Dianne Frances D. Powell
TERRE HAUTE —
A group of area cyclists greeted their weekend with an early-morning bike ride on Saturday along Terre Haute’s scenic trail.
The cyclists — people of all ages and fitness routines — gathered before 7:30 a.m. Saturday at Dogwood Shelter in Hawthorn Park to participate in the first Pedal Across Terre Haute bike event.
Most of the participants pedaled across Terre Haute from East to West, through the National Road Heritage Trail, traveling a total of 15 miles roundtrip.
One of the main purposes of the event is “for people to become acquainted with the trail system,” PATH organizer Jane Santucci said. She said the park system is one of “Terre Haute’s greatest assets” and she wants to let people know that they are available for their use.
Santucci worked with community groups such as the National Road Bicycle Club and sponsors such as Dever Distributing Co., Inc, the City of Terre Haute, and county parks to put the event together.
“This is an attempt to introduce the community to the trail system… [it] is a good resource and attraction for bringing people to the community,” said National Road Bicycle Club ride director Jim Mckinney.
“We want to encourage people to ride in Terre Haute,” added Mckinney, who has been riding for decades and usually rides around 30-35 miles per day.
And for good reason.
“Obviously it’s a good physical activity and it gives people exposure” to the scenic sights around the community, Mckinney said. He pointed to the route map showing Twigg Trail Head, Jones Trail Head, and downtown Terre Haute. Jones Trail Head, which has a garden, is particularly beautiful, Mckinney said.
The National Road Heritage Trail serves as the “backbone” for an extensive 36 miles of connected trails and greenways around the city, said Terre Haute city planner, Pat Martin, who was also present at the event.
Other trails and bike lanes have been developed throughout the city over the years. A trail south of Fairbanks Park by the Wabash River is set to start construction in two months, Martin said.
These trails are built with the community in mind.
“It marks us as a community that cares about the health of its citizens and it shows that we care about the environment,” because the use of bicycles reduces pollution, Martin said.
“It’s all about the kids. It’s designed to promote healthy, outdoor, active lifestyles,” he said of the importance of these projects.
Two kids were up very early to ride with their grandparents at the event.
Zoey and Koren Willan, ages 6 and 8, respectively, accompanied their grandfather Bob Brownson and grandmother, Sis, on the 15-mile trek.
Zoey was all smiles as she mounted her bike with a helmet on her head saying she is “excited” about riding the trail. It is a family activity they do regularly.
In addition to spending time with the grandparents, Zoey and Koren also get a lesson.
“It’s a lifelong exercise. It’s learning the healthy lifestyle,” said their mother, Regina Willan, with Sis Brownson adding “thanks to grandma and grandpa” as she pedaled away.
And for Willan’s 6-year-old Zoey, it also teaches “hand-eye coordination and balance,” Willan said.
Other beginner bike riders were also present.
Karen Fleener of Terre Haute started cycling a year ago. She said biking is her exercise, especially after a double-knee replacement.
She was accompanied by her husband, James, who said “the trail is great to ride on. We ride on it regularly.” The couple said they usually do six to eight miles per day. They planned to complete the 15-mile route at the event.
And they have stories to tell about the trail.
“Once we came across a snake,” which was completely unexpected, Fleener said. The snake was crossing the trail and Fleener thought she had plenty of time to get around it until “it jumped at me so I went off the trail.”
“It’s exciting,” she said but quickly added that it was also a little “scary.”
Another cycling duo was present to enjoy the day.
Andrea Bayles and her husband, Jordan said they got their bikes just two months ago and PATH is their first bike event.
“We’re new riders. We just thought it was a good way to start off,” Bayles said. The couple also plan to complete the 15 miles and even “rode here [to the park shelter] from home.”
It’s exercise and fun, Bayles said.
“We’re always looking for something fun to do in Terre Haute,” she added.
The couple has been to the trail before.
The best part?
“Serenity,” Bayles described the experience in one word.
Tribune-Star Reporter Dianne Frances D. Powell can be reached at 812-231-4299 or firstname.lastname@example.org.