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Democrat Photo by Jeanne Sager

PETER BURGER SHOWS off a brand new helmet given to him by Charlie Sanborn of Cinder Track Bicycles in Livingston Manor.

A Man, His Bicycle
And the Open Road

By Jeanne Sager
YOUNGSVILLE — May 30, 2006 – Peter Burger doesn’t tell big fish tales or sea stories. His yarns are of the two-wheeled variety.
Burger’s spent his life out on the open road – just him, his thoughts and his legs pumping the pedals of a bicycle.
“As soon as I was able to get on a bike, I was on one,” Burger recalled.
A teacher’s assistant at BOCES in Liberty, Burger hops astride his bike early each morning and pedals to the Rubin Pollack Education Center.
When the final bell rings, Burger pulls the bike back out for the ride home to Youngsville.
With his seventh and eighth grade students putting together a bulletin board of childhood pictures, Burger recently put in a call to his mom back in Orchard Park for some kiddie pics of his own.
Naturally, all she could find was him on a bike!
He rode as a child around Orchard Park, rode as a college student around Buffalo, rode around Alaska when he and wife Stacy moved to the frozen hinterland.
And since the couple moved to Youngsville in August of 2004, Burger’s been taking his bike to work almost every day during the warmer months.
“I was pretty intimidated at first, because it’s a very hilly area,” he recalled.
His path to school takes Burger down East Hill Road to Route 52, and then it’s a straight shot to Liberty.
But with the deep dip and accompanying steep hill right before the turn-off onto Ferndale-Loomis Road where the BOCES campus is located, Burger had to work his way back into biking condition.
The ride took him at least 45 minutes when he started, and now he’s down to just 32 or 33 minutes each way.
It’s a 6-mile trek, and it would take 15 minutes for Burger to motor a car from home to work.
“I drive in one day a week because I have errands to run in town,” he explained.
But Burger said he’d much rather be riding on his own power.
“I like the fresh air, taking it a little slower, enjoying the view,” he said. “And saving a little money on gas is nice . . .
“And it’s better for the environment,” he added. “I think everyone can make a difference, even if it’s just one person.”
Burger doesn’t worry much about bad weather.
He participated in “Bike to Work Week” last week with Charlie Sanborn of Cinder Track Bicycles in Livingston Manor, and the duo got caught in the rain as they were cycling down the road.
For Burger, who can work up quite a sweat on the hills and dales of Sullivan’s roadways, the rain was refreshing.
And for a guy who biked to work in Alaska, there isn’t much that can keep him off his bike.
“I didn’t bike in the wintertime,” he admitted, explaining the snow made traveling on two wheels treacherous. “But as soon as the days got longer, my energy increased.”
It was much warmer he added.
And by warmer, he meant about 30 to 32 degrees as he pedaled in to work.
“It was a vast improvement,” he said with a laugh. “Because in the winter it was negative 18!”
Even for a Buffalo-area native, the Alaskan winters were too much.
But Burger has held off on riding during a Sullivan County winter so far.
He took his bike back out in April this year, eager to get back on the road.
“I wake up way earlier,” he said. “I’m excited . . . I wake up even before the alarm goes off.”
Burger said he’s expected at the BOCES campus around 8 a.m., but he tries to leave the house a little after 7 a.m.
“I get there earlier when I ride in than when I drive!” he said with a laugh.
He keeps his work clothes at the school along with deodorant and cologne (“just in case,” he said).
And he pads his commute in case of a flat tire or a rainstorm.
And these days he’s prepared for run-ins with the animals along his path.
His craziest wildlife story comes from Alaska – biking down a trail he rounded a corner and came face-to-face with a mama moose and her calf.
“They looked at me like, ‘What do you think you’re going to do?’” he said with a laugh. “I turned right around!”
But in Sullivan County it’s the dogs who keep Burger guessing.
He knows where most of them are, and he builds up enough momentum to quickly pass the properties with the mouthiest mutts.
“They still chase me,” he said. “They chase me and they try to nip at me.”
But he has yet to be bitten, and he’s happy to say drivers are much more kind than their four-legged friends.
The trip down Route 52 is a nice way to start the day, he said. At that time of the morning there’s little traffic, and he has yet to be hassled by motorists.
As long as he stays to the side, he said cars will usually move out around him as he pedals down the state roadway.
When he first started riding, Burger said people would stop him in the halls asking, “Was that you riding your bike this morning?”
Now they wave and move on.
He’d enjoy a little company on the ride, but he knows it’s not for everyone.
A true outdoorsman, Burger met his wife on a camping trip. He plays Frisbee and flies kites. He goes hiking, plays volleyball and snowboards.
And he spent spring break biking the Erie Canal.
That said, Burger admits with an embarrassed grin that he rides a Huffy from Wal-Mart to work each day.
So you don’t need a fancy bike or medals ‘round your neck.
You could want to save a little money on gas, he said (Burger hasn’t filled up the tank of his car in three weeks). Or you could take the time to enjoy the beauty of Sullivan County.
But if you’re headed down Route 52 toward Liberty between 7 a.m. and 7:45, you could join Burger for a ride.
If not, how about pulling out around the guy on his bike and throwing up your hand!

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