Monday, May 12, 2008

June Curry aka The Cookie Lady

I spent yesterday with June Curry, affectionately known as “The Cookie Lady.” It was appropriate that I was there on Mother's Day since she has been like a mother to thousands of Transamerica riders who have passed in front of her house. The story goes that in 1976 when the Transamerica Trail was inaugurated in honor of the bicentennial, two riders knocked on June's door to ask for some water. Ever since, June has provided water, food, lodging and conversation to over eleven thousand cyclists.

After cycling about twenty miles out of Charlottesville I called the number that Adventure Cycling listed for June. She was about eight miles away in the small town of Afton, Virginia. I had heard that June had been in poor health recently so I thought that someone else may have been handling cyclists' requests. To my surprise June answered. Though she doesn't hear very well on the phone, she could tell I was a biker, so she gave me directions to her house, told me that the “bike house” was available for me to sleep in, and that she had recently stocked the kitchen. It was still early in the day and I would have only logged 28 miles by the time I reached Afton, but I decided that I would spend the rest of the day soaking up history there.

After a tough climb into Afton I arrived at June's house. June is 87 years old, and has had a host of health issues but you wouldn't really know it by looking at her. As she explained it, she was raised to always be doing something, so even with health issues she can't sit still. I talked with June for about two hours. She told me about her stroke and how after she had recovered her doctor told her that she could return home on the condition that she hired in-house care. As she couldn't afford it, she was forced to remain in the hospital. Word got out about June's situation among touring cyclists and soon the checks started to arrive. Not long after, June had enough money to hire help and was discharged. As June said, it was all from her extended family of bikers.

One of June's projects to keep busy was creating a model of Afton as it was in the 1920's. She had built buildings and a train bridge from old boxes and tar paper. Each piece in the display was true to the town as it once was. While at one time there was commerce in town, three stores, and a post office, all of that was gone now. The house where June was born was now known as "the bike house" and used solely as lodging for cyclists. June lives in the next brick house down the road. She told me that records show taxes were paid on the house as early as 1875. Between the bike house and June's house is a cinder block building that used to serve as June's father's auto shop.

After talking with June, I settled into the bike house, which offers its own history lesson. The four main rooms of the house are packed with memorabilia from the last thirty years of the Trail. Cyclists who have stayed at the house have adopted the tradition of leaving a memento -- shirts, cards, equipments, and art line the walls.

Thirty years of photo albums, newspaper clippings, and postcards also fill the rooms. I spent a few hours reading over the notes from bikers from all around the world and flipped through the photo albums. Thanks to the efforts of a few cyclists, the photo albums of all the cyclists who have stopped by June's house are now available online.


The Dunns said...

Hi Brian
Glad to hear that you are doing well. What a great lady! I am sure you are meeting all kinds of interesting people. We will have to have Brendan and Ryan log on so they can follow their Uncle's journey. Be safe. We love you!
Meg, Dan, Brendan, Ryan and Sarah

Andy said...

I kind of wish I had stopped at June's house now but was on a roll (an uphill one though)! Sounds like it was worth it for you!

Aunt Maureen said...

Hi Brian!

I sure am enjoying reading your blogs and seeing the pictures! What an adventure for you! How are the mountains? You sure have been meeting some interesting people! Have you met any more bikers lately? Stay safe!

love, Aunt Maureen

Doug Moon said...

I stayed at the house in June, 1986. Tonight, I was reminiscing about my cross country bike ride, and decided to google the "Cookie Lady". I'm amazed at what I found.

June Curry is a remarkable person. I'm saddened to hear about her poor health and financial situation, but thrilled to hear that she's still helping cyclists after all of these years. I plan to send her a donation tomorrow.

I'm looking forward to reading your blog about your trip. May the skies be blue and the wind at your back.


Ray said...

Brian - isn't the house amazing?!?!? And I'm glad to hear June was doing well. I did the trip last year and arrived at her place around 6pm, completely exhausted. Was glad to stay in her house and have a wonderful meal. Congrats and happy future cycling!