Guest Author - Sharry Miller
It really began as a lark. Financial managers/brokers for a major national firm, Chuck Hanner had retired two years earlier and his wife Eloise was on the verge of retiring at the age of 48 when Chuck saw an ad for the Big Ride in a newspaper. He called Eloise and told her that they were going to ride across America the next summer. Her response, after less thought than she normally spent on choosing cereal at the supermarket: “Okay, let’s do it.”
There are many tales of epic travels by bike and more than a handful about rides across the United States, but not many by novice cyclists who had never ridden more than five miles before committing to their journey. Eloise Hanner’s The First Big Ride – A Woman’s Journey will make you say, “If she can do it, so can I!”
The American Lung Association of America organized the 1998 Big Ride as a fundraiser for the organization and as a way to raise awareness about lung diseases and clean air issues. One thousand riders signed up and committed to raising over $6,000 each for the privilege of joining this fully supported tour from Seattle, Washington to Washington, D.C. Eloise and Chuck Hanner were among these adventurous souls.
Far from being an experienced cyclist, Eloise described her bike at the time as only lacking a handlebar basket to make it perfect for Mary Poppins. When first wheeled out of the garage, both the Hanner’s bikes required a hosing to rinse off the cobwebs. Neither had cycled more than five miles in many years. Their first stop was at the local bike shop to buy real bikes. Next, the training began, a few miles at a time. They worked up to doing group rides in their local area and could eventually ride a nearby mountain road to the top without stopping. They were as ready as they’d ever be.
Eloise describes their pre-trip gear issues and training with humor and self-deprecation. It’s a good read, but by no means a training manual. Likewise, her descriptions of the Big Ride itself, from finding the start in Seattle, through rain, snow and wind storms, and finally ending seven weeks and 3,300 miles later in Washington, D.C., tell the tale of their adventure without offering any real advice for doing your own ride. It is, nonetheless, an entertaining and worthwhile story of adventure, self-discovery, and most importantly, cycling.
When Eloise and Chuck rode into the Washington Mall at the end of their ride, they were joined by over 700 others who also completed that first Big Ride. When I finished reading this book a few days ago I logged onto the American Lung Association website to see if they still do an annual Big Ride. They do, but participation is now only 30 – 40 riders each year instead of the 1,000 that inaugural year. The riders still have to raise $6,000, and the ride is still fully supported over the same 3,300 mile route. If you’re interested in completing your own Big Ride, more information can be found at http://www.cleanairadventures.org/big_ride_across_america. Read The First Big Ride – A Woman’s Journey and you’ll be ready to sign up, too.
Note: This book was purchased by me with my own money; providing this review did not benefit me in any way.