Blazin' New Trails
By Joni Moore
2017 Recipient of the Ataxian Athlete Initiative (AAI)
In the years before I learned about the Ataxian Athlete Initiative, in an effort to remain safe while being active outdoors, I had owned and ridden an adult recumbent tricycle that had two speeds: stop and go. So when I was awarded a 2017 AAI grant and received my Catrike Trail with its 10 speeds, I was prepared to take on terrain that I never would’ve dared to before.
On the first afternoon with my new trike, I took it for a short ride on the streets around my neighborhood, just to get a feel for it. I was amazed when I glanced at my phone and realized that I had gotten up to 10 miles per hour with very little exertion. To give you a comparison, I had ridden my previous trike for years and had maxed out its very limited capabilities at 8 mph…at least its safe-operating capabilities (foolhardy downhill rides excluded).
On the very next weekend, I rode my Catrike Trail to one of the more challenging paved rides in the area. With its climbing hills, sweeping valleys, and curvaceous pathways, this park had defeated me many times before on my old trike, but I was finally ready for a rematch. I started off cautiously, but it only took me about five minutes before I was riding those hills and hugging those curves as if I were on a rollercoaster! After I had ridden all of the paved pathways, I decided to take my trike off-road. I traversed up and down the rolling green hills and zigzagged across a bed of fallen needles between several large pine trees. I felt strong, empowered, and unstoppable. It was the closest I had felt to the freedom and excitement of cross-country running since my post-symptomatic abandonment of the sport 22 years ago. I was determined to make this the beginning of my explorations and curious wanderings about northern Wisconsin and Minnesota.
While I was on a high of ambition mixed with adrenaline, I didn’t see the bog lurking at the bottom of the hill, and a moment later, my fun came to a wet and stinky halt. Although my trike and I were covered in various colors and aromas of mud, I still managed to laugh it off and ask my riding partner for help in freeing myself from the muck. By the time I had climbed out, it was getting late and a bit chilly, so we decided to head back. On the way home, I could’ve felt defeated, silly, or even deterred from riding adventurously again, but I realized that that would’ve been the old me — the person who had struggled with a diagnosis and its subsequent depression. That wasn’t me anymore. As I pedaled home, I felt overjoyed and thankful for the people and events that had helped me get to this place. After The Great Bog Incident, I felt confident in planting a flag to mark this obvious boundary for the Catrike Trail’s limitations. I found myself wanting to test its abilities on other obstacles, because now that my new trike and I were covered in red (and brown and greenish yellow) badges of courage, we were in this together.