FACETIME- Curry's favor: Cookie lady offers hospitality
As the weather warms and cycling season heats up with new trends and equipment, one thing stays the same: the cookie lady.
In a sense, June Curry is a world traveler. Artifacts from around the globe clutter every nook and cranny in her brick house– known as "the bike museum"– in the tiny Nelson County hamlet of Afton.
But Curry has never left the country. With the exception of "a year here or there," she says, she has lived on this same property since her birth 85 years ago. And this is where, for over 30 years, she has hosted and fed approximately 13,000 overnight visitors, mostly bikers riding the Transamerica Trail that stretches more than 4,000 miles from Virginia to Oregon.
"It's so much fun meeting people from all over the world," says Curry. "Europe goes in for biking in a big way," she says, "and I've had one visitor from Israel three times."
Her hospitality has won her worldwide acclaim. She's listed in several guidebooks, and has been interviewed for several national magazines including Sierra, which called her "cycling's Good Samaritan."
"She's a legend," says Anson Parker, a Charlottesville cyclist who recently stopped on his way to Lexington and spent several hours looking at the thousands of photographs, postcards, and mementos covering every wall of the four-room museum.
Perhaps most amazing is that Curry has offered lodging and food to bikers and hikers free of charge– while living on her savings, donations, and her $294 social security check.
Curry is quick to point out that while she has given freely, the biking community has returned the love.
When she suffered a stroke in February 2005, and her doctor told her she couldn't go home without full-time help, Curry resigned herself to staying in the hospital. But when biking groups got wind of her predicament, donations started rolling in.
With enough money to pay a caregiver, Debbi Bryant, Curry went home and was able to resume doing what she loves best: hosting bikers. Bryant has taken over much of the day-to-day work of the bike museum.
"I couldn't do it without her," says Curry, leaning on the cane she's used since her stroke, and showing off pictures and telling stories of far-flung guests.
One family on the last leg of a two-year round-the-world trek stayed at Curry's house with their 13-year-old son. The boy left Curry the only toy he'd been toting: a small bicycle that now hangs from her ceiling.
"He said, 'This is where it belongs,'" she recalls, touching the bike fondly. It's the countless experiences like that one, she says, that make all her work worthwhile.
"It makes me feel as though my life has not been a waste," she says.
June Curry is the Cookie Lady.
PHOTO BY JEN FARIELLO