I've been home for two weeks. I'm avoiding Dairy Queens. My bicycle arrived at the bike shop yesterday and is being overhauled In the interim, I'm riding my older Colnago. It's time to reflect on XC17.
From riding across the country in 2009 I knew what would make this ride special would be the other riders. When you spend seven weeks as a group pursuing a common goal, you bond in a unique way. It was fantastic that many of this year's riders are veterans of my last cross country tour. Over the past eight years, we had often proposed a repeat of LA to Boston but life somehow got in the way. Finally, I looked ahead and realized that I'm not getting any younger (yes, I'm shocked, too) and it was time to act. I sent in my deposit to CrossRoads and sent an email to the group that the ride was "on." Happily, a bunch of 09ers couldn't resist and signed up to join me. Willie and Harry would go "all the way;" Peter from LA to Santa Fe; and Tom, Darrell, Champ, and Jack would join us in Champaign for the final push to Boston. That doesn't include cameo appearances by Al and Chris during the ride and Karen, Ike, and Mike seeing us off in Manhattan Beach. Although some of us had not seen each other for eight years, we simply picked up where we had left off in '09!
CrossRoads normally has twenty some odd riders doing the whole ride across the country with a dozen or so completing only part of the route. This year was unusual in that we had ten people signed up to ride all the way to Boston and twenty-two riding shorter segments. There were also a significant number of foreign riders, United Kingdom (6), Germany (3), and Israel (1). It's hard to imagine a more diverse bunch of bicycle riders.
I could write pages and pages about each of my companions. XC09 was so wonderful, I was afraid XC17 would pale in comparison; I should have known better. What a great group of people; a privilege to know all of you.
This was supposed to be the "smell the roses" tour, but somehow I couldn't reign in my need for speed. My competitive nature was dampened somewhat by the presence of several Iron Men and Women. Add to that the presence of Willie, Dan K, and Mike R who often raced me into the hotel each day. We were fortunate in the cool desert crossing, dry weather, and many tailwinds.
If you decide that you, too, want to ride your bicycle across the United States, I offer the following suggestions and comments:
Go with Cross Roads Cycling Adventures! Tracy and her crew will take care of you. They have years of experience, are highly organized and efficient. All you have to do is ride your bicycle from hotel to hotel and CR will take care of all the rest.
Don't take stuff you don't need. At a minimum, all you really need, in addition to the stuff you will carry on your bicycle, is: bike shorts (1), jersey (1), bike socks (2 pair), arm coolers, street shorts (1), street shirt (1), windbreaker, sandals or Crocs, and a toothbrush. [You will need a camelback or equivalent for the desert crossings - send it home after.] Everything else is optional.
Wash your bicycle clothing in the motel sink each night. Cross Roads provides detergent. After washing, roll the wet clothes in a towel to pre-dry them, hang them up, and they will be dry in the morning.
Get trip insurance. Riding a bicycle is potentially dangerous. You've paid a lot of money to take this trip. Get trip insurance.
Take a digital camera and get a "bento box" for your bike. It's much easier to get to your camera when it's in the bento box. Take lots of photos of your fellow riders; you will cherish those pictures much more than ones of the passing countryside.
Buy a good quality road bike from a professional bike shop. Do not spend less than $2,000 for your bike.
Get a bike fit from a professional bike shop. Pay special attention to the five points where you come in contact with your bike: bottom, feet, and hands. Buy good quality shoes, padded shorts, and padded bike gloves.
Use tire liners like Mr. Tuffy’s; even Gatorskin tires won't protect you from getting flats caused by wires on freeway shoulders. Trust me, I know. In the desert, every time you stop, check your tires for wires, glass, and cuts. Doing so might just save you from one or more flats. Practice changing inner-tubes before you start.
A bandana is handy. It keeps the sun off your neck and can be moistened for cooling.
Instead of a "head sweat," bring a bicycle cap to wear under your helmet. The visor helps keep the sun off your face and the rain off your glasses.
Wireless internet connection is available at all hotels. Start a blog and either use the hotels' terminals or bring a tablet, pad, or netbook (they only weigh about two pounds). Send me the URL to your blog.
Do EVERYTHING that Tracy tells you to do in her pre-ride emails. After years and years of taking intrepid cyclists across the U.S., she knows best. Do EVERYTHING she suggests you do. Trust me.
In preparation for the trip, LONG training rides are more important than short ones. Yes, you need to be in shape, but the long rides will tell you where you need to make changes in your shoes, gloves, shorts, etc. You don't want to discover that your saddle isn't comfortable between Blythe and Wickenburg! You will find out how to "go long." Oh, yes, wear your camelback (full) on your long training rides. The better shape you are in when you leave Los Angeles, the more fun you will have.
Chamois butter is not optional! Use it.
You, too, can ride your bike across the country! Just do it!
And, finally, support our troops. Make a donation to the USO. I thank you.