The earliest bike experience I remember was careening downhill on the back of my brother’s bike. I got so scared I stuck my feet together, yes, through the spokes, and threw both of us off. I sprained my ankle. Not sure about my brother, who sadly met his demise at age 28 during the Vietnam War.
I was over 50 when I started cycling on my own bike. While training for marathons (my first marathon in 2002 qualified me for the Boston Marathon which I ran in 2003), my coaches suggested cross training. I started with a bike that was given to my daughter by a friend, but when I got into triathlons, I needed a faster bike. That’s when I got my Trek Madone. My Trek and I have been together since 2004.
Susan B. Anthony said, “Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel…the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.”
I’ve been thinking about biking cross-country since about 2008. I was going to California for my first time to speak at a conference for math educators, and I wanted to get myself there on my own power. However, the timing wasn’t right. I owned a small business, and the conference was during a particularly busy time of year. When in September 2014, I sold my business and retired, the moment had come. I began the search in earnest for my cross-country ride. I’ve been talking endlessly about it, to the point that folks at parties would walk away from me. Such a conversation, however, led to a friend offering to drive SAG in her RV for June 2016. We were planning to do the northern tier from Oregon to Bethany Beach, DE. I was mentally and physically preparing, upping my mileage on my bike to my lifetime record of 303 miles in a week, when a friend forwarded me an email about the Ride to Awareness. I applied and within two days was on board.
While I haven’t done multiday adventures yet, I have done at least six century rides: Citizens for a Better Eastern Shore three times, Seagull Century once, a century in my local area in Fall 2014, and the MS150 June 13-14, 2015. And I’ve always been adventurous. Straight out of college, I went to Italy on my own to spend a year studying sculpture and I ended up staying for three years.
Both of my parents are alive; my mom is 91 and my father will turn 98 while I am on the ride. He lives a five-hour bike ride from the end of Ride to Awareness, so I hope to cycle to visit him when the ride is done. What’s another 60 miles after 3000 of them? From Bruce Weber, in Life is a Wheel, “…where you are is where you belong. Never wish away distance. Never wish away time.”
The wonderful mechanic who is preparing my bike for the ride said that, after this ride, I will either retire from cycling or get hooked on adventure cycling. What’s your guess?
While I don’t have the personal tragic stories of other riders in our group, all my life I’ve been surrounded by depression and addiction. The more I tune in, the more I learn about the prevalence of mental illness. This ride will meet my personal adventure objective while helping a hugely worthwhile cause.