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NEWSLETTER

'I don't want a boring funeral'

A funeral may be an unlikely place to find inspiration.

But for Anne McCasland, it was an event that became her starting point in a quest to gather unique experiences that, one day, her grandchildren can tell as stories at her own memorial service.

"I don't want a boring funeral," McCasland said. "I want them each to have a good grandma story. It's going to be a party, so it's gotta be good."

The Costa Mesa resident is calling them her "eulogy stories." She's planning one for each grandchild.

From the get-go, McCasland set the bar high.

For her first eulogy story, which marked her 70th birthday, she climbed Yosemite's Half Dome with her grandson, Joe McCasland.

"So when I kick off, Joe's got that story," McCasland said.

Then, for her 75th birthday in August 2011, she decided to ride her purple Giant mountain bike 75 miles in less than a week. She accomplished her goal in about five days.

The feedback she about it got from her granddaughter Kailey McCasland motivated her latest eulogy story.

"When I called Kailey to tell her I did it, she was so jazzed," McCasland said. "I got the idea that I was going to make a statement and then do it. I mean, you can't make a statement and not do it, can you?"

Inspired by Kailey's move in August to start her freshman year at Louisiana State University, McCasland got the idea to ride the same number of miles — about 1,810 — that represent the distance between the Costa Mesa and Baton Rouge city halls. The adventure would be material for Kailey's eulogy story.

She decided to ride those miles, 10 or more each day, on the Santa Ana River Trail. Along the way, she looked look up facts online about each town that she was "visiting" — it became, in effect, a virtual trek through the deserts of the Southwest.

"I have the hardest legs of any old lady in this city," McCasland said. "I mean, they're like steel."

The saying "Everything is bigger in Texas" put McCasland to the test as she virtually pedaled through the Lone Star State.

"I will tell you, I didn't think I'd ever get through the state of Texas," she said.

One day, when Kailey was playing softball for LSU in Lake Charles, McCasland just so happened to be crossing through the same community — albeit from her bike seat headed toward the shores of Huntington Beach — on her "trip."

McCasland kept meticulous records throughout the whole journey, logging her exercise in a telephone memo book each day. On Sundays she transferred the week's mileage to a leather-bound ledger.

The full-time Realtor woke up early each morning to make the trek.

"I'm a busy person," she said. "I get up at 5 a.m., so I can do this."

Although she completed her journey April 9, McCasland said once she reached "Baton Rouge," she was in the groove and couldn't help but swing by "New Orleans."

She's heading next to "Lavonia, Ga.," where her brother Bill lives, before swinging back to "Allen, Texas," where she has a sister-in-law.

She has four other grandkids for whom she plans to create eulogy stories. The next one, she says, will involve cooking.

"She's the kind of grandma that comes to every game, every event in their life," said daughter-in-law Kym McCasland, Kailey's mom. "She's so supportive of them. She loves storytelling, and I think she bosses us around even about her funeral. I think that's where she gets the eulogy stories."

lauren.williams@latimes.com

Twitter: @lawilliams30

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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