The Tacoma Washington Bicycle Club (twbc.org) was founded in 1888 for men who rode high wheel bicycles, or penny farthings, as the ungainly predecessors to the modern bicycle were known.  Both concepts — a bicycle club for  men only and high wheels — are long  outdated, but the Tacoma Washington  Bicycle Club is still around (and no  longer just for men), albeit after being  reborn in 1974 thanks to the oil crisis.  Bob Myrick, director of community  and government affairs, said the  original club’s demise came with  the ascendancy of the automobile,  somewhere around 1915. That was  typical of bicycle clubs that faded away  across the country, according to Myrick.  Still, it was a good run for the nearly  30 years the Tacoma club lasted in  its first iteration. One of the most  interesting aspects of the original club,  Myrick said, is that club members  typically learned to ride the high  wheeler in an auditorium.  “We have pictures where you can see  where the floor has a circle worn into it  where they would train,” he said.  Why would club members learn to  ride inside?  “It rains here.”  Before its demise not long after  the turn of the century, the Tacoma  Bicycle Club had some impressive  achievements. One was the longest,  highest, and only exclusive bicycle  bridge in the world, according to  Myrick. The bridge, for high wheelers  only, spanned a big gulch just outside  of town and was 440 feet long, 127 feet  high, and 12 feet wide.  “What you would do is you would  go south from the downtown, and then  you would go across this big old bridge,  then you would get on the Tacoma  water ditch path,” Myrick said.  The high wheelers had an  arrangement with the city that allowed  them to ride on the path next to the  ditch, which brought water into the city.  “That’s how they would get south out  of town,” Myrick said.  The destination? Mount Tacoma,  more commonly known today as Mount  Rainier, the 14,411-foot active volcano that  caps the Cascade Range, about 50 miles  southeast of Tacoma. Club members  would ride the 50 miles to Longmire, a  homestead and mineral springs resort  established by James Longmire.  When Mount Rainier National Park  was established in 1899, Longmire  became its headquarters and the  launching point for ascents of the  peak. After spending the night at  the hotel in Longmire, Tacoma  Washington Bicycle Club members  would ride back the next day.  “They’d do a 100-mile weekend on  old primitive bicycles on old primitive  roads, like gravel grinders today,”  Myrick said.  Around 1925, a decade after the  demise of the original club, two women  rode a tandem to Longmire, then had a  donkey service take them to Paradise,  a staging area at just over 5,000 feet  for climbing Rainier. Next the women  continued on to Camp Muir, a climber’s  camp at just over 10,000 feet.  From there, a guide led the women  to the summit of Mount Rainier,  according to Myrick.  “They came back to Longmire,  got on their tandem and rode back to  Tacoma,” Myrick said.  Myrick joined the Tacoma  Washington Bicycle Club in 1983, nine  years after it reemerged during the  bicycle boom of 1974, after nearly 60  years of dormancy.  “We used to ride all over the  countryside on the county roads,”  Myrick said. “I’ve been involved in our  trail building for at least 30 years. That  goes back to the 1985–1990 time period.”  Myrick is a former employee of  Tacoma Water, the public utility  that brings water to the city. He said  establishing many of the 12 bicycle  trails in the network the Tacoma club  established took 30 years to bring to  fruition, just like building a big water line.  “What happened is the first federal  law came out subsidizing bike paths  and trails as alternative transportation,”  Myrick said. “All of these (bicycle  clubs) wanted to leverage that money.  I was on a regional committee that met  up in Seattle.”  Myrick estimates the Tacoma  club leveraged some $60 million of  federal money from programs like the  Intermodal Surface Transportation  Efficiency Act of 1991 — known by its  acronym, ISTEA — to build its network  of 12 paved bicycle trails covering about  100 miles.  Myrick said representatives of the  state transportation department used  to tell him they could build the trails  for about $50,000 a mile if not for the  government regulations that drove  the cost up exponentially to about $1  million a mile.  “I feel so glad because we have these  12 trails,” he said. “Rails to trails is a big  deal now. Just in our area we have 12  trails that did not exist 30 years ago.  Our club and myself have a big legacy.  You have to have a few advocates to  keep asking for these kinds of things.”  Most of the trails follow rights of  way, according to Myrick, whether for a  power line, an old streetcar line, or even  that water ditch the original Tacoma  Washington Bicycle Club members  used to follow south out of town more  than 100 years ago.  Myrick said the trails are well used,  especially now with the pandemic. The  most used of the trails, according to  Myrick, is the Foothills Trail to Orting,  a town of about 8,500 people with a  spectacular view of Mount Rainier,  which sits roughly 30 miles distant. The  trail is about 20 miles one way, so you  get a nice 40-mile ride round trip.  Sadly, the Tacoma Washington  Bicycle Club is in the midst of a second  demise, according to Myrick, who is 76  years old. For 40 years, from its rebirth  in 1974 to 2014, the club would put on  a series of event rides, the biggest one  called the Daffodil Ride in the Orting  Valley, which would draw as many as  2,000 riders.  After 2014, the event rides  disappeared because there weren’t  enough volunteers to make them  happen, Myrick said.  “Event rides in the region have fallen  down with small clubs,” he said.  Tacoma Washington Bicycle Club  still has about 300 paying members, as  well as 4,000 Facebook followers.  “Most of them you don’t see,” he said.  “They’re hanging on the edges.”  The Tacoma club’s new strategy  to remain relevant is to support five  organizations that are doing good things  for cycling, including a nonprofit bike  shop and a group of cyclists who rebuild  bikes for children, called Bikes4Kids.  “Our new game plan is to support  all five at the $500 level, $2,500 a  year,” Myrick said. “I figure we can do  this for at least 10 years. As time goes  on, we’ll evaluate if we’ve been able  to gain new members by having them  support our giving.”