My name is Sharon Roper from Taylorsville, Utah. Trek Travel asked me if I would be willing to write a blog about my experience leading up to and including the California Wine Country Long Weekend trip. While I wondered why anyone would be interested in a 62 year old woman’s bicycling experience, after talking with them I realized the interesting part was not just the trip itself, but how I got there.
Words by Sharon Roper, Trek Travel Guest
It all started with my brother-in-law and sister-in-law Mike and Mary Pat McCurdie. They are serious bicycle enthusiasts. They have been on many Trek Travel trips and always spoke highly of their experiences. They invited me, my husband Bill (Mary Pat’s brother), and other friends and relatives to go on the California Wine Country trip. I hadn’t been on a bike for 15 years, but I knew my husband well enough to know that he would be reluctant to go on the trip, and spend the money, unless I wanted to go too. So I told my husband the trip sounded great. After all, there would be great friends, good food, wine tasting, beautiful scenery and luxury hotels. To me, the bike riding was just a side activity to be enjoyed by others. I figured I could ride in the van and entertain myself with a good book. Bill, on the other hand, rides quite a bit, so the bike riding really appealed to him. We decided we would love to go, and told them to sign me up as a non-rider.
While looking at the Trek Travel website, I realized that non-riders paid the same as riders. I also saw that they offered electric-assist bikes. What did I have to lose? I called and changed my reservation to an electric-assist bike. After all, the van would still be there when I got tired. So out to the garage I went, to dust off my ancient 40 pound, 5-speed auto-shift bike and take it to the bike shop. After the service man stopped laughing at my bike, he took it to the back for a tune up.
My training began in April. I started training with the simple goal of not embarrassing myself. It was relaxing to ride around the neighborhood, and Bill would take me on bike trails on the weekends. He encouraged me. I knew I slowed him down a lot, but he continued to ride with me. I slowly worked up to seven miles. Ultimately, Bill convinced me that my antiquated bike was slowing me down. I think he just wanted to occasionally feel the wind in his face, so I upgraded to a 21-speed hybrid bike with an expensive, comfortable seat. Learning to shift was the first hurdle, but it only took a couple of rides to feel confident.
By now it was July, and I was slowly but surely starting to ride further. Bill had to switch from his slower mountain bike to his road bike as I got better and faster. One day we made it 30 miles. If you had told me back in April that I would be able to ride 30 miles in one day, I wouldn’t have believed you. But my confidence grew. I decided I wanted to make it 100 miles on our Trek Travel trip in September, and started to wonder if the electric-assist bike was the best choice for me. I called Trek Travel and switched to a hybrid bike. During the conversation they asked, “Weren’t you originally a non-rider?” Yep, that was me.
It’s now August. I know I have to be able to ride 30 miles per day for three days, and I would leave the final 10 miles for the last day. Bill and I started going out three days in a row. The first time we tried this we went 30, 20 and 30 miles. My butt started to hurt and for the first time I complained to Bill. He employed the obvious solution and bought me two biking outfits with padded shorts which stopped most of the butt ache. We did this three day ritual quite a few more times, and I now had a concrete plan to reach 100 miles.
We met up with the other riders at Point Reyes, California for the start of our Trek Travel trip. The guides, Devin and Justin, were extremely friendly and helped take care of everything so all we had to do was ride. There were 20 of us on the trip–all of them younger than me–but surely I can keep up with someone.
The first day’s ride took us from Point Reyes National Seashore to Bodega Bay. The short trip is 19.6 miles and the long option was 33.5 miles. This ride was hard! There were a lot more hills than I was used to. I saw much younger riders on electric-assist bikes and I started to question my decision. I could only make it 19.6 miles on that first ride, and I was discouraged. I talked with the guides and told them of my foolish goal to accomplish 100 miles. They were very encouraging and explained that today was the toughest day. Tomorrow would be much flatter and I could make up at least part of the 10 miles I was behind.
The second day’s ride went from Bodega Bay to Hotel Healdsburg. That would get me 45.1 miles if I made all the way. I thought, “The short trip is 25.5 miles, so I can always go back to my original goal of not embarrassing myself and bail out at Armstrong Woods.”
Again, the guides were great, always keeping my water bottle full and providing encouragement. They were probably hoping they wouldn’t have to perform CPR. Before the first snack stop I was the last rider, as was my usual position. One of guides came back and rode with me, and I asked him if I was last. He told me no, “I am behind you, and therefore I am last.” We stopped for lunch in the beautiful redwood forest at Armstrong Woods Park, which left me refreshed and ready to ride. Several times that day I had to walk my bike up a hill, but I was making the rules and walking definitely counted.
One time the van drove by as I was walking. They pulled over to check on me, and at that point determination roared inside me. I waved them on. My hundred mile goal was now back in play! I not only completed the 45.1 miles, but an accidental turnaround gave me extra distance. I rode 47.5 miles on Day 2. Game on!
The third day’s plan was to ride 29.6 miles, with many fun stops at vineyards along the route. The day went great and I made it all the way. That night I was talking with one of the other guests and I told her of my goal. She told to me, “I want to be you at 62.” Wow, did that make me feel good. If you are counting, I was now at 96.6 miles.
The last day I told my brother-in-law, Mike, that I only had to ride three miles to reach my goal. Once again I assumed my normal position of last in the line of riders. Riding along I saw Bill on the side of the road. He told me I made it to 100 miles, and he took my picture. I had done it! I kept riding and told the “don’t embarrass myself” voice to shut up. As soon as I rounded the next bend I saw all of the other riders standing on the side of the road cheering for me. So what did I do? I pumped my fist and yelled, “See ya!” That picture made it onto the WOW moments page on Trek Travel’s website. I continued on and finished the trip with a total of 107 miles.
So I didn’t embarrass myself after all. In fact, I made myself proud.