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Joy ride

Charlestown cyclist racks up more than 120,000 miles in the saddle

Created date

May 21st, 2013

Some people see retirement as a time to relax. Joseph Datsko sees it as the perfect opportunity to pursue his favorite pastime: cycling. After four decades in the saddle and more than 120,000 miles under his belt, Joseph, a retired University of Michigan professor living at Charlestown, the Erickson Living community in Catonsville, Md., keeps on rolling. There s a 1.3-mile loop that goes around Charlestown s campus, which I ride on my bike. I usually do up to ten laps, which equals about 13 miles, four to five times a week, says Joseph. Sometimes, I also ride at Patapsco State Park with friends or family.

Along for the ride

Joseph began cycling in the 1970s and joined the Ann Arbor Bicycle Touring Society. But he isn t the only cyclist in his family. His five children and late wife Doris were also avid bike riders. Each year, the whole family enjoyed an annual 210-mile trek along the Ohio River. We would drive from Ann Arbor, Mich., to Columbus, Ohio, for a two-day ride from Columbus to Portsmith, says Joseph. It was a tradition that we kept up with for about seven or eight years. We also went on weeklong bike trips for our family vacations. Years later, in 1992, Joseph took up long-distance cycling at the age of 71. I rode my first long-distance bike trip cross-country from Bellingham, Wash., to Portland, Maine, says Joseph. I was with a group of 35 people, and we rode 6 days a week for 12 weeks about 75 miles a day. Over the next five years, Joseph cycled in five more long-distance rides ranging from 1,680 miles to 5,236 miles. In 1993, he traveled down the East Coast from Portland, Maine, to Orlando, Fla. The following year, he toured the southern half of the United States on a ride from Oceanside, Calif., to the seaside town of St. Simons Island, Ga. In 1995, he went down the West Coast from Vancouver, B.C., to Southern California, near the Mexican border. And his last long-distance ride in 1997 was along the Oregon Trail from Independence, Mo., to Oregon City, Oreg. By that time I was considered an old man, jokes Joseph. One of the benefits, though, was I had nothing but time so I could go on rides that lasted a few weeks or more. In 2011, for his 90th birthday, Joseph s children and grandchildren pitched in and bought him a new Trek 7.3 FX step-through style bike which he keeps in his apartment home at Charlestown. I jokingly mentioned to my kids that I had fallen twice getting off of my bike, because I have to lift my leg up so high over the seat, says Joseph. So they decided to get me a new step-through style bike where the horizontal bar across the top slopes down, making it easier to get on and off.

Unexpected detour

A year ago this May, Joseph decided to leave the Wolverine state he called home and move to Maryland to be closer to his kids. I happened to be down visiting the area, and while I was here I realized how nice it was to have the whole family together again, says Joseph. So when I got back to Michigan, I started researching retirement communities in Maryland on the computer, and I found eight I was interested in. I came back down in February 2012 and visited five of the eight and decided on Charlestown. Joseph says biking has kept him healthy and his weight down. It s also been a great icebreaker for meeting people. I see people all the time as I walk my bike back and forth from my apartment before and after my rides, says Joseph. I m dressed in brightly-colored bicycling clothes so it s hard to miss me. When he s not outside on his bike, Joseph is usually in Charlestown s new, state-of-the-art fitness center working out on the resistance machines or pedaling away on the stationary spinning bikes. I try to get to the fitness center five to six days a week for about an hour to an hour-and-a-half, says Joseph. But I prefer being outside whenever I can. There s nothing like riding outdoors in the fresh air with the birds singing and seeing the flowers or a stream as you ride by it s wonderful!