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Your Health

65-year-old bikes 'from sea to shining sea'

Vinnie Biberdorf has been back nearly a month. She said she is still feeling a high.

This 65-year-old Los Altos resident rode her bicycle across the country along with 19 other women. They started with their wheels in the Pacific Ocean March 15 in San Diego and ended the trip wading in the Atlantic Ocean May 16 in St. Augustine, Fla.

"I have this sense of accomplishment, of well being," Biberdorf said. It celebrates good health, it celebrates life." Biberdorf is a retired director of health services for the Red Cross.

This was the first tour of woman over 50 to make a trip like this. In fact, Biberdorf said, "half the women were over 60."

One was 71, and "she kept getting letters from her 11-year-old granddaughter encouraging her on," Biberdorf said.

These women each paid $4,800 for the ride that was to raise money for breast cancer research. Together they raised $35,000, through pledges and gifts.

The women averaged 70 miles per day. The lowest day was 35 miles. But on one day they rode 111 miles. They stayed in hotels in some places, camped in others.

This was not Biberdorf's first bicycle ride across the country. In 1992 this native Californian rode a northern route.

From a bike, you can really experience the flavor of different parts of the country, she said.

But the bike trip was about more than enjoying the scenery. It was also two months of personal growth.

"These women were not used to fixing bicycles or doing things mechanical," Biberdorf said. "All of a sudden they're gaining confidence. It's totally addictive."

A 15-passenger van pulled a trailer that carried the women's gear. In the front was a galley from which the tour leaders served breakfast and lunch. Biberdorf said the food was always "excellent."

When they came to the Mississippi River, "a little free ferry, that traveled back and forth" took them across.

In Franklinton, La., "The whole town bought us dinner. They had speeches, gave us tours." She was touched by the kindness of an entire town.

In Louisiana one night they camped beside a lake. The 71-year-old in the group pitched her tent near the water.

But she was asked to move her tent because "alligators sometimes came up in the night."

Once in St. Augustine, a police escort accompanied the riders through town for the eight miles to the water.

For Biberdorf, finishing successfully was "a marvelous feeling." Not one of the women dropped out of the ride.

"I admire what these women have done," said Los Altos resident Noreen Dowling, a friend of Biberdorf's. "I wasn't able to do it myself. But these women - all over 50 - pretty impressive."

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