Guest post by Jennifer Wassenaar
Growing up in Farmington, Missouri, my older sister and I would ride our bikes up and down the street, to the park that was behind our home and to our grandparents’ houses. I even remember mastering the art of riding with no hands. As I got older and my parents moved out of town, my bike riding days came to an end. That is, until the past year or so.
Inspired by friends at church who ride, my husband started riding in 2009. I really wasn’t interested then, but as time went on I realized that this non-athletic girl needed a way to exercise. So when we upgraded my husband’s bike, I kept his old one, bought the necessary gear, and my cycling days began.
I have discovered a rich cycling community in the Farmington area, with the central hub being a Facebook group. Included in this varied group of people are business owners, young adults, teachers, retirees, salespeople and others, all joined together by their enjoyment of riding their bikes. Three to four rides per week are organized, and each ride offers different demand levels so all cyclists can find a ride that is appropriate for them. After a group ride, one of the riders will post in the group information about the ride—things like where they rode, who was involved, the average speed, and how many feet of climb they had. If there was a funny or interesting story, it will be shared, and invariably, the good natured jokes will flow.
As a rookie rider, one of the things I appreciate about the group is the encouragement given to cyclists at all levels. Even when I ride a short ride and post in on Facebook, I know it will get likes and comments of encouragement. You don’t have to be a top-notch rider to be welcomed, and everyone is willing to help and answer questions when asked.
The athletic abilities and accomplishments of the group members are impressive. Members’ accomplishments include the 2011 Missouri State Time Trial Champion for women and a King of the Mountain jersey in the Category Four state road race for men. There are also runners and tri-athletes as well. Many of the group members have lost a significant amount of weight and have made major, lasting changes in their health as a result of cycling.
One of the members who made major health changes is the creator of the group, Brian McEntire. He is currently riding across America on the TransAmerica Trail, which runs through Farmington. You can follow his progress by liking his Facebook Page or following his blog.
Additionally, Farmington has distinguished itself on the TransAmerica Trail by having one of the finest hostels dedicated to cyclists, according to the guests who have stayed. Al’s Place was established in September of 2009 and is in the old county jail in downtown. It is named in honor of late Farmington resident, Al Dziewa, who brought his love of cycling to the area. The cyclists have a place to store their bikes, do laundry, have complimentary Internet access, comfortable beds and modern kitchen and bath facilities. In the spring of 2011, TransAm Cyclery bike shop opened across the street from Al’s Place, further strengthening the commitment Farmington has to cycling.
What started as a way for me to exercise has grown into a group of people I likely would not have met any other way and I am glad to be part of a fun, supportive community.
Jennifer Wassenaar is a music educator, memory keeping enthusiast and is active in her church family and lives in Farmington, Missouri. Find her online at www.mycmsite.com/jenniferwassenaar or on Facebook at Jennifer Sitzes Wassenaar.