Cross Country Cycling Tour, Cycling, Fitness After 50, Fitness Over 50, Fitter After 50, FItter Over 50, Over 50 Athletes, Travel

Cycling Tour Reflections – The People

What was the most memorable part of my 2,500 mile Atlantic Coast Cycling tour? That’s easy! Its the people I shared the journey with. It was a privilege to be a part of such a great group of women! You’ll learn more about many of them in future posts.

The Women of the Atlantic Coast Cycling Tour

This group was simply amazing! Some fun facts:

  • Of the 31 women who started the trip, at the end, six of us were under age 60. Kathy Quist (known as “Q”), is the “baby” at age 51. Tina Cooper McGarvey is just ahead of  her at 52, Marilyn Blanchfield, 56, Susan Rosenthal 57, me at 58 and Kathy Dyck (“Canada Kathy”), 59. The remainder of the group is over 60. Two of us 76.
  • Women came from all sorts of cycling backgrounds. Some started cycling late in life – Janet Bee at age 65! Others loved cycling from an early age. Susan Rosenthal recalled biking for the first time with her cousins to a local store when she no more than six years old. To this day, she remembers her nerves, excitement and the sense of freedom cycling gave her!
  • We are from all over North America and three of us came from Australia and New Zealand.
  • It is an accomplished group – nurses, teachers, executives in finance, IT, law, marketing and more, an air traffic controller, a doctor, an engineer, an economist, a law firm administrator, a police officer and more.
  • And these women have done some epic cycling! Three members of the group completed cycling the entire perimeter of the US on this trip! All but five of us had completed the “Southern Tier” – riding from Southern California to Florida or South Carolina!

These Pioneers Love Adventure

Regardless of our background, we shared one common thing – a love of adventure! And to be an adventurer as a woman in your 60s, you are a true pioneer. When you were in your 20s and 30s, the world was just beginning to give you a chance to break traditional molds. Adventure and pushing your boundaries required a lot of courage. And it didn’t involve a lot of encouragement.

But this group defied the odds and charted their own course. One woman, Wendy Appleby, was a player on the Virginia Slims pro tennis tour. Then she became a female police officer in Oakland!

Don’t think women have equal opportunity today? Go back 30 years plus years. The playing field was distinctly tilted against women trying to make a living playing pro sports, to make it to the top of a major company or get equal pay as a doctor, nurse or teacher. These ladies made today’s world possible.

Mutual Support

To pursue your dreams and goals in a world where the odds are stacked against you, you learn some skills. One of them is to support like-minded souls. And this group is the best example I’ve seen of how to support each other.

I couldn’t have gotten through the tour without their support. Let me give some examples:

  • The day after I broke two spokes on my rear wheel was an 80 plus mile ride. When Susan Gishi learned I was having some problems with my brakes rubbing against my front wheel, she turned around, found me and rode with me so I wouldn’t be alone the rest of the day. And she and guide Patty Jackson helped make some adjustments until I could get instructions on a more permanent fix for the disc brakes.
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    Susan and Barbara

  • The second day we rode through tropical storm Ana, it was raining so hard I couldn’t see. My eyes were completely bloodshot from the pouring rain. Canada Kathy, passing in the van, gave me her only cap – one she got on a cycling tour in Hawaii. Riding in the rain doesn’t do much for a much beloved baseball cap. But she gave it willingly.
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Canada Cathy on the left, with Tina and Q

  • Late leaving a city in North Carolina, I was struggling to push the pedals forward. I couldn’t believe how hard it felt, and concluded I must be really exhausted! Soon enough, Susan Gillies passed me and explained my trunk rack was physically laying on my rear tire! Having the same trunk rack, she stopped and fixed the rack. Without her, I don’t know how long I would have struggled to identify the problem and fix it!
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Susan Gillies prepping for a major backpacking trip after our cycling tour

  • When we cycled in rain and cold conditions in Connecticut (wind chill in the 40s), I was near hypothermia at the first SAG stop. Riders jumped out of the van and started volunteering clothes to stay warm.
Riding in the Rain and Cold

Riding in the Rain and Cold

  • The same day, I was a bit lost. Mary Blake and Nancy Byrnes, warned that I was really cold, stayed with me the last 12 miles to make sure I made it safely to the hotel.
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Nancy and Mary

  • Nancy Howard gave me her waterproof bike shoe covers to make sure a repeat didn’t occur after the first cold, rainy day in Connecticut.
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Nancy at the Start

  • I made it until TWO days before the end of the tour to have a flat tire and had two in one day! Guide Michelle Slusher installed a new tire and tube. After a little bushwhacking excursion, the tire went flat again. Susan Gishi and Pam Harrison jumped into action, basically changing the tire for me the second time. (That is until I decided to use the CO2 cartridge to inflate the tire, when they both stood back and hoped for the best, LOL!)
Taking a break to look at the scenery on our cycling route from New Hope to Easton #Pennsylvania

Taking a break to look at the scenery on our cycling route from New Hope to Easton #Pennsylvania

I’m sure every woman on the tour would tell similar stories. (Well, perhaps I was a little more clueless than others and needed a bit more help!)


I’ve rarely been with a group of people who got along so well together! This group just knew how to have fun. We sang for miles riding in North Carolina. We laughed through the storms, the hills, the bad roads and the rain. We pointed out beautiful and funny things along our route. We ate together, rode together and played together. We drank a few margaritas together. We helped each other. We grew closer in seven weeks than many people reach in seven years.

Many Others Along the Way

We also were supported by a fabulous group of guides. Emily Magner, our chef, cooked for us from Florida to Maine. She is an excellent cook, and managed to fit in enough vegetables and fruits to keep us healthy and energized along the way. Guides Patty and Michelle watched after us in rain, winds, heat and on bad roads. SAGs Nancys (Brynes and Innes), Peg Van Camp and Carolyn Froeberg were out there along the course, keeping us stocked with water and snacks. And Barb Kassel, the cyclist extraordinaire, sous chef, song writer and singer, worked her butt off to help the entire tour! Denise Purdue – we appreciate your guiding the first couple of weeks and your work to design the route!

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Barb, Cyclist, Sous Chef, Singer and Songwriter

Friends and family back home sent their support daily.We also met great people along the way. Strangers giving advice, great service or a smile and a wave to show their support.

We loved it all!

The Members of the Group

Let me introduce you to other fabulous members of the group:

Mary Drennen and Pam Harrison, who led me through many rides:

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Mary and Pam celebrate another epic trip together

Janet Bee, Susan Rosenthal and Barb Kassel, who completed the sunrise ride to the top of Cadillac Mountain:

My companions for the climb to the top of Cadillac Mountain - Barb, Janet and Susan . #travel #cycling #maine

My companions for the climb to the top of Cadillac Mountain – Barb, Janet and Susan . #travel #cycling #maine

Kathy Kirby, Katie Lemley and Kathy Quist – three of the five Kathys!

Three of the Kathys celebrating their finish - Ft. Lauderdale #florida  Bar Harbor #maine on a bike! #cycling #travel

Three of the Kathys celebrating their finish – Ft. Lauderdale #florida Bar Harbor #maine on a bike! #cycling #travel

Wendy Appleby, Marilyn Blanchfield and Gail Devitt – such fun ladies!

Gail, Windy and Marilyn celebrate completing their 2500 mile journey up the Atlantic Coast to Bar Harbor #maine #travel #cycling

Gail, Windy and Marilyn celebrate completing their 2500 mile journey up the Atlantic Coast to Bar Harbor #maine #travel #cycling

Cathy Mead – the final Cathy – a doctor from Australia who worked with Australia’s equivalent of our US CDC. She helped me through many miles!

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Cathy Mead and I.

Lynda Churchfield and Sue Wright. By completing the Atlantic Coast tour, along with Mary Blake, they have now cycling the perimeter of the entire US! (Lynda has also completed 97 marathons and more ultra marathons!)

Two riders, Linda and Sue, set off to go the remaining distance to Canada, along with Linda's son and daughter. #maine #cycling #travel

Two riders, Linda and Sue, set off to go the remaining distance to Canada, along with Linda’s son and daughter. #maine #cycling #travel

Tina Cooper Garvey – who rode faster than anyone during the tour! Such a great athlete and so much fun!

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Tina at the Finish

Ann Matwick – from Peachtree City, supplier of tunes along the ride, a strong rider and excellent photographer!

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Ann Matwick, On a Ferry Ride


Dolly Craft, blogger and creator of “dollygagging,” Nancy Innes, super SAG, Nancy Howard, Judi Rozelle and Lesley Anderson:

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Dolly, Nancys, Judy, Lesley

Lesley Anderson and Vickie Hagley at breakfast with Katie Lemley and Q:

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Vickie and Leslie

Patricia Morrison – adaptive PE teacher, observer of life and a woman with the smarts to live in Colorado:

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Patricia after a 1.2 Mile Climb

To Ann and Chris Smith – I’m sorry I have no pictures, but you are no less loved!

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  • Reply Kathy Dyck June 27, 2015 at 8:38 pm

    Fantastic recap Barbara. I loved it and feel strongly about the comaraderie helping me through as well. I’m missing the like mindedness now that I’m home! P.S. I’m also under 60 until August! Haha!!

    • Reply Barbara Blackford June 29, 2015 at 11:21 am

      Kathy – thanks for reading and commenting! I’ve updated it! Hope all is well!

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