Women Over 50 Who Crossed the Country on Bicycles
By: Lois Requist
A friend invited me on a trip to West Palm Beach, Florida. It turned out to be a reunion of women who, a few years before, had put their bicycle wheels in the water in San Diego on March 17, and kept rolling until they were able to dip their tires in the Atlantic Ocean at St. Augustine, Florida. They covered 3100 miles in 54 days, 46 of them biking days. That averages a little over 67 miles per day.
Ten of the sixteen women got together and recapped what had happened then and since. I listened.
On the trip, they fired the cook, which must have been a big deal then because, from all of the chatter, it was still a big deal. It seems that the cook didn’t have dinner fixed on time-for women who’d been on the road all day. Sometimes dinner wasn’t fixed until 8:30 pm. Some of the riders wanted to be asleep by that time.
One of the women who attended the reunion became the cook. She’d been bicycling, but that was proving too much, so she took over meal preparation, and everyone was happy.
My friend told me that one woman went to church every Sunday and never had a flat tire-saying the two things together, implying a connection. One woman had later married a man who was the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senator from Utah in 2004. For 30 days, they campaigned on a recumbent, tandem bike.
Some brought scrapbooks of their days on the road. One brought a video. One, a retired professor, wrote about the trip. The professor, Elaine Miller, described the trip as “a physical accomplishment in a life marked primarily by intellectual ones.”
Elaine told how the women, “listened to their tires” each morning, for the hissing sound of a leak. She shared how they walked into the shower in their bicycle clothes because it was the most efficient way of cleaning both body and clothes!
“We devised strategies for all types of weather, cooling off by wading fully clothed into shallow mountain streams that crisscrossed our route in the West, and warming up under dryers in convenience store restrooms. In the desert, with no services…we formed human circles at the side of the road around riders who needed a pit stop.”
The ride was a benefit for the National Breast Cancer Coalition Fund.
I could see the courage and determination that led them to the trip and the empowerment it brought to their lives.