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Franklin couple bikes 80 miles on D&L Trail to celebrate 80th birthdays

t an age when many of their contemporaries have long since called it a day, Nancy and George Markley continue to buck the trend.

The Franklin Township couple — who both turned 80 this year — recently took to their bikes to celebrate their milestone birthdays.

Longtime bicycle enthusiasts, the couple defied the odds when they set out to bike 80 miles along the Delaware and Lehigh Trail.

[naviga:iframe allow="autoplay; encrypted-media" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/D6aTEfAwqso" width="560"]On June 11, the Markleys hopped on their tried and true Trek bikes to begin their sojourn.[/naviga:iframe]

[naviga:iframe allow="autoplay; encrypted-media" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/D6aTEfAwqso" width="560"]They started in Mountaintop, and continued through White Haven to Jim Thorpe, Lehighton, Slatington, Cementon and then back to Lehighton.[/naviga:iframe]

Despite such a lengthy ride, Nancy said she felt OK afterward, all things considered.

“We had a really good day,” Nancy said. “I felt pretty good riding.”

On their way back to the finish line, the couple said they were greeted by one of their sons, two of their grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.

“They were really proud of us,” Nancy said.

The start of a tradition

Nancy explained how the tradition began.

“On my 70th birthday, George said to me, “Let’s go for a bike ride, and asked, ‘Do you want to do 70 miles.’ ”

Nancy said the couple rode 75 miles when they turned 75, and 78 miles when they hit 78 years old.

George turned 80 in February, while Nancy reached the mark in June.

“It’s relaxing and peaceful; I love to see the flowers and the scenery,” Nancy said. “It’s my happy place.”

George said he enjoys riding — first and foremost — for his health, as well as the scenery.

60 years of riding

High school sweethearts, the couple has been together for 66 years.

Married 61 years this September, the couple estimates they’ve been bike-riding for about 60 years.

“We started street-riding because the wonderful trails were not available,” Nancy said. “I can’t say enough about the D&L Trail; they keep it in great shape.”

Nancy said the couple has made many friends throughout their bike-riding excursions.

“There are so many nice people on the trail that you meet,” she said. “The serious bike riders are polite and nice, and stop and help you.”

Secret to their success

Once a week, Nancy said she takes a 50- to 60-mile ride while George golfs.

“We try to get out two to three times a week,” she said. “We also go kayaking; it feels so good.”

They both said good health is the key to their longevity.

“We’re pretty healthy, we eat healthy, we exercise,” George said. “We have a good gene pool.”

Nancy’s father lived to be 99, as did George’s mother.

“You don’t know what tomorrow brings. It can change in the blink of an eye,” Nancy said. “I am eternally grateful that we’re both in good health.”

So, does the couple have it in them to take an even longer bike ride down the road?

Not likely, according to Nancy.

“This was probably the last ever,” Nancy said. “I always say I’m never gonna get any older, just he is.”

George, retired from the insurance business, perhaps summed it up best.

“We know there are other people that ride that far and more,” George said. “But, they’re not 80 or more.”

George and Nancy Markley of Franklin Township prepare to take a bicycle ride along the D&L Trail in Lehighton recently. Scan this photo with the Prindeo app for a video. TERRY AHNER/TIMES NEWS
A look at George and Nancy Markley during their 80-mile bicycle ride the couple took on June 11. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO