February 17, 2017
Two Fridays from now I’ll be in San Diego getting ready for my next bike trip across the country. The following Monday, we start riding.
This trip is different than my Northern Trip solo trip. It’s a “we” trip. I will be one of two co-leaders with thirteen paid participants leading a van-supported trip from the Pacific to the Atlantic, ending in St. Augustine, Florida. For me it will be my debut performance as an Adventure Cycling leader. I am very excited.
Here are some trip logistics:
- Follows the Southern Tier, Adventure Cycling’s southern most cross-country route for 58 days of riding.
- 3054 miles through CA, AZ, NM, TX (lots of it), LA, MI, AL, FL (over 1100 miles shorter than on the Northern Tier)
- Major cities we pass through: San Diego, Phoenix, Las Cruces, El Paso, Austin, New Orleans, Tallahassee, Gainesville (FL) and then St. Augustine.
- My co-leader Jared and I will swap off cycling and driving the van each day.
- We camp about 80% of the time.
- Twelve of the participants are older than me, 59-71. One is younger at 54. Jared, my co-leader is in his early 40s.
Adventure Cycling’s bike tours are not high-end luxury bike tours. They are more about giving the participants a real outdoor cycling adventure. The leaders are facilitators who share the trip with the riders. We all share in cooking. It’s about letting the riders have their own experience and helping it be an awesome one, letting them figure things out, and only stepping in when needed to get things moving forward or keeping everyone safe and happy.
I have been a bit anxious about taking this all on but am feeling more relaxed and confident as the take-off date approaches. Physically, I feel in good shape. Leading this trip has been an excellent motivator to get me out riding and to the gym. I’m riding up to 150 miles in a week. So, I can check that one off in terms of being prepared. Thanks to my 2015 Northern Tier trip, I feel fine about the camping and equipment. I’ve continued volunteering at BikeAthens and though I am far from an expert bike mechanic, I have a much better sense of how to fiddle with bike parts to get things running smoothly. In the last couple of weeks, I’ve replaced a bottom bracket, repacked a pedal, replaced a shifter cable, and adjusted a back derailleur. As I said to Richard, I have a much deeper understanding about just how many small subtle things can affect gear shifting.
As ACA leaders on their “epic trips,” we work up the itinerary as well using notes from previous tours so I have been working on that a bunch too. I have more time than Jared, who actually works a job, to explore the route and am enjoying do so. As a novice tour leader, investigating the overnight stops has ended up being another task that makes me feel more confident going into the trip.
The big difference on this trip, of course, is that I will be part of a group in a leader role, meaning I can’t be the one to grouch or whine. In the Adventure Cycling leadership training (excellent program), much of the focus is on group dynamics. Makes sense. I’m hoping that my years teaching and being in an administrative position will work to my advantage. A couple of weeks ago, Jared and I split of the list of riders and called them all. I spent almost an hour speaking with each one. I got off the phone feeling very positive about my fellow riders. They were not reluctant students forced to take a writing course or overwhelmed faculty members or bullying upper administrators.
A few people have asked me if I will be writing a blog about the trip. Assuming that I have time, I will post, but I will not have a goal of posting everyday. Plus, the format/tone will, I assume, be different since I will be leading the tour and this blog is an open public one.
One thing is certain – that preparing for this trip has provided some distraction from what’s happening with our 45th president. And what’s happening in DC has alleviated any existential angst I have about life after retirement. For the time being, life will be a combination of fighting back, riding my bike, and being there for family and friends.