Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

It was the day before Mother’s Day in 197...

It was the day before Mother’s Day in 1972 and I was bicycling in Ohio, along with a few thousand other people. The first half of this 104-mile grind from Columbus to Portsmouth was essentially flat and easy riding. When we encountered hills it was more of a shock for the Ohioans than for those of us from Missouri.

This was our third trip to participate in the Tour of the Scioto River Valley, the “TOSRV,” pronounced “TOR-sov.” People were there from all over the United States, from Canada and several from abroad. I had ridden the 104 miles on an earlier trip but had not previously attempted the return ride to Columbus.

Knowing that I’d be one of the oldest women among the several thousand cyclists, I had conditioned myself carefully. We reserved a motel room so we’d get a good night’s rest although thousands slept in sleeping bags that Saturday night.

Six riders and their six cycles crowded into June’s big van Friday. We camped overnight and, by 7 a.m. the next morning, we’d broken camp, assembled our bikes, topped-up the air in our tires and were squeezing in to the edge of the crowd on the front steps of the state capital building in Columbus, for a group photo.

I had my mind set to pedal to Portsmouth and back -- the full 208 miles -- if the body was ready. This meant that would not start out with a burst of speed but would spread out my energy for the long haul. I had no fear of Ohio’s hills as I’d climbed them two times before.

At the first sign of a hill we discovered that several people in front of me were off, pushing their bikes on a hill that was not nearly as difficult as some I’d done in Missouri. Those walkers were probably from the flat part of Ohio where it wasn’t necessary to shift gears, count cadence, and to “ankle” when pedaling.

Two boys were leaning on their bikes walking slowly and sweating profusely as I caught up with them near the top of the first hill. I shifted into lower gears, took a good breath and put a relaxed look on my face as I was ready to pedal past them.

“What’s the matter, fellows,” I asked. “Tired?” ~~

“Yeah,” was their weary reply as they turned to discover a 58-year-old, gray haired, grandma-type person going past, seemingly with ease.

I turned back and yelled, “It’ll be easy when you’re older. This is no sport for kids.”

Yes, that was kind of mean of me, but I couldn’t resist. I had to go to my lowest gear to get over the top of that hill, but I kept that relaxed manner until I was far ahead of the two boys.

Along the way we saw a number of riders who had dropped on that first day. The ones on heavy bikes, unsuitable for long trips, were perhaps the first to go. Some turned back after a few miles, some had bike trouble, a few took spills, some were riding without having conditioned. It was fun to see the various ones go by -- families together, people on tandems, racers in large tight groups, their tires humming as they passed by.

Actually the miles passed quickly. The hot shower and shampoo, clean clothing and visiting with other cyclists soon made me forget the weary body. That, plus a delicious dinner served to all registered cyclists eased the thought of the second 104 miles to be done on Sunday, Mother’s Day.

Although I had ridden several “century” rides with the local club I had never done it twice in a row. All of the others in our party of six were checked in at the finish line before I came puffing in. June and some of the fellows came out to cheer me on at the very last. Oh, the joy of accomplishment!

It was a lot of miles: 208 in two days. I might never have made it if I hadn’t been such a smart-alec on that hill.

Don’t anyone tell those two boys that I was plenty tired. I still think bicycling is “no sport for kids,” it’s only for lunatics like me!

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