Senior Page: ‘I’d Do It If They Didn’t Pay Me’ - Cape Cod Rail Trail Summer Ranger Just Loves Biking

By: Brendan Samson

Topics: Recreation , Roads, highways and transportation , Bicycle and pedestrian safety

Bernie Meggison started using a recumbent tricycle after he was diagnosed with vertigo and started to lose his balance. The trike is now his most prized possession as he spends 40 hours a week biking during the summer. BRENDAN SAMSON PHOTO

BREWSTER – The Cape Cod Rail Trail spans 27 miles across six towns for biking, running and walking. Bernie Meggison, the 79-year-old summer bike ranger, has the task of patrolling the path each day.

Meggisson, or ranger Bernie as he is referred to on the bike path, bikes 41 miles on average per day, ensuring that each of the Rail Trail’s customers have a safe and enjoyable biking experience.

Since starting in 2019, Meggison has formed dozens of relationships on the path and gets paid to do his favorite activity, biking.

“It's like a little network, it's a community and they all know ranger Bernie,” said Meggison, a Harwich resident. “So they trust that if they tell me something I act on it.”

The network started long before Meggison became the summer bike ranger. He volunteered at the Rail Trial for years before as a member of the Appalachian Mountain Club. The idea started as an effort to get club members interested in the trail, and as a registered mechanic, Meggison offered to do volunteer safety checks on people’s bikes. He called Eric Levy, the current park ranger at Nickerson State Park and bike trail ranger at the time, for permission. Levy said yes, and the check-ups became a hit.

“It started off, you know, a few people stopping off and then all of a sudden, ‘Bernie isn't here today, the guy from AMC, where is he?’” Meggison said.

He volunteered for a few years until the previous ranger retired. Levy was looking for a summer bike ranger to take his place and the former ranger suggested Meggison.

“[Levy] said, ‘Would you be interested in a job?’ I said, ‘When can I start?” Meggison said.

The job was perfect match for Meggison, who loved cycling and helping people, the two main jobs for the bike ranger.

Meggison’s love for biking has been a recurring theme throughout his life and was the first thing he turned to when he retired from his job as an electrical component salesman in 2009. After retirement, he spent his free time traveling and biking.

“I’ve cycled the Florida area from Key Biscayne, Miami to Key West, and that took about a total of three days to do that,” Meggison said. “That was 160-170 miles. Then my ride right after that in the same season was from Buffalo, N.Y, to Albany, N.Y., in the Erie Canal, that was about an eight- or nine-day trip, and that was totally spectacular.”

The ride that he holds closest to his heart was a charity event he rode for his grandson who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was 8 years old.

“Two years ago, I did a charity ride for him in Amelia Island, Fla., to raise a lot of money for that,” Meggison said. “He's now 19 and it was a century, a one-day century, 100 miles.”

Biking 100 miles in one day at 77 years old is an impressive feat, but it is even more impressive for Meggison who was diagnosed with vertigo about five years ago.

Vertigo is a sensation that makes the sufferer feel like they or the environment around them is spinning. It affects balance much like dizziness. When Meggison was diagnosed he was told his cycling days were over, but instead he adapted and has been using a trike, also called a recumbent tricycle, ever since.

The sit-down position that the trike puts Meggison in allows him to maintain his balance while also doing his favorite hobby.

“This is a very unique trike in that it's got full suspension all around and it's got E-assist if I need it for busy days or late days, or I have to get somewhere of an emergency on the trail,” Meggison said. “I just liked the trike because it's very, very comfortable on the spine and the whole body and you can go all day long in a bike like that.”

Now on his tricked-out trike, Meggison patrols the Rail Trail for 12 weeks in the summer, ready to guide any customers to the most scenic parts of the trail or help bandage up an injury.

“Heading towards Yarmouth, you get a lot of beautiful ponds with benches, porta potties and so forth, nice places for kids to swim, bicyclists can get off their bikes and hop into the water,” Meggison said. “It's just spectacular up around Long Pond, Seymour Pond and then you have Sheep's Pond, and you get to know all those areas, and people ask you, where's the place to stop and you just send them up there.”

Even with the ponds being one of Meggison’s favorite stops, he enjoys the entire trail, which is what makes his job so rewarding.

“We have maps that I carry that are put up by the friends of the Cape Cod Rail Trail, and it shows them where some of the high points are and so forth, but I consider the whole trail beautiful,” Meggison said.