Broke Spoke shop celebrates 5 years of recycling unused bikes

September 13, 2015
Carl Vogel, right, measured the seat post tube of a high-end bicycle frame donated to Broke Spoke Community Bike Shop held by Andy Shooner. The shop's mission is to refurbish old bikes for use as basic transportation for people who need it, so this frame likely will be sold to raise money for other bicycle parts. Photos by Tom Eblen

Carl Vogel, right, measured the seat post tube of a high-end racing bicycle frame donated to Broke Spoke Community Bike Shop held by Andy Shooner. The shop’s mission is to refurbish old bikes for use as basic transportation for people who need it, so this frame likely will be sold to raise money for other bicycle parts. Photos by Tom Eblen


Five years ago, Lexington cyclists Brad Flowers, Shane Tedder and Tim Buckingham wanted to open a different kind of bicycle shop.

Lexington was well-served by commercial shops that sold new bikes and accessories and had mechanics on staff to make repairs. But they wanted to organize volunteers to refurbish old bikes — like the ones gathering dust in your garage — and get them to people who need them for affordable transportation.

Broke Spoke Community Bike Shop has accomplished many of those goals. And, thanks to community support and a dedicated group of volunteers, the mission keeps growing.

“It has exceeded our expectations,” Buckingham said. “There has always been a consistent stream of folks dropping in to help out. And the really committed volunteers are what keeps the shop going.”

Jessica Breen, a doctoral student in geography at the University of Kentucky, adjusts a derailleur on an old French 10-speed bike donated to Broke Spoke Community Bicycle Shop. Breen recently started a women-only volunteer night at the shop.

Jessica Breen, a doctoral student in geography at the University of Kentucky, adjusts a derailleur on an old French 10-speed bike donated to Broke Spoke Community Bicycle Shop. Breen recently started a women-only volunteer night at the shop.

Broke Spoke now has dozens of volunteers, who celebrated the shop’s fifth anniversary last week with a bike progressive dinner.

You can celebrate, too, at Broke Spoke’s annual Savory Cycle fundraiser Sept. 27.

Participants ride routes of 25, 50 or 65 miles and enjoy food and beverages from Chef Ouita Michel’s restaurants, West Sixth Brewing and Magic Beans Coffee Roasters. The rides begin and end at Holly Hill Inn in Midway, and non-riding tickets are available for those who just want to eat. Space is limited.

Broke Spoke opened in November 2010 in a small room behind Al’s Sidecar bar at North Limestone and West Sixth streets. It quickly outgrew the space.

When the four partners who own West Sixth Brewery began renovating the Breadbox building at West Sixth and Jefferson streets in 2012, Broke Spoke became one of their first tenants. The shop’s current space is five-times larger than the original one, and it now has eight work stations instead of two.

Broke Spoke volunteers refurbish and sell about 30 donated bikes a month for between $50 and $300. The average bike sells for a little more than $100. Customers who can’t afford that can earn “sweat equity” for up to $75 by volunteering at the shop at a credit rate of $8 an hour.

Buckingham said Broke Spoke’s customers range from college students and young professionals to people from the nearby Hope Center and other shelters.

The shop is open to customers 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursdays and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays. Volunteers also work on bikes in the shop 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesdays.

Jessica Breen started a women-only volunteer night the fourth Monday of each month to help them become more comfortable with repairing bicycles.

The shop accepts donated bikes when it is open. Donors also can drop off bikes and parts at the Habitat for Humanity Restore, 451 Southland Dr., and Pedal Power Bike Shop, 401 S. Upper Street.

“Some of our biggest supporters are the local bike shops,” Buckingham said. That support includes donated parts and referrals of customers who bring in old bikes that aren’t economical for the commercial shops to fix.

“I think it has been a good thing,” Pedal Power owner Billy Yates said of Broke Spoke. “The more people there are out there riding, the more visibility cyclists have and the safer it is to ride.”

Broke Spoke doesn’t sell any new merchandise, so it isn’t competing with commercial shops, volunteer Eileen Burk noted. By creating new cyclists, it can create future business for commercial shops.

A new section of the Legacy Trail recently opened beside Broke Spoke, so the shop will soon be sprucing up its entrance. A water fountain will be added, Buckingham said, as well as a bike repair station donated by the Bluegrass Cycling Club.

Broke Spoke’s operating expenses are now covered by bicycle sales. But the cycling club and the Kentucky Bicycle and Bikeways Commission have made donations for several special projects. Individuals have given more than $12,000 to Broke Spoke through the annual Good Giving Guide.

Pop cellist and singer Ben Sollee, who often travels to concerts by bicycle, has played several Broke Spoke benefits. “He’s probably helped us raise more than $10,000,” Buckingham said.

Future plans include more formal training in bike maintenance and repair for volunteers and customers.

Broke Spoke also wants to attract more volunteers so the shop can open more days each week, said Allen Kirkwood, a steering committee member. A special need is bilingual volunteers to improve outreach to Latinos and other immigrants.

“We have plenty of ideas for additional programming,” said volunteer Andy Shooner. “But it really takes having volunteers who get familiar with the shop and say, ‘Yeah, I want to make that happen.'”

If you go

Savory Cycle

When: Sept. 27

What: Fundraiser for Broke Spoke Community Bike Shop

Rides: Choice of three routes — 25, 50 or 65 miles — with food and beverages.

Where: Holly Hill Inn, Midway.

Cost: $100.

Tickets and more info:

Tim Buckingham, left, board chairman of Broke Spoke Community Bike Shop, and Andy Shooner discussed volunteer schedules at the shop in the Bread Box complex at the corner of Jefferson and West Sixth Streets. The shop is celebrating its fifth anniversary.

Tim Buckingham, left, board chairman of Broke Spoke Community Bike Shop, and Andy Shooner discussed volunteer schedules at the shop in the Bread Box complex at the corner of Jefferson and West Sixth Streets. The shop is celebrating its fifth anniversary.

A stack of wheels donated to Broke Spoke Community Bike Shop. Donors can bring old bikes to the shop when it is open, or to Pedal Power Bikes on Maxwell Street or the Habitat Restore on Southland Drive.

A stack of wheels donated to Broke Spoke. Donors can bring old bikes to the shop when it is open, or to Pedal Power Bikes on Maxwell Street or the Habitat Restore on Southland Drive.

John Klus works on an old Schwinn bicycle donated to Broke Spoke Community Bike Shop.

John Klus works on an old Schwinn bicycle donated to Broke Spoke Community Bike Shop.

Eileen Burk, a water quality specialist for Kentucky American Water Co., removes a seat from a child's bicycle donated to Broke Spoke Community Bike Shop.

Eileen Burk, a water quality specialist for Kentucky American Water Co., removes a seat from a child’s bicycle donated to Broke Spoke Community Bike Shop.

Eileen Burk, left, and Jessica Breen work on bicycles donated to the Broke Spoke Community Bicycle Shop. The 10-speed Breen is working on will be repaired for a second life. But Burk is dismantling the cheap children's bike she has for parts.

Eileen Burk, left, and Jessica Breen work on bicycles donated to the Broke Spoke Community Bicycle Shop. The 10-speed Breen is working on will be repaired for a second life. But Burk is dismantling the cheap children’s bike she has for parts.

Plan would create 200 miles of multi-use trails in Scott County

July 15, 2014

legacyGabe Schmuck, 9, left, Nate Schmuck, 5, and their father, Paul Schmuck, rode on the Legacy Trail in Lexington in 2012. Photo by Mark Ashley.

GEORGETOWN — The popular Legacy Trail out of Lexington now stops just short of the Scott County line at the Kentucky Horse Park. But what is now the end of the trail could someday be just the beginning.

Scott County leaders have worked for three years with the regional visioning group Bluegrass Tomorrow and the National Park Service to develop an ambitious plan for Kentucky’s most extensive trails network. Plans call for 200 miles of biking, hiking, horseback riding and waterway trails throughout Scott County.

“Our vision is that this is going to eventually branch out and include the whole region,” said John Simpson, director of Georgetown/Scott County Tourism.

The Bluegrass Bike Hike Horseback Trails Alliance unveiled a draft of the proposed master plan Monday at the monthly meeting of the Georgetown/Scott County Chamber of Commerce.

Alliance leaders hope to finish the plan by the end of the year and begin negotiating property easements, designing trails, raising private money and applying for federal transportation grants.

Some trails would be shared, with bike/pedestrian and horse paths side-by-side, but most would be separate. The plan was developed with help from interested residents during a June 2013 design workshop, and the alliance is eager for more public participation.

At this point, there are no cost estimates, but such a trails network would run well into the millions of dollars. Still, many officials think it would be a great investment.

“This has the potential to have a tremendous impact, economically and socially, on the community,” said Russell Clark, the alliance’s National Park Service representative.

Clark and Rob Rumpke, president of Bluegrass Tomorrow, cited the economic impact that trail systems have had on Damascus, Va., a once-depressed logging town where hikers and mountain bikers now flock to the Appalachian and Virginia Creeper trails; Loveland, Ohio; and Indiana’s Brown County.

The trails alliance has more than a dozen partners, including the cities of Georgetown, Sadieville and Lexington; Scott County Fiscal Court; the state tourism department; the Horse Park; the Kentucky Horse Council; Georgetown College; the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture; the Bluegrass Area Development District; St. Joseph Health System/Kentucky One; and several horseback-riding and cycling groups.

Rumpke said horse trails should be especially popular, given the number of local horse enthusiasts and the tourists who come to Central Kentucky to see horse farms and events.

“We’re the horse capital of the world; why are there so few horseback-riding facilities?” he asked. “This is an opportunity to address that.”

The first step in the plan is to extend the Legacy Trail 6.6 miles from the horse park to Georgetown. Christie Robinson chairs a steering committee that commissioned an engineering feasibility study, which was recently completed. The study estimates the total cost at about $8.3 million, including trailheads, bathrooms and other amenities. It could be built in four phases as money became available.

Georgetown recently awarded the Legacy Trail committee $25,000 as a match to a $100,000 federal grant that it will apply for this fall, Robinson said. That would move the design process forward.

Claude Christensen, mayor of Sadieville, said he sees the trail system as an opportunity to revitalize his town of 303 people at the northern tip of Scott County. Sadieville is applying for “trail town” status with state tourism officials. But it needs trails.

“It’s huge for Sadieville,” Christensen said. “It makes us a destination.”

Simpson, the tourism official, said many Scott County business and government leaders support trails development because they have seen the economic benefit that road cycling enthusiasts have had in the area.

The Bluegrass Cycling Club’s annual Horsey Hundred ride each Memorial Day weekend is based at Georgetown College. This year, more than 2,000 cyclists came from all over North America to ride Central Kentucky’s scenic back roads on marked routes ranging from 25 to 104 miles.

Georgetown hosted a downtown party for the cyclists, who filled Georgetown College’s residence halls and more than half of the 1,100 local motel rooms. A big group from Ontario, Canada, came for an entire week of cycling before the event.

An extensive trail network, along with Central Kentucky’s world-class cycling roads, could make Georgetown a major recreation destination, Simpson said.

“We’re at the starting point of something that could be phenomenal,” he said. “It could bring thousands of tourists to our community and enhance our own quality of life.”

Author’s talks will focus on making cities more walkable

January 13, 2014

Urban planners, who in the decades after World War II helped redesign America’s cities and towns around the automobile, have been trying to warn people ever since then that they really screwed up.

Finally, most people are beginning to agree, says Jeff Speck, a veteran city planner and author of the 2012 book Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America One Step at a Time.

Health professionals cite car culture as a big reason an epidemic in obesity and related physical problems. Economists note that suburban sprawl has become costly to taxpayers because all of the new infrastructure rarely pays for itself. Plus, a lack of public transportation in many areas has put costly burdens of car ownership and maintenance on the working poor.

bookcoverThe environmental movement has had an anti-urban bent since the days of Thomas Jefferson and Henry David Thoreau. But that has changed dramatically.

“And all of a sudden environmentalists discovered that if you live in a city your footprint is much lighter than if you live in sprawl,” Speck said. “In fact, cities are a solution to our environmental crises, both locally and globally.”

Most of all, Speck says, average citizens, from young adults to their empty-nester parents, have embraced cities again. Across the country, home values in walkable, urban neighborhoods are rising much faster than those in the kinds of car-dependent suburbs that have dominated American development since the 1950s.

“Walkable cities actually save us money, make us money and are poised to thrive in the next couple of decades while unwalkable places aren’t,” Speck said in a telephone interview last week from his home in Washington, D.C.

Speck will be talking about these trends — and giving advice to community leaders about how to make their towns more walkable — at a lecture and workshop this week in Frankfort.

Speck will give a lecture at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Grand Theatre on St. Clair Mall, with a book signing to follow. Tickets are $10. On Friday, he will lead a two-hour workshop, beginning at 9 a.m., at the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Auditorium, 200 Mero St. Admission is $25.

His visit is part of a conference sponsored by the Kentucky Heritage Council in conjunction with the annual winter meeting of the Kentucky Main Street Program, which works to improve life in the historic centers of the state’s towns and cities. Conference registration, including both of Speck’s sessions, is $100. More information:

Most people don’t need convincing about the importance of walkability, he said, but they do need help with strategies for making it happen.

speckSpeck’s book notes that many communities made walking more difficult because they were being designed for other considerations. For example, many streets and intersections are oversized to accommodate the largest-possible emergency vehicles. Fewer but bigger schools and parks have been built because they are easier for officials to maintain and show off than the alternative, which often would be easier for citizens to get to and use.

“The twin gods of smooth traffic and ample parking” took the life out of many once-thriving downtowns, Speck writes, turning them into places that are “easy to get to but not worth arriving at.”

Speck writes that there are four criteria for successful pedestrian areas: walking must be safe, comfortable, interesting and useful. By useful, he means that necessities of daily life — shopping, restaurants and workplaces — must be close and arranged so they can be easily accessed by walking.

Speck’s book outlines 10 steps for city walkability. Those include mixed-use neighborhoods, good mass transit, well-designed and affordable parking facilities, ample trees and bicycle-friendly streets.

The biggest challenge many American cities and towns will face in coming years will be retrofitting mid- and late-20th century suburbs to make them more accessible for aging Baby Boomers and the working poor.

“We’ve laid the groundwork for a major social crisis,” he said.

The best hope is often restoring traditional downtowns and making new developments better for walking, biking and mass transit. That will require changing many ingrained rules and attitudes about traffic and street design.

“Most traffic engineers are really nice people,” Speck said. “But they will wreck your city.”  

Watch Jeff Speck’s TED Talk on walkable cities:

Second Sunday back at Blue Grass Airport this weekend

June 9, 2011

Last year’s popular Second Sunday event at Blue Grass Airport will be repeated this weekend. People are invited to bring their bicycles, skateboards, rollerskates, sports equipment and walking shoes to have fun and get some exercise on the airport’s 4,000-foot runway Sunday from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m.

The free event will offer a number of activities, including a batting cage from the Lexington Legends, sports equipment from the YMCA and a display of various aircraft and safety vehicles, including fire engines, police vehicles, helicopters and unusual airplanes.

Participants can register to win tickets to one of three Florida destinations, courtesy of the airport and Allegiant Air. They also can bring picnics to enjoy while watching aircraft take off and land. During the event, aircraft will be using the airport’s main 7,000-foot runway, so there will be no interruption in flights.

Second Sunday participants should plan to enter the airport grounds from Versailles Road, near the Fire Training Center across from Keeneland Race Course. Parking will be adjacent to the runway. Leashed pets are welcome.

Second Sunday offers monthly events in Lexington and annual events statewide to encourage all forms of physical activity and fitness. Last year, 115 counties participated in the annual Second Sunday program in October, in which a section of road was closed in each county for the afternoon so people could use it for exercise and recreation.

Click here to see reports from last year’s event, which was a lot of fun.

Celebrate Sunday afternoon on Town Branch Trail

August 12, 2010

Town Branch Trail organizers are inviting the public to come out to Trailapalooza on Sunday, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. The celebration will be held along the 1.8 miles of completed trail that extends from Leestown Road to Alexandria Drive west of downtown.

Trailapalooza will include live music, refreshments and a scavenger hunt. People (mainly kids) will be given a “passport” with questions about history and the environment along the new biking and walking trail. They will find answers to those questions on signs and markers along the trail. Prizes include a $200 gift certificate to Pedal Power bike shop, a $100 gift certificate to Phillip Gall’s outdoor store and memberships to Urban Active gym.

Eventually, the trail will run eight miles along Town Branch Creek from Leestown Road to Manchester Street downtown. Funding has been secured and design is under way for another 1.5-mile section of the trail. That section will connect McConnell Springs, the site where Lexington was founded, with the new Distillery District arts and entertainment area along Manchester Street near Rupp Arena.

Progress has been slower on Town Branch Trail than the 9-mile Legacy Trail, which is nearing completion between downtown’s East End and the Kentucky Horse Park. Part of the reason is that property issues are much more complicated along Town Branch, much of which has been developed property for two centuries. “Some of the industrial property inside New Circle Road is a puzzle,” Town Branch Trail President Van Meter Pettit says. “It just takes a lot of time to sort out.”

Speaking of the Legacy Trail, mark your calendar for its grand opening celebration, Sunday afternoon, Sept. 12.

First piece of Town Branch Trail opens next weekend

September 5, 2009

Lexington was born and grew up around the Town Branch of South Elkhorn Creek, but over the past century we’ve done our best to pollute it, bury it and forget about it.

Water finds its way, though, even if it sometimes needs help.

Town Branch Trail Inc. has been working for a decade to develop a greenway along the creek west of downtown. The first fruits of those labors will be on display next weekend, when the initial two-mile section of the trail is opened with a benefit concert and bicycle rally.

The Freedom Concert, with music by Cora Lee and the Townies and Fifth on the Floor, is at 8 p.m. Friday at the new Buster’s in the restored Old Tarr Distillery, which backs up to the creek on Manchester Street. Admission is $10, with all proceeds going to the trail project.

The next morning at 8:15, the public is invited to meet at Cheapside for a police-escorted 10-mile bicycle ride out and back on roads to the completed trail section off Leestown Road and Alexandria Drive. There will be a hospitality tent at Lewis Manor, a circa 1800 home beside the trail in Marehaven subdivision.

When I walked the trail last week, people were already using it.

Workers had just installed stone-cutter Richard McAlister’s beautiful sandstone benches and furlong posts made of finely crafted “Kentucky marble” limestone. And there were several new signs along the trail explaining Central Kentucky’s landscape, geology and ecology.

Van Meter Pettit, the Lexington architect who put together the trail project, sees it as more than a place to exercise; it’s a way to learn about Lexington’s history and environment. It’s also a way to rehabilitate and protect the watershed and help deal with runoff and pollution problems that have grown with the city.

“There is a compelling story to why we are the way we are that even many natives don’t understand,” he said. For example: Lexington’s downtown is long and narrow because it was built along Town Branch, which now flows beneath Vine Street.

Town Branch runs along the west side of the finished section of trail, just beyond tracks that were part of Kentucky’s first railroad line.

In one section, the trail goes around a giant, centuries-old tree, surrounded by a stand of native cane. When the first pioneers came here 250 years ago, much of the Bluegrass was covered with cane. Now, it’s hard to find.

“This is about as good a snapshot of authentic Kentucky as you can get,” Pettit said.

On the east side of the trail is Central Kentucky’s modern landscape: several new subdivisions.

Efforts to build trails in established neighborhoods often are met with “not in my backyard” opposition. But these subdivisions are new, and many homeowners are building decks and landscaping their yards to take advantage of trail access.

Indeed, subdivision developer Dennis Anderson was key to the Town Branch Trail’s success. That’s because he realized the trail would not only be an amenity for his development, but would help with drainage and be a financially attractive way to use undevelopable land.

“Without him,” Pettit said, “this trail would have been a nice idea that never would have happened.”

With this section of trail finished, Pettit is now turning his attention to another one-mile section that has funding. The remaining five miles is under feasibility study while trail organizers seek money, easements and rights of way.

So far, Town Branch Trail has received about $2 million in grants and other funding and $1 million worth of donated land, Pettit said.

Plans call for the trail to eventually be at least eight miles long, going from this first finished section to downtown. It will end along Manchester Street near Rupp Arena, where developers of the Distillery District plan to rehabilitate the stream and incorporate the trail into their multi-use project.

Eventually, Pettit would like Town Branch Trail to connect with the nine-mile Legacy Trail being built from downtown to the Kentucky Horse Park, as well as other walking and bike paths.

Even further in the future, there is talk of developing a trail beside the railroad line from Lexington to Versailles and eventually Frankfort.

So come out and see this first piece of Town Branch Trail. You’ll get some exercise, learn about Lexington and see how creative people are harnessing our rich heritage to literally pave the way to a better future.

Seeing small-town America from a bicycle seat

September 19, 2008

Bill Fortune, my friend and cycling buddy, called one evening last fall with an announcement: “I’m going to ride across the country.”

Fortune, a veteran law professor at the University of Kentucky, is phasing into retirement, so he finally had the time to pedal coast-to-coast. At 68, he’s in better shape than most people 20 years younger. But he thought that if he was going to make the ride he had long dreamed about, he needed to do it now.

So, in mid-June, Fortune flew to Seattle and met up with two guides and 14 other cyclists, many of whom had retired after careers as a nurse, a banker, a helicopter pilot, a builder, a lumber executive and a physicist.

Their trip was chronicled on a Web site whose name probably summed up the thoughts of many of their friends and relatives:

After dipping their tires in Puget Sound, the riders set off across the northern United States and Canada toward Portland, Maine. Over the next nine weeks, Fortune said he learned a few things about himself and a lot about his fellow countrymen.

Fortune said he knew he was in for an adventure the first day when the group pedaled out of Seattle. The cyclists met a group of locals on bicycles headed to the summer solstice celebration in the counterculture neighborhood of Fremont. They were wearing body paint — and nothing else.

There were many strange and ordinary sights to come as the group pedaled more than 60 miles a day and spent nights in small-town motels, campgrounds and church basements. Bill called occasionally to update me on his progress, and I got more details from his wife, Beverly, a Herald-Leader colleague.

Of course, there was a lot of beautiful scenery: The peaks of the Cascades and Glacier National Park; the endless prairies of South Dakota, Montana and Wyoming; and the beautiful Erie Canal towns in New York state.

There were famous landmarks such as Mount Rushmore and the Little Bighorn battlefield, where Indian warriors’ graves now have marble stones noting that they died “while defending the Cheyenne way of life.”

But what impressed Fortune most were the places he never would have stopped to see, and the people he never would have met, had he been driving through in a car.

There was the couple in Waterville, Wash., who bought and renovated the abandoned Lutheran church where they had been married years before. Now it’s beautiful again, and the couple rents it as a wedding chapel.

There was the museum in Stanford, Mont., with a vast collection of salt and pepper shakers. Fortune now knows that Buffalo, Wyo., claims to have the world’s largest swimming pool, and Huron, S.D., the world’s largest statue of a pheasant.

There’s a section of the Berlin Wall standing in Rapid City, S.D. And in a museum in Manitowoc, Wis., there’s a replica of the biggest thing to ever hit town: a 20-pound chunk of the Russian satellite Sputnik. It landed in the middle of a Manitowoc street on Sept. 5, 1962.

“You see the country in a different way when you’re on a bicycle,” Fortune said. “If you made the trip in a car, you couldn’t see it as slowly and intensely as we saw it.”

Fortune marveled at the vast openness of the West as he passed abandoned houses and towns depopulated by a changing economy. Many people had lived in their small towns all their lives, but their children had left in search of jobs and a more exciting lifestyle. He saw human despair on Indian reservations, and noted there was at least one bar in every Western town, no matter how small, and gambling machines in every bar and gas station.

The cyclists agreed that the West ended and the Midwest began when they crossed the Missouri River in eastern South Dakota near the Minnesota line. Gradually, the empty country gave way to tidy farms and farmhouses and well-kept small towns.

The cyclists were invited to a church ice-cream social in one town, a rhubarb festival in another, and a county fair in rural Michigan. They attended Aebleskiver Days in Tyler, Minn., a festival dedicated to a spherical Danish pancake.

The people Fortune met along the way were open, friendly and more broad-minded than he expected.

“They were interested in what you were doing, and they wanted you to be interested in what they were doing,” he said. “They wanted to talk about the history of their small town, and its prospects for the future, which often weren’t good. And they loved to tell you about something that you don’t know anything about.”

In South Dakota, Fortune ran into a crew of Kentucky men with R.J. Corman Railroad Group, busy laying track across the prairie. He met a couple from Africa who had traveled throughout the United States looking for a place to settle before they bought a small campground in Waterville, Minn.

He had a long conversation with a woman in Fond du Lac, Wis., about sturgeon spearing. “Her whole family was into sturgeon spearing,” he said. “It has to do with cutting a hole in the ice and standing over the hole with a spear and waiting for the sturgeon to swim under your hole.”

By the time Fortune had dipped his wheels in the Atlantic Ocean in Maine, his last few ounces of fat had turned to muscle.

A week before his journey ended, he called me from upstate New York so we could make plans for a Louisville-to-Bardstown ride the weekend after he returned home. Even after pedaling 4,100 miles to get a view of America from a small, hard bicycle seat, he was eager to ride more.

“I’ll bet you’re coming back with legs of steel,” I told him.

“I don’t know about that,” he replied. “But I sure have a butt of iron.”

And a new appreciation for small-town America and its people.