong work ethic, but has few supports for a leisure ethic. Many retirees immediately replace the work ethic with the "busy ethic," getting involved in many different projects all at once. It's almost as if they are still working.

I recommend chilling out for the first three months of retirement. Don't commit to any ongoing responsibilities. Just be for a while, and wee what comes bubbling up. Get in touch with your inner rhythms and follow where they lead you. You may end up in the same place, but you may not. At least you will have thought about where you wanted to go.

Learn to connect in new ways
In retirement we need to reach out and connect with the world in new ways. Maggie Kuhn, founder of the Grey Panthers, remarked how hard it is to have lived long enough to learn so many answers when no one bothers anymore to ask you questions.

Carefully selected volunteer assignments can provide a forum for you to share your answers. If the job is not satisfying, drop it and find one that suits you. Volunteer experiences are so varied it is really a matter of finding the right match. The United Way of Richmond can help.

Since you will lose daily contact with your workplace buddies, it becomes important to find new social groups. If you're a tennis player, join a senior tennis group that plays during the day; if you're a cyclist join RABA (Richmond Area Bicycling Association) and go on their many group rides. Soon you'll have a whole new set of friends and a regular exercise routine as well.

Have you always waned to go on an archeological dig? Check out the Greater Richmond Area Chapter of the Archeological Society of Virginia. Always wanted to learn to quilt? Hook up with a quilting club.

Look in the Richmond Times-Dispatch Thursday Pathfinder Column, which lists all the clubs in the Richmond area. You will find an amazing array of opportunities there.

Develop your personal interests and hobbies, or as Gail Sheehy says, find your passion - something that makes time fly, offers you great satisfaction, and gives you that "aha" feeling.

Keep your mind active and alert. Use it or lose it very much applies to our brain power. Engage in conversations, discuss issues, argue, do crossword puzzles, memorize a poem. Go on an Elderhostel trip. Take a class. Keep yourself engaged with life and with people.

Enjoy the freedom of these later years. Society has fewer prescribed roles for retirees. You really are free to carve out the life you choose for yourself -no holds barred. Determine your priorities and go after them. After all you are deciding how to live the rest of your life.

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Emily Kimball owns Make It Happen! a Lifestyle Planning Business. She offers seminars on Pre-Retirement Planning, Creative Aging, Balanced Living and Simplifying Your Life. In the fall she will teach a class - Hot Flashes, Pot Bellies and Power Surges: Adventuring Into The Third Stage of Life - for Henrico County Recreation and Parks. Class info: 672-5114




Adventure Cyclist, May 1995

Farmer Martin of Blockley
You never know what you'll find in the Cotswold Hills

By Emily Kimball

Wind and rain confront me as I leave Winchombe on my Fuji bicycle, touring through the Cotswold Hills of southwest England. A pair of bright blue panniers hang beside each bicycle wheel, holding tent, sleeping bag and clothes. I ride past small limestone cottages, many with thatched roofs and neatly trimmed gardens of red and yellow flowers. The cottages stand along narrow streets rimmed by stone walls. In the long vistas between towns, roller coaster hills flow gently, showing specks of sheep in the distance.

The hills are constant, but I roll up one and down the next with relative ease. For awhile it is actually pleasant to ride in the rain, as the smells from the surrounding countryside are so pungent: and the views breathtaking. Although bad weather is part of any long bicycle tour, with the right rain gear you don't get soaked through, and wool socks keep your feet warm. Nevertheless, after five hours of pedaling in the rain I pulled up at the youth hostel at Stow-on-the-Wold with relief and anticipation. I couldn't wait to relax in a dry warm place with other interesting travelers. But I found to my surprise that the hostel was full. On I rode through the rain, worrying about finances. I was on a shoestring budget and could only afford to camp or stay at hostels. Now it looked like I'd have to stay at a Bed and Breakfast whether I liked it or not.

I continued through the rainstorm toward the next town, Blockley, desperately hoping to find a warm, dry place to spend the night. At a small brick house with a Bed and Breakfast vacancy sign, I knocked on the door. It opened just a crack. A middle-aged man poked his head out and looked me over from head to toe, a bedraggled figure in a dirty yellow rainsuit with rumpled, wet stringy hair protruding from under a red bicycle helmet. Soaking wet bike shoes and a heavily loaded, dripping green bicycle complete the picture.

"No," says the man. "There's no room. We've rented our last room." The door slams,

I turned my bike around, pushing it through the deep puddles in his driveway to return to the road. Head down, I pedaled on through the rain, discouraged and wondering where I would ever find a place to stay. Fifteen minutes later, I spotted a Bed and Breakfast sign hanging from a wooden gate at a long driveway that led to a white farmhouse. I turned into the driveway and rode up a hill to the house. Anxiously, I tried to make myself look more respectable. Taking off my helmet, I rearranged my hair, smoothed my wet jacket, managed a smile, and rang the bell. A small boy answered.

"Oh good," I thought, "He won't be judgemental, he'll consider me an adventurer."

The boy called his mom. A short, heavyset woman with a slight smile appeared, sympathy lighting her face. "Oh yes, we have a room, come in," she said.

I entered a cozy living room with a fire burning, filled with overstuffed, comfortable furniture. The smell of freshly baked bread permeated the room. She showed me to my unpretentious and simple bedroom, a patchwork quilt on the bed and a large vase of cheery red flowers on the wide windowsills.

"Make yourself at home and then come join us in the kitchen for some hot scones and tea," she said. And by the way my name is Joan and my husband is Martin, and our youngest son, Ian answered the door."

I soaked in a luscious hot bath, changed my clothes and joined the family in the roomy farm kitchen for scones and tea. Joan let me heat up my baked bean supper, and I sliced peaches for dessert. Ed, another guest joined us. Retired from the CIA, Ed filled his time writing travel guides on the Cotswolds and often stayed at this farmhouse B&B.

When Ed and my hosts learned I intended to explore these hills the next day on my bicycle, they offered many ideas about which towns to visit and which scenic routes to travel. I was feeling so well accepted and was treated so kindly by these folks - inviting me into their kitchen for hot scones, offering me travel advice - that I marveled at the contrast with the man who slammed the door in my face. I told Joan and Martin about their neighbor who turned me away.

"Oh" said Joan, "Don't mind him. He's a crank!"

Finally, comfortable and relaxed, I realized I was exhausted from the day of riding in the rain and the tension of finding accommodations for the night. Overcome with weariness, I said goodnight to my hosts and went off to my wonderfully homey bedroom with the wide floorboards, and hooked rugs, to write in my journal and fall asleep.

The next morning I decided to stay a second night in this comfortable and friendly place. That way, I could tour the area without the 60-pound weight of my panniers. However, on my budget staying at a B&B was a special indulgence, not an everyday event. Joan, Martin and I negotiated and they agreed to let me set my tent up in the field and use the kitchen and bathroom for half the rate of renting a room. It was a fair offer. I assembled my tent high in the field overlooking the handsome yellow limestone buildings with red roofs and the tall church spires of Blockley.

The next day, I headed out for the Cotswold Hills. I visited the villages of Upper and Lower Slaughter, prettily placed next to a meandering stream with barns and farm animals everwhere. Through green countryside dotted with honeycombed limestone houses I pedaled to Bourton on the Water, to Stow on the Wold - small neat villages, non-touristy and serene. Burton on the Water's main street followed along a canal and shops were arranged attractively on either side, making a picturesque scene. This backroad riding is my favorite. The thatched cottages were like pieces of sculpture - their thick, dark thatched roofs following the outline of the house, curving outward over windows and deeply set doorways. Only the tall stone chimneys broke the flowing line. The thatch is almost a foot thick, and at the top of the roof, where the weather strikes harder, additional layers in circular designs combine beauty with utility. They're like the gingerbread house in Hansel and Gretal.

I rode 45 miles right over the top of the Cotswolds on a high ridge called Buckleston Road. The bright sun cast a golden July hue over the countryside, and sheep and cows grazed lazily in the surrounding hills. I stopped and picked sweet, refreshing raspberries.

Back at the farmhouse, which now felt like home, I chatted with my hosts while fixing supper. Martin is a large man with muscular broad shoulders reflecting the strenuous farmwork he does each day. His face is broad and his forehead high with a shock of black hair falling down over it. His eyes sparkle and a little grey shows at his temples. He tells me about his lifelong ambition to be on the David Letterman Show.

"What would you do?" I ask.
"Make music," he replies.

I am escorted to the barn. Martin first lifts an old metal chair frame with hollow legs and begins to blow on it. Strange noises come out and he is, to my amazement playing "Mary had a Little Lamb" on the chair frame. Next he selects an oil can, then a saw, a milking machine, a bicycle frame - tuneful sounds emerge from these strange instruments. It turns out that Martin has been an actor and played minor parts in movies. This farmer is a real ham!

He informs me he holds the record in the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest blowing of a fox horn. Maybe I can hook him up with David Letterman. I take his resume and snap pictures of him making music on these odd pieces in front of the barn.

Setting out the next morning, I'm glad the crank wouldn't take me in.

Emily Kimball is founder of Make It Happen! Lifestyle Planning and Adventure Travelogues. Formerly she managed the Outdoor Recreation Program for Chesterfield County Parks and Recreation in Virginia. She has been a member of Adventure Cycling for 13 years.

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Emily Kimball
4907 Beaver Lane, #104
Richmond, VA 23228
(804) 358-4959
etkimball@aol.com