This week thousands of Tribune readers are asking themselves,
"Why in the world would any woman want to get on a bicycle
in California and pedal it in wind, rain and record heat, over
mountains and deserts, through desolate countryside and
treacherous traffic all the way to New York, a distance of more
than 3,500 miles?"
Although a ride like the Do Something Coast to Coast Challenge
never entered my head, I sort of understand the answer to the
In December of 1966, I helped a group of young people organize
Boone’s Lick Hostel Club to enjoy hiking, biking, sledding,
star gazing, kite flying and other outdoor activities together.
The first group activity was a daring bike ride from Columbia,
through Hallsville and on to Centralia. Then we put our bikes in
the Wabash train’s baggage car and got in the passenger
coach, talkative and happy.
It was fun being with people like ourselves who enjoyed
traveling by pedal power. With me were Jim Carr, Barbara Smith,
Mike Riley and my children Nancy and Walt Gerard. Walt began to
buy and sell imported accessories a few months later. Within a
year he had rented a small space and started Walt’s Bike
Shop, which has grown but still carries his name.
That ’66 winter ride taught us the joy of accomplishment
as we had never known it! We had tested ourselves against the
great wide wonderful world for 23 miles. We met the challenge. We
had what it took to reach our goal. We felt new confidence when
tackling tough assignments.
Kansas City cyclists learned of our experience and brought
their bikes to Columbia to do the bike-train trip. In 1970 we
started "Hermann Hassle," a 63-mile ride; that event
was soon held each autumn and spring. St. Louis cyclists once met
us there, visited an hour and cycled back. We liked interacting
with people along the way; some joined in and rode several miles
with our group. Hermann residents sang and danced for us
and with us at the park where camped overnight.
A greater challenge was the Tour of the Scioto River Valley in
Ohio. Several thousand riders make this two-day challenging ride
in May. Chub and I hauled bikes there for several fellows who
pedaled 208 miles in two days.
Then June Thaden, president of the Columbia club, drove her
Dodge van hauling six people and six bikes. She completed the
grueling 208 miles with the other riders.
In 1971, 1 did 104 miles on Saturday and stopped short on
Sunday so we could get started on the 10 hour drive to Columbia.
In 1972, the gang said, "Ride both ways, Sue, we’ll
wait for you." At age 58, I would try to pedal 208 miles in
two days. An hour after the others completed the ride I reached
the steep grade to the finish line! Would I have to push up that
hill with my bike buddies watching? No! They screamed with joy,
ran to meet me and shoved me up and across the finish line! What
camaraderie! What unashamed pride! What pure joy!
What exactly is joy? Ask Judy Knudson and Mary Flood and any
of the others on their cross-country trip. They dipped their rear
wheels in the Pacific Ocean and the front ones in the Atlantic,
more than 3400 miles away!
Each one earned several thousand dollars to support the work
of the "Do Something" organization. The summer of
’99 will always be special to them for having done something
worthwhile, having succeeded at a seemingly impossible
In addition, Judy Knudson took thousands of us along, through
her good reports on radio and in the Tribune. Nothing can erase
her delight in these accomplishments as long she lives.