Weekend Break: Woman attempts to set cycling record to honor fallen soldier

·4 min read

Sep. 24—On a quiet and misty Saturday morning, 72-year-old Lynn Salvo peddled her bike from Washington state to Oregon across the Astoria Bridge.

The avid cyclist called the Oregon Department of Transportation ahead of time to decipher when the least amount of traffic would be crossing the bridge so she and her support riders could make the white-knuckled trip. When she successfully crossed, she beamed as a friend from the support vehicle behind her took a photo.

But her journey was just getting started. Salvo is determined to make it 2,000 miles to accomplish her dream of cycling from Canada to the U.S.-Mexico border. She's got her eyes set on claiming the Guinness World Records title as the oldest woman to cycle north to south across the America.

Salvo is documenting each step of her journey to Mexico. You can follow along online at lifeislikeabike.wordpress.com.

If she's successful, this will not be her first world record. The cyclist already holds two Guinness World Record titles. The first as the oldest female cyclist to bike across Canada, and the second as the oldest female cyclist to bike across America traveling west to east.

However, this trip has a special meaning for Salvo. It's the completion of a challenge she's worked toward for years to honor her brother, Capt. John West, a solider presumed killed in action during the Vietnam War.

West served in the U.S. Air Force during the war. His plane crashed near Laos in 1970. He was listed as missing in action and never heard from again.

"He was 28, his wife was pregnant," Salvo said. "They had only been married for 10 months, it was so sad. It was a stupid loss of life."

Salvo began biking across the country about five years ago to keep active after retirement. She started plotting her long-distance travels on a map and realized if she planned her future routes carefully, her cycling path around the U.S. would form a peace sign.

"If I can bring some consciousness to the toll of war and prevent one more name going on a memorial wall and another family being left with a devastating hole of a life lost in it, then it's worth it," Salvo said.

Salvo was in her 20s when her brother was killed in action, and as an adult she's still trying to make sense of the tragedy. She came across letters he wrote to family while stationed overseas, written just weeks before his death.

"It was 50 years later, reading those and reading him talking about the war and about how scared he was, and how he wasn't entirely confident in his skill as a pilot," she recounted. "That just gave me a glimpse into my brother that I didn't know about until 50 years later.

"There was a letter he wrote 20 days before he died to his father-in-law warning him about how difficult the situation was. Then not even three weeks later, he was gone."

During her journey Salvo has made a point to plan her trip around historical memorials and landmarks that represent peace. She's cycled the route of the Underground Railroad and visited civil rights memorials in several states. She began this leg of her journey at the Peace Arch border crossing on the Canada and U.S. border.

While in the Astoria area, she visited Fort Stevens and Fort Clatsop.

As Salvo makes her journey down the Oregon Coast to California, her bike rides average 52 miles a day. She's especially enjoyed the route from Garibaldi to Newport.

Salvo expects to arrive at the Mexico border to complete her mission by the middle of October. When she arrives, she'll have something special with her from the trip.

When she rode through Everett, Washington, she met with her brother's in-laws at the church her brother was married before he died. There, the family gave Salvo her brother's wedding ring.

"I'm wearing it around my neck as I finish, so my brother is going to be coming with me."

Nikki Davidson is the editor of Coast Weekend. Contact her at 515-577-0005 or at ndavidson@dailyastorian.com.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting