Unfortunately, they suffered a terrible tragedy alone the way, with one of them dying.
Some people hate the idea of traveling cross-country by airplane or, even worse, by car. For city resident Barb Jarmoska and 15 other women from around the world, traveling more than 3,000 miles by bicycle was nothing at all.
In an “insane moment,” as one of the women described it, the individuals signed up for a 57-day biking trip from San Diego, Calif., to St. Augustine, Fla. They left on March 10, 2006, and finished the following May 4.
When it came to a close, the women agreed they would have a reunion. Jarmoska volunteered and made arrangements for the 15 women to arrive in Williamsport.
This area is beautiful and is a great place to bike, Jarmoska said, though joking that “you have to like hills.”
On Monday, the group rode to Rose Valley Lake, about a 15-mile trip from their starting point at the Genetti Hotel. They toured Rose Valley Naturals soap makers and had a picnic by the lake, Jarmoska said.
“With this reunion, I’m doing my best to showcase our area,” she said.
“(We’ll see) Amish culture in Union County, the mountains of Sullivan County, the many vistas and back roads of Lycoming County and, of course, Millionaire’s Row in downtown Williamsport,” Jarmoska said.
Other features include a visit to the Saturday Farmer’s Market and dining in a different restaurant every night, so “the women have a chance to sample a variety of local and ethnic foods,” Jarmoska said. “The entire region has so much to offer cyclists.”
The women’s original cross-country tour was organized by Woman Tours, a company that designs biking tours specifically for women who are at least 50 years old.
The founder of the group is a breast cancer survivor who made the trip on her own, Jarmoska said. She saw that it was a life-changing experience, Jarmoska said, and wanted to change other people’s lives, too.
Of the 15 who traveled with Jarmoska, four were under 50. The oldest woman, Lois Moore of Spokane, Wash., was 72.
The women were making the phrase “growing old and liking it” come true, Jarmoska said.
They form a diverse group, with members hailing from Texas, Maine, Virginia, New Mexico, Maryland, Illinois, Wisconsin, New York, North Carolina, Colorado, Massachusetts and Australia.
Jarmoska’s group was the eighth to travel with Woman Tours. They “have joined an elite group of 200 women,” she said.
Of the 57 days of the trip, the group spent 50 on their bikes. The women had one day a week off for rest.
They averaged about 60 miles per day, with their longest day totaling 116 miles in New Mexico as they crossed the Continental Divide.
The trip was a ”mental growth experience,” Jarmoska said, explaining that they ran into all kinds of weather and terrain.
Unfortunately, not everything about the trip was good. Nineteen women started the ride, but only 16 finished.
Two suffered broken bones and one died. Laraine Lagattolla of Kentucky was struck and killed by a vehicle while the group was in Cleveland, Texas.
Because of that tragedy, many of the women from the group participated in the Ride of Silence, an annual worldwide bike ride on May 16. Jarmoska organized Williamsport’s Ride of Silence for the past two years.
Most of the cyclists say their best experience of the trip was meeting each other and forming friendships that blossomed during and after the trip, Jarmoska said.
“The 16 women gathered here is a tribute to a successful ride,” she said.