NEWPORT NEWS — Rona Altschuler, volunteer chairwoman of the local Walk to End Alzheimer's, will embark on a cross-country bike ride March 7 to raise awareness and money to fight the disease. She will turn 60 during the trip.
Altschuler has been chairwoman for the walk since 2009, and prior to that volunteered for six years with the local Relay for Life benefit for the American Cancer Society. She was the 2000 Daily Press Citizen of the Year for her work with Relay for Life.
Altschuler will turn 60 on April 23, the day after the third anniversary of her mother's death from Alzheimer's.
"If we don't get this out of the closet, we'll never find a cure," Altschuler said.
A marathon runner since 1970, she has never been a bicyclist, but started training for the ride in October after deciding last year to make this trip. She said she met someone who had just completed a cross-country ride and felt it was time to do it.
She had wanted to ride cross-country ever since it became a trend decades ago, but got into running and had never revisited the idea. Altschuler found the group WomanTours online while searching for bike trips she might take with a group, and said its upcoming itinerary fit her perfectly.
She has spent the past four months training and learning about the bike culture by meeting riders, reading and attending a bicycle safety class. Despite a knee injury and surgery complicated by a staph infection in 2008, doctors have assured her she is physically capable of biking the distance.
"It's been a really hard training because of the winter time," Altschuler said. "I've spent a lot of indoor miles."
The Newport News native and resident works part-time as a dental hygienist, and is taking a leave of absence from work to make this trip.
The 3,100-mile bike ride will start in San Diego, Calif., and end in St. Augustine, Fla. It runs 58 days with 50 days of riding and eight rest days, along a route averaging approximately 60 miles per day, with the longest day at 111 miles and shortest at 34.
The 26 riders in the group are all women over age 50, who will have a support van available if they need to cut a day's ride short. Should she hit a tough day, Altschuler is hoping that riding for a good cause will help to carry her though.
"For me it's a journey; it's not about how fast I get from point A to point B," she said. "My goal is to enjoy our country, and see it from the seat of a bike."
Williams can be reached by phone at 757-247-4644.
To read Rona Altschuler's blog about her cross country bike ride to raise awareness and benefit the Alzheimer's Association or to donate, go to http://www.ronasride.wordpress.com.