JAUNTS : Nice Guys Don't Finish Last In Volkssporting : Walkers set their own pace in this non-competitive sport, which is making strides statewide.


Volkssporting? If you had to guess, it sounds like a road race for Volkswagen bugs.

But it's not a race at all, and the only things buggy about it are the insects unlucky enough to be underfoot when volkssporters hit the trail.

Volkssporters are nuts about walking. They walk all over the state, even the country, and in other countries where the sport is popular. They'll be striding through the Ventura-Ojai area this weekend during several walks and a bike ride. Anyone can join them, for free.

Volkssporting is hot in California, with 30 chapters of the American Volkssporting Assn. sprinkled mostly in the northern and southern ends of the state. The Big Valley Vagabonds chapter, out of Fresno, will host the weekend outings.

Members are hopeful that the walks and bike ride will spark enough interest in volkssporting to get a new chapter going in the Ventura-Santa Barbara County area.

"There's nothing between Monterey and Hollywood," said Mary Mott, president of the Big Valley Vagabonds.

Volkssporting began in Germany in the mid-1960s in response to a push for outdoor exercise that was non-competitive and for people of all ages. Translated, the name means "sport of the people."

As a movement, it grew quickly. It started in this country in 1976 during the bicentennial celebration when walkers in Fredericksburg, Tex., took to the streets in a march. Now there are more than 550 clubs throughout the United States.

Clubs sponsor walks, bike rides, swims, cross-country skiing, roller skating and ice skating. But the walks are by far the most popular.

The walks are generally 10 kilometers, or a little more than six miles, and some are longer. Walkers go at their own pace. They don't have to start together, at a predetermined hour. They are given a window of several hours to begin the walk, which has a rating for difficulty. The route might be on a trail, through a park, in a neighborhood or downtown.

"Some people jog it," Mott said. "Others might take four hours. The average is about two hours."

Anyone who wants to join the walkers and bikers need only register at the start.

In Ventura, two walks are scheduled tomorrow, beginning at Marina Park anytime between 1 and 5 p.m. One route takes in the Ventura Mission and other downtown sights, and the other goes along the coast. The same walks will be repeated on Saturday.

Also on Saturday, walkers can take a hike in Ojai beginning at the park and ride downtown anytime between 7 and 10 a.m. Bicyclists can do a trek along the Ojai Valley Trail beginning from the same location at the same time.


* WHAT: Walks and bike ride, sponsored by the Big Valley Vagabonds, a chapter of the American Volkssporting Assn.

* WHEN: Tomorrow and Saturday

* WHERE: Ventura and Ojai

* FYI: Call Mary Mott, (209) 297-7685, or after today at 648-5371. On Friday, two walks in Ventura begin from Marina Park and either follow a coastal route or downtown route. Both are six to seven miles long. Walks begin between 1 and 5 p.m. Same walks are scheduled Saturday. Also on Saturday, a 6.2-mile walk and an 18-mile bike ride begin at the park and ride at Ojai Avenue and Fox Street, between 7 and 10 a.m.

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