community connections
State Mission
Bicycling in every state is an admirable
accomplishment for anyone. Meeting
that goal at 82 is something really
In a letter that appeared in the Fall
Rails to Trails
octogenarians Jack
and Jeannette Ralston shared the news
that they achieved their dream of pedal-
ing in all 50 states, and that they’d used
Rails to Trails
to help find trails for their
cycling the nation” endeavor.
Married 60-plus years, the Kingsport,
Tenn., couple met in fifth grade, rid-
ing to and from school in a suburb of
Chicago. That childhood bike-riding
made Illinois the first state to be checked
off their 50-state list. More than 70 years
later, New Mexico became their last,
when they rode the Paseo del Bosque
Trail, a 16-mile route along the Rio
Grande River in Albuquerque. “Once we
got Hawaii and Alaska out of the way,
the rest was easy!” Jeannette says.
They first got serious about the
state plan in 2002, when Jack started
keeping track of the trails and states they
visited. “I traveled to New England to
play golf with my brother,” he says. One
of his brother’s ambitions was to golf in
every state. “While we were in Vermont
we saw the Burlington trail that runs
along Lake Champlain. We thought,
We’ve got to come back and do that.’”
Years later, they did ride that trail, called
the Island Line Rail Trail, as part of their
own “bucket list” goal—riding trails
in every state rather than playing golf
It’s a fun bucket list to have because
every state is different,” says Jeannette.
Their favorite destination was the
Virginia Creeper National Recreation
Trail, a 34-mile rail-trail that winds
through scenic woodlands and charming
towns in southern Virginia. The Ralstons
continue to visit the Virginia Creeper
several times a year.
Although they’ve both had hip
replacements and Jack has had a knee
replacement, the Ralstons credit trail-
riding with keeping them healthy and
fit. Jack quips, “We’re bionic now!”
Jeannette laughs, and says, “Short of a
casket, nothing’s going to stop us!”
The phone rang right after we got
our copy [of the magazine containing
the letter],” says Jeannette. The caller was
a woman in New Jersey, who said, “My
friend and I want to do this, too, and all
our friends think we’re crazy.” Jeannette
told her to go for it.
I’ve Been Camping
on the Railroad
For most people, the words
conjure up images of swimming
holes, woodland hikes and campfires.
But a camp in York Township, Ohio, is
on a different track. The Railroad Camp
gives youngsters the chance to build,
maintain and operate small-scale trains
and railroad tracks.
The camp is especially for kids that
don’t fit into a sports environment,”
says John Beck, a camp instructor and
member of the Northeastern Ohio Live
Steamers (NEOLS) club, which runs the
program. “This is for the kids that are
more technically oriented. It’s an envi-
ronment where everyone gets to have
some fun and achieve something.”
The camp is on Medina County Park
District land adjacent to the Lester Rail
Trail, the county’s first rail-trail. About
one-eighth the size of regular trains,
the camp trains hold five people per car
and travel at the pace of a fast walk. The
mile track offers a mix of prairie
and woodland scenery, and even trestle
bridges. In places, the rail-trail is so close
to the railroad that a person could jump
from one to the other.
As part of their amazing
series of rides throughout
America, Jack and
Jeannette Ralston rode the
Natchez Trace National
Scenic Trail into Alabama.