Jim Grey has loved bicycles since he was a little boy. He didn't do much with them as an adult, however, until about five years ago. He started riding a road bike to compliment his running exercise program.
"I run because that's an exercise I can do all year round," Jim said. "I ride because I love to ride. It has more limits than running, though.
"Because of my work schedule, I have to do my exercise in the early morning. You can run in the dark but you can't bike safely in the dark."
When Jim experienced back pain on his road bike, he purchased a recumbent bike. The modern-style vehicles, which were developed in the '60s, are much easier on the back. He kept adding to his collection and now has a bevy of bikes.
The 52-year-old owner of Grey's CarQuest auto parts store has an extensive bicycle collection but he's not sure how many he has.
"I purposely don't count them," he said. "So when my wife asks how many bikes I have, I can honestly say, I don't know. I don't have room for all of them at home. I loan them out to friends and they keep them at their houses."
One bike he rides frequently is a Penny Farthing which was popular in the 1880s. The front wheel is about four feet high while the back one is only a fourth that size. The rider must climb up on a foot rest to reach the seat. The tires are solid rubber and the hard seat has no suspension. It's appropriately called the bone shaker.
Another of Jim's favorites is a Lietra. "It's made in Denmark," he explained.
The light, individual mode of transportation is actually a full-bodied tricycle.
"They're fairly common overseas. People ride them to the store and on short trips, things like that. It's got a little storage compartment in the back.
"These human-powered vehicles are used a lot in the European countries because gas is so expensive over there. I have a yellow, enclosed HPV that I ride all the time, especially in the colder weather."
Jim's collection includes a Monster Cruiser which has two 36-inch tires. He also has a row bike. The seat slides down a rail. Simultaneously the rider pulls the handle bars back and slides the seat down.
The bike has no pedals. It's chain driven and the rowing motion propels the chain. Grey claims it's the ultimate outdoor fitness trainer and works all of the major muscle groups.
Jim's wife, Luann, interjected some history on how he acquired the row bike.
"That was a Christmas present for me from Jim and it wasn't even on my list," Luann said, laughing. "Can you imagine that? I've never ridden it."
Bikes are his passion but the agile, fun loving Brazil native is a man of many talents. The former juggler and animal balloon tying magician said if he ever gets a chance to retire and kick back, he'll go back to doing those things.
"I thought when I got old I'd find sanity," Jim said. "But I never found him -- Sanity Claus."
The father of The Brazil Times intern Megan Grey has put in a lot of miles on his bikes. But on July 12, Jim made the ride of his life. He participated in the Ride Across INdiana (RAIN) sponsored by the Bloomington Bicycle Club. It was his first, ever, organized bicycle excursion.
The 162-mile trek started at the Illinois state line just west of West Terre Haute and finished at the Earlham College campus in Richmond, Ind.
It was not a race but a timed event. Riders had 14 hours to finish. A late decision to participate gave Jim and his riding buddy, Bob Lemont, just six weeks to train. Jim thought he'd need the conditioning he'd acquired from his years of cycling to get him through.
According to Joe Anderson, director of RAIN, 778 entrants started the ride at 6 a.m. Saturday morning. When the clock ran out at 8 p.m. 713 riders had crossed the finish line.
Jim Grey was one of the finishers with a time of 10 hours and 27 minutes.
"Right out of the chute, I got railroaded in Terre Haute," Jim laughed. "That's probably no surprise. I felt pretty good at the end," he said. "It was bad in the middle. I lost the feeling in my feet about 30 miles in to it. And my legs hurt. You have to keep in mind that the pedals, and my legs, went around 4,200 times every hour. Multiply that out over 10 hours. My knees had to bend over 42,000 times. That's a lot of bending.
"You have to break the ride down in sections in your mind," Jim continued. "If you think in terms of the entire 162 miles at the beginning it can overwhelm you. I'd set a goal for 30 or 40 miles. When I completed that section, I'd plan new strategy for the next point."
Jim said he was never in a panic about the time. Neither was he worried about his lungs or even the pain. "It'll quit hurting when you stop." His concern was his legs.
"You don't run out of air but the legs can go out anytime. It never entered my mind that I would not finish, though. I would never go into something if I didn't think I could finish.
"We're Hoosiers," Jim said, "the toughest people in the world. If we didn't finish, they'd just bury us in the nearest cornfield.
"Any time you try something like this you learn something," Jim laughed. "Even if it's that you're not too bright.
"But no matter what happens, you just keep moving forward and tell yourself, I'm coming home. Just like the game of life, you try to keep going forward."