The Pacific Northwest rain was relentless. Getting a bike on the ferry was daunting. At the shore of Lopez Island, a hill loomed ahead so steep it could only be walked. As Carol Simmons overcame each challenge on her first overnight bicycle trip, her self-confidence grew.
“We could have all given up and went home. But we just pushed through the pouring rain,” Carol said. “I didn’t know I could really do something like that. It teaches you to work through it.”
Carol says she traded cigarettes for a bike nine years ago, and cycling helped pave the way to a healthier and active lifestyle. She works out problems and thinks better while riding. She recently added an eBike to the roster, and it helps with the big hills and keeps her moving even with joint pain from lupus flare-ups. She’s proud to be a cyclist, even if she doesn’t fit the stereotypical mold of one.
Honestly, when I started cycling, I had a bike shop owner tell me I didn't fit the bill.
“A lot of people think you have to be a certain size to cycle. Honestly, when I started cycling, I had a bike shop owner tell me I didn't fit the bill. And I just thought, ‘I'm going to prove you wrong,’” Carol said.
Still, even with all her years of cycling, Carol says it took a whole year to muster up the courage to join Adventure Cycling Ambassador Gary Davis on his San Juan Island Bike Overnight. In 2020, she made the trip despite wet weather and shut-down services and loved it.
Carol signed up for Gary’s guided San Juan Island ride again for Bike Travel Weekend 2021. This time, she brought tasty homemade treats like banana bread, and she was excited to visit shops and restaurants that had been closed due to pandemic shutdowns in summer 2020.
Gary planned group ferry rides to explore the different islands. The skies were dry and campgrounds full of cyclists and their families. The ride was joined by familiar faces and new friends who found the listing on Bike Travel Weekend.
Carol credits her cycling confidence to a new, outgoing attitude and hopes Adventure Cycling’s Bike Overnights continue to catch on and grow.
“If I have to pick a favorite part of cycling, it’s meeting people. I’m more likely to talk to anybody now. I get together and ride with people every Sunday. Some of us started as strangers but we left as lifelong friends,” she said.