This an excerpt from an article in the September – October 2007 edition
of Martha’s Vineyard Magazine. David Whitmon talks about ridding his bicycle built for three “Boooger”with his two daughters, Gaia who was fourteen at the time the article was written has Asperger Syndrome and Gracie who was twelve and is Autistic.
|BIKING THE VINEYARD BY JIM MILLER|
(Photo by Kathryn Osgood)
No article on Vineyard biking would be complete without David Whitmon. His bicycle built for three, the mane of feathers on his helmet, and his unwavering enthusiasm for cycling combine to make him an Island cycling icon. The Oak Bluffs resident, who’s fifty-three, grew up an avid cyclist in the Washington, D.C., area, moving to Martha’s Vineyard in 1983.
“I visited [the Island] for four days, and my jaw ached from smiling so much. Then I went home and drove to work in [Capital] Beltway traffic. I said, ‘This isn’t how human beings are supposed to live.’” At the time he wasn’t riding a bike much, but in 1989, after years of knee trouble, a doctor suggested double knee replacement. David bought a mountain bike instead. “I went from using a cane and going down stairs on my butt to riding a bike built for three,” he says.
The bicycle built for three, or triplet, is tricked out with lights, a rack with pannier bags, a 120-decibel air horn, and a trailer for trips to the grocery store. It even boasts a communication system so David and his two daughters, Gaia and Gracie, fourteen and twelve, can talk without shouting. Big and green, the triplet was dubbed “Boooger” (with three O’s) by the girls. “Many times,” David says, “I have people – strangers – say, ‘I watched your girls grow up on that bike.’”
In addition to alleviating his knee troubles, cycling has helped David through the difficulties of parenthood: Gaia has Asperger Syndrome, a form of high-functioning autism, and Gracie is autistic. Cycling has proven particularly beneficial for Gracie, who struggles with verbalization. “When she was very young we thought maybe she was deaf, but on the bike she began to hum and sing and talk. She would clap, and I would think, ‘That’s great, but it means she’s not holding the handlebars!’”
“They may get to an age, especially Gaia, when they don’t want to ride with me. But I hope they have good memories,” David says. “It’s a wonderful way to raise children.”