From Sea to Shining Sea at Age 76

Prayer helped this cancer survivor bike across the country for the sheer joy of it

Karla Goodridge has overcome a lot in her life. She beat cancer, underwent two knee replacement surgeries and two hip replacement surgeries — and now has biked across America.

It took her 83 days to ride the 4,236 miles across the country. From Williamsburg, Virginia, to Eugene, Oregon, Goodridge had the adventure of a lifetime at 76 — and she was about 30 years older than the next oldest in her group of nine people.

“Years ago she said to me, ‘I’m going to bicycle across the country,'” said this woman’s friend.

She was bitten by a dog in Missouri and passed out on her bike in Nebraska — minor occurrences to Goodridge. Pure determination, grit, and prayer kept her going.

“I don’t think faith was part of my decision to sign up for the ride but, yes, it was very much a part of my daily ride,” said Goodridge. “At the start of every day that I remembered — I asked for God to protect me that day.”

Karla Goodridge holds a map of all the states she rode her bike through on her journey.

Goodridge is a Christian. She spent most of her life as a Lutheran but 10 years ago became a Presbyterian.

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“Years ago she said to me, ‘I’m going to bicycle across the country,'” explained Sally Schlein, Goodridge’s childhood friend. “The past year she’s been training, but she didn’t tell anybody.”

On Mother’s Day this past May, Goodridge invited a group of her closest friends and family.

“She stands up and announces that she is bicycling across the country and she was leaving on [that] Wednesday — everyone is in shock,” said Schlein. “Even her daughter didn’t know.”

Goodridge made her epic journey with Adventure Cycling, a group that has been leading cyclists on this journey for the past 30 years.

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On their journey, the group of bikers stayed in all kinds of places overnight, including many churches.

“One night we stayed in a jail and one night in a firehouse,” explained Goodridge. “Churches were big time. On the East Coast, the churches do it as a kind of a fundraiser, and also to help people and bikers. They always had a shower we could use and a kitchen we could use. Usually the churches were carpeted, so that was soft and nice.”

And when Karla Goodridge felt as if she could not go on — she would pray.

“I said a lot of prayers because I had a 3×5 note card [listing] all the people I would pray for,” Goodridge explained. Those on her note card were “mostly ones I care about greatly and have either suffered loss, illness, weight problems, adjustment problems, societal problems, are spiritual leaders for others, or my family in general.”

She would count just to keep her focus. She sang aloud during her journey.

Goodridge said that when it came to stamina, a lot of it was sheer practicality.

“If I didn’t keep going, what was I going to do? You can’t just walk to a bus station,” she explained. “I would get up really early in the morning” to get ahead of the others, she said. And she just kept going.

Because of the many hills in these states, “I had to walk for miles in Virginia and Kentucky,” she said. Before the journey, she had the wrong gears on her bike for such steep hills — so she had the correct gears added.

“When you go out west, the western slopes are steady and gradual,” she said, explaining that those became her favorite part of the physical journey.

Of course, so much of being able to go on was due to the support she got from other riders. The group consisted of nine people plus the leaders who accompanied them. Two people were injured on the way and could not continue.

Many in the group were instrumental in supporting Karla Goodridge. She said one lady was especially supportive.

“Every time I came in, she’d give me a big hug and say, ‘Karla, you can do it,’ and that gave me a lot of inspiration.”

The journey was arduous — but as one of the leaders joked with her, “If it weren’t hard, everyone would be doing it.”

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