LONG-DISTANCE RIDES WITH GOD

THE FIRST THING YOU SEE as you come into Chuck Howes's office is a gleaming 18-speed Serotta with light touring tires and a duck-cotton saddlebag. It's one of the "trusty steeds" on which he commutes to work, rides for pleasure, and participates in long-distance events.

Ever since Howes leapt into the saddle of the shining new Schwinn coaster bike with whitewalled tires he got for Christmas at age six, he has felt an extraordinary exhilaration. First, from that special bonding of boy and bike, then as a way to relax after the rigors of the classroom, and more recently, as a way to beat soaring gas prices. He loves to let the wind blow through the vents of his riding helmet as he challenges the hills and valleys of his adopted state of Massachusetts. "And one of the most wonderful things about it," he says, "is that there's not a lot that separates me from a kid in Kenya, Switzerland, or Brazil, or anywhere else in the world, out on a bicycle for the first time."

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