CAMBRIDGE — A joyous group of cyclists assembled in the Cambridge Walmart parking lot the morning of Wednesday, Oct. 7. There was an array of day glow yellow jerseys and snazzy sun glasses. Insect like helmets adorned every rider and some had mirrors attached to them serving a personal rear-view mirrors. There was a happy, nervous expectant feeling. They were there to ride 80 miles around Dorchester’s hinterlands with their 80-year-old happy leader Joyce Kelly.
She used to have a home down on Horn Point but now lives in Ellicott City in Howard County with her husband Chris. They opted to move for better medical facilities on the western shore. Chris was in the chase car with water and snacks, while his wife embarked on the 80-mile ride for her 80th birthday.
Kelly is a hearty woman with a good sense of humor. She has already had three knee replacements.
“One doctor botched the surgery,” said Kelly.
“Biking is knee neutral. It’s outside; it’s fun. I think the first 60 will be easy. The last 20 will be a bear,” she said.
The youngest cyclist in the group is 65. The others range from 67 to 80. They will meet up every 20 miles or so. There are nine cyclists making the birthday journey.
The plan was to leave Walmart at 8:30 a.m., get on Route 16 toward Smithville. Then hop on 355 toward Hoopers Island. The group would stop at Gootee’s and then head toward Egypt.
“It will take all day. There are headwinds predicted. We will take rest stops every 20 miles. If we are lucky we will get a tail wind,” she said. “I thought it would be cool to do something healthy, set a goal and make me feel happy.”
Kelly had a very distinguished career as an environmental advocate. She worked for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Kelly was also previously the president of Defenders of Wildlife and the Wildlife Habitat Council. Her work included convincing multinational companies such as Monsanto, DuPont and Koch Industries to plant native grasses, butterfly gardens and install blue bird boxes.
“I was really proud of getting union, management and the community to work together on these initiatives. When you see kids come on site you might think of the community a little more,” she said.
She is happily retired now. She loved the programs and getting out in the field, but said she got tired of fundraising.
Kelly was excited about her celebratory trek across the Shore with her cohorts.
“It’s great and she enjoys it,” said Chris Kelly referring to his wife.
“He thinks she’s crazy,” responded Joyce Kelly laughing.