PILLAGER -- For 30 years, Conrad Emerson taught and coached various sports -- such as track, wrestling and football -- at Washburn High School in Minneapolis.
Remaining physically active has been important for Emerson, who is now retired and lives with his wife Mary Ann on Sylvan Lake in rural Pillager.
That's why for the past 11 years, Emerson has participated in the annual Tour of Lakes Bicycle Ride through the Brainerd lakes area. He missed one ride years ago because of rain, but has been riding one of his two old dependable 10-speed bicycles through 10 of the rides, including Saturday's ride that began and finished in Crosslake.
Each year Emerson bikes the approximately 34-mile bike route. He doesn't attempt the longer route -- about 71 miles this year -- because, frankly, he doesn't think his daughters and grandchildren would want to stick it out with him for the entire ride.
Although he may not look it, Emerson is 82.
The Emersons have six children, 19 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. He and his wife moved to Sylvan Lake from Burnsville permanently in 1986. They'd been seasonal residents for 41 years.
"He just likes the exercise," said his wife. "He's got to prove it to those kids he can do it."
"No, it's to prove it to myself," said Emerson.
On Saturday, Emerson rode with two of his daughters, a son-in-law and his 11-year-old granddaughter in the 14th annual Tour of Lakes Bicycle Ride.
Emerson has collected so many Tour T-shirts that when the couple has spent time in Arizona during the winter months, people have commented on his vast Tour of Lakes T-shirt collection.
In order to train for Saturday's ride, Emerson took a few bike rides, including a 20-mile ride last week along the Paul Bunyan Trail near Nisswa.
He uses his son's 28-year-old 10-speed bike most of the time. He figures that the bike rides well enough that he doesn't need to upgrade to a new, sleeker model.
Emerson has a YMCA membership and sometimes will go in to do some conditioning with weights. He also keeps himself physically active around his home, caring for the yard and boats.
"I'm a firm believer in exercise," said Emerson, adding that when he's physically active, he feels better.
"I think his daughters marvel at the stuff that he does," said Mary Ann Emerson.
To learn more about next year's Tour of Lakes Bicycle Ride, visit the Paul Bunyan Cyclists' Web site at www.paulbunyancyclists.com.
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