Portland to Portland Gals

Two pedal bike path across the U.S. 

TIM JOHNSON

Staff Writer

Two more bicyclists left Council Bluffs this morning.

But Anne Kelly, 68, and Carolyn Walters, 64, are pedaling across the nation - not just the state of Iowa.

Kelly, a self-proclaimed "gypsy," and Walters of Grover Beach, Calif., both members of the San Luis Obispo (Calif.) Bicycle Club, left the Oregon coast on June 15 and expect to reach Portland, Maine, in mid-September, Walters said.

"We ceremoniously dipped our rear wheels in the Pacific," she said.

The Portland to Portland Gals, as they call themselves, stayed with Larry and Rose Large in Council Bluffs over the weekend while a local shop tuned up their bicycles, Walters said.

She became acquainted with the Larges while her son, Kevin, was living in Council Bluffs some years ago.

The city was a natural stopping point for the women, because they had friends here and it is about halfway to their destination, Walters said. By the time they reached Council Bluffs, the women had covered 2,146 miles of their 4,000-mile journey.

"We will end up doing a total of 13 states," she said. "We have done five so far. We're averaging about 60 miles a day, with one day off a week."

Along the way, lodging has been whatever they could find, Kelly said.

"We're mostly camping, but we've met people who have invited us home," she said.

As a result, they have spent a few nights camping in people's back yards or sleeping in their guest rooms, Kelly said.

"We never know when we're going to be guests of somebody," she said. "It just happens."

In some cases, a host or hostess has helped them find lodging in the next community, too, Kelly said. At other times, the cyclists have telephoned the city's chamber of commerce to ask about campgrounds.

The ambitious cyclists planned the trip because they wanted a challenge, were looking for an adventure and wanted to experience small-town America, Walters said.

"In a lot of senses, it becomes a lot more than a bicycle trip," she said. "It's a spiritual journey, because, on a bicycle, you're very vulnerable.

"You're very approachable on a bicycle. You meet a lot of people."

The two, both fit as fiddles, have done plenty of conditioning. Kelly has been bicycling for about 15 years, and Walters has been riding for about six.

They ride 6,000 to 7,000 miles every year, Walters said.

"Both of us are regular cyclists," she said. "The rest of our lives fit around cycling. But since we're both retired, it works."

Four years ago, Walters bicycled from San Diego to St. Augustine, Fla. - a distance of 2,724 miles - in about 7 1/2 weeks, she said.

Bunni Zimberof, her partner on that ride, originally planned to accompany her on this one but ended up making other plans, so Walters invited Kelly to ride along.

It was just the opportunity Kelly was waiting for, she said.

"I've always wanted to do a cross-country ride and never found anyone to bike with," she said.

Those interested can follow the women's progress on the bicycle club's web site, located at Portland to Portland Gals on the Internet.

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