When Tracy Yost’s husband was transferred to Santa Cruz, she stayed behind in Bethel. Her twin daughters were finishing high school, and she had a great job as a fitness director in Greenwich.
A year later, Tracy joined him in California. When she could not find fitness work, her husband encouraged her to unwind.
She hiked, played beach volleyball, and biked and walked everywhere. She fell in love with the wonderful weather, and “came alive.” She had never been so happy.
Looking back, she saw that she’d been caught up in Fairfield County’s long, daily marathon of work, driving, and running a high-pressure household.
Eighteen months later — right after her youngest daughter was accepted at Cal Poly — her husband’s company asked him to return to the East Coast. Tracy was devastated.
She moved back on January 16, 2015 — her birthday. With her driver’s license expired that day, she could not rent a car at the airport. Besides which, the airline lost her luggage.
But someone lent her a car. A friend took her to the Spotted Horse. She realized she’d be fine.
Leaving California, Tracy knew she wanted to live somewhere near the water, in a town influenced by New York with a vibrant downtown. Her home would be no bigger than 3,000 square feet — without a pool.
She had a preconceived, not-good notion of Westport. But realtor Lisa Duguay said, “It’s a jewel — a real community. People really support good organizations. There’s a great beach.”
Tracy found a perfect house near downtown. She and her husband moved in.
Then came 9 weeks of snow. And, a month after arriving, Tracy was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Today — after an operation and radiation — she believes it was cancer, not Santa Cruz, that made her understand she has only one life. She needed direction, and had to take care of herself.
She started juicing, and going to hot yoga. And she thought of what she could do for others.
Assessing her new life, she looked back on what she missed: Connecting with people in a fun, leisurely way. The California coastline. The “pedestrian” lifestyle.
Then she thought: Hey! I live on a coastline. I have a degree in fitness. I can do something recreational, connecting people with the beach, downtown, and a lifestyle that does not always have to be crazy busy.
Westporters were already rowing, and renting stand-up paddleboards.
But no one was renting bikes here. Whoa!
Bob Hogan, of Fairfield County SCORE — the organization that offers free advice to budding entrepreneurs — helped her write a business plan. They did it during her radiation. (“Now you have focus!” he said.)
Which is how and why Westport Bike Rentals is ready to take Westport by storm.
Tracy bought 20 bikes, and a van. She developed a few Westport routes (and can customize more, on request).
Riders call 203-917-9533, click on www.westportbikerentals.com, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. She meets them, delivering bikes for one of 3 options: a twilight ride ($25), 6 hours ($39) or all-day ($49). Helmets and a bike lock are included.
Tracy chose her 3 drop-off locations carefully. One is Long Lots School.
Another is the Imperial Avenue parking lot. The bike can be locked for a walk downtown, through Baron’s South, then over to Granola Bar — or anywhere else.
Saugatuck train station is the 3rd spot. Tracy has a contract with Metro-North, so riders can purchase a ticket and bike rental together.
The idea is not just to hop on a bike and pedal. Tracy wants riders to “go slow and explore.” In other words: Don’t just ride. If you’re heading through Longshore, stop at Pearl and have an appetizer. Then examine the graveyard on the exit route.
She offers plenty of pre-planned routes. Some are “low-key and chill,” with stops at places like the Black Duck or Christie’s Country Store. Others are “hip and happenin'” (Bartaco, Neat).
Tracy enjoys getting lost in history, so many of her routes take riders past historic sites and landmarks.
She kicks off Westport Bike Rentals with a series of Monday 2-hour twilight rides. They’re free — but donations are accepted. Each week, a different local non-profit will benefit. The first — on May 2 — aids Staples Tuition Grants. (Click here for more information, or to sign up.)
Tracy says “I want to be part of the local community.”
It sounds like she already is. And bikers, explorers and everyone else should be glad that her local community is Westport — not Santa Cruz.
(Anyone signing up for Tracy’s newsletter receives 10% off a May rental — and a copy of “The Bike Lady’s 10 Secret Locations to Chillax in Westport.”)