Wednesday, March 21, 2018
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20180104 Paradise Resort Recumbent Cyclists MILLER IMG 7333Marilyn Hunter

Lewis Briggs and Marilyn Hunter want to be outside biking.

We’re not talking just a couple of miles, or keeping their journey within the confines of Paradise Resort Park where they live. We’re talking mega trips from Pharr to other Valley cities like Mercedes, Mission, the Don Wes Flea Market and even Hidalgo.

The couple has found plenty of enjoyment taking extended trips on their three-wheel recumbent bikes.

“I started out with an 18-speed mountain bike,” Marilyn said. “But you know as you get older, the balance goes away and we were riding long distances. We bought my recumbent last year and I love it.”

Lewis has been riding his since 2009. In 2016 he racked up more than 1,000 miles. The year before he logged even more miles. He said he wasn't going to reach that mark this year. The past few weeks have had a lot of unridable days, spanning back to even before the unusual snowfall in early December.

Marilyn said. “We try to go at least every other day. It's just fun to do. Most of the times we just start out and never know where we are going or where we are going to eat – but it's always a light lunch, we don't want anything heavy.”

20180104 Paradise Resort Recumbent Cyclists MILLER IMG 7345Lewis Briggs

Lewis' career was in welding so it didn't take long after he bought his bike that he was tinkering with it, customizing it as much as possible for his tall frame and long legs. He added larger tires and a trailer-like basket on the back to pull along.

“It’s a 21-speed recumbent, pedal power and with a motor on the front; we both have a motor,” Lewis said. “I redid the entire bike. The frame is the only thing that's the same. I'll go to a lot of flea markets and I have that little trailer behind me just in case I find something I want to buy.”

While biking is in some ways easier in the Rio Grande Valley because, well, there is no Valley – the land is fairly flat. However, South Texas more than makes up for its flat terrain with winds and gusts that come out of nowhere, with no reason and no warning.

Lewis got caught in one of those windy days once – before he had the motor on the bike.

“It was a big wind,” he said. “It was three years ago and I got into a 40 mile-per-hour wind straight in my face and I was still 10 miles from home. I had a heck of a time getting back. Later on I saw they were making these kits to build a motor and decided to put a motor on – it's a lot easier now.”

One time, Marilyn was out riding within the park and another park resident stopped her as she was coming back from the post office. The conversation ended up with the mutual question – do you want to race?

“He was wondering how I could go so fast.” Marilyn said. “I told him I pedaled fast.”

They raced from one end of the park to the other; Marilyn said they finished in a tie. Then she fessed up about the motor.

That motor is a double blessing for Marilyn, who started biking on her normal two-wheeler not long after she called it quits after 50 years of riding horses. “A horse threw me about four years ago and I broke three ribs,” she said. “I wanted to stay active and started cycling.”

There's a huge difference in comfort and ease when it comes to switching to a recumbent bike. Lewis switched because the doctor told him it would be better for his back. Marilyn switched because the wind in the Valley just started making it too difficult to take those 20-40 mile round trips.

“We were living in Donna at that time and rode clear to Mission – it was easy going there on my 18-speed because there was no wind,” Marilyn said. “But on the way back it was terrible. I would go from stoplight to stoplight and have to walk a lot of the time.

“That's when I decided to get my recumbent bike – it's so much easier and I pedal at a comfortable pace, 8-10 miles per hour. And if things get tough, we have our motors now.”

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