Maryland residents Lindy Deane and Darlene Hubbard are two of an increasingly diverse and inspirational group of cyclists that tackled long-distance rides on the East Coast Greenway in 2021. This year saw multiple fastest known times set and numerous impactful fundraising rides. Even a Siberian husky, Maisha, experienced the full Maine-to-Florida route.
But you’d be hard pressed to find a more uplifting journey than that of Deane and Hubbard, who navigated 3,000-plus miles without the ability to hear.
“The ride was more than bucket list stuff. It was a dream,” the duo shared via email after reaching Key West. “We had done other much shorter rides before, but we wanted to show what two deaf cyclists could do.”
What started out as a long-distance ride in Maine morphed into a 3,000-mile trip covering the entire East Coast Greenway. Once Deane and Hubbard realized they could do the whole route, they “decided to go for it.”
They spent August riding from Maine to Washington, D.C., and rode north from the Virginia border back to D.C. in September. Finally, bound for Key West, they picked back up in North Carolina in late October and reached their goal of the southernmost point of the continental United States one month later. They completed the Greenway on Nov. 22 after 68 days of riding.
“Everyone was supportive and thought the ride was an amazing accomplishment for us,” they shared. “While people were impressed, we were happy that it encouraged people to think they could ride the East Coast Greenway, too!”
Deane and Hubbard have been friends since elementary school and completed their first long-distance ride in 1988 shortly after graduating from D.C.’s Gallaudet University, “the world's only university in which all programs and services are specifically designed to accommodate deaf and hard of hearing students.”
After that initial 184-mile ride on the C&O Canal Towpath, they reunited 30 years later and continued on the Great Allegheny Passage, which stretches 150 miles from Maryland to Pittsburgh.
Local signage in Maryland led to discovery of the East Coast Greenway in 2013, and Deane and Hubbard have spent many spring and summer weekends riding 30-60 miles on local routes since. They also took short trips on East Coast Greenway routes in Rhode Island and Connecticut in preparation for this year’s journey.
Deane and Hubbard trained sufficiently and were well prepared for the challenges of the East Coast Greenway. But like any undertaking of this significance, the journey was not without difficulties. In addition to slogging through Hurricane Henri and subsequent flooding in New Jersey, the duo was challenged by some of the most treacherous parts of the Greenway route, including U.S. Highway 17 in South Carolina.
“It was worse because of being deaf. We could not hear the speeding traffic. There is not enough space to ride on the shoulder and the rumble strips make stability difficult,” they shared. “We had warnings because of the East Coast Greenway map's red warning dots, but we made sure to add more reflective gear and warning lights for our helmets and panniers.”
This experience is a reminder that long-distance rides of the East Coast Greenway should only be attempted by experienced cyclists. While more and more miles are being added annually, only 35 percent of the Greenway route is housed on protected, traffic-free pathways as of 2021.
“We do applaud your organization's work to make cycling safe and accessible to all. Again, the maps from the East Coast Greenway websites were critical for us because we can't just plug in earphones and listen to an app telling us where to turn,” they shared.
Favorite segments for the pair included the Charles River Esplanade in Boston, Richmond’s Belle Isle Suspension Bridge, North Carolina’s East Coast Greenway and on-road riding along the Georgia Scenic Byway. They also cited Spanish moss trees and tropical birds as memorable scenes along the Greenway.
“We appreciated that the maps took us around city traffic on more picturesque routes,” they shared. “We loved it and hope that the Greenway continues to expand its routes.”
Deane and Hubbard encourage those interested in riding the Greenway to train sufficiently, be patient and take the time to enjoy riding through many different environments.
“Plan for good and not-so-good days but know you will make good memories,” they shared. “It's hard to believe we rode that far - over 3,000 miles. It was worth all the work that we did to prepare.”
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