Portland to Portland Gals

Two women take a coast-to-coast trek

Wednesday, August 30, 2000

By COURTNEY WEILL
Monitor staff

Anne & CarolynAnne Kelly and Carolyn Walters are not your average grandmothers.

They bike 60 miles a day, live out of duffel bags and enjoy drinking a cold beer in a local dive at the end of the day.

The seemingly tireless duo sped through New Hampshire on Monday on their cross country trek from Portland, Ore., to Portland, Maine.

They rested overnight at an Epsom campground before heading out at 7 a.m. for the final stretch of their 4,000-mile journey.

On June 15, Kelly, 68, and Walters, 64, dipped the back wheels of their bicycles in the Pacific Ocean. The front wheels will finally get their chance to be splashed with salty ocean water Friday off the coast of Maine.

Though both of the "Portland to Portland Gals" have taken long cycling trips before, they say this trip exceeded all of their expectations.

"It was more challenging," Walters said. "Maybe life is supposed to be that way: The more challenging, the more rewarding it is."

The two spry seniors couldn't stop smiling as they recalled their summer adventure and the people they met along the way.

As they passed by a cherry grove in Oregon, a stranger who had just purchased a parcel stopped to give them each a handful of the tasty ruby gems.

Policemen proudly toured the two around a small Midwestern town so they could pick out exactly which park they wanted to camp in. The mayor stopped by during breakfast to make sure they slept well.

A woman at a country store gave them matching miniature angel statues for good luck.

A restaurant owner they had met the night before brought them water and eskimo pies on his way back from a stock run.

A bartender at the Tin Lizzie gave Kelly a shooter glass that she transformed into a portable vase for the small bunch of flowers she keeps on her handlebars.

"They've opened their hearts and their homes to us," Kelly said. "We couldn't have done it without all the people we've met along the way."

These roadside angels, as Kelly calls them, popped up in the most ordinary places: gas stations, chambers of commerce, restaurants and drug stores.

The strangers bought meals and even opened their homes for them. Walters said they stayed at humble shacks and mansions owned by doctors.

"No matter what their home, they were absolutely wonderful," Kelly chimed in.

The women were impressed with the Granite State's wide paved shoulders and the tasty food they found in local diners.

They rode 60 miles a day, six days a week, passing through 13 states. They stopped in small towns for lunch or picnicked on their emergency food supply: peanut butter crackers, bananas and V8 Juice.

They carried their tents, clothes, sleeping bags, journals, toiletries and every other necessity in small saddlebags attached to both sides of their bikes.

"We've never weighed it because we knew psychologically it would make us tired," Walters said as she somehow managed to cram the entire campsite into a small bag.

With their destination less than a day's journey away, Walters and Kelly look forward to returning to their lives back in California.

"We're ready to go home, but at the same time there's sadness because it's over," Walters said. "You put your body and your soul into it."

They fly back to the West Coast next Tuesday, and will spend their time in Portland making arrangements to ship their gear home.

Both say they will miss their time on the road and the attention they've garnered along the way.

"When we ship our bikes home, we're not going to be celebrities anymore," Walters said. "We're going to be anonymous. We're going to have to adjust."

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