Meet Along the Way: Sherry Cantrell

Women do incredible things. This section features the stories of women who are a part of the Southeast Missouri community by way of living here, being from here or passing through. We hope these stories inspire you to connect with others and that they encourage you to be who you are in the world. We need you and your unique gifts.

This past September, Sherry Cantrell and her husband, Cliff, stopped in Cape Girardeau for a couple of days on their cross-country bicycle tour of the U.S. Their journey started in Surrey, British Columbia, and took them to Key West, Florida, in 100 days. Inspiring in and of itself, it is perhaps even more so when one considers Sherry is 70 and Cliff is 79.

The couple stayed with local cyclist Judy Cureton, and we were able to meet them through Judy, who has cycled on six continents herself. We talked with Sherry and Cliff initially, and then caught up with them again on the phone on their drive home to just outside of Huntsville, Alabama, in October, after they’d reached Key West and completed their trek.

“I highly recommend it to people,” Sherry said of her journey. “I just had a card that I sent to my grandson, and it said, ‘Never let go of your dreams,’ and I think whatever the dream is, pursue it. You’re going to run into obstacles, and it’s worth reaching for that gold wing and just grasping it and going for it.”

It’s a dream that has been waiting in the wings for Sherry to pursue. She and Cliff have been cycling together for 15 years, including cycling the Katy Trail and also from San Francisco to St. Louis; Cliff has cycled cross country several times himself. Sherry, too, wanted to cycle cross country because she had heard from friends how incredible it was, initially wanting to do the trip for her 60th birthday a decade ago. However, “life got in the way of life,” she said, and she and her husband took care of her mom for five years until she passed. This year, the time felt right to take the trip. 

Some of the highlights of the trip for Sherry included cycling over Snoqualmie Pass, a Rails to Trails ride in Washington State, where she said she felt like she was on top of the world, a kid on a bike again. She also enjoyed cycling past thousands of acres of sunflowers in South Dakota for three days. Other highlights included swimming with manatees and doing an airboat ride through the Everglades in Florida.

She also truly enjoyed all of the “wonderful people” she met along the way. She said she has been encouraged by their faith and love of this country. Many people they met said they would pray for Sherry and Cliff as they completed their journey, which encouraged the pair as they cycled. She enjoyed the open communication with others as they stayed in hotels, ate at restaurants and cycled on the street.

Sherry hopes to be able to take some of the lessons she learned while cycling with her as she transitions back into everyday life off the road.

“I hope I have a better sense of freedom,” Sherry says. “I’ve always kind of had control issues, and I’m hoping I’ve left a lot of those on the trail behind me, that I can be more easily adaptive to situations and not feel like I have to be in control of those things.”

She is also excited to eat home cooked meals and “good salads and good fruit you can’t find out on the road always.” Her advice to others holding onto a long-held dream? 

“I think it goes back to never give up on your dreams,” Sherry said. “You have something on your bucket list, do it. Find a friend to go and share the adventure with you, and just be open to what God has opened up for us to see. To enjoy the world, to enjoy his creation, to enjoy people and just get out there and love life, I guess would be how I would summarize it.”

The trip has taught Sherry she is capable of much more than she thought.

“I didn’t think really at the beginning it would be as impacted on my life as it has,” Sherry said of the trip. “Because looking at it, it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, I did that — 4,000 miles.’ I didn’t know I had it in me. I guess that’s my biggest reflection of how that empowers you to think that you’ve done something big.”