Harlan Gerrish - Secretary-Treasurer
Harlan Gerrish has been secretary-treasurer of Gateway East Trails (GET) for eight years. The "late-blooming" bicycle enthusiast said he joined the non-profit organization because he believes in its mission to connect local Illinois communities with trails and routes for healthy safe recreation and travel.
"I am of the firm belief that a great bicycle route connecting O'Fallon, IL, and Lebanon, IL, is crucial to the development of recreation in this region," said the 73-year-old Gerrish.
The former oil field geologist retired after 20 years working for the United States Environmental Protection Agency in 2008 and moved from Naperville, IL, to O'Fallon, IL. The 6-foot, 7-inch Gerrish can be spotted riding his 18-year-old Marinoni bike through local country roads. Last year he admits to biking mostly on the new trail from O'Fallon to points north, occasionally looping, "but mostly out and back." His wife, Norma, believes it safer, and, as Gerrish put it, "when you get old, it's still a new ride every day."
"Because of the pandemic I had more time to devote to the bike," he said. "My total mileage for 2020 was over 6,000 - my best year."
Since 2002, Gerrish said he has logged over 70,000 miles, mostly on his Marinoni. Last year, he replaced the drive train, and continues to keep his beloved bike in motion.
In truth, the love for riding on two wheels didn't necessarily kick in for Gerrish until 1999, when, at the age of 52, he said he started taking longer rides.
"I read a copy of Bicycling magazine at a doctor's office," he confessed, "and I started learning a little more. I got a decent mountain bike because a German friend invited me to ride across the Alps. But, probably fortunately, it didn't happen."
Two years later, in 2001, Gerrish flew into Rome with his 23-year-old son Stephen, and the two biked the roads in Italy and, with a little help from the trains, to the lake country. In all, Gerrish said they biked about 700 miles in 20 days in Italy.
"We were tourists on bikes. Some days we didn't ride at all. I loved it," he said. "Traveling by car in Europe is a real hassle these days. Bicycling works great. On the other hand, there are mechanically-induced adventures you don't get in a rental car."
Gerrish enjoyed his time in Italy so much, he decided to up his game and get "a proper bicycle."
"I got a deal on a Marinoni frame with a 68-cm seat tube, which matched up with my fitting specs," he said. "The shop in California installed Campy Record components. It came to $2,700 with no charge for sales tax or shipping."
By 2004, Gerrish was ready for the "big time." He and Stephen did another 20-day trip. They flew into Munich, Germany, and again, with the help of the trains, biked to Oberstdorf in far southern Germany. From there, he said they strictly cycled over the Alps to Bellinzona in Switzerland, and on to Menaggio, Italy. The two proceeded to ride up to Santuario Madonna del Ghisallo, the church that is home to many bikes and cycling jerseys used by cyclists in races.
"It is mountain-type riding and we descended in pouring rain," he admitted.
The two biked through the Italian cities of Bergamo, Verona, and on to Bolzano, where they biked the breath-taking passes Sella and Costalunga.
"We trained up the pass to Brennaro, Italy, and then essentially coasted down to Innsbruck, Austria, and on to Salzburg, and around the Wolfgangsee - - twice in one day," he said. "To save time we took the train the sixty miles back to Munich."
For his 60th birthday in 2007, his wife Norma gifted him an 11-day tour to see a bit of the Giro d' Italia, the Italian equivalent of the Tour de France, and ride a litany of beautiful passes.
"The food was as incredible as was the riding," he admitted.
Among his biking bucket list is to navigate the Natchez Trace Parkway, a 444-mile recreational road and scenic drive through three states: Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee.