Woman’s bike trek hits heartland | AspenTimes.com

Woman’s bike trek hits heartland

Aspenite Helen Roberts, about halfway through a bicycle trek to the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast, has been tossed by the winds, burned by the sun and slowed by the hills.But she’s still truckin’ southbound.She also has been pointed at by curious Oklahomans who are “not used to the likes of me,” she reported Sunday evening, with mild annoyance in her voice.And she was within easy cycling distance from the town of Norman, Okla., on Saturday night, when a bomb exploded near a packed athletic stadium there, in what police believe was a suicide.”I was only 20 miles away when that happened,” she said.Roberts, 43, whose nickname is “Heart,” is in the 15th day of a month-long trek through the heartland to raise consciousness – and wherever possible, money – to aid the victims of Hurricane Katrina.The storm, which slammed into New Orleans and the surrounding region more than a month ago, killed nearly 1,000 people and has left millions either homeless or in dire financial and social straits.Roberts raised $2,000 before she left Aspen and gets “little bits here and there from people who hear my story.”But her efforts at generating publicity in the towns she passes through, and gathering contributions from the locals, have not had the success she hoped for.Still, speaking Sunday evening from her hotel room in Ada, Okla., southeast of Oklahoma City, Roberts said, “People are very, very, very kind and frequently buy my meals for me.”Roberts, originally from Manchester, England, said her mother and family friends, as well as her friends and supporters in this country, are charting her progress, making it an item of interest on both sides of the Atlantic.”My body has held up like I can barely believe,” Roberts said. “I imagined I would have been having all sorts of problems and days from hell, but no. Both body and bike are performing well.”The scenery improved by 300 percent yesterday,” she continued. “And I believe the worst is behind me. Now I am amongst rolling hills and beautiful farms. I had a pretty miserable stretch from Pueblo, Colo., to Watonga, Okla.”Regarding the pointing pedestrians, Roberts said, “People think I look kinda weird. You’d think they’d never seen a 43-year-old Aspenite cycling to Louisiana with a trailer before.”She said friends from Aspen have joined her at various points en route, and she has received a steady flow of e-mails at theheartride@hotmail.com.Roberts now says she still expects to get to Baton Rouge, La., in about 15 more days, where she will turn over the money she has gathered to the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, which was created to help hurricane victims. She also has plans to donate her bicycle and Burley trailer but is not sure of the best way to go about that yet.Then, she said, she will either stay on and help the Red Cross in the hurricane relief effort, or she may travel the 100 miles to Pearlington, Miss., and offer to help in some way there. Pearlington is the storm-flattened town the Roaring Fork Valley has adopted.John Colson’s e-mail address is jcolson@aspentimes.com

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