Biking for Birthdays: Destin man celebrates 88th birthday with biking attempt

Savannah Vasquez
Preston rides his 24-speed Giant bike daily to exercise and stay in shape.

Every year on April 16, Destin resident Chuck Preston has a mission: to celebrate his birthday by biking one mile per year he has been alive.

This year he turned 88 and marked his 19th year of trying the feat with his longest attempt yet.

“In 1985 I had open heart surgery and I couldn’t really jog so I started biking after that,” he said of his love for biking. “I do it because my joints won’t take the running and I like to exercise and because I like to be outside and I meet a lot of people out there.”

When asked where he got the idea for biking for his birthday, Preston said he just happened to meet another biker on the road with the same goal.

Preston has kept the tradition going every year since then and actually accomplished his goal for 16 years running until his past three birthdays when he said his body just couldn’t take the miles.

“When I was 86 I had an emergency stop and I went down, and last year I made it 71 miles but I drank too much five-hour energy and got dehydrated and ended up in the ER,” he said.

So this year, Preston played it safe. Instead of biking far from home he made loops around his neighborhood all day long.

“I just biked around and around the block so I would be close to home in case something happened so I could just pull the bike in and fix it,” he said. “This year, I had a little problem with a spring in my seat and had to get that fixed and that took some time and then I got to 44 miles and was just so exhausted I had to stop.”

Even though he only made it to the halfway point of his goal, Preston said he is still proud of his accomplishment.

“This year I averaged about eight miles an hour,” he said. “My goal is to ride 10 miles a day or 70 miles per week so that I can reach 3,650 miles for the year.”

Donning a shirt that reads, “Never underestimate an old man with a bicycle,” Preston said he believes his daily biking exercise has kept his health up over the years. A retired Air Force Lt. Colonel, Preston moved to Destin in 1977 and said besides biking he enjoys playing the electric organ.

“I’m the oldest member in my organ group,” he said. “And I feel pretty good after biking, I enjoy it.”