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Summer Nights

Summer Nights: Merrimack Valley Trail Riders find peace on the trails

  • Ron Sousa comes up a trail at the Hopkinton Everett trails on Wednesday, July 31, 2013 in Dunbarton. Sousa was leading the pack of the Merrimack Valley Trail Riders that meet once a week for a night ride. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Ron Sousa comes up a trail at the Hopkinton Everett trails on Wednesday, July 31, 2013 in Dunbarton. Sousa was leading the pack of the Merrimack Valley Trail Riders that meet once a week for a night ride.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Art Pepin, right, relaxes between rides with the Merrimack Valley Trail Riders on the Hopkinton Everett trails on Wednesday night, July 31, 2013.  <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Art Pepin, right, relaxes between rides with the Merrimack Valley Trail Riders on the Hopkinton Everett trails on Wednesday night, July 31, 2013.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • The informal meeting point for the Merrimack Valley Trail Riders weekly night rides is marked by a sign on one of the trucks belonging to the riders.  <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    The informal meeting point for the Merrimack Valley Trail Riders weekly night rides is marked by a sign on one of the trucks belonging to the riders.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Bob Fitzpatrick gears up before heading out on the trails at the Hopkinton Everett area in Dunbarton along with the Merrimack Valley Trail Riders on July 31, 2013. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Bob Fitzpatrick gears up before heading out on the trails at the Hopkinton Everett area in Dunbarton along with the Merrimack Valley Trail Riders on July 31, 2013.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Payton Preve, 9, goes down a trail at the Hopkinton Everett trails in Dunbarton on Wednesday, July 31, 2013. Preve was riding with the Merrimack Valley Trail Riders, a group that maintains the trails and gathers once a week to get together and ride. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Payton Preve, 9, goes down a trail at the Hopkinton Everett trails in Dunbarton on Wednesday, July 31, 2013. Preve was riding with the Merrimack Valley Trail Riders, a group that maintains the trails and gathers once a week to get together and ride.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • The Merrimack Valley Trail Riders meet in the parking lot of the Hopkinton Everett trails in Dunbarton around 5pm every Wednesday and head out as a pack on their dirt bikes. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    The Merrimack Valley Trail Riders meet in the parking lot of the Hopkinton Everett trails in Dunbarton around 5pm every Wednesday and head out as a pack on their dirt bikes.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Tami Preve helps her son Payton, 9, unload his bike from her truck after arriving at the Hopkinton Everett trails on Wednesday night, July 31, 2013 for the Merrimack Valley Trail Riders Association weekly night ride. Preve is also a dirt bike rider herself having grown up around it her whole life. Her father, Tom Levesque, was one of the riders that helped establish the organization. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Tami Preve helps her son Payton, 9, unload his bike from her truck after arriving at the Hopkinton Everett trails on Wednesday night, July 31, 2013 for the Merrimack Valley Trail Riders Association weekly night ride. Preve is also a dirt bike rider herself having grown up around it her whole life. Her father, Tom Levesque, was one of the riders that helped establish the organization.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Merrimack Valley Trail Riders gather at the Hopkinton-Everett trails every Wednesday evening to ride. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Merrimack Valley Trail Riders gather at the Hopkinton-Everett trails every Wednesday evening to ride.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Payton Preve, 9, takes a break between rides at the Hopkinton Everett trails in Dunbarton on Wednesday, July 31, 2013. Preve was riding with the Merrimack Valley Trail Riders, a group that maintains the trails and gathers once a week to get together and ride. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Payton Preve, 9, takes a break between rides at the Hopkinton Everett trails in Dunbarton on Wednesday, July 31, 2013. Preve was riding with the Merrimack Valley Trail Riders, a group that maintains the trails and gathers once a week to get together and ride.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Ron Sousa comes up a trail at the Hopkinton Everett trails on Wednesday, July 31, 2013 in Dunbarton. Sousa was leading the pack of the Merrimack Valley Trail Riders that meet once a week for a night ride. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Art Pepin, right, relaxes between rides with the Merrimack Valley Trail Riders on the Hopkinton Everett trails on Wednesday night, July 31, 2013.  <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • The informal meeting point for the Merrimack Valley Trail Riders weekly night rides is marked by a sign on one of the trucks belonging to the riders.  <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Bob Fitzpatrick gears up before heading out on the trails at the Hopkinton Everett area in Dunbarton along with the Merrimack Valley Trail Riders on July 31, 2013. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Payton Preve, 9, goes down a trail at the Hopkinton Everett trails in Dunbarton on Wednesday, July 31, 2013. Preve was riding with the Merrimack Valley Trail Riders, a group that maintains the trails and gathers once a week to get together and ride. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • The Merrimack Valley Trail Riders meet in the parking lot of the Hopkinton Everett trails in Dunbarton around 5pm every Wednesday and head out as a pack on their dirt bikes. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Tami Preve helps her son Payton, 9, unload his bike from her truck after arriving at the Hopkinton Everett trails on Wednesday night, July 31, 2013 for the Merrimack Valley Trail Riders Association weekly night ride. Preve is also a dirt bike rider herself having grown up around it her whole life. Her father, Tom Levesque, was one of the riders that helped establish the organization. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Merrimack Valley Trail Riders gather at the Hopkinton-Everett trails every Wednesday evening to ride. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Payton Preve, 9, takes a break between rides at the Hopkinton Everett trails in Dunbarton on Wednesday, July 31, 2013. Preve was riding with the Merrimack Valley Trail Riders, a group that maintains the trails and gathers once a week to get together and ride. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

The terrain in the woods past the flat roads and well-groomed surfaces is rough and rocky, and the little paths aren’t much wider than a couple of two-by-fours. But when Ron Sousa and his buddies get on the trails, rev their engines and take their dirt bikes for a spin, they’re in bliss, someplace where the worries and stresses of life don’t exist.

“It’s all just about guys riding together,” said Sousa, a grizzled 57-year-old from Pelham, before heading out for a ride last Wednesday evening. “It’s about going out there, stopping, shooting the breeze. Just riding with buddies.”

By day, the men and women who make up the Merrimack Valley Trail Riders work as plumbers, educate children in local schools, fix and maintain computers. They’re typical, everyday folk with a passion for dirt biking, trail riding, being outdoors.

And on nice, serene Wednesday nights, a dozen or so of them come to the paths that crisscross the Dunbarton and Weare town line to catch up with each other, to relieve stress, to go for a ride.

The trail riders maintain the state-owned land the Hopkinton-Everett trails sit on, helping remove fallen trees from the pathways and set up bridges along the course so that other dirt bikers and four-wheeler riders can enjoy the 18 miles of terrain. They do it, they said, because they love to ride, to spend their evenings

outdoors with the swarms of mosquitoes, the occasional deer, the pine trees and other bikers.

“It’s a thrill,” said Art Pepin, 48, of Londonderry, who’s been riding the trails there since the mid-1990s.

“I like it. I’ve been doing this since I was 8 years old,” he added, while sitting atop his citrus-colored bike decked out with decals displaying photos he’s taken of other riders in action. His face lights up when he talks about the sport, like a kid telling you how he learned to ride a bike for the first time without training wheels.

Then Pepin talks about what goes through his mind when he’s out on the trails, what he’s thinking about as he’s trekking along the dusty and well-beaten paths.

“I think about stuff at work sometimes; I think about stuff at home; I think about things I’m going to be doing this weekend,” Pepin said. “It’s kind of long-form thinking. It isn’t just quick little thoughts.”

Pepin, who works as an IT specialist at WMUR, drives one of the more elaborate bikes among the group of trail riders who come out Wednesday nights. He rides a new KTM 300, a slick bike made by an Austrian company.

“It has longevity to it,” he said. “It’s durable. They tend not to break.”

Others, such as Bob Fitzhenry of Durham, ride less adorned bikes. He drives a used Honda XR 250, a black-and-white machine that has just the basics.

“I try to keep it as simple as possible,” said Fitzhenry, 44, a tall and affable man who works at the U.S. Forest Service as a public and legislative affairs liaison and has written books on mountain biking in the area.

The riders, though, don’t go out on these trails to speed, to race or to show off their equipment. The fastest they’ll end up going out there, they said, is maybe 25 or 30 mph. If they want to race – or an enduro, as they call it – they’ll head to a different course.

The trails in Dunbarton and Weare mean something else. They’re a place to escape for a few hours while getting in a little exercise.

As the members of the club were rounding out a run last Wednesday, Tami Preve, 42, of Chichester stood by herself in the dirt-covered parking lot at the base of the recreation area.

On most nights, Preve would be out on the trails with the other members of the club, riding her bike along with her 9-year-old son, Payton. But on this night, she was stuck at the base, forced to be a spectator, recovering from knee surgery that will keep her off the trails for about four weeks.

“It’s hard to sit back and not be able to go out there,” said Preve, who works as a special education coordinator for the Epsom School District. Her father, Tom Levesque, helped found the Merrimack Valley Trail Riders in the early 1970s and serves as the president of the club, which has about 250 full members.

Preve has been going to the trails ever since they were built in the early 1990s. She knows almost all the people who ride with the club each Wednesday and can tell you stories and factoids about the group like no one else.

She’s been to plenty of the charity rides the club has put on each June in Loudon for the last 30 years or so for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, helping to raise more than $2 million to fight the disease. She’s seen riders get cuts and scrapes and bruises after taking a fall on a course. And she’s spent many afternoons out on the trails, riding and bonding with members of her real and extended biking family.

When she’s out there, she said, she clears her mind and wipes out the everyday distractions that might bog her down. She focuses just on what’s ahead of her, in that moment.

“Everything disappears,” she recalled as she stood waiting for the bikers to return, her brown eyes growing wider as she talked. “Your stress of the day is gone.”

As Preve stood talking, Sousa pulled in, took off his helmet and paused for a breather. At his age, he said, riding reconnects him with his youth, with his childhood. These days, it takes a little more out of him, but he still gets just as much of a thrill as he did when he was a kid.

“It’s great out there,” Sousa, a plumber by trade, said as sweat dripped down his face.

“It’s a little wet in spots,” he added, “but it’s fun.”

(William Perkins can be reached at 369-3327 or
wperkins@cmonitor.com.)

I also liked the article, nice to see folks out on the trail enjoying the best of what NH has to offer. I do like to trail bike, but also mountain bike, hike and walk the trails in Southern NH (that are designated as such), and it's a benefit to see folks with different recreational expectations respecting one another's activities. I can appreciate the efforts of these trail riders at maintaining a space like Hopkinton-Everett, allowing a legal place for folks to get out and enjoy their hobby. I hope when my daughter is a little older (and a little more experienced on a motorbike too) she and I will head up there and ride the trails !

I'm disappointed to not have joined my fellow MVTR members for last Wednesday's Club ride and interview with Bill and the Concord Monitor. My elder grandson and I were headed for the North Country for fly fishing on the Swift Diamond, some kayak fishing on Umbagag , that was before we hiked above Moose cave in Grafton, Maine. The blue berries on the way up were nice and sweat. I was pleased on our return to find today's "Monitor" article covering the recreational activity that brings so diverse a group together (MVTR's first president Harry Perkins, became a NH Supreme Court judge). Profession, interests, gender,age are of no concern; everyone enjoys the challenge of the trail, the bruises of a fall or the exuberance of a 'save'. There are many ways to enjoy the out of doors; the wilds of the forest, but this is our choice. There is an excitment for me to share the catch of a wild trout or to track a white tail with my grand-kids; but just as memorial is shareing the rush of cleaning a technical trail section or bench racing after an event. Oh by the way, I have fewer aches and pains when I'm activily riding, life's too short to grow old, go do something!

What a great article. So nice to see a bunch of people enjoying the woods and having fun! Get out there & have some fun with them, Helen! It sure does looks like fun.

At the risk of being the skunk at the garden party, when I hike in the woods, I prefer the sounds of nature to the sounds and smells of two and four stroke engines. Trail-riding is undeniably fun, and justified in mixed-use recreational areas, but make no mistake: there are better ways to commune with nature than via the internal combustion engine.

This sounds like a great way for the kids and big kids to have some fun. I rode trails a lot when I was in my teens and 20s but I just ride my BMW tourer now. My birthday's coming up--maybe I should get a trail bike or four wheeler. I do miss it. My grandkids have been out to that park with my daughter and son-in-law and are always after me to join them.

The riders might find peace in the wilderness when they ride, but having lived for 15 years nearby another such area used by off-road bikers, ATVs, and snowmobiles, I know that everyone else around them loses THEIR peace when the riders come out. Large groups of such motorized vehicles are noisy, and spew exhaust, even if traveling the "slow" speeds of 25-30 MPH. Many of our evenings and weekends were ruined by groups of riders speeding by, taking a "shortcut" down the class 5 road where we lived, to get to the woods. We could hear them coming for miles. They might have been having fun, but we certainly were not. The kids and pets were frightened, my husband and I angry that our quiet landscape had been invaded once again. This may be a different group of riders, who may not be so rude. Let's hope they are more considerate of those who live nearby their trails.

Club meetings are held the first Wednesday of every month at 8 pm at Freedom Cycles, Concord, NH. New riders and potential members are invited as well. www.mvtr.org

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