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69 years old and counting — backwards

Posted: Tuesday, Apr 16th, 2013

Doug Leggett, 69, of New Mexico pauses on Riverside Drive Monday in Watsonville on his 4,000-mile. seven state bicycle trip. (Photo by Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian)

WATSONVILLE — Since he retired as a registered nurse 18 years ago, Gallup, N.M., resident Doug Leggett has made an annual, 1,900-mile bicycle ride eastward to visit his mother.

But when she died last year at 93, he decided to turn his wheels in the opposite direction. And to tack on an additional 2,000 miles to this year’s trip.

He loaded his saddlebags, strapped a GPS device and set out across the arid deserts of the Southwest, crossing into Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Idaho and finally the Pacific Northwest, where he first caught a glimpse of what he came to see.

“My purpose was to come out to see the Pacific Ocean,” Leggett, 69, said during a brief stop on his way through Watsonville Monday. “Consequently, I’m taking my time.”

To go on the trip, Leggett said he left behind a son, seven dogs, two cats, a turtle and a wife, who he calls by cellphone every night just before he falls asleep in his tent.

“I think she’ll remember me,” he said.

During his sojourn, Leggett said he has encountered bitter cold, heat and winds that have at times blown at 40 MPH and slowed his progress to five MPH. In Astoria, Wash., he was besieged with a rainfall so intense he had to stop.

“It was the only rest day I took,” he said.

Leggett has also encountered people who he said have changed his cynical perception of humanity, which he said developed during his time working as a psychological nurse.

“The best thing about the trip is that I have seen that people are overall pretty good,” he said.

When he retired, Leggett said he was overweight and suffering from a range of medical maladies, including high blood pressure. After he started biking in earnest, he had become so healthy that his doctors took him off his numerous medications. They also noted he had lost more than 50 pounds and that his overall health condition was similar to that of someone 25 years younger.

“I’m getting younger,” he said. “The more you bike the younger you get.”

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