Home > Featured Riders > Featured Rider: Kayuga WaTza

Featured Rider: Kayuga WaTza

Hugh Lambert sent this to share with The Velo Hobo readers. He is truly on a road to recovery and he’s traveling by bike!


Until six weeks ago I had never biked seriously or otherwise. In the early 90s I tried mtn biking, but it was too hard and my hands got numb…..

Let me start at the beginning of the story. My name is Hugh. My real and true name is Kayuga WaTza (like weights). I am a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Maybe you heard of us? Anyway, I am 54 years old. Two years ago I lost my wife to breast cancer, and last year I had surgery to remove a brain tumor. When my wife was diagnosed I weighed 285 pounds, I had diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. I started losing weight to better take care of her. I lost 40 pounds by the time she died, and thirty pounds when I realized I had to take care of the grandkids for her. I am now no longer diabetic (no symptoms anyway), and no longer have high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

Perhaps you’ve heard of the Trail of Tears? In 1838 President Andrew Jackson stole our land and forces 20,000 of our people to march 980 miles to Oklahoma (don’t worry, no violins needed, it’s just background). Anyway, for Cherokee people the Trail of Tears (or “The Removal”) is always there, like a splinter…. Anyway, it seems about 15 years ago the “western” Cherokee Nation started biking from Calhoun, GA to Tahlequah, OK along the northern route of the removal. They did it irregularly until three years ago. Now they do it every year. They took 15 riders from OK to GA and then they pedaled back. They now use it as a big youth leadership event. They have 150 applicants each year for what was 15 spots. Now it’s only ten spots.  remembertheremoval.org

While attending a medical conference there our tribal hospital CEO (and my best friend) was told they were thinking of inviting some of us EBCI folks along- five of us. When he came back and mentioned it at a Rotary meeting a blinding light went off in my head (not a tumor this time!). I had to go. That weekend I bought a used triathlon bike from Craigslist and started training myself. I trained myself at first, and it was a big disappointment. I tried to ride to Waterrock Knob on the Blue Ridge Parkways from Balsam gap. I walked most of the time until I hit snow and turned back. It was too much  for me. I kept it up though, and within two week I rode from Sylva to Waynesville (NC) which is a 1250 foot climb each way . I did an 800 foot climb first to warm up first, so in two weeks I was climbing 3300 feet in four hours. To say I lobbied aggressively to be on the team is an understatement. I am on the team.

In two months we’re going to start on a 980 mile ride. Not bad for a 54 year old…in fact, I’ll turn 55 the day we get there (Tahlequah). I can’t believe how much I love cycling. I loved it instantly. It took me thirty years to despise golf as much as I do (no offense), but now all I want to do is sit on my bike. Today I did “repeats” for lunch (repeated hill climbs), then after work we (my friend and I) did the Burningtown loop in 1 hour 40 minutes. This is after wiping out ten days ago on a downhill (potholes- lots of potholes) and breaking a rib and tearing my rotator cuff (we won’t count the road rash).

Anyway, I stumbled upon your Velo Hobo blog and the note about “if you have an interesting story” and thought what the heck…. It’s interesting to me. Anyway, keep the greasy side down.

Kayuga WaTza (Son of Chipmunk)

Hugh Lambert

Categories: Featured Riders
  1. marcusn
    April 7, 2011 at 8:07 pm


    Thank you so much for sharing your story, and reminding us all of our nations history, and how while it works to be ‘just’ it’s nowhere near perfect.
    Your story is profound on so many levels.
    Congratulations to you on your love of biking!

  2. dexey
    April 8, 2011 at 3:07 am

    I’ve met a Cherokee indian here in Wolverhampton in the West Midlands of England.
    He is a Baptist minister and came here amongst us benighted English folk as a missionary and stayed to open a church in Hednesford, if I recall correctly.
    He told us of the Trail of Tears and of the great Welsh missionary who created a written language for the Cherokee and translated the Bible.
    Isn’t it a little world?

    • The Velo Hobo
      April 8, 2011 at 5:22 pm

      Dexey, I’m unsure why your comment went into the spam file, but I’ve set it right. Perhaps the terms “Baptist” and “English folk” in the same paragraph set off an alarm. My apologies for the delay, Jack

      PS: I think the Cherokee (written language) was created by Sequoyah…a Cherokee. But I’m no expert…says so at the top of the blog.


  3. arlen
    April 8, 2011 at 7:14 am

    kayuga…tell us more….tell us more….

  1. June 5, 2011 at 4:58 pm

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