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Wellington bike gang roars in to celebrate member’s 90th birthday

25 WOTL e-bikers ride in to celebrate resident Pam Grimshaw’s 90th birthday.

Story and photos by Sharon Harrison
When Wellington on the Lake resident Pam Grimshaw turned 90 years old last week, a bike gang roared in for a surprise birthday party – her bike gang.

The birthday girl and her husband Eric, were positioned in the lead of about 25 e-bikers in their gang, as the fellow residents, friends and neighbours met at the outdoor space at the WOTL recreation centre to celebrate the very active and young-at-heart 90-year-old.

The Grimshaws, both 90 and just six months apart in birthdays, are avid e-bikers and belong to the Wellington on the Lake (WOTL) e-bikers gang, the Overnite Charges.

While some of the club’s members jokingly claim it is the biggest e-biker club in Canada, Alan Smith, Overnite Chargers president, says he tells people, ‘we are the only e-biker gang in the world! I’ve yet to have anyone challenge me on that,” he said laughing.

Pam’s husband Eric turned 90 in January and on this day celebrated right alongside his wife of 67 years.

He lovingly stated they have known each other for 73 years. “She was 16 and I was 17 when we first met,” he said.

Pam attributed an active outdoor life as the secret to a long, healthy life. Eric added that as a couple, they do everything together and share in each other’s activities, more than doing separate activities apart from each other.

Eric and Pam on their recumbent bikes. Photo contributed

They have been full-time residents of WOTL for about five years and ride two-, three- and four-wheeled e-bikes. They have also been seen around town on their recumbent bikes.

Club president Smith says there are about 28 e-bikers in the group, whose members range in age from early 60s to 90 – and members have their own ‘handles’ too.

“The club started out as a joke in a newsletter,” he said.

While working on the WOTL newsletter, they wanted to open up the classifieds, and experimenting, decided to put in some fake ads, one of which read, ‘Do you want to start an e-biker gang?’ They decided to use one of the residents who had a scooter, then manipulated a photo to include a biker jacket and paraphernalia and included it in the newsletter.

“A few of us were talking and it turned out that six people had scooters and they decided, why not do it for real?”

What started out with six members in 2014 has increased to 28 as interest ballooned in the last few years.

The idea was once a month the group would go a restaurant or a winery, have lunch and ride together. He said this year started out tough with a cool, wet spring bringing a slow start to the year’s activities.

“We go off on trails and back roads and nobody needed to worry because there would always be somebody there to catch them if a battery died or something happened,” said Smith.

The monthly trips are popular and now they face the issue of how to find a nearby restaurant or event that can accommodate 30 people.

“It’s even difficult to have a picnic because of our age, we don’t want to be too far away from washrooms,” he said. “We are at the stage now where we have to get a bit more serious about how we are going to organize ourselves.”

Birthday girl ‘Sweet P’ Pam Grimshaw opens her birthday gift – a pink helmet as husband Eric and a guest watch.

Eric, with Pam as she blows out her 90th birthday candle.

Meanwhile Pam Grimshaw was delighting in visiting with her surprise party guests, although she admits to having a suspicion something was being arranged.

The afternoon included a buffet lunch and birthday cake. She blew out a single candle and opened her wrapped gift of a pink bicycle helmet. Pam’s e-biker handle is Sweet P.

Joining the party were members of the Crimson Cuties Red Hat group. The group of 24, of which Pam is also a member, are all WOTL residents. It is the only red hat group left in the County, which used to have three groups said Pam Smith, red hatter and e-biker (aka Tasha Tudor). She is the e-biker club secretary and the one who designed their logo which can be found on T-shirts, vests, flags and their letterhead.

Members of the WOTL Crimson Cuties Red Hat group also joined in on the afternoon to wish member Pam Grimshaw (front, centre) a happy 90th birthday.

The red hat group usually hosts a destination lunch and sometimes an activity each month. She said it is rare for all members to attend each event, mostly because of their numbers and the same difficulty to accommodate two dozen members in one place.

“June was a visit to the recently-opened Carson’s Garden + Market and while there we had lunch (and shopped!),” she said. “July is Caddy Shack miniature golf, then lunch at Isaiah Tubbs.”

Pam Smith noted Gail Post has been ‘Queen’ of the red hat group for many years.

“She does a great job at that in addition to doing a lot of volunteer work in the WOTL community. She is extremely capable and organized.

“While the e-biker club tends to be for the mobility challenged, we have an awful lot of three-wheelers and four-wheelers,” added Alan Smith. And while the club rules prohibit golf carts, they grandfathered in one lady, Judy, whose late-husband Gary was one of the founding members of the club. “She doesn’t drive, so she got a golf cart, so she is sort of our mascot golf cart,” he said.

Alan says battery range is about 40 kilometres, but notes it depends on weight, how cold it is, whether you are going up hill, and if the wind is against you and so on.

He says the peddle-assist bicycles are the legitimate e-bikes, with the electric-assist bicycles (scooters) the grey area.

“They have peddles, you still don’t need a licence, insurance or a motorcycle licence, and they are governed to 32 kilometres per hour top speed,” adding a three- or four-wheeler would not go that fast, but might top out at 20 or 22 km/h.

He notes that because the three-wheelers are typically mobility scooters, you can take them into the grocery stores, but he says some of the newer ones are pretty quick.

When the weather is a little more comfortable, some member do wear leather gear.

“Four or five have found some bargain leathers and have sewn patches on.”

The president of the club thinks the surge in electric transportation is a natural thing and that “a pedal-assist bike is ideal when it comes to a more elderly person because you can still get out and pedal if you want, and you can get some help on the way home if you need it, or if you’d rather take that hill or have the wind against you, you can.”

“We are a gang, an e-biker gang, that’s the whole point, we are spoofing bad-ass bikers,” he laughs. While forming the group, he found bylaws from a biker gang on the Internet, and modified them for the club’s use.

“We aren’t serious,” he says with a big grin, yet notes the club has a president, vice-president, sergeant-at-arms, treasurer and secretary.

Membership is free to join the Overnight Chargers and is open to any WOTL resident. Pam Smith describes the social club as ‘long on mirth and short on rules’.

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