At first, the casual bicycle jaunts on Sunday mornings were taken to have leisurely breakfasts at various locations around town.
Then, the jaunts became longer and more rigorous as more men joined the group.
Before long, they were packing their bicycles in boxes and shipping them around the world to ride tandem with their wives.
Almost 60 years later, John S. Carter, Don Chalfant, Stillman Chase and Charles Greene are still riding at the ages of 91, 86, 87, and 83, respectively.
Mr. Carter hasn’t let a knee replacement and getting around with a walker stop him from riding twice a week on a recumbent tricycle and taking an exercise class three times a week at the Santa Barbara YMCA.
“The class is called Silver Sneakers,” he said during an interview on a recent morning at the home he built years ago for his late wife Shirley Carter and his three daughters.
Well known for his 40 year career as owner of a local construction company, he was also an avid skier which led to his founding of the bicycle group.
“I wanted to strengthen my legs for the annual ski trip that Bob Carlson arranged at Mammoth Mountain. I bought a bike and started riding it by myself on Sunday mornings from my home in the Santa Barbara foothills to nearby restaurants,” said Mr. Carter. “Then I met Stillman and his wife Nancy at dinner one night, and he mentioned that he rode his bike to work at the Santa Barbara Research Center. I suggested he join me, and the group grew from there.”
At one time, there were a dozen or more men meeting at La Cumbre Plaza at 7 a.m. Sundays to ride as far as 30 to 40 miles, often taking Mountain Drive to Carpinteria..
The rides were a welcome respite from their demanding careers.
Mr. Chalfant, a graduate of UCLA with a degree in engineering, worked as an underwater acoustic engineer at an acoustic range on Santa Cruz Island.
A graduate of Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo with a degree in electrical engineering, Mr. Chase was an infrared expert, who worked for Bell Labs in New Jersey, Cal Tech in Pasadena and SBRC in Goleta. He is still working with the industry with Arizona State University scientists.
Mr. Greene earned his degree in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He started a company that tracked whales in the Arctic, where drilling has happened or will be taking place. He is also active in local groups such the Santa Barbara Symphony and Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara, having served both as president.
Mr. Carter is a graduate of UCSB with a degree in industrial arts education.
“I taught for a year and a half in Los Angeles and decided to come back to Santa Barbara to seek my fame and fortune in the construction industry,” he said with a smile. “After 40 years in the business, I retired and then developed a technique and equipment to underpin buildings having subsidence problems.”
Mr. Carter also describes himself as a world traveler, visiting approximately 200 of the 250 countries in the world.
Included were bicycle trips he and other members of the group took with their wives on tandem bikes to other areas in the United States and other countries.
“During our tandem trips, we did the Colorado circle from Gunnison to Aspen and Buena Vista and back to Gunnison. We went to Vermont for the fall colors, toured chateaux in the Loire Valley in France, the Black Forest in Germany and Haarlem up the coast and back to Amsterdam in Holland,” said Mr. Carter.
“One of the highlights of our trip to Holland was the day we were riding through a town, and it was absolutely still except for the sound coming from TV sets as people were watching the World Cup soccer match between Holland and Russia. When Holland won, all hell broke loose.”
Trips to faraway places were dubbed “Wings and Wheels.”
“We always shipped our own bicycles in cardboard boxes. We never rented them. The only time we had a problem was when Stillman and I had to walk our tandem bikes through the streets of Paris to put them in boxes for shipment home.”
Among other trips the Carters and Chases have taken along with Mr. Chalfant and his wife Kathy and Mr. Greene and Barbara were wineries in Napa Valley, circumnavigation of Lake Tahoe, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and from Canada to Mexico, one piece at a time.
Since three of the four men have retired, they now ride on Wednesday morning in addition to Sundays, mostly on bike paths in town like the Obern Trail, formerly known as the Atascadero Creek Bike Path, to Goleta Beach Park or around the UCSB campus.
“We meet at La Cumbre Plaza and break for breakfast. I’m 91 and still moving around. Biking has kept me fit. It’s great exercise my legs, it’s great to be outdoors, and it’s great fun,” said Mr. Carter.