T-Town 2018


This was the 10th year that Spokes of Hope was invited to Valley Preferred Velodrome in Trexlertown, Pa. In previous years, we had childhood cancer survivors “take a lap” against cancer sometime during the evening races.

We were the pee-wee football team that gets to play on the big field for five minutes of the half-time of an NFL game. Or the midget hockey team that gets five minutes between periods at an NHL game. There is also some down-time between races at the velodrome and Spokes of Hope filled the gap by introducing the childhood cancer survivors.

Take a lap against cancer – Barry and Branon Cooper getting some laps in on the track. PHOTO CREDIT: Kathy Robinson

But it was always a blast for us. For Cindi Hart, she just glowed when she could teach the young kids how to ride on the track even if it was the flat ground-level apron. But that would not happen this year.

Spokes of Hope Memory scarf – Jake “The Hero” Grecco is the first name in the upper left corner

In the past it has never been smooth. We usually didn’t find out until an hour or so before the program when we would go on. But riding the track was only half of it. Spokes of Hope loaded up a trailer and brought a full display and store from Indiana to sell at the velodrome. And some of the mission was just support for people coming by.

Barry Sherry, Linda Baun, Lexi, John Baun

Call it a miscommunication, but we arrived only to be told that we would not be riding on the track. Uh-oh. No worries. We still had the tent plus there was an entire evening of bike races.

In Memory – Alex Shepherd

My cousins from New Jersey, Stacey Gravina and her family, always come over to see me. That always makes it special. Stacey was the mother of Jake “The Hero” Grecco, one of our heroes.

Stacey Gravina, Raeann Peters, Barry Sherry, Josh Grecco, Gary Gravina, Logan Gravina

But this year was especially hard. I had hoped that my cousin, Kay Walborn, would join us as a cancer warrior. Instead, her name was the latest to be added to the Spokes of Hope banner that Cindi carries with her on rides. Kay lost her battle five days earlier.

Kay Walborn’s name added to the scarf. This sucks.

One of the people that came through was young Lexi. She was diagnosed with Acute lymphocytic leukemia (A.L.L.) in February, 2015, finished treatment May, 2017, and relapsed December, 2017. Lexi – we ride for you!

Cindi coaching Lexi

If Friday is all work, especially if we don’t get to ride), then Saturday is all play. Each year we meet for a group ride out to Topton and back. We meet at The Market Cafe which is quite a neat place situated right next to two train tracks. Unless you’re a railfan, which I am, you probably don’t want to be sipping on a cold drink when a train rumbles by.

On the road to Topton

The ride is truly one of my favorite rides of the year. It is just fun. But it is also a ride with other warriors – a brotherhood, and sisterhood, that can’t be explained and we don’t want others to join. But if you are diagnosed then we welcome you.

Front: Ken Hart, Cindi Hart. Rear: Barry Sherry, Jay Bodkin, Kathy Robinson, Andrew Werner

We had another great Saturday morning ride. Weather was perfect. Company was superb. I love my Spokes of Hope family.

Spokes of Hope Saturday Ride


Our riding group from Spokes of Hope met at the Valley Preferred Cycling Center for what has become our annual ride in the valley.  I joined Ken and Cindi Hart, Jay Bodkin, Kathy Robinson, Andrew Werner, and Branan Cooper (but Branan could ride only for a short bit).

Ken Hart, Kathy Robinson
Ken Hart, Kathy Robinson

Cindi asked us to gather and we formed a small circle. She gave thanks for friendship and then I offered up that this must also be a dedication circle. I led by speaking about Jake, whose family I had visited an hour earlier. And I dedicated my ride and day to Amelia Schmidt.

Bowers, Pa.

We rode out country roads to Topton. But not without incident. Jay came to railroad tracks and did a bunny hop. He hopped right out of his cleat – the shoe suspended on his pedal. He did an emergency repair and we were able to continue as a group.

Topton, Pa.

We did a loop out to Bowers and ended up at the cafe in Topton next to the railroad tracks. While drinking milkshakes and smoothies (I had a smoothie), Cindi asked for a hill on the return ride where we could ride for the people we have dedicated to.

Near Topton, Pa.
Near Topton, Pa.

Andrew found a hill near Mertztown. Cindi and I went up. I yelled for Amelia and Alex and Jake.


Andrew and Kathy followed. Jay and Ken watched. After the dedication, we passed a pumpkin patch and were surprised to see they were harvesting pumpkins in August.

Well, at least this writer was surprised.

Cindi Hart
Cindi Hart

It is always great riding with these cancer survivors as they enjoy their lives and triumph over cancer.

Clockwise: Ken, Andrew, Jay, Kathy, Barry, Cindi’s shoes (Credit: Cindi Hart)



I think this was the eighth straight year for Spokes of Hope. It was my fifth straight year attending.


The last night of racing for the season at Valley Preferred Cycling Center, Spokes of Hope was invited to “take a lap against cancer.” We met at 4:00 p.m. and got to ride on the track until 5:00 p.m.


The featured pediatric survivor was Abby. She is a five year old who has bilateral retinoblastoma. Ponder that for a moment. Five years old.


We met at 4:00 and rode some practice laps on the track. The kids rode down on the apron while the big kids got to ride up on the track.


Unlike past years where we were an intermission guest, this year we were first up – right before the national anthem.


We were announced as taking a “Lap Against Cancer.” The crowd enthusiastically supported us – little and big kids alike.


As we left the track the National Anthem was sung. We stood at attention, me with my hand over my heart.


This is always a special night. Honoring kids and seeing old friends. And we got to see some good bike racing too.


Reflections on the Year – 2015

My Top Ten* Cycling Moments of the Year

In chronological order

1. Ride the Rockies

My third straight year going to Colorado to ride these big mountains. I don’t know why but my favorite climb was the 14 mile dirt road up and over 12,000′ Cottonwood Pass. The legs felt great that day. Best day of the year, in fact. I rode 105 but could have easily ridden 50 more.


2. Texas 4000

After Ride the Rockies I went up to Estes Park thinking I would run into the Texas 4000, then giving up, then meeting and riding with them.

3. Chey and Chelsea in Altoona

It wasn’t the full Jacob’s Hero Ride that I had hoped but was very glad to have Chey Hillsgrove and Chelsea Johnson join me for two days of riding in Bedford and Blair counties.


4. Early mornings in Delaware

A fun week at a beach house in South Bethany, Delaware, began each morning with a 30-40 mile ride. Delicious!

Canal - South Bethany
Canal – South Bethany

5. Ohio

On my way to Indiana I stopped to ride through Piqua and Lockington, Ohio, two places I lived when I was 9-12 years old.


6. Spokes of Hope – Indy

Surprised friends Ken and Cindi Hart by showing up to their Spokes of Hope ride near Indianapolis.

Barry trailed by Julie
Barry trailed by Julie

7. Trexlertown

The community of cancer survivors combined with riding on the velodrome in Trexlertown. Bonus ride to Tipton on Saturday.

8. New French Friends

On the W&OD Trail I saw a man and daughter on a recumbent pulled over so I stopped and asked “Where did you start and where are you going?” I was surprised to learn they started in Vancouver and were cycling to Key West. Thomas and Sylvaine Houdy, from Lyon, France, and their children, Theo and Elsa, took 11 months off for a trip of a lifetime.

Cold and rainy near Williamsburg
Cold and rainy near Williamsburg


9. Meeting my Amish cousins

Imagine the surprise on young Amish couple, Keith and Julie Zimmerman, riding their bicycles to church when I slowed down and told her that I was related to her. When she told me her last name was Wenger I knew were were related and tried to explain it to her. I don’t think she believed me.


10. Livestrong

Brought in Alex Shepherd’s father, Dan, and he and I had a couple days riding before the event then 100 miles fighting cancer.



11. Ride with Dad

A beautiful Fall day I was able to meet my dad and my sister. At 86 the thought is always there it may be his last ride on a bike.

Pinkerton High Trestle
Pinkerton High Trestle

12. The Governor

A quasi-private ride with the governor of Delaware, Jack Markell. Of course I wore a Texas jersey to a Delaware ride.


2015 was my top mileage year by 1500 miles. I rode 8,078 miles (or 13,000 km because that looks cooler). Using the format for Potomac Pedalers’ Iron Crotch Award (for 5,000 miles):

Total Miles: 8,078  (I prefer 13,000 kilometers)


Longest Ride – Crested Butte to Salida, CO over Cottonwood Pass, CO. – 106 miles.

Date on which 5,000 was achieved – Aug. 22 at the Spokes of Hope Ride in Indianapolis

Most miles in a Month — 1,232 (July)

Most miles in a week — 521 During Ride the Rockies

Number of Zero mile weeks – None

Number of 100 mile days – Three

And I will add for 242 rides the average was 33.38 miles per ride.

Most interesting story – My Amish cousins.

And that’s it. Another year. No falls or crashes (always a plus)! It was a good year but I still had 123 days without a ride. Lazy, lazy, lazy. I don’t know what 2016 holds for me. I want to do an epic ride for children’s cancer awareness and research but things have to fall in order. I love France, Italy, and Switzerland but don’t know if I will get back this year. I hope wherever it is I ride safe, make new friends, and most of all, continue to find peace on the bike.

*I can’t count

Spokes of Hope – Pa.


Having celebrated beating cancer with some kids last night at the Velodrome, this day was reserved for a fellowship ride. Mileage goals aren’t usually that important to me but they do provide an incentive at times. A few days ago I wasn’t sure I would ride 1,000 miles in August then, all of a sudden, realized I could do it today. I had a goal.


I left the Homewood Suites hotel and biked the two miles to Trexlertown. First, I made my way over to the track at Rodale Park and rode laps. By the time my Spokes of Hope friends showed up I already had 10 miles in the book.


And so eight of us pushed off from the Velodrome for the back country roads in Lehigh and Berks counties. We started with Ken and Cindi Hart, Jay Bodkin, Kathy Robinson, Branan Cooper, Andy Werner, myself and some guy named Mike (my apologies).


Surprisingly, I have ridden these roads before. I must say they are enjoyable.


We headed out into Mertztown to Bowers then doubled back to Topton. Mike peeled off in Mertztown and we were down to seven. In Topton we stopped at a cafe by the tracks which appears to be overrun with cyclists (in a good way – lots more bikes than cars and it was busy inside).


When we were ready to roll out we picked up an eighth rider to make up for Mike. Although we didn’t go back to Bowers, we basically just followed the route that we had just come out on.


Back at the cycling park, we huddle up for a group photo and, for most of us, said goodbye for another year. As they packed up, I rode back to the hotel and went over 1,000 miles for the month. A nice way to finish the ride.

T-Town Races


This place is cool. This place is fun.


For the third straight year I joined Spokes of Hope (their sixth straight year) in Trexlertown. The core of the group traveled to T-Town from Indianapolis. The rest of us just sort of filtered in from elsewhere.


Cindi Hart said there would be a clinic at 5:00 p.m. for the kids. I arrived at 4:30 p.m., and upon not finding anyone inside the gate, just went across the street to the Rodale Park and rode for a bit. When I returned I went to the track and everyone was already riding so I joined in. It wasn’t a clinic, at least for me, but some fun riding on the velodrome.


We cleared the track as the event riders started to filter in. Monica Johnson-Null and her boys went across the street to the park and I joined them.

Monica Johnson-Null

As the event neared I was surprised to see many organizations were set up inside, including many cancer groups. The Lehigh Valley Pediatric Cancer group was there as was St. Baldricks.


I didn’t get to watch any of the races and was preparing to line up to ride on the track when I heard my name called. My cousins, Stacey and Gary Gravina had come over from Phillipsburg, New Jersey so we talked briefly before they got to go to the stands and see the elimination race (one of my favorites).


We were announced at taking a victory lap over cancer although we took two. We made our way to the infield where our featured survivor was a 16 year old boy with brain cancer. He had lost speech and his ability to walk but now can was riding a trike.

Josh Grecco and Stacey Gravina

He took the podium as his triumph over cancer and the crowd cheered. It is a great night to celebrate.


And a final note. The final race was the 100-lap pro-men’s Madison, always a fun event. And the finale was an awesome fireworks (“pyromusical”) display – I think the best I have ever seen.

T-Town Turnpike


Well, it’s not really the Trexlertown Turnpike. I began the day hoping that my sister, Betsy, and I would take our dad to the Great Allegheny Passage at Rockwood and ride about 12 miles to Fort Hill. But he said he was too tired to ride (he is 85) and I had kept him out late past midnight at the Pittsburgh Steelers’ game.

Pumping Station Road Entrance

Betsy previously had expressed interest in riding the Abandoned Turnpike at Breezewood. Fresh off buying lights for her bike last week at the 25 Hours of Booty, we both drove to Breezewood. 

Entrance off Pumping Station Road
It is not marked

I had my Trek Domane and a Trek MTB with me. The pavement on the Pike2Bike ranges from average to poor, with a lot of poor. All things being equal, I would choose a mountain bike over a road bike but it’s not bad on a road bike. It’s just better on fatter tires. However, since I had both with me it meant I had to leave one in the car so I chose to leave the MTB in the car instead of the road bike.

Entrance off Pumping Station Road

Entering from Breezewood, and after climbing the steep trail up to the start, you have your choice of four lanes of pavement, although it is often hard to tell. You start out in the left “lane” – that is where the entrance puts you. My experience is to ride the left lane to the Rays Hill (first) Tunnel. After exiting the tunnel, ride the left lane for a couple of miles but then switch over to the right lane before reaching the Sideling Hill (second) tunnel. After exiting the second tunnel, stay left. These are my suggestions only and know and there is no perfect line to follow.

Eastern entrance to Sideling Hill (second) Tunnel

I flatted after exiting the Sideling Hill Tunnel. I couldn’t find any glass in the tire but there is a little bit of glass on the trail. I think it was probably a pinch flat from the rough pavement.

Closest intersection to Pike 2 Bike

Once out at the far end, we rode another mile just to see where the roads lead. Then we 
turned around and went back.

Exit of Sideling Hill Tunnel, looking west

After our ride I drove to Trexlertown. The last couple of years, the cancer support group, Spokes of Hope, was at Trexlertown to honor pediatric cancer survivors. This year, the invitation did not come until Wednesday, so we scrambled to get participants, both big and small.

Valley Preferred Velodrome
Trexlertown, Pa.

I arrived at 3:30, we took some practice rides on the track at 4:00 p.m., coached by Cindi Hart. The kids stayed down (on the track). The grownups stayed up. Cindi ran us through some drills but in the end I think it was just the two of us.

Cindi Hart

After the practice ride I went on to over to the Bob Rodale fitness track. Three lanes: slow bikes on left, roller bladers in the middle, fast bikes on the right. What a great track to ride.

Cancer Survivors and Warriors

At 7:00 p.m. (scheduled) or 7:15 or 7:20 (actual) we were introduced to the crowd at the Valley Preferred Velodrome. We took 3-4 laps and the crowd cheered the entire time for the survivors and cancer warriors. It warmed my heart.

The races are a blast to watch, especially the Madison where teammates take turns and sling their partners ahead when they make the exchange. The German-Austrian duo of Marcel Kalz and Andreas Graf killed the field, lapping them in both the 50 and 100 lap races although American and local favorite, Bobby Lea, was not there.

Josh Grecco

My dear cousins, Stacey and Gary Gravina, came over from Phillipsburg, New Jersey to see me (or maybe just see the races). It was so great to see them and their boys.

Barry and Stacey

Abandoned tunnels in western Pa., velodrome in eastern Pa. – I’d say it was a good day.

Velodrome Country


I wasn’t sure that I would get back here. I was here to attend a fundraiser last night for Jake Grecco, a 7-year old battling brain cancer — he’s also the son of my 4th cousin, Stacey Lowmaster. After the fundraiser when Stacey asked if we would like to meet Jake. All cycling was off. Jake trumps cycling every time.  

L-R: Gary Gravina, Betsy Sherry, Stacey Gravina, Jake Grecco, Barry Sherry

After a wonderful morning visiting Jake and his family, then saying goodbye to my sister, Betsy, I realized I still had just enough time to return and finish yesterday’s ride. It was windy but not with the unsafe gusts of yesterday. The route, downloaded to my Garmin, proved to be one with lots of turns. I had no idea where I was going – In Garmin We Trust.  

Valley Preferred Velodrome, Trexlertown, Pa.

I retraced yesterday’s attempted route for six miles and then went down some new roads. I had hoped to ride 26 miles without putting a foot down but when I came to a beautiful barn I knew I had to stop to take some pictures.  

A barn

I found a unique shed with implements attached to the outside. I stopped at the foot of the driveway then asked permission “to come aboard.” The owner was very pleased that I asked permission to photograph his shed and glad that I found it interesting.      

Longswamp B&B

Near Kutztown I realized I was in Amish Country. I passed an Amish wood working shop then met a group of cyclists coming in the opposite direction. They had good form but wore no helmets. They were on road bikes but wore no “fancy” cycling clothes. Then I realized they were young Amish men returning from church. I wanted a photo but respected their beliefs and simply waved. And they waved back.  

I turned down a country road and spotted two women with three large dogs. And I had to go past them. I love dogs but still remember my encounter in 2010 in which two Rottweillers tried to get to know me better. I didn’t want to pedal past them and trigger a chase reaction. Well, a chase and bite reaction.

Amish School

I slowed then called out “safe to pass?” One of the women said it was although the three dogs were running loose. They may have had different ideas. So I stopped. The women gathered up the dogs and two of them came over to sniff me and say hello.

We were friends. At this point, I was about three miles from the finish. I just pedaled home thankful for another day on the bike.   After returning home, I found out from my cousin, Doug Sherry, that I had passed about two miles from his house. I feel so bad. Next time he better have food waiting.

Bowers, Pa.

Safe, Unsafe, or Stupid


We, or at least I, have a saying: There are three types of riding – “Safe, unsafe, and stupid.” 
And often the line between unsafe riding and stupid riding is blurred.

I came to Trexlertown, Pa. which is home to the famous Valley Preferred Cycling Center’s Velodrome. It was cold (38°) and windy (winds were steady at 30-40 mph with gusts even higher). I had budgeted time to ride before meeting my sister, Betsy, in Allentown.

Sorry, folks! America’s Favorite Velodrome is Closed for the Season.

Snow was blowing. The roads were bare so the snow wasn’t sticking but it was blowing. And here in the mecca of east coast cycling, I saw no one.

I took my time. I didn’t want to go out in this weather but knew I must. Ten minutes passed. The van was rocking from the wind and I could feel the cold air blowing in. I didn’t want to go but yet…

…I was here and it was time to MAN UP!!

Trexlertown, Pa.

Then I saw three cyclists arrive and that was my cue. If they could ride, I had no excuses. I kitted up and headed off. I had briefly thought about asking to join them but figured they were stronger than me. Plus I am nursing a torn meniscus so I didn’t need to push it to keep up.

I headed off into the wind. And it was strong. I had downloaded a ride that was on RideWithGPS to my Garmin bike computer with just the right distance (28 miles) and turns (a bunch) to be interesting. After 3-4 miles of fighting the winds I saw three cyclists coming at me and they were soft-pedaling. It was the three guys that had been in the parking lot.

Angry flags whipping in the cold air

My thought only turned to how slow they were going, with the wind, and me kicking myself knowing I could stay with them. I regretted not going with them.

I then hit the open road unprotected by houses or trees; just open fields. The winds were howling. At times they were incredibly loud and other times there was an eerie silence.
Down the road, a gust hit me and almost caused me to crash. I fought with both hands to steer and although I stayed upright, I had been blown across both lanes of the country road. Had another car been passing me, or another one been coming from the opposite direction, I would have been in a crash with an automobile. It was scary that I could not steer the bike in a straight line. Nor could I hear cars coming because the winds were howling so loud.

This was stupid riding. I guess it took me to realize that it was stupid to know that it was unsafe. And it was very unsafe. At that point, I decided I had to turn around. 

I was determined to retrace some of my route but also to follow road signs for the shortest way back to the start. And then I discovered why my three friends were going slow even with a tailwind. They couldn’t hold their bikes in a straight line. I thought a tailwind was a reward for fighting the wind but today it was no reward. Today it was a menace.

In a year in which all my rides thus far went a minimum of 16 miles, I had to cut this off at 11 for which I was thankful. I was smart enough to park the bike knowing I can ride another day.

Now stupid riding was yesterday. Bob Ryan (NBC meteorologist) had forecast a high of 70° and I came prepared for 70°. It never got out of the 50s and I headed out for a ride in the pouring rain. Stupid.

I went around Hains Point and was soaked. What was the point? I hadn’t done a ride all year less than 16 miles and riding in the cold rain became a matter of pride. I couldn’t let this be the shortest ride of the year. So I suffered on. Yesterday was stupid.

Today — today was simply unsafe. It is why it was the shortest ride of the year although in a few days when I start evening rides I will go shorter.

This area is beautiful. I would like to return some other day but without these winter winds.

EDIT/EPILOGUE – This was my first day riding, or attempting to ride, at the Velodrome in Trexlertown. Cancer sucks but it has also giving me lots of opportunities and friendships that I otherwise would not have had. One of those has been an annual trip to Trexlertown with Spokes of Hope. I would come back to the Velodrome late each summer and have a chance to ride on the track as well as a Saturday morning group ride to Topton and back.

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