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Cyclist and blogger's new book honors late father, local sports news veteran

Glen Larimer
Cycling enthusiast and blogger, Bethlehem native Glen Larimer, left, at Point State Park, where the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers come together to form the Ohio River in Pittsburgh. His late-father, sports columnist Terry Larimer, stands beside him as they rest in 2011 during a 333-mile bike trip.

BETHLEHEM, Pa., — What do you get when a retired sports journalist nicknamed “Wheels” and his cyclist son take to the trails on a 333-mile bike excursion?

You get a book that tells a story from the heart.

“Spinnin’ Wheels," A Father-Son Bicycle journey from D.C. to Pittsburgh,” is an 80-page collection of entries from Bethlehem native Glen Larimer’s blog that documents the fun, funny and sometimes harrowing moments from the last bike trip he shared with his sports journalist late-father, Terry.

For 40 years at The Morning Call, Terry Larimer combined humor and a conversational writing style in his coverage of local high school and Lehigh University sports, the New York Giants and, eventually, strictly the Philadelphia Eagles.

Glen Larimer
"Spinnin' Wheels, A father-son bicycle journey from D.C. to Pittsburgh" is a newly released book by Bethlehem native Glen Larimer. It's an ode to his late-father Terry Larimer, a sports writer, editor and columnist at The Morning Call for 40 years.

Larimer was nicknamed "Wheels" by work colleagues during a "crazy car slalom through Lehigh’s campus to the Bethlehem office to meet a copy deadline," revealed Glen Larimer, who is owner and mechanic at Cycle Tech Royersford an hour away.

Terry Larimer retired in 2007 and passed away in 2020 after complications following cancer, and heart and liver issues.

“It became really important to me when my parents were gone,” Glen Larimer said of writing the book. His mother, Laraine, passed away a year after his father. The couple had been together since they were 15.

“It was always in the back of my head," Glen Larimer said. "My dad would have written about this trip had he still been writing.”

Both former competitive athletes, the father and son had embarked on distance bike trips before. It had been awhile, but it was something they both relished.

But Terry Larimer had made it through serious health issues in recent years.

In 2010, Glen Larimer said, he could tell his dad was up to something. He had started biking a lot.

“Why is he training so hard? I kept thinking,” Larimer said. “Turns out he wanted to do a longer event with me.”

The two agreed to break the trip into two one-week sessions, with an average of 20-30 miles per day.

A railroad and history fan, Glen Larimer suggested the Great Allegheny Passage, or GAP Trail, on the defunct Western Maryland Railroad that featured bridges and tunnels.

His father added on the entire Chesapeake and Ohio Canal towpath from Cumberland, Maryland into Washington, D.C.

“I’ll admit I was a bit concerned about Dad’s ability to handle consecutive days of riding the distances we had proposed,” Larimer writes in the book.

“Hearing about his regular training…and witnessing firsthand the relative ease at which he accomplished the 30-mile Lehigh Gorge Trail ride…” the previous summer, Larimer felt confident in his father’s abilities.

So they began.

They camped along the way. It was a multi-vehicle expedition. Leapfrogging an RV, minivan and bikes was no small task.

Through experience gained in past rides in often isolated areas, the Larimer men trusted GPS only on a large scale and asked for directions when they got within a few miles of each goal.

They took a lot of breaks.

“Your legs aren’t the only part that felt it,” Larimer quipped.

Glen Larimer
Late-sports writer Terry Larimer works from home during his tenure at The Morning Call in Allentown.

Weather, wear and tear on bikes and bodies, and room for errors — “and errors were made” — stretched the trip to three years and a day, when the two went back to redo a 40-mile segment.

“We were laughing things off, dealing with things very well together, but at times it was definitely not a safe situation,” Larimer said.

In one excerpt, Larimer writes: “In nearly complete darkness, I arrived at the overpass where I left him, but I saw no one and somewhat timidly called out, ‘Dad?’ He had shifted to a slightly safer spot down the road, out of traffic...

"While thoughts of cannibalistic tribes of towpath cyclists that come out at night were a bit extreme, I was mainly worried that my father would have gotten cold or attempted one of those plans in his head before I reached him."

Last week , Larimer said, "The mishaps definitely stick out, but I don't dwell on those.

“I remember a cold, rainy ride on a detour segment of the C&O Canal Towpath. I was soaked and covered with debris from the trail, but the worst part was that dad’s slower pace was not warming me up at all.

“Seeing that I was starting to shiver, my father insisted I take off on my own the last few miles to ‘get the car warmed up for his arrival,’ ” Larimer said, interjecting his father's usual wit for some levity.

“Back at the RV campsite that night I had what I would rank as the best hot shower I’ve ever had in my life,” Larimer said.

There were personal triumphs and moments of mutual appreciation, as well.

One in particular stands out: “After a segment near Pittsburgh, when dad cooked his favorite meal: king crab legs."

“While eating, we popped in a DVD of the [Pittsburgh] Pirates' 1979 game seven World Series win over the Orioles — an absolute favorite sports moment in our lives together,” Larimer said enthusiastically.

Glen Larimer
Author Glen Larimer at his late-father's computer in 1968. Larimer recently released an 80-page book documenting a special bike trip they took together.

Larimer said he cherishes the black-and-white photo of him as a baby being propped up at his father's old typewriter.

Larimer said his dad consistently lent his writing expertise to school papers.

“So I was ‘technically’ good, but I also have a lot of his writing voice, the humor he used in his writing," he said. "He was a sportswriter. He always had jokes, especially from spending time outside of work with colleagues."

The oldest of three brothers, Glen Larimer warmly remembers family meals around the table.

“Dad would share a really long, drawn-out joke, then drop the punchline on us and have us all laughing,” he said.

Larimer fell unequivocally in love with cycling after seeing Greg LeMond become the first American cyclist to win the Tour deFrance.

He had bought his first bike as a boy with money he earned from a paper route.

“I rode that bike into the ground,” he said with a laugh. Years later, he said, his parents got it repaired and dropped it off at the University of Maryland, surprising him.

“It took off from there,” he said of his passion for cycling. “Did a few little races, but after years of playing sports, I didn’t need to compete anymore. I just ride to get from here to there.”

Here to there turned into such long distances, he started putting his own money into the frequent repairs.

In 2008, Larimer got into an accident on a bike he had had since 1989.

“I had just put $200 worth of work into it," he said. "I took good care of it. I rode for two or three hours, pulled up alongside a long line of traffic, and the driver did a right-hand turn and totaled the bike.”

Thankfully, Larimer was fine.

Determined never to have to pay for repairs again, he picked up a new bike and took a course at a local bike shop. At the time, he was a stay-at-home dad with two young boys.

He started doing occasional neighborhood bike repairs and projects.

Glen Larimer
Cycle Tech Royersford is owned by Bethlehem native Glen Larimer, a cycling enthusiast who builds and repairs European and other racing and everyday bikes.

Ten years ago, as he was learning all sorts of tips, he said he knew he wanted to share them with others.

So he started ablog.

When he’s not blogging, he’s riding. Everywhere.

Larimer said he generally rides 3,000 to 4,000 miles every year — 30 to 40 miles each ride.

He owns six bikes.

“I ride them all," he said. "One is prized, a very rare team bike of an all-time favorite cyclist that I slobbered over as a teenager. It's an Eddy Merckx (pronounced like Merks) Century from 1989. Expensive and rare, and I only ride it on special occasions.”

He said he rides for pleasure, for personal fitness challenges and for business. When he delivers his custom bikes — so far to customers from Hartford, Connecticut, to Washington, D.C. — he said he takes one of his bikes and rides somewhere.

“I’ve got a really good sense of direction and mental maps," he said. "I pretty much know the four to five states on the East Coast.

"If I take a friend along to ride with me, and I have no cell phone [he hates them] or GPS [he said he has gotten misguided too many times]/ They’re like, ‘Uh, do you know where you’re going, man?’ and I just laugh and say, ‘I know where I’m going.’”

He said he also rides when there is personal pain. At times such as his parents’ deaths, he said, he finds pedaling hard on the open road indescribably therapeutic.

“Sometimes the scenery is lost on me,” he said. “Sometimes I'll put my bike in the car and just ride somewhere I've never been.”

Organized fun — if you can keep up — comes in group events, such as the yearly 40-mile Valley Forge-to-Philly turkey trek at Thanksgiving and organized group Santa rides with holiday-lit bikes, he said.

He said most of his rides start from home or close by, in the hills of Schuylkill Valley, where he resides with his wife of 34 years, Sue, also a cyclist. They share two grown sons.

He said he's admittedly living his best life — “I ride all year long, as long as it’s not too cold, windy or miserable” — when he’s not riding or teaching others how to enjoy their bikes, he’s in build-and-repair mode.

In winter, traditionally, he’s busy doing custom-built bikes for profit. In spring, he empties his workspace out just in time for the "full-blown rush of repairs."

“From April to June, it’s just bikes all around my basement,” he said.

With his busy season just a few months away, Larimer sent his manuscript for “Spinnin’ Wheels” to three companies in mid-February, and landed with Amazon Smart Publishing.

He said he wanted the book produced in journal format, small and easy to carry around.

It took three attempts at the book’s cover art and title to match before the story’s intention came through, he said.

The process was complex, but worth the effort, he said — something Terry Larimer exemplified in work, life, and raising his three boys.

“My intent was to get these stories out," Glen Larimer said. "I was more interested in getting it out there for him.

"Of all the things about cycling I love, if it got me four more years with my dad, then that's the reason.”