37,000 miles down (and many more to go)

Thursday, March 29, 2007
Don Fadler pedaled along the Cape LaCroix Recreational Trail, where he has logged thousands of miles over the years. (Fred Lynch)

Don Fadler has been biking around Cape Girardeau for 15 years, with no desire to slow down.

Everyone's got their own method for longevity.

For Don Fadler, it's a bicycle and garlic.

The 77-year-old Cape Girardeau resident stays in shape by riding his bicycle about 25 miles per day along the Cape La Croix bike trail. Fadler also takes daily doses of garlic pills, which he believes keeps his heart and cholesterol levels healthy.

Fadler, a truck driver for 41 years, never exercised until 1992, shortly after he retired at the age of 62. Once he retired, Fadler picked up a bike and hasn't stopped riding since. According to his calculations, he's traveled about 37,000 miles on his bicycle.

Don Fadler sported a shirt signed by Lance Armstrong. (Fred Lynch)

"I'm kind of addicted to riding my bike," he said. "You can get addicted to drinking alcohol or whatever, but this here is a good addiction."

During the winter, Fadler keeps his bike stored until the weather gets warm. He stays in shape by walking laps in the Osage Centre or West Park Mall. The total miles he's walked adds up to about 5,500 over the past 15 years, he said.

When spring rolls around, Fadler starts off riding about 10 miles a day, and gradually increases his mileage each week.

"These legs are strong once I start riding my bike," Fadler said Wednesday before he took off for a two-hour ride along the bike trail.

Fadler used to ride his bike even more, before his wife, Clara Mae, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Last June he had to admit her into the Fountainbleau Lodge because it was too difficult for him to care for her.

"I enjoy biking, and it's been a great benefit to me, especially during some trying times," he said.

Lance Armstrong is one of Fadler's heroes. A couple years ago, his daughter, Donna Haman, gave her father a yellow Tour de France T-shirt that was autographed by Armstrong. Haman, who lives in Kennett, Mo., goes to church with Sheryl Crow's parents, who also live in the Bootheel town. She was able to get Armstrong to autograph the shirt for Fadler when he visited Crow's parents in Kennett.

"I started riding way before I even heard of Lance Armstrong, but he is one of the world's strongest athletes that has ever been known," Fadler said. "He's accomplished something that boggles the mind."

Fadler doesn't own a bicycle like Armstrong; instead his bike is more old-fashioned and a little more colorful. He's got red, white and blue ribbons attached to the front and back -- to show off his patriotism. The bike is also adorned with bells and horns, which he uses to signal people as he approaches them along the bike trail.

"This thing has drawn a lot of attention," he said about his bike, which is also equipped with a raincoat and a can of Mace -- just in case he runs into any trouble along the trail.

"I've met a lot of people while riding on this trail," he said. "You know when I first started riding, this trail didn't even exist."

While Fadler knows his bike riding has kept him healthy over the years, he also believes his daily garlic intake is beneficial.

"You know, my daughter thinks I'm crazy because I take a lot of garlic, but it's a secret that needs to be unlatched," he said. "Garlic is a great health benefit, and there's research to back it up."

Fadler said he has more energy today than he's ever had in his life.

"People have no idea what they're tapping into once they start this exercise, they have no idea," Fadler said. "I'm 77 years old, and it has given me energy I didn't even know I had."

jfreeze@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 246

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