It's a beautiful day in Davidson, and as you amble through town, you might notice all the usual suspects - changing leaves, hurried students, a pedicab ...
Wait, hold on - a pedicab?
But there it is, green and glinting in the sunlight, driven by an amiable fellow who's chatting with two customers about the town and the sights. And he has a smile on his face, despite the fact he's currently hauling close to 200 pounds.
That man is Davidson Village innkeeper Gordon Clark, a fixture in town for the last 18 years.
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The sight of Clark driving the pedicab, however, is something fairly new.
The avid cyclist (who opened the Davidson Village Inn in 1993 with his wife, Rebecca) said, "One day I started to think about what I could do to say to my wife 'I'm working,' but still be doing something I like." He entertained the thought of a pedicab, which are common in more metropolitan areas, and began researching the idea.
In April, his custom-built unit arrived, fully assembled and ready to roll.
Clark takes customers on a tour through town, showing them the Davidson College campus, a typical Davidson neighborhood and downtown. Riders include a variety of guests, ranging from people here for corporate events to those attending reunions to prospective students with their parents. Clark's also hauled kids at community events including Concerts on the Green, and recently took residents of The Pines - a continuing-care retirement community - out for a spin.
Some passengers want to ride quietly; others ask questions, which Clark answers - most of the time.
"Sometimes I just need to shut my mouth and breathe," he said.
Rightfully so. Doing the math, a 200-pound driver, 200-pound cab and 200 pounds of passengers adds up to make operating the pedicab a great workout.
"Once your (age) is up into the 40s and 50s, you're looking for ways to become more active," Clark said.
The 'cab is geared like a mountain bike, but lower, and Clark adapted quickly. He considers himself a true cyclist: "I bike to work, the store, everywhere I can," he said. "There are days that go by when I don't get into a car."
There was a learning curve, however; "The thing you want to avoid are hills, and you quickly realize what's not a flat surface," Clark said. "Even the smallest hill is really tough."
Clark can be seen around town operating the pedicab often; the summer was so hot that he didn't have many customers. But now that the weather has cooled, business has picked up. Clark recently gave six rides in one day, then gave four or five more the rest of the week.
Something Clark said he didn't anticipate was the warm reception from town residents. Although there's the occasional motorist annoyed that he's stuck behind someone going six miles an hour, most people are happy to see him.
"People call out and say hello all the time," Clark said. "My passengers ask, 'Do you know everybody?'"