By Charlie Morasch, staff writer
Debra Miller does nothing half-hearted.
Debra, an owner-operator and trucker for 10 years, earned her CDL on a dare because “the guys were all saying women shouldn’t be truck drivers,” she says with a laugh.
Before long, she was trucking.
Her foray into the world of cycling started similarly after a friend suggested she bike.
Before starting a bike riding program, Debra had bought her first heavy-duty bicycle for $2,000. It’s money she considers well spent.
“To me, that $2,000 bike is going to last me another 10 years,” said Debra, an OOIDA member from Lake Wales, FL. “I ride every chance I get.”
For a small but seemingly growing number of truckers, bicycling has become an inexpensive way to get away from truck stops and relieve stress – all while getting exercise. The fad has launched clubs on social networking websites such as Facebook, and is bolstered by the recent decision of TA and Petro truck stops to hand out maps of area trails at its locations.
Debra’s first ride, she said, brought the feeling of instant freedom.
Stuck in Houston rush-hour traffic a few months ago, Debra pulled over at a Love’s truck stop. She’d trade the sea of stuck cars for the freedom of moving at her own pace, traffic be damned.
“Now is the time to see if I can do this,” she remembers thinking. “I could see other drivers watching me. I’m getting out of here. I can go anywhere I want, and maybe they’ll see I’m a woman who isn’t the most fit, picture-perfect woman – but she’s getting out and doing it.”
A few months later, Debra lost 25 pounds and said biking has become something she can’t live without.
Jeff Barker, a veteran driver, OOIDA member and Land Line Magazine contributor, rides his bike nearly every day when weather permits.
The San Antonio native meets up with friends occasionally, but often Jeff says he enjoys unloading the pressures of his day with a long ride by himself. He used to lift weights and run, but said joint pain limits him to the bike these days.
Jeff said he takes cycling more seriously than most, but that shouldn’t stop casual riders.
“The benefits to a person’s health, combined with how simple it really is, make biking doable for most drivers,” he said.
Jeff stores his bike in the top bunk of his sleeper. His passenger seat is stocked with tire tubes, tools and oil to keep the bicycle in top shape.
Before ramping up his exercise regimen a few years ago, Jeff said his doctor worried that he was headed for Type 2 diabetes. Jeff said rides of 20, 30 and sometimes 50 miles have helped him drop weight and get his blood sugar under control.
“If I want to go eat dinner at a nicer restaurant, I simply map it out on my laptop, print out a map and directions, get the bike and safety gear out and go,” Jeff said.
Some truck stops hand out free maps of area trails. Websites – many designed by truckers who are biking enthusiasts – map out good riding routes and paths that are located near truck stops and shipping hubs.
“I rarely feel tired at the end of a long day at the wheel now,” Jeff said.
Nowadays, Debra doesn’t leave home without her bike, a pink GT Avalanche.
Biking, she said, complements her walking routine, and gives her a healthy way to relieve stress.
“My heart is getting stronger,” Debra said. “I breathe a lot better now, and I can see things you can’t see sitting in a truck stop. That sense of freedom – it’s unbelievable.” LL