Friends since 1965, Mary Suhler, Alice Simmons and I began cycling together in the mid-1980s. In 2013 we began planning our epic adventure, a cycling trip from the Canadian Border to the Mexican Border, along the Pacific Coast.
We set off from the Blackball Ferry Dock in Port Angeles in September 2015 and were having the time of our lives. Ten days into the trip, however, I was hit by a truck while crossing the McCullough Bridge, just north of Coos Bay, Ore.
Mary and Alice declined to continue, declaring that we would all come back the following year to complete the trip together. It actually took two years for me to heal, though, and in September 2017 we started on the bridge where I had been struck and finished our journey from Canada to Mexico by bike.
We predominantly followed the Adventure Cycling Association’s Pacific Coast Route and we were totally self-supported, carrying all of our gear in panniers on our bikes. Opting for soft beds and hot showers at the end of each day, we “credit card camped” along the way searching for economy motels.
Preparing for the trip in 2015 was easy for me. I felt strong and confident. The trip was exhilarating.
Part II proved more challenging. It took a village to put me back together.
My medical team, family, friends and neighbors all contributed to my success. My walking friends, cycling buddies and Fit4Life workout partners got me moving and motivated.
Six months after the accident, I returned to my job as a flight attendant. A new hot pink Rodriguez Bike was custom-made with some special features to accommodate my injuries and aging body. Ben’s Bikes then helped with some modifications to prepare for my trip.
My husband Mark drove 950 miles, round trip, in one day to pick us up at the hospital in 2015. Though I’m sure he would have preferred I stay home and give the trip up, he drove us all back to Oregon in 2017. We walked the narrow sidewalk on the McCullough Bridge this time and continued south to the Mexican Border. Twenty-five days later we arrived at Imperial Beach, Calif.
Cycling is a great way to travel. The sights and people don’t just flash by. They are up close and more personal. The bike provides a conversation starter. Often we were asking questions about the route or restaurant recommendations.
Other times people were curious about us, where we were going with our fully loaded bikes. We stopped more often than in a car, enjoying the sights, taking pictures or resting and refueling. We made some new friends along the way. We became even better friends as we shared the adventure.
Overall, we travelled 1,683 miles and climbed 68,430 feet. Much of it was on Hwy 101 in Washington and Oregon, and Highway 1 in California. We also rode on half washed out roads, dirt/gravel roads, bike trails, and country roads. Scenery ranged from what we see here at home, to the Northern California Redwoods, to cities and towns of all sizes and vast agricultural areas.
We enjoyed our Pacific Coast from border to border.
About the presenter
Leilani Sundt’s 35-year career as a flight attendant has given her the opportunity to cycle in cities throughout the US, as well as Ireland, Wales, France and New Zealand. At age 65, many people wonder why she isn’t thinking about retirement. She can’t see any reason to do that when she is having so much fun.
Her next cycling adventure is with her husband, Mark. They are planning a boat and bike tour of Holland when the tulips are in bloom next month. (April 2018)
She said she feels fortunate to live where we have some of the best cycling of all, the country roads of Sequim and the Olympic Discovery Trail, right out our own back door.
Sundt has lived in Sequim with her husband Mark since they married in 1989. They raised their son Kiehl here on Mark’s family farm. She really enjoys the Olympic Discovery Trail and the cycling community in our area.
At age 65, many people wonder why she doesn’t retire from her job as a flight attendant. She has flown for 35 years and can’t see any reason to stop while she is still having fun!
About the presentations
Traveler’s Journal is a presentation of the Peninsula Trails Coalition with local adventurers sharing their stories and photos with you. All of the money raised is used to buy project supplies and food for the volunteers working on the Olympic Discovery Trail.
Admission is $5 adults, youths 18 and under free. Shows start at 7 p.m. in the Sequim High School Library at 601 N. Sequim Ave. The seating is chairs and some people bring their own cushions.
Each year the dream of a continuous trail from Port Townsend to Forks gets a little closer. In 2017, about 200 volunteers put in more than 9,000 hours of labor on the trail.
One selected photo enlargement will be given each week as a door prize.