Thirty years ago, Fred Pilgrim used to ride his bike to work. He didn't find it particularly interesting.
These days, six years after his daughter urged him to take up the sport again, he's in the company of cyclists who think nothing of 100-mile runs. As for Fred, 70 to 80 miles is more than doable.
You might not think it to look at the Warren resident. He and his wife, who joins him on his up to 20-mile excursions, aren't exactly Cycle Magazine cover material. They look, well, like ordinary people. But if you ask Fred and Mary Ellen a question about cycling, they glow. Especially Fred.
"It's so nice on the trails," Mary Ellen said. "You travel through all different areas. Sometimes trees, sometimes marshland ... you can't even tell where you are. It's relaxing and enjoyable. And you're exerting yourself."
"When you bike," added Fred, "you see things that you don't see in a car. A lot of these guys you see jogging just don't look like they're enjoying it."
Well-supplied: But boy, does Fred enjoy cycling! He and Mary Ellen have a number of magazines, guides, bike books and catalogs on hand. They both own Treks, a bike many serious cyclists use, custom seats and handles and even bike clothes. Fred has a mountain bike, a racer and a recumbent -- one of those slick, down low, feet in front bikes that roar down the road.
The two can hardly stop naming the events and trails that have engrossed them some evenings and weekends for the last few years.
The Mill Creek Metro Parks bikeway, which glides through rural and wooded Mahoning County through Canfield toward Lisbon, is one of them. "It's a little over 10 miles now," Fred said. The bikeway is part of a proposed 100-mile dream that is slowly coming true -- a path from Columbiana County to Lake Erie in Ashtabula.
"I like to ride even before the trails are finished," Fred said. "The Great Ohio Lake-to-River Greenway it's going to be called. Right now, it's rough and has holes in Trumbull."
"And it's muddy if it's been raining," Mary Ellen added. "Then up at the top by Ashtabula, it's still gravel, but smooth. And Franklin?"
"Oh, that's beautiful!" Fred said. "It goes on and on for miles. It goes by a river with boats."
"To Lisbon, along the old railroad track."
"And where did we go," asked Mary Ellen, "and see old wagons? I think near Canton. Oh! And the one at Oil City. In fact, you can take the train back to the starting point."
"How do you find out about all these trails?" I asked. And that's when they produce all the books and pamphlets, which they ordered over the phone or picked up in bike shops.
Adventure: "This book is like an adventure," Fred said as he shoved a thick paperback into my hands. It is Ohio Trails and Greenways 2000, available at (614) 841-1075. Then he brings out another -- "Mountain Bike Adventures in Northwestern Pennsylvania," available in bike shops or at BarryBryan@aol.com.
"And then there is the 20-mile Canal Towpath [near Cleveland]," Mary Ellen said. "Woods, open fields, wetlands, streams."
"And you're away from everything," Fred said.
"Except the birds and the wildflowers."
And then they start talking about the Great Ohio Bicycle Adventure (www.GOBA.com). For a week at Father's Day -- registration is in November -- 3,000 riders travel a predetermined Ohio route that changes each year, riding 50 to 60 miles a day.
"It's a real adventure," Fred said. "You just don't know what you're going to see." Annie Oakley's grave and the Bicycle Museum of America, for example.
And then there's Fred's face.