It started with dusting off an old friend, a Peugeot bicycle given to me when I was a 16-year-old girl. I had managed to keep the old classic tuned up and ready to ride, which came in handy when the urge to return to fun and fitness hit me, fueled by the passion of my best friend, Linda Willett, who in her mid-50s, is a workout maniac.
Linda and I started riding together three years ago in an attempt to actually enjoy getting some exercise. Then Beth Hay, an Eagle Point woman who rode her mountain bike to work, joined and gave us a little added challenge — along with some humility because she is quite the animal, although her gentle nature can fool you.
Eventually, our little trio grew to include a few younger ones. On occasion some more experienced cyclists joined in, and we became a group. Our rides can now include up to 10 riders, including a few men from time to time.
Our usual route to Ashland from my house in Phoenix became a little dull after a while (if you can call endless vineyards, orchards, sheep farms and green, expansive horse ranches "boring") compared to the multitude of routes we were discovering.
We found we could ride to Jacksonville, then back on Cady Road to Sterling Creek and back home through Phoenix again. There is always a coffee shop en route for a quick stop to refuel.
The biggest surprise for all of us? Bicycling is a blast. You can get fit, enjoy amazing scenery and create meaningful friendships. You need a decent bike, a comfortable outfit and someone in the group who is not afraid to change a tire. It helps to have some degree of drive and enthusiasm, and a sense of humor always helps.
We still aren't sure what our name is, but "Twisted Sisters" and "Biker Chiks" have been tossed around.
The part we didn't expect, but love very much, is the balancing of body and soul that comes naturally when you ride a bike. After just a few pedal strokes, worries seem to drift away. As one of our male riders, Bob Horton, of Medford, put it, "No matter what happens in my day or at work, a few miles into the ride, and nothing can touch me."
This has been the part of bicycling that calls me back time and time again, the soothing of the soul that comes from the rhythm of riding.
Our rides generally start at 10 in the morning and end by 2 in the afternoon. I think we ride at about a 13-mph pace, occasionally faster, sometimes slower, and we cover between 23 and 30 miles on any given day. After a few miles of riding, conversation flows freely as minds and muscles loosen up, along with thoughts and opinions. We talk about the STUFF of our lives and find relief in the fellowship of like-minded bikers.
We have the occasional obsessive bicyclist who speaks of wheel balance and bike stiffness, but mostly we have folks who love to ride, talk, stay fit and laugh — at each other and themselves.
As Linda says, "I can't believe I'm doing this, and I hope to still be doing this at 75."