In one of the e-mails that we received from Laraine she stated :
Cross-country tour for women stops in Navasota By Summer Hausmann Examiner Staff Writer
Twenty-three women, most age 50 or older, from different states throughout the nation are braving roads across the United States in the Cross Country Tour for Women by way of bicycling. Most are biking to raise money for breast cancer, many are biking for self-empowerment and personal growth and one is biking to raise money for leukemia.
The women started on March 10 in San Diego, Calif., and will end on May 4 in St. Augustine, Fla. At the end of every day, they retire to a hotel prearranged for them, and their own personal cook who travels with them whips up a tasty meal. Along the way, they take one day about every week to take care of their bodies and rest, and on this day, they stopped in Navasota to rejuvenate at the Fountain View Spa.
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Navasota to Cleveland, TX, April 13: Life and Death
By JoAnne Diller and JP Diller
We ate breakfast in the semi-dark (not an unusual occurrence) and I loaded the SAG wagon which included my costume of the day. The morning was foggy and there was some speculation as to when it would lift and whether to wait. Several were apprehensive. Laraine couldn't decide what to do - ride or go with me. Lesley decided to wait until 8:00AM to leave; Patty and Sally waited, too. A large group went off shortly after 7:00AM. All were wearing flashing lights and safety triangles (which we all wear).
As 8:00AM approached, the fog had really not lifted. Laraine was still apprehensive and decided to come with me. The weatherman had said it would be lifting by 9:00AM so it would work perfectly if Laraine rode with me and she was good company. As we drove, the visibility improved. We stopped in Richards where the postmistress was kind enough to let us use the P.O. parking lot for our SAG stop.
We took Laraine's bike off the rack and got it ready to go so she could ride out with the others. Then she helped me get into my outfit of the day. As the riders came in we, of course, had a sing along as I was in my 'Easter bonnet with all the frills upon it'. Other patrons of the P.O. weren't quite sure what to think and we had quite a few laughs over some of the looks that I received.
In My Easter Bonnet With All The Frills Upon It...
The weather was good. All the riders left and I and Bo-Peep went on down the road to the next SAG stop. I found Laraine and Suze and stopped. The bikes were on the side of the road and Suze was nowhere to be seen. They had found a small puppy wandering down the center of the road. There was no question that he would not survive his day. They picked him up and were checking the neighbors to find the owners.
I barely had a chance to think I should worry about where they were when the two of them came pedaling up to the next SAG stop. They were so excited and so happy. They were telling us how cute Forest was (he had a nametag), how tiny he was, how he licked their hands and nibbled Suze's ear. They had talked with the owner and found a neighbor to take care of the puppy until the owner arrived. THAT was one lucky little puppy.
So far a great day but it was not to be. I arrived in Cleveland and received a call from Carol that a woman had stopped her and told her a cyclist had been in a fatal accident. Carol wanted to know where I was and who was at the motel. I was about a mile from Carol and just beyond the motel. I headed back to find the road blocked and full of ambulances and police. I quickly ignored two policemen and drove up to where I could talk to a third. Capt. Broussard of the Cleveland police was polite and professional. He, of course, couldn't tell me anything but I could tell him who I was, ask if there was a safety triangle on the back of the bike, and give him a list of riders.
The bicycle was under a truck, the ambulance attendants were standing to one side, and there was a cloth over the body. A detective went over and crawled under the truck. Another policeman was copying my list. Time dragged.. I could do nothing but wait until I knew whether it was someone with us or not. At last, the detective had a piece of paper and was comparing it to my list. I overheard him say, 'it says call Ed.' but still not enough for me to go on. The wait was interminable. At last, I overheard them spell the name The unthinkable had happened. The cyclist was one of ours. It had been instantaneous. I don't believe she ever knew what hit her.
Laraine Lagattolla's last day had been one of joy and happiness, a day in which she was living her dream. Knowing that has helped ease the pain of her loss.
We have lost a dear friend. As a group, we have decided to continue this ride. We dedicate it to Laraine Lagattolla.
Immediately after the accident, a couple of local pastors had met with us at the motel. Both they and the police were very thoughtful, kind, considerate, and helpful. Later, at dinner (none of us were very hungry) it was suggested that we continue the ride in honor of Laraine. I'm sure we had all had moments of 'what now' thoughts but I don't believe there was any question once that was said. It was, of course, what we should do.
We also decided that we would get flowers and would gather at the roadside where Laraine's accident had taken place the next morning and have our own, self-led service. We gathered that morning at the motel and with roses in hand crossed to the site of the accident and formed a circle. Two of our group offered short prayers. We each laid down a rose. Patty passed roses around and we each took a petal. We closed with the Lord's prayer and with heavy hearts walked back to get our bikes and begin our journey for Laraine. I (and I think others) carried that petal close to my heart that day. Barb had a bouquet of several roses that road on her bike that day. Those petals and roses and our commitment to continue to St. Augustine were our way of finishing Laraine's dream - riding to the Atlantic Ocean.
Riding out of Cleveland was anything but silent though we were a quiet and sober group. None of us were interested in beginning our ride by passing the site of the accident and through the heavy traffic. Heather had arranged a police escort for us. Two police cars using their sirens at every intersection (which was appreciated) helped us weave our way through neighborhoods and backroads, clearing the roadway for us so that we could ride as a group. We were escorted to the edge of town where we picked up the route that we were to follow to Kountz.
I am not sure how or whether I would have approached my bicycle and riding on this day had their not been a group and a dedication to complete this ride. As it was, we were together and together we would go on. We did not dribble out in small groups as we were often wont to do. Instead, we rode as one...one solidly connected group. The police stayed with us for approximately 5 miles through the countryside until we reached the end of their jurisdiction.
Riders were visually ahead or behind me but I chose, as did others, to ride alone with my thoughts. I am sure that I was not the only one to wipe away a tear or several that morning. Bicycle riding through pleasant countryside, however, is restorative. A peacefulness and a certain amount of acceptance began to settle in.