Sherry Ashby and Bob Nesbitt are beyond being bicycle enthusiasts. Cycling brought them together, they organize their lives for cycling, and when they can’t be touring, they invite cyclists into their home, put them up in a room full of cycling memorabilia, and trade stories of the road. Though I’d travelled 7,500 miles and visited 25 states when we met, Sherry and Bob had way cooler stories to tell.
Sherry’s originally from South Dakota. Her dad attended the earliest Sturgis rallies; riding on two wheels is in her blood. She’s a contract nurse, which allows her to take weeks off at a time for road trips. In 2006, Sherry and a nurse friend, Debra, rode the Northern Tier from Seattle to Bar Harbor, ME to raise money for Camp Heartland, a camp for children with HIV/AIDS. I asked how female cyclists manage personal hygiene along the road – the logistics are more complicated than for men. Sherry demonstrated the Hiawatha Lookout. “I stand at the side of the road, put my hand on my forehead, and gaze into the distance. Passing drivers look to where I’m staring, rather than at my partner squatting in the opposite direction.” She described favorite hosts, navigating Indian reservations, and raising over $30,000. Oh, and she met Bob in Upstate New York.
Bob’s a contract IT consultant for Wells Fargo. Consulting gives him freedom to take chunks of time and cycle. After they met, courted, and married, Sherry and Bob moved to a neighborhood in Reno near Debra, a hillside house that had a terrific view of the lunar eclipse that occurred the night I visited them. They have three children from former marriages and a pair of grandchildren.
On her first cross-country trip, Sherry and Debra visited Camp Heartland in Minnesota and escorted campers to the airport. When the transport bus left, they realized there was no bicycle route out of Minneapolis airport. They went to the airport police. Upon hearing of their charitable journey, the police created a convoy of two cruisers and two officers on bikes. The cruisers entered I-494, blocked traffic, and zig-zagged along the highway while the officers on bicycles stayed with the women until the first exit. For a half hour, airport traffic slowed to bicycle speed so Sherry and Debra could continue their journey.
How will we live tomorrow?
“I’m not sure I understand the question. Is it us, or the next generation? Are you talking about the US? We are unequal in the world. We are a consumption-based economy. We are going to become less consumption based. We will get to the point the bicycle is more important than the car. This neighborhood is like that. People are into their experience more than their stuff. But consumption also makes this country great.” – Bob
“We are becoming more paralyzed and that will continue. We are becoming less accommodating of each other. That’s the great thing about being on a bicycle. You are not homeless, you are an adventurer.” – Sherry
“We have this incredible neighborhood. We talk about creating a compound, a community where we can live together when we get older. Dan Buettner, author of Blue Zones, writes about having a life, a place to be, and a purpose. Sherry’s parents are 87 and 82 and they do things every day. For us, the idea of a compound is cool.” – Bob
“We are going to live simply. We will be forced to live simply.” – Sherry