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Fifty Plus (50+) Share the victories, challenges, successes and special concerns of bicyclists 50 and older. Especially useful for those entering or reentering bicycling.

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Old 06-14-07, 08:25 PM   #1
Tom Bombadil
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50+ Women do the Southern Tier

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.
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Old 06-14-07, 08:36 PM   #2
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Wow. Poignant. <long slow inhale, quick exhale>

That's the kind of thing I'd love to do someday. But right now, I can't even see myself ridin' 60 miles once a week!

My lid's off to these fine ladies, and my heart goes out to the family of Ms. Lagattolla. How utterly devastating.
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Old 06-14-07, 08:46 PM   #3
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As someone who has made this trip I can tell you that there are many opportunities for an accident.
Going down from Mingus Mountain, AZ was so scary, I will never forget it. I am in very good condition and feel anxiety for anyone in a lesser physical or mental condition. I was stressed out. We were going 35 -45 MPH on lousy pavement with cars going by. One wrong is all over.
Mixing in with traffic means many quick decisions. Very easy to make a wrong move.
I love biking but this kind of biking is difficult.
You need to be very defensive and focused and have physical and mental strength.
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Old 06-14-07, 08:47 PM   #4
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Wow. What a wonderful story.

I hope to do some touring after retirement. I would love to see the country on a bike.

Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.
-- Antonio Smith
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Old 06-15-07, 04:52 AM   #5
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It seems like you hear more and more of something like this. I want to do this ride in a few years, but I know my wife would worry herself sick the whole time. I follow a lot of trips on CGOAB, and like will dehne says, there are some pretty harrowing moments, especially out west in the mountains. Thanks for the story.
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