Seeing the world through handlebars

Delmarva bike map covers 2,500- mile trail

Outside

July 07, 2005|By Sam Sessa | Sam Sessa,SUN STAFF

Bob and Barbara Lamborn were out of shape, and they wanted to do something about it.

It was 1984, and the Baltimore natives had just moved to California for work. Barbara did professional image consulting, and Bob taught at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Both jobs required long hours and didn't offer much chance for exercise, but the Lamborns decided they had to make time for it. They were getting older - Bob was in his mid-60s and Barbara was in her mid-50s - and didn't want to look it.

"We said we were going to do it with aging bodies and [see] what we could do to keep them from aging any faster than necessary," Bob said.

They lifted weights and jogged (the best they could do at first was the distance between two telephone poles) but eventually settled on biking. The couple recently helped create the 2,500-mile Great DelMarVa Bicycling Trail for DelMarVa Low Impact Tourism Experiences (DLITE).

"Biking sounded kind of scary, but fun," Barbara said. "It's done a lot for us."

Once they got comfortable biking around Marina del Ray, where they lived, they began to reach out. Bob came home from work one day with an alumni brochure advertising a week-long bike ride and camping trip in Maui, Hawaii. It involved some hills and gullies and a worrisome 28-mile stretch in one day, but Bob thought they could do it, so Barbara went along with it.

"At some point in here, she made a big mistake," Bob said. "She said, `Pump up my tires, and I'll follow you anywhere.'"

On this first big trip, "anywhere" meant narrow roads packed with traffic and littered with rotten fruit, campsites at night, outhouses and showers with no hot water, they said.

"We were excited at the end of every day of the trip that we were able to do what we had done," Bob said.

When they returned from Maui, triumphant, "anywhere" began to mean much more. They began riding bike trails along the California coastline, sometimes going as far as 50 miles in a day. Then Bob saw a bike shop sign advertising a Century ride - 100 miles in one day. Barbara hesitated at first, but Bob thought they could work up to it, so they registered for it. They said their first century took more than 12 hours, from sunup to sundown, but they finished.

In the first two years, Bob said he lost about 20 pounds, and Barbara started to overcome the asthma which had kept her from participating in sports for most of her life.

"One of the neat things about starting it when you're really pretty senior is that you have a time when you can keep getting better while you're getting older," Bob said. "You listen to the baseball players and the basketball players, and man, they've [peaked] by 30. If you start at 66 - which I did - and you're still improving by the time you get to 75, it's a pretty neat deal."

There were also plenty of injuries along the way. Bob has knocked himself out a couple of times and broken a collarbone and a hip. Just after the couple moved back to Maryland in the mid-'80s, Barbara missed a turn at the bottom of a hill. She broke eight ribs, a shoulder blade and collarbone and punctured a lung. After more than a year of physical therapy, she mounted her bike, rode about a quarter mile and had to lie down on the side of the road and catch her breath, Bob said.

Despite the injuries, the couple said they never considered stopping because of an accident.

"We enjoy it, and if you cut out the things in life that you enjoy, what are you doing?" Bob said.

Most of the 25 or so centuries they've ridden came after Barbara's spill, they said. They got their best time for a century down to about five hours.

The Lamborns have seen the United States, Mexico, Canada, England and France over handlebars. Bob recalls biking through Death Valley, Tijuana and Palm Desert, Calif., where the pavement was so hot the kickstands sunk in. In their 21 years of biking - Bob is almost 87 and Barbara is 75 - they say they've ridden more than 48,000 miles.

Biking led the Lamborns into a whole new professional career after they retired. They gave biking seminars and lectures and created bike trails through the DelMarVa Penninsula - one of their favorite places to ride. The result is the Great DelMarVa Bicycling Trail, a map of about 2,500 miles through the peninsula's scenic and historic areas. The Lamborns did all of the trail work for DLITE, which commissioned the map.

"They created a really nice map," said Dave Wilson Jr., DLITE's director.

Through the years, miles, triumphs and injuries, Bob and Barbara say biking really hasn't brought the couple much closer together.

"We've been close together all along," Bob said.

For a $6 map of the Great DelMarVa Bicycling Trail, call 410-213-2297 or visit www.del marvalite.org.

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