September 17, 2008 Edition

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At 80, Baxter remains avid
biker, retains varied interests



This recumbent trike is one of three pedal-powered modes of transportation that Walnut Ridge resident Bob Baxter uses for exercise, travel and running errands. He also owns a mountain bike and a long-wheel base recumbent bicycle.
TD Photo ~ Leslie Ginn
Leslie Ginn
Staff Writer

Bob Baxter has become a man of numerous accomplishments and has developed many skills during his lifetime. He continues that tradition even now as an avid biker. Born Nov. 22, 1927, in Topeka, Kansas, Baxter will soon be celebrating his 81st birthday.

'He's just an amazing person,' his daughter, Linda Roberts, said. 'He knows so much about so many subjects. There isn't anything he can't do.'

Baxter can often be seen riding about town and in Stewart Park. He uses three bikes routinely: a mountain bike, a recumbent trike and a long-wheel base recumbent bicycle.

On weekends, he rides up to 35 miles on trips to Osceola or Pocahontas. Weekdays, Baxter uses a regular route that includes Stewart Park to ride approximately 15 miles daily. He also uses his bike around town with the help of a small trailer he built to do errands and save on gas.

'I use the recumbent bikes because they are easier on old bodies,' Baxter explained. 'They can go up to 12 miles an hour.'

Baxter also takes his bikes on camping trips to several states. He has been to Louisiana, Florida, Missouri, Georgia and Kentucky. He said while recently camping in Georgia, 'It just got too darn cold' in the tent, and so inspired his next project — a fully-insulated teardrop trailer.

'I gathered lots of information on the teardrop trailer from the Internet, studied it and worked out how to make it suit my needs,' Baxter said.

The teardrop trailer will be pulled behind his truck on his camping trips. It is eight by five feet, with an inside sleeping area of six feet three inches. The back of the trailer will be covered with a hatch and contain a full galley with cabinets, worktable, stove and sink.

Baxter said he has been working on it for almost four months and has spent about $2,000 on the project. Factory-made teardrop trailers sell for around $10,000. He altered the original plans and construction methods to better fit his desires. He expects to be finished with the project in about a month.

'He’s done just such an incredible job,' Roberts said.

Baxter’s current accomplishments are a continuation of a tradition that intertwines learning new skills and experiencing new things into his daily life.

He worked for 40 years as an airplane mechanic for Frontier Airlines, then Air Cal and American Airlines.

He learned to speak Spanish and to sail in Baja, Mexico. He has also snow-skied and played golf. In his mid-40s in Denver, Baxter took up bicycling the mountains on an aluminum bike. He and his wife toured the country on motorcycles, and he has also learned to cook and sew over the years.

'Dad told me that his reasoning was if you can work with sheet metal, you can sew,' Roberts said. 'His secret to life is to keep his mind active.'

Baxter and his wife of 59 years, June, moved from Arizona to Walnut Ridge to be closer to their daughter. After his wife developed Alzheimer’s, Baxter took care of her constantly for four years.

About two years ago, it became apparent that his wife needed 24-hour care in a medical facility. Initially, Baxter said he was reluctant to place his wife in Lawrence Hall, but he has grown to appreciate the excellent care she is given.

After his wife moved to LHNC, Baxter took up bicycling again to get back into shape.

His other personal interests are varied. He talks to people all over the world as a ham radio operator and is fluent in Morse code. He enjoys reading and reads about three novels each week, often donating the books to the library when he finishes them.

He loves the computer and uses it to help him accomplish many of his projects. He also makes his own homemade wine. He makes various types of red wines; presently it is a Vieux Chateau du Roi, or 'the king's old castle.'

'I grew up in hard times,' Baxter said. 'Most of my knowledge has been self taught.'

When asked what words of wisdom he would give to others to make the most out of life, Baxter said, 'You take the cards life deals you and play them the best you can.'

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