After months of hinting to her boyfriend, Stepheny Smith got for Christmas the adult-sized tricycle that she has been pining for since first seeing her grandmother's at the age of five.
After noticing the stares and whispers she got riding her trike down the streets of New Port Richey, she decided to poke some light-hearted fun at herself, and raise awareness of cycling laws. She created a Facebook page.
"Have you seen The Trike Lady riding around New Port Richey? Do you think she's cool? Do you think she's a dork? "Like" this page and tell her what you think. If you see her while you're out, take her picture and post it on the wall!" reads the info page of the "The Trike Lady of New Port Richey."
Smith also uses the page to post stories related to adult tricycles and to inform people about Florida bicycle laws they may be misinformed about or unaware of.
"I was thinking, if I'm going to have everyone looking at me anyway, why not make a Facebook page?" Smith said. "I wanted to get people talking and give them a place to have discussions and post pictures."
Smith said that if she makes more people aware of cycling laws and the benefits of using trikes and bikes for transportation, it may encourage local business owners to install bike racks outside their stores.
Smith has a rare kidney disorder called Loin Pain-Hematuria Syndrome (LPHS), a condition that causes extreme pain in the kidneys and blood in the urine. She hasn't been able to drive for years.
Smith owns Jewels of Eden. She creates jewelry and sells it online, and she has used some of her creations to promote awareness of her condition.
Because driving a vehicle was one of Smith's triggers for pain, her boyfriend is the only one in their family that owns a vehicle, Smith said. Also, since gas prices started rising above $4 in 2007, Smith has been reluctant to be another oil-dependent driver.
Thanks to a new pain treatment, her pain has largely gone away and she now can drive trike around town.
A combination of yoga, exercise, vitamin supplements, meditation and chants helps her deal with the pain she's been battling since before her diagnosis five years ago.
Smith discovered the treatment plan at a library in a book called "The Pain Cure: The Proven Medical Program that Helps End Your Chronic Pain" by Dharma Singh Khalsa.
"It changed my life," Smith said. "I don't think I'd be as able to be active on the tricycle if it hadn't been for that."
The trike has become part of Smith's daily exercise routine, as well as a mode of transportation around town. The trike has a tall, orange flag and a light for after dusk, which is required by law.
Smith also dutifully wears her helmet, although Florida law doesn't require it for anyone over the age of 16, and the neon orange vest her mother made her.
"I used to rise motorcycles, and I know that even on a motorcycle, cars don't see you," Smith said."I wanted to be sure that people were very aware of my presence, and the helmet of course is for safety even though I think I look like a complete dork in it."
Smith also suffered a possible concussion and a shoulder injury in a bike accident when she was 10. She wasn't wearing a helmet.
"I landed in a cement gutter," Smith said. "It wiped the freckles clean off my face. I woke up and everybody who had been down at the other end of the street was standing over me. If I had been wearing a helmet, I might not be as weird as I am today."
Other than advocating for wearing a helmet, Smith hopes to educate drivers, pedestrians and cyclists alike on Florida's cycling laws. For example, few people know that cyclists are required by law to ride with the flow of traffic, not against.
Smith hopes to gain more "likes" on her Facebook page to increase the impact she has in the community.
"I want to make people more aware," Smith said. "It's OK to ride your bikes to places nearby to save gas. The more of us out on the road that have the knowledge of the rights of the situation, the safer a place it'll be."
Find "The Trike Lady of New Port Richey" on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/The-Trike-Lady-of-New-Port-Richey/334635739889019