NEWTON (CBS) – We’ve all heard the saying, or some version of it, that the journey is more important than the destination. For a group of friends in Newton, planning for the journey is also part of the fun. Every year, they travel somewhere in the U.S. or Canada to ride their bikes and experience an adventure that only tightens the bonds of their decades-long friendship.
It’s an annual tradition that dates back to 1996, when they made their first big bike trip (across the country) as a group with a distinct name.
“WYMPS. W-Y-M-P-S. Waban Young Men Pedaling Society…although now we could be the WOMPS. Waban Old Men Pedaling Society,” laughed WYMPS member Michael Weinblatt. WBZ’s Lisa Hughes caught up with some of the WYMPS as they packed their bikes for this year’s adventure to the San Juan Islands and Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. Packing the bikes actually means taking them apart, storing them in cases, hoping the TSA doesn’t lose any of the pieces when agents search those cases, before then reassembling the bikes at their destination.
Have they ever forgotten anything? Bruce Edmands laughed, “I’ve forgotten what we’ve forgotten.”
What they don’t forget is the scenery, from Nova Scotia and the Tetons to Civil War battlefields and the Pacific Northwest. The ride provides shared experiences that cement their friendships. It also provides a dose of perspective. “You appreciate the wonderfulness of Americans,” Weinblatt said. “Some of the people we’ve met are unbelievably spectacular. You also appreciate how blessed we are in Massachusetts.”
They recalled riding through parts of Eastern Oregon and Kentucky where people struggle mightily. “The amount of rural poverty in this country…people are incredibly poor.”
The WYMPS aren’t living it up in five-star resorts and dining in fancy restaurants on their trips. They stay in modest hotels and buy groceries when they arrive at their destination for breakfasts and lunches. They rent a van to drive alongside, and rotate drivers every ten miles. The group typically starts at 7:00 a.m. and doesn’t stop riding until the evening. There is nothing “wimpy” about their itinerary. They ride anywhere from 60-to 100-miles a day.
Before they could plan the trips online, the WYMPS would call the police station closest to their destination and ask for motel recommendations. At least once, they were referred to a church when a motel employee explained that, with a high school reunion in town at the time, there were no vacancies. “Roughing it” is part of the adventure.
But it’s not the challenges, stories or scenery that keeps them coming back. It’s the bond they strengthen with every trip. They cherish their friendship and celebrate it daily, when they meet for coffee at the Waban Starbucks. Yes, the WYMPS meet every day of the year. That’s how close they are.
“In some respects, we’re closer than brothers and sisters,” said Edmands. “I think it’s unusual for a group of men to organize and be together as much as we are as a group. It’s a place to share our professional challenges, our personal challenges, our family’s challenges. It is a brotherhood in that respect. It’s almost a coincidence that we cycle together, because we’re friends first.”
They’ve shared celebrations, milestones, setbacks and loss. After the WYMPS’ ride through Yellowstone National Park in 2015, they lost their friend John Willett to a brain tumor. With most of the WYMPS in their 60’s and 70’s, they don’t take time or health for granted. “As you get older, you think about it,” Weinblatt explaine. “But there’s no question that exercise has kept us young. It’s a great activity.”
“It started as five guys who love to cycle… who found one another,” said Edmands’ wife Geline Williams, who applauds the WYMPS’ devotion to one another. “It’s really about a human bond that starts with one thing and deepens and spreads into something else.”
She said the group is always most grateful for hot showers, clean laundry and home-cooked meals when they return.
In case you’re wondering, the WYMPS are already weighing where they will ride in 2020. The Blue Ridge Parkway or Utah are at the top of the list. Just thinking about it makes Edmands smile. “Just having these friendships is a stress-reliever,” he said.