Bike tour stops in Cape on way from New Orleans to Minnesota park

Saturday, May 26, 2007

A women-only bike tour stopped Friday in Cape Girardeau after a 50-mile ride.

WomenTours president Jackie Marchard called that a light day. She said the group averages about 70 miles a day.

WomenTours of Rochester, N.Y., offers 35 trips each year. The tours range from one to six weeks.

Marchard said the average age of participants is 60.

Riders are encouraged to go at their own pace.

A group leader or a support van is on the road until the last rider arrives at the day's final destination.

The trip began May 7 in New Orleans and will finish June 18 in Itasca State Park, Minn.

Marchard said the group usually bikes six days and then takes a layover on their journey of more than 2,000 miles.

"To see the women go through changes is the best part of riding on the trips," Marchard said. "A lot of them end up changing their entire lives because of their accomplishment."

Marchard said founder Gloria Smith started the company to show people what women older than 50 can do.

Ann Buettner-Glass of Fargo, N.D., is on her second trip with WomenTours.

"A combination of things make these trips great," she said. "The fitness, seeing the country and the people you meet."

Buett-ner-Glass found out about WomenTours through an Internet search. She wanted to do a long-distance bike trip after she retired in 2004.

"You're just free on the bike," she said. "For women, this is a big thing. You've taken care of people your whole life, and now, no one needs you all the time. It's liberating."

Michelle Slusher, a trip leader from Seattle, said the trips empower older women.

"The experience of riding this long translates into the rest of their lives," Slusher said. "They feel that once they've done this, they can pretty much do anything."

pwylie@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 127

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