Long-distance cyclist returning to a far-different New York City | PostIndependent.com
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Long-distance cyclist returning to a far-different New York City

G. Sean Kelly

The last time Marlene Manown rode on the streets of New York City, the sight of the Statue of Liberty, then the towers of the World Trade Center, brought tears to her eyes.

The structures represented a beacon of hope and accomplishment to Manown.

That was two years ago. Manown and fellow Glenwood Springs resident Nancy Stevens were wrapping up their coast-to-coast Girls on the Move ride. Manown was the eyes for Stevens, who has been blind since birth, on the tandem bicycle. The two also teamed up during Sunday’s Tri-Glenwood Triathlon for the biking portion of the race.

“When we did the cross-country bike ride, it ended at the Twin Towers,” Manown said. “Those towers were so symbolic to us. I started crying.

“I’m just a sop patriotically, I think,” said Manown. The Statue of Liberty stood nearby, she recalled, “and when I came around a bend it got to me.”

While Manown may be a “sop” when it comes to the United States, many people were stirred with patriotic emotions after the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

On Sept. 20, Manown will take another ride in New York – the 270-mile, three-day Face of America 2002 ride from New York City to Washington, D.C.

The event begins where Manown finished the Girls on the Move. Ground Zero is nothing like the Trade Center Manown rode toward. It will still be an emotional ride, but the skyline and tone of the event will be far different.

“This will be my first time back there, and it will be really emotional,” Manown said. “It will be a coming home of sorts.”

The ride, in memory of those affected by the events of Sept. 11 that destroyed the Twin Towers and part of the Pentagon, is billed as a way to “express hope and unity through athletic challenge,” according to the event organizer’s website.

Manown, who will be 61 later this month, will partake in the event as part of the volunteer biking staff. It will be a daunting task – moving the 1,200-plus riders through the busy roadways of the East Coast and setting up camp for the group.

While there will be plenty of work to be done during the ride, it will also give Manown time to attempt to answer the question that sprang into her mind following Sept. 11, 2001.

“The hatred that is behind something like that was so incomprehensible to me,” she said. “I’m trying to sort out in my own mind what it is that we as Americans are projecting to people that makes us so hated.”

That question may never be answered, but events like the Face of America make a small difference in what Manown sees as a much larger problem, which became apparent to Manown after the Columbine High School shootings in 1999.

“When the Columbine shooting happened, the theme for me felt like our world today is caught up in intolerance and being very judgmental,” Manown said. “That’s been my personal thrust since then – to reach out in whatever way I can to help make this world a more accepting place. How I do that is I try to live it, then I also do these things like the Face of America when I have the chance.”


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