KINGSTON — “Old school” applies in more than one way. The bike has fenders and lacks a computer, the saddle is solid leather, the shoes are made for walking — not pedaling — and the man himself bicycled some 500 miles to celebrate his 50th high school reunion.
“I feel good,” said John Schooley, 67, after cruising down Sprague Avenue to a group of Wyoming Seminary staff and students cheering his arrival. “Except for a few aches and pains that everybody gets.”
A ‘66 graduate, Schooley now lives in Brunswick, Maine, a retired physician assistant who never stopped cycling since he worked his way across Canada one summer in the 1970s.
He said he heard about a person who had cycled to a college reunion and thought, “Why not?” So he spent the last two weeks covering about 50 miles a day on a 10-year-old machine from Rivendell — the niche bicycle company, not the elven realm of Middle Earth.
In an era of space-age gel in ergonomic bike seats, his ride sported a copper-riveted Brooks saddle. “If you ride them enough, they mold to your shape,” he said of the once-ubiquitous leather seats. “Unfortunately, this one hasn’t quite finished molding.”
And although contemporary bike computers can tell you everything from speed to location, he had nothing mounted to his own handlebars. “I can’t see those things anymore,” he chuckled.
The old, firm-soled leather shoes were not donned for his arrival ride, which was relatively short. “I stayed with family last night,” Schooley confessed. He shuns gizmos that click the shoe to the pedal because his leg muscles aren’t very good at the sideways motion needed to free a foot in a hurry.
The roughest part of the ride?
“The Berkshires (in Massachusetts),” he said. “They call it Jacob’s Ladder. It really does go almost straight up.” That would be the scenic Route 20, deemed by some to be the first automobile roadway in the country that crossed a mountain range, albeit at grades topping 15 percent.
The easiest part?
“I came down Suscon Road into Dupont,” he said. “When I lived here, I always wanted to bike up there. But I think I was better off doing it from the other direction.”
Schooley carried about 40 pounds of gear in front and rear pannier bags clipped aside each wheel — mostly clothes. He generally followed the routes recommended by Google Maps for bicycles, staying in hotels or with friends. “My days of bike camping are over!” he insisted.
After the congratulations on arrival, he headed inside for lunch.
So, when does he start pedaling back?
He smiled again.
“Oh, I’m flying.”