by Roger Normand
Riding the Legacy Trail is always a pleasure – often because of the interesting people you meet along the way. Sometimes, they are just plain inspiring.
I distinctly remember passing a solo rider on today’s ride and moments later, my mind was processing what I thought I saw. Was that rider pedaling with just one leg? I slowed and the one-legged rider quickly caught up.
After some pleasantries, I introduced myself as a member of the Friends of the Legacy Trail, and said I was always on the lookout for stories that highlight the diversity of trail users. Without hesitation, Kirk Bauer introduced himself and gladly offered some of his personal journey.
Kirk lives in Baltimore, but was vacationing in Venice for a few weeks. “I’ve been here a few times before and love the great weather for outdoor activities, the restaurants, and being able to ride mostly flat rails-trails like the Legacy Trail. With just one leg pedaling, I don’t do as well going up hills” he said with a smile.
“I lost my leg while serving with the Army during the Vietnam war.” I thanked him for his service and sacrifice. Recovery, physically and mentally, was not easy, he explained, “but I had great doctors, physical therapists, and outstanding role models around me to lean on and guide me.”
“I did some bicycling before I lost my leg.” He said it was one of the many early skills he had to relearn. “Like a kid, I started out with training wheels and someone walking by my side in case I lost my balance. My first solo ride was a big deal for me.” Getting comfortable on the bike took some time.
“I have a prosthetic leg, but it’s uncomfortable cycling and doesn’t give me much leverage to pedal” he explained pointing to the short remaining stump of his left leg. “I find it better to ride my bike without it.” He said his typical ride is 40 to 60 miles! I told him to come back next year after the Legacy Trail extension is completed to downtown Sarasota and he could do that round trip distance right here on the trail.
His Army service and rehabilitation experience led to a lifelong career: helping other disabled individuals regain a sense of self, purpose, and accomplishment. Kirk was the Executive Director of Disabled Sports USA for over 30 years, growing the organization into national prominence. “I’ve had a few other interesting adventures,” pointing me to his resume on Move United, the successor to Disabled Sports.”
Like being appointed by President Bush to represent the US at the 2008 Beijing Summer Paralympics; leading a team of amputee veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars to reach the Mt. Kilimanjaro summit; and receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award by the President’s Council on Fitness in 2013.
As we approached the Laurel road overpass, I noticed that he never lost speed or cadence going up one of the few “hills” along the trail. Later I saw on his resume that he’d once completed the 100 mile “Three Notch Century Bicycle Ride” over three mountain passes in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
Now retired at age 73, Kirk is still riding and inspiring others, including me.