Cyclist rolls on with a special purpose CAM rider's tour is memorial to father

July 11, 1996|By Ernest F. Imhoff | Ernest F. Imhoff,SUN STAFF

Natalie Woodall and Martin Woodall Jr. had a daughter-father misunderstanding over "something silly" last year and didn't talk for a few weeks.

When she turned 26 last July, he called to say happy birthday and they patched things up. She told him she had just taken up bicycling and was planning to ride the next week in the toughest-ever Cycle Across Maryland (CAM), a 350-mile tour of mountainous Western Maryland.

"You'll never make it, you're in over your head," the father said. He was challenging her, wanting her to make it, the daughter recalled. The father wished her well on her six-day ride, but quipped, "You'll be pushing that bike up the hill."

The daughter replied, "Wait and see."

Natalie made it, a feat she'll try to duplicate for a special reason in this year's CAM ride July 22-27, joining about 1,000 other cyclists on a circle tour of gently rolling Central Maryland.

When Natalie returned to Glen Burnie last year, her father hugged her and said, "I'm so proud of you." He urged her to keep pedaling.

On Nov. 10, Mr. Woodall of Glen Burnie had an accident on a job in Washington County and hurt his back. Natalie went to the emergency room there and comforted him. Ten days later, Natalie visited him on his 49th birthday at a Baltimore hospital where he was recuperating. Later that day, she called and told him she loved him and had baked a carrot cake she would bring that night. The rest of the family was coming, too.

He said goodbye to Natalie: "I love you, baby doll."

An hour later, Ms. Woodall said, her grandmother called with startling news: "Dad was dead. A blood clot went to his brain. I couldn't believe it. I was the last person to see him and talk with him."

Riding her new Performance R295 bike, Ms. Woodall, a claims analyst for a medical insurance company, will ride in the eighth annual Cycle Across Maryland and will dedicate her tour to her father.

"I made it last year, thanks to my dad," she says. "I'm riding this year in his memory because I couldn't do it without him. His words of encouragement will be inside me forever."

Ms. Woodall's last few months with her father, sharply focused by her bike riding, led her to conclude, "Life's too precious and too short. Be good to people while they're here. Say it to their face. They could be gone tomorrow."

This year's tour, officially called the First National Bank Cycle Across Maryland, is the first (almost) circle tour. Its theme is "Discover the Heart of Maryland."

After ceremonies July 21 in Havre de Grace, bikers aim their wheels toward the Conowingo Dam and Pennsylvania Amish country the next morning. The overnight stop July 22 is in Pylesville. The rest of the overnight stays will be at Union Bridge, Silver Spring, Westminster and Essex, with the tour ending in Bel Air on July 27.

"Besides the special attractions every night, we will have many more variety stops along the way," said Pat Bernstein, founder and executive director of the event. "Pylesville and Union Bridge will offer small-town hospitality."

The riders will see inner workings at the dam, pick fruit at a farm, taste wines at vineyards, watch the Baltimore Ravens work out, pet alpacas, visit a private zoo, taste samples at a potato chip company, see potters make pots and tour Aberdeen Proving Ground. Two days will have optional rides, including a century event.

About 55 at-risk teen-agers, more than in past years, will ride with mentors in the CAM Teen Challenge. "All have trained for four months," Bernstein said. "Fifty volunteers have worked with them in our program to help them succeed in life."

Cyclists include a man recovering from prostate cancer, three families of three generations, a man on vacation just before entering the Peace Corps, veteran CAM riders in their 70s, many parents and children. They come from 28 states, the District of Columbia and several other countries; 75 percent are Marylanders and the majority are males.

In the six overnight stays, 60 percent will camp out, 30 percent will sleep in gymnasiums and 10 percent will choose off-site lodging.

The fee for what is now considered late registration is $210; sign-up for food is an extra $95. To register, call (410) 653-8288 at CAM offices, 7 Church Lane, Pikesville. The last registration time for genuine procrastinators is July 21, at the high school in Havre de Grace.

The travelers will be testing muscles on discount machines costing $150, on $2,000 carbon fiber bikes so light they can be picked up with the pinkie, on bikes with no gears and on models in between. Even some in-line skaters will be going through the motions.

Sinai Hospital medical personnel will be on hand. Eighteen massage therapists could be busy.

But, Bernstein said, "If you think you can do it, you can do it. The tour is more of a mind game than a muscle game. Unlike running, cycling is kind enough to allow people in generally good shape to do it."

Pub Date: 7/11/96

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