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(Reprinted in Armchair World by Permission. All selections © 1996 The Santa Rosa Press Democrat)
AW Note: the following selections are excerpted from:
March 18, 1996
March 27, 1996
April 15, 1996
April 29, 1996
May 8, 1996
BUNNI ZIMBEROFF is bicycling across the United States just to prove that a 55-year-old book buyer can do a crazy thing like that and, incidentally, to pick up some pledges for Canine Companions for Independence.
Bunni is traveling in the company of a San Luis Obispo woman who is celebrating her 60th birthday with this 3,200 mile-jaunt. She promised to drop us a postcard or two on the way. The first one came Friday, written March 9 from Mesa, Ariz.
"We've made it to Mesa, "Bunni writes, " which is the end of the first of seven legs of this expedition. All is well. Body and bike are holding up. 411.6 miles with only one flat tire so far (not mine).
"I understand CCI pledges are coming in to the house. The most interesting is from Michael Sawyer (twin brother of Sawyer's owner John) who has pledged a dollar for each time I scream, "Why in hell did I ever commit to doing this?" With a ceiling, of course. Now THAT is creative pledge-writing.
"Weather fine so far, but for a day of wind. Mountains are the next leg. Bunni."
BUNNI'S Excellent Adventure, Chapt. 2: When she mailed her last note to us, Bunni Zimberoff had, in her words, "reached - attained? achieved?" Marfa, Texas, which has two motels, "both with carpets."
Bunni, a 55-year-old bookbuyer at Sawyer's News, is bicycling across the U.S. via the southern route. The road to Marfa was not an easy pedal for her and her cycling companion, a 60-year-old woman from San Luis Obispo.
Collecting pledges for Canine Companions as an added incentive to finish the trip, Bunni had urged friends to be creative in pledging - by the mile, distance per day, total distance or time elapsed. Any old way. Michael Sawyer chose to pledge so much for every time Bunni hollers: "Why in hell did I ever commit to doing this?".
There have been many pledges sent to Bunni's Santa Rosa home. This is the one she addresses in this note about crossing the high desert.
"I maxed out Michael Sawyer's pledge in a sudden 50 mph sandstorm north of El Paso. It took hours to clean the sand out of self, possessions and bicycle. Two days later, maxed it out again in high winds (clean ones this time) which beat me back to a snail's pace - downhill - cranking hard, still couldn't get over 8 mph. 'Tis windy season in Texas."
Texas, up to that point, had not been exactly a scenic tour for the cyclists. "The dogs are more aggressive here, "Bunni writes. "The cafes are boarded up and the grocery stores are sparsely stocked. Today my lunch consisted of a can of Del Monte corn which I opened and ate seated on the ground. Then 35 more miles. For dinner I had two baked potatoes.
"But what is most amazing is the bread. There ain't none. Now, I know we in Sonoma County are spoiled rotten when it comes to bread, but I haven't seen any bread products in the stores worth eating, except some pan dulce from a Mexican bakery. And some have no bread at all. This since Phoenix. I assume this had to do with the fact that the tortilla is king in this part of the world.
"Last Week my daughter hooked up with us for a day, above Las Cruces. She brought me three items which I'd requested, the most important being a loaf of spinach-feta bread from Great Harvest which was consumed on the spot. Home looks better and better. "
Bunni should be almost to Austin, where they will spend two or three days with friends. The goal is St. Augustine in May.
BUNNI'S Excellent Adventure, Chapt. 3: Bunni Zimberoff, the Santa Rosa cyclist who is riding cross-country, is probably finished with Texas by now. Her last letter was mailed from Austin March 30.
She'll be sorry to leave Texas, I think, in spite of the fact that all the roads are uphill, even in descending altitude. She was particularly taken with Bandera, The Cowboy Capital of the World. "I found myself mentally moving in, " she writes. And the mis-named Alpine, "an arty-ish town where I least expected it - few pine tress, mostly creosote bushes, yuccas and scrub. But the mountains are stunningly beautiful, plus it has a terrific bookstore. "Bookstores are important to Bunni, who is a book buyer for Sawyer's News. When she met and pedaled along side a Texas author outside Alpine, she learned that Robert James Waller, author of " Bridges of Madison County," had a ranch just up the road.
"He asked me if the name meant anything to me. I guffawed and told him that independent booksellers have no great love for authors of fluff who strike it rich while quality writers starve.... He told me that when Waller had his book-signing in Alpine, it was held at the hardware store."
Bunni stopped at the gate to Waller's spread and took a couple of photos and then "because the need was pressing and there was nothing in sight," she made one of her frequent pit stops on the premises. "For independent booksellers everywhere!" she says."
BICYCLE BUNNI: 'BURBANK'S RIGHT!'
Bunni's Excellent Adventure is over. Bunni Zimberoff, who left San Diego on her bicycle March 2, aiming to ride all the way across the continent, pedaled triumphantly into St. Augustine, Florida on Thursday. Mission accomplished.
Bunni, 55, and her cycling partner, a 60-year-old woman from San Luis Obispo, reported that their bodies were still working fine; their bikes were still operating without problems. "We could keep going indefinitely, " Bunni said. "But we miss home."
Matt Kerschner, a friend from Copperfield's Books, where Bunni works from time to time (she is also the book buyer for Sawyer's News) was going to SFO this morning to meet her plane and bring her on home.
We have followed Bunni's path across Arizona, New Mexico and the 21-day width of Texas. In her last communiqués she was holed up in a motel room in Lucedale, Miss., waiting out a Gulf of Mexico thunderstorm and tornado warnings. She had her first flat tire that morning, after 2,100 miles.
She wasn't nearly as excited about Mississippi as some of the other states she had crossed. Mississippians, she wrote me, "are not as open as Louisianans. It is true that we look like aliens wherever we go. Texans didn't care. Louisianans were curious and open enough to readily inquire. Here, folks largely look the other way. Very few will open a conversation even fewer will pursue it. I get the feeling we're being judged. This makes both sides uncomfortable. The countryside, however, is green and lush and beautiful. We've been mostly in pine and mixed forest since east Texas."
Louisiana was kind to Bunni and her friend. From a "free campsite on the Banks of the Atchafalaya River with ferries and trains and birds and birds and birds," she wrote:
"We crossed the Sabine River into Louisiana at 9:45 a.m. on Easter Sunday. Precisely two hours later, a pickup pulled over in front of me; a very pleasant-looking young man hopped out, introduced himself and told me we'd just passed his family home where they were about to sit down to Easter barbecue and would we join them? We did. For three hours and they were absolutely delightful."
The road in Louisiana, however, did not match up to the people. Bunni's candid assessment: "They stink."
"We were told by several locals, she said, "this is due to the corruption in state government. They freely admit that Louisiana is the most corrupt state in the union. They seem almost proud of it. The legacy of Huey Long lives on. In Mississippi, we were told, "the road will be better. (They are.) But the politicians have smaller houses.'"
Her last gambit in this packet of notes is her Roadkill count. "For several weeks now I have been recording, after a fashion, the roadkill: deer, hare, armadillo etc. In Louisiana, the main roadkill is dogs. Everywhere. I saw one dead dog in Texas. Yesterday I counted five on a nine-mile stretch of road. More today. They're just left there. Even on front lawns. Very disturbing."
From Mississippi, heading into Alabama: "We have experienced only three incidents of harassment, two in Texas, one here in Mississippi. None was effective. Incidentally, today is Confederate Memorial Day. Also incidentally, Luther Burbank was right. How can we keep it that way?"
BUNNI Wrap: Bicycling Bunni Zimberoff, home from her transcontinental adventure, has compiled statistics for the benefit of those who pledged (or will still pledge) so much per mile to Canine Companions for Independence for her triumphant ride. So far, she's raised $1,100.00. Her stats:
Bunni and her friend Carolyn, who called themselves BOBOBs (Batty Ol' Broads on Bikes) rode a total of 2,724.1 miles, from San Diego to St. Augustine, Fla. They averaged 53.7 mile per day. The longest ride was 89.9 miles (" There was no place to stop," say Bunni.) The shortest day (rain, wind, thunderstorms) was 22.5. Bunni had just one flat tire. Carolyn had four. They met two live rattlesnakes and so many armadillos dead on the roads they gave up counting.
Oh, yeah. In St. Augustine, they drank from the Fountain of Youth - which is chlorinated, as required by state law. But Bunni didn't need it. After that ride, at age 55, "I felt like I WAS the Fountain of Youth," she says.
© 1996 The Santa Rosa Press Democrat
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