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Naomi  The Biking Life

 by: Naomi Bloom  12/1/2005

The Ladies That Lunch

Every Saturday morning they meet at a Starbucks in Sunnyvale. Three, four, maybe five Lycra-clad ladies ready to ride. Most wear the same Team Estrogen jersey. Sometimes, when my tandem captain is otherwise occupied, they graciously invite me to join them.

The Ladies That Lunch More than one observer has remarked that we should really be called "Team Menopause." But not a one of us thinks of herself as "old."

The first order of the day, of course, is coffee. The conversation drifts around work, retirement, husbands, children, grandchildren, vacations, gossip. Eventually it gets around to where to ride today. The destination is always a convenient lunch stop, with pleasant outdoor seating and reasonable prices. On the way back, there's usually one more coffee stop. Most Saturdays we don't get home until nearly 4:00 pm.

The ride is pretty much a rolling gab session, the pace downright relaxed. No one is in a real hurry. If it's raining and the ride is canceled? Hey, let's all meet for lunch anyway! Who wants to wait a whole week for another gab fest? The ladies that lunch make every Saturday special.

Faith

If there is a ringleader of this leaderless crew, it's Faith. She's the one everyone calls Friday evening to confirm the meeting time and find out who else will be riding.

A retired nurse, Faith worked at a Kaiser Permanente outpatient clinic for many years. Her husband Joe is a respected bicycling advocate and member of the Santa Clara County VTA Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee. But when it comes to political activism, Faith would rather just ride, thank you. She did, however, recently acquire an electric-powered bike for running errands.

Faith and Joe have done many long-distance, multi-day tours together. But unlike him, she'd rather not be camping out while touring. "If I have to sleep on the ground," she says, "I'd rather go backpacking than have to look at asphalt all day long."

Off the bike Faith devotes time to her beloved grandchildren, one boy and one girl -- and "another on the way," she says proudly. Her kids both settled close to home. "Every Monday night we all have dinner at my house," she says. "So Tuesday is rest day."

The other loves of her life are Faith's "girls," Abby and Maggie, two of the world's most beautiful Golden Retrievers (next to mine, of course).

Ruth

The strongest rider of the group, Ruthie is also the most petite. That certainly doesn't stop her, though. She's done at least two TransAm tours, as well as countless SuperTours and Christmas Baja California rides.

Although she maintains the casual Saturday pace, if a fast-moving peloton overtakes us, look out! Ruth is off chasing those rabbits and keeping up with ease. (Once on a ride down Branciforte Road in Santa Cruz, our tandem was far exceeding 40 mph when I glanced in my rearview mirror. There was Ruthie hanging onto our wheel with a vengeance!)

Born on a farm virtually between San Diego and Tijuana, Ruth grew up bilingual, married young and divorced almost as young. When she came north, she found work in high tech and soon became a lead technician. How she met the love of her life, Jurii, a brilliant engineer and champion tournament bridge player, is her secret. Sadly, she lost him to cancer last year.

Over the years Ruth has turned her Sunnyvale back yard into a burgeoning garden, replete with fresh vegetables, herbs and fruit. She shares her bounty freely; the rosemary plant she left at my front door has grown into a tree nearly as tall as its crabapple neighbor.

Carol

There was a time when Carol took pride in doing the most challenging climbs in the Santa Cruz Mountains. She earned such a great reputation for tackling the vertical stuff that less daring riders asked her to help them train for climbs. And she was happy to work with them. She still likes to head for the hills with the Saturday group, but like the rest of us she prefers the foothills to the mountains.

A full-time IT worker, Carol eagerly looks forward to weekend rides. But when it comes to vacations, she'd rather leave the bike at home and instead explore exotic locales in South America, North Africa and Asia. She's become expert in preparing for these treks and always comes back with fascinating tales to tell. If she ever has other time off, she spends it with one of her two daughters, who both live back east.

Judy

When Judy first relocated to California from Florida, the high tech industry was in recession. Her job search seemed to last forever, but she finally landed a plum at HP. She's still there, in spite of repeated company layoffs through the years.

During those months of unemployment, she spent many days on her bike and became a strong rider. Then a crash resulted in hip fracture and replacement. After months off the bike, she showed up for a ride that Ruthie and Faith led in Los Altos Hills. They invited her to the Saturday rides, and she's been doing them ever since. And, it should be noted that Judy lives the furthest from the start, putting in 20 or more extra miles each Saturday.

Judy says that the most wonderful man in her life is her son -- and now her grandson (not to mention the grandchild that's on the way). She's also looking forward to the trip to Sweden she and Carol plan to make for the midnight sun next summer.

Pat

Time was when Pat's favorite thing was doing double centuries -- even a triple one year. After meeting RAAM champion Seana Hogan, she signed up to crew for her, and proudly points out that Seana still holds the women's RAAM record.

Then Pat had surgery and got busier at work. The combination broke up her routine and made attaining goals too time-consuming. Recently she realized she missed spending time on her bike and decided to train for a century. While out on one of her first training rides, she met up with Carol, whom she recognized from when they'd ridden together years ago. Before she knew it, she'd been recruited for Saturdays.

The century Pat chose was Moonlight Magic out of Lone Pine. "It was tough!" she reported. "I'd been riding for a lot of years. I asked myself how hard could a century be? Well, I'm older, and it was at altitude, with gusty winds." Although she got a late start, she did ride for a while with a couple of other women. But they told her she was too slow at the front, so they took off. Later, at the finish, she saw them and asked how they'd done. "Oh," they responded, "we turned back when the wind got bad." But Pat had stayed the course and finished.

Pat works as an administrative contractor at NASA, a role she's filled for 19 years. She likes to spend her weekends riding or traveling. She recently attended the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival in Alberta. "I grew up in cold weather," she explains. "This was my chance to bundle up, crunch through some snow and reminisce." When last we spoke, she was preparing for El Tour de Tucson.

"I want to use biking for lifelong exercise," Pat told me. That's just how all these ladies that lunch -- and ride -- feel.

Naomi can be reached at naomibloom@earthlink.net



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