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3/18/99 -- Local Papers Cover Kathleen's Ride



The following story and photo appeared in the Oakland Tribune and Alameda Times Star newspapers on March 18 and in The Daily Review on March 21.

Cross-country Spokeswoman
Bike trek her way of thanking God for 69 years of good health

Thursday, March 18, 1999
By Lucinda Ryan, Staff Writer

OAKLAND -- The 3,000-mile bike ride that 69-year-old Kathleen Smith is about to begin has changed in some ways since the idea popped into her mind last year. For one thing, she had planned to go with her daughter and son-in-law and a few friends, and to leave in June so she would be on the road for her 70th birthday. Instead, she's leaving Easter Sunday with a biking tour group of 22 people. She'll be back in her Adams Point home before her August birthday.

But those are minor details in the great scheme of her pedaling plans. The main things have remained unchanged, including her reason for going. "In the movie 'Chariots of Fire,' a character said, 'When I run, I honor God.' That's how I feel when I ride. I'm going on this trip in thanksgiving for 69 years of good health. I've never been sick, or in the hospital, except when I was having my kids. This is how I will celebrate that."

The youngest in the tour group will be 47. The oldest is Smith, who says it's no big deal that she is making the trek at 69, because people older than she have done the miles solo. The group will depart from Newport Beach in Southern California Easter morning and will wind up the trip in St. Augustine, Fla., on Memorial Day. Technically, it was meant for bikers 50 and older, but an exception was made for the 47year-old, who, incidentally, will be Smith's roommate.

The group will stay in motels, which Smith said, "is the only way to go." Two vans will cruise along with the cyclists, carrying extra supplies, such as Smith's laptop computer, and will keep an eye out for any health or mechanical problems.

Smith signed up for the tour after meeting someone during a ride with the members of Valley Spokesmen, a biking club, who told her about the upcoming trip. At first, still emotionally stuck to her original agenda, Smith only toyed with changing her plans. But the tour seemed to make more sense as she considered it. The route was already set, she would be with people who had biking experience and the insurance of the vans was another plus.

Smith said her daughter, one of her six grown children, was disappointed when she learned her mother had switched gears and opted out of the family-and-friends ride. "She got teary-eyed. She figured this might be the last ride with Mom before she kicks the bucket," Smith said, laughing. "But we'll take our ride another time."

Her bike is a new, gleaming blue 27-gear machine her son-in-law assembled for her. She's outfitted herself with saddlebag luggage and a camel, a contemporary bota bag with shoulder straps. It's worn on the back, keeping the wearer cool, and the long plastic straw keeps bikers' hands free to steer and change gears while they sip water.

Smith will maintain a running account of her adventure at www.bike70th.net.


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