HAVERFORD ALUM PUTS THE PEDAL TO THE METAL FOR A GOOD CAUSE
In the fall of 2004, Gabriella MÃ¶ller '87 enjoyed an adventure that took her from the mountains of Washington to the redwoods of Californiaâ€”on two wheels. She and 43 fellow cyclists rode 1,071 miles from Seattle to San Francisco to raise money for the American Lung Association of Washington.
Even before the ride, MÃ¶ller was an accomplished cyclist, having biked to work most days since the '90s. In 1998 she participated in an organized ride from her home in Seattle to Portland, Ore., a two-day trip that covered 200 miles. But when a friend involved with ALA's Washington chapter told her about the long-distance fundraiser, MÃ¶ller's first reaction was one of skepticism:“I thought there was no way I could do it. But as I thought about it, I realized I had always wanted do something like this, and now I could make it happen.” To train for the ride, MÃ¶ller tried to log at least 200 miles per week on her bike; because weekdays were consumed by her work as a gardener, she confined her rides to the weekend, often following the broad circumference of a nearby lake. She also rode to her weekly horticulture classes at a local community college.
The ALAW ride was scheduled to span 15 days, with breaks for food and sleep at appointed campsites. After a first day of riding 100 miles in relentless rain, MÃ¶ller and the other participants settled into a routine:“Sleep at the campsite, wake, pack up, eat, ride, eat, get to camp, eat, set up tents, shower, eat, sleep, wake up, and start all over.” There were small setbacks: During the second day MÃ¶ller misinterpreted directions and crossed the wrong bridge, and was stung on the forehead by a wasp on the second-to-last day. But these were trivial mishaps compared to the ride's many highlights.
“We rode along the Pacific coast, and the scenery was breathtaking,” she says.“I especially loved riding through the redwoods, silently streaming through trees that were hundreds of years old. It was a spiritual experience.” She also received a joyful surprise on the last day of the ride. As she was packing and preparing to leave the campsite in the morning, she was astonished to see her brother Claude, a San Francisco resident who had secretly arrived at camp the night before. After she set off on the last leg of her journey, Claude parked himself at various intersections along the route and held out a flower for his sister to grab as she rode past.“I felt so celebrated, honored, and cheered on,” she says.
In addition to introducing her to some“precious people,” the ride gave MÃ¶ller a renewed sense of confidence in her capabilities.“The fact that I went from thinking â€˜You're out of your mind' to â€˜I did it!' is amazing,” she says. She declares that she'd definitely do it again (ALA of Washington plans to sponsor another Pacific coast jaunt this fall), and friends have already invited her on a variety of long-distance rides: the South of France to Spain, Stockholm to Istanbul, and a“Women Around Washington” event across the whole state.
After pedaling from the Space Needle to the Golden Gate Bridge, nothing seems impossible for Gabriella MÃ¶ller.