Brothers-in-law Alfred “Brick” Clendenin and Roland Porter
“R.P.” Norton have been biking together for more than 11 years. They cover 12 to 15 miles on most days and estimate they have traveled about 30,000 miles over the years. They check in with each other about 8:30 a.m. and decide if it will be “go” or “no go.” Clendenin sometimes has a “honey do” list and skips a day. Norton doesn’t mind going by himself. “I ride no matter what,” he says. However, they do skip really rainy and windy days. Sometimes family business and appointments intervene. And there have been interruptions for surgeries. “We probably won’t ride if the temperature is below 40 degrees or above 90.” Now 79 and 81 respectively, they don’t push themselves too hard.
Norton, who lives in Hampton, brings his bike to Clendenin’s home in Newport News and they venture out. “Our favorite route is through Mariners’ Museum,” Clendenin says. “We usually take a break at the Lions Bridge. There are always people walking and we enjoy meeting and talking with them.”
An average ride lasts about three hours, including a 45-minute break. “We enjoy stopping at McDonald’s if one is on the route that day,” says Clendenin.
Favorite routes include the areas of Hidenwood and Riverside as well as the James River Country Club. “We prefer residential areas or roads with sidewalks,” says Norton. “We have also taken our bikes to Thomas Nelson Community College, Oyster Point’s City Center and golf courses.”
Sometimes the two men load the bikes into a truck and head out to a more distant destination, such as Williamsburg. There is also a designated bike trail along Warwick Boulevard. “Every day is different, even if we’re riding on a familiar path,” Norton adds. “Of course, we travel slowly. We’re not racers.”
What are the hazards of city bike riding? “We are very careful, especially at intersections,” says Clendenin. “We have seen accidents and reckless drivers. We don’t like group riding and prefer to ‘do our own thing.’” Clendenin has a bag under his seat containing tools and a pump. They use heavy-duty tires with tubes. “About once a year we get a flat tire,” says Clendenin with a grin.
How about some adventures? “We were interviewed once by a TV reporter we happened upon,” says Norton. The bikers have been stopped by the police and asked about some criminal event. “But we have never seen any crime,” Clendenin says. “It’s sad how much trash is scattered about. We once found a cell phone that we were able to return. Sometimes we find money. That pays for lunch! We have helped other bikers change flat tires. And we give directions to tourists.”
All of this exercise has meant good health benefits. “Our lab numbers are good, our weight is down and there is relief from stress,” says Norton.
“We like the variety of watching the seasons change along our route. Everything is so much easier to see from a bike,” says Clendenin. They have seen many wild animals: deer, of course, plus rabbits, foxes, ospreys and eagles.
Clendenin is from Edenton, North Carolina. He moved here in the 40’s and graduated from Warwick High School. Norton, also from North Carolina, moved to Newport News in 1948. Both had long careers with Newport News Shipbuilding.
Clendenin was a paperboy for nine years. He also was a Boy Scout and took bike trips with friends. “I used to ride after work,” says Norton. Clendenin played golf for 25 years; Norton was a tennis player. Both men do car repairs and they like old cars. They have been to NASCAR races together. “We are meticulous about our own cars,” Clendenin says. He has enjoyed drag racing, RV camping and “most anything outdoors.”
Do their wives or family members ride with them sometimes? “NO,” they responded in unison.
The brothers-in-law/friends have made no plans to retire from riding. “For us, it is relaxing and we love it,” Norton says.
TO THE POINT:
Alfred C. Clendenin
Roland Porter Norton