Brother and Crystal Whitaker of Guntersville were among the bicycle riders who joined the Bo Bikes Bama tornado relief tour last year.
When the tour returned this year, they signed up again and they were joined by the newest Whitaker cyclist – their 6-year-old son Grady.
Grady didnt just ride the tour this time. He kind of stole the show.
The host of the tour, Bo Jackson, was especially taken with the small cyclist and spent a big part of a rest break with him, then mentioned him in his closing speech. And TV news cameras couldnt help but film the small rider among all the adults.
Ive had friends who said they saw Grady on ESPN and the Weather Channel, Mrs. Whitaker said.
Cheerleaders and celebrities both wanted to make their picture with him. They even had strangers from the crowd come up and want a picture.
The ride went from DeKalb County to Tuscaloosa last year. This year, it was just around Cordova in hard-hit Walker County.
There were 4 deaths in Cordova from the tornado, Mrs. Whitaker said.
It was a 20-mile ride. Grady rode an hour in the parking lot before the event even started. Then he polished off 15 miles of the 20 mile run. His knees got to hurting and he rode in a car the last few miles with the state troopers who were controlling traffic for the ride.
They let him get back out just short of the finish line and ride across with the rest of the riders.
Mrs. Whitaker said Grady rides his bike most afternoons after school. Hes started mountain biking with his parents on trails in the State Park. He has a 6-speed mountain bike.
At the rest stop, Bo kept trying to get Grady to come over to where he was. But the youngster was reluctant.
I finally went over with him, Mr. Whitaker said.
Bo had some fun reading Gradys mind, his grandmother Kim Lecroy said. He accurately read what color his bike was and exactly where it was parked. It wasnt a real hard trick since it was the smallest bike in the parking area.
I think Bo and some of the other organizers were excited to see Grady because they want more kids to participate in the future, Mrs. Whitaker said.
The Whitakers are planning to ride every Bo Bikes Bama event for as long as they have it. Mr. Whitaker said he would encourage others to try it.
Its not a race, he said. Its very safe with state troopers escorting the ride.
Another Guntersville father and son, Wade and Charlie Wright, also rode the Walker County tour. Mr. Wright and Mr. Whitaker are both members of Mountain Lakes Cycling, the group that rides around Guntersville every Wednesday and Saturday. The group has a Facebook page for anyone interested in learning more.
I had more fun this year than I did last year just because my son was along, Mr. Whitaker said. Thats what the Bo Bikes Bama ride is all about, having fun and meeting people.
Grady is in kindergarten at Guntersville Elementary. Hes in Monica Giles room. His other sport besides bicycling is playing baseball.
His sister Rollins has just learned to ride a bike, so she may be the next Whitaker to bike with Bo next year.