During the decades that Lloyd Mager has been leading eco-friendly bicycle tours of the island, he’s seen just about every kind of customer under the sun. On Tuesday morning, however, the personable Mager notched a first: A woman named Julie Johnson, celebrating her 46th birthday, signed up for Mager’s tour to experience the island in a way few tourists do. The catch? Johnson has Leber’s congenital amaurosis, which has rendered her blind since birth. A younger brother is likewise affected. “I’m kind of touched that you’re here,” Mager told Johnson. Johnson was visiting Key West for the day, aboard the Carnival Magic cruise ship, and had inquired about taking a ship-sanctioned bike tour, only to be told that her lack of eyesight would be a liability. But Johnson, who works for the IRS in Dallas, wasn’t about to be deterred. “All my friends were going to do the hop-off, hop-on tour,” Johnson said. “But a friend sent me the link to Lloyd’s website, and this tour sounded more fun, anyway.” Johnson isn’t the type to let her situation stand in the way of having fun. Back home she enjoys biking and waterskiing. “Just no parasailing,” she said. “That’s too much.” Johnson also plays on the Texas Goal Ball team.
Mager has been conducting his bike tour of the island for 24 years, doing his best to make sure tourists leave with an appreciation of the town’s many sensory pleasures and minimizing the honky-tonk atmosphere of Duval Street. “This is more than a job for me,” Mager said. “It’s a passion. I love showing people the side of the island they won’t find in the bars. I especially like taking handicapped people.”
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