Almost every day, Jim Blankenship gets his 21-speed Haro bicycle out of the garage. It’s a hybrid bike that his nephew bought him just a few years ago.
The 71-year-old engineer bikes almost every day whether it be summer, fall, spring or winter. Five days a week, he’s out on the roads of Hamblen County, going about 10 miles a ride.
Blankenship’s story is a bit different than most bike riders, though. His story begins six years ago.
That’s when he started riding.
“When I was in my 60s, I decided I wanted something to do,” he said.
He hadn’t ridden a bike since he was around 14 or 15 years old, he said. His nephew was the one who encouraged him to get into bike riding. Blankenship started borrowing his nephew’s bike and riding it.
He laughs and says he thinks his nephew got tired of him riding his bike, so he went out and bought the 21-speed Haro for his older uncle.
A passion was born.
Since then, he said he has ridden 8,000 miles. Last year was his best year when he rode 1,900 miles.
He said this year he’s been held back just a bit. He encountered one thing that could slow him down: rain. Because of the constant rain this year, especially during the winter, he hasn’t been able to get on the roads as much as he would like.
But, that barely holds him back.
“I don’t want to slowdown,” Blankenship said. “I’ll keep going as long as I can.”
Blankenship said his doctor tells him he’s the only patient he has that instead of telling to do more, he almost wants to tell him to do less.
Blankenship came to Morristown 25 years ago. He is originally from Cleveland, Ohio. He served four years in the U.S. Army after being drafted and then went to college to get his engineering degree. He moved to Morristown to work at American Appliance in Newport.
Seven years ago, he left that company and started his own company where he now works about 20 hours a week doing consulting, he said.
Blankenship lives on the west side. He said he doesn’t compete in racing events. He just likes to ride.
“I tell people it’s better to compete against yourself,” he said.
He said he loves the freedom of biking. He has no set route he does every morning. He likes to mix it up, but you may find him riding along U.S. Highway 11E or on state Route 160.
He never imagined himself loving biking so much as he does.
“I didn’t know I’d like it as much as I do,” Blankenship said.
But it keeps him young. Since he’s started biking, his blood pressure has gone down and he brags that he now has a “spring in his step.”
He doesn’t feel old at all.
“I guess I’m a senior,” he said. “Sometimes I don’t feel like it.”