Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

Cyclists did something seemingly impossible

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 question, "Why?"

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 undertaking.

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.

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