January 3, 2018 - Kelly Hannegan (Dubay) rode the Southern Tier as a participant in 2015 and this year will lead the first of three cross-country rides on this bicycle route.
I rode cross-country on the Southern Tier Bicycle Route in 2015 as a rider on an Adventure Cycling guided tour. And this year, I’ll lead the first of three of Adventure Cycling’s cross-country rides on this 3,160-mile bicycle route. I’m very excited.
I called my 2015 tour my “55 and Alive” tour. I was an Adventure Cycling tour leader at this time too, directing fully supported, guided tours, but this was different. I was going to ride my bike across the country. Yep, your average middle class mom, two kids in college, had dreamed of this adventure, and I was going! Family and friends thought I was crazy — maybe I was — yet I had dreamed of this adventure and I was going.
Why am I excited to lead this guided tour on the Southern Tier in 2018? I’ll be guiding others who have the dream to cross the country from the Pacific to the Atlantic on their bikes. I get to be part of making dreams come true — part of a monumental adventure in each of my tour participant’s personal history. So, yes, I am jazzed!
As I think back to the first day of my “55 and Alive” tour, I remember riding out of San Diego very well. In my excitement to get going, I got lost, yep, lost on the first day. Fellow riders John and Bill were lost with me. Lesson learned: following someone doesn’t mean they know where they are going.
I remember the three of us standing on a bike trail, pulling out our maps, looking for where we went wrong and how to correct ... we eventually found our way and got back on route. Yet, that “lost” created a special friendship between the three of us. We were the “Three Amigos” for the rest of the tour, friends for life.
Every day on the tour was a new adventure. I recall riding up to the wall between California and Mexico and being awestruck — I hadn’t even known it existed. I remember riding in crazy headwinds thinking, “I’ll never make it.” I made it. Thanks, Bill! The nudist bookstore owner in Quartzsite was an unbelievable piano player. John had his first flat “ever” and learned patiently on the side of the road to fix that tire. And I remember the unbelievable feeling of crossing the Continental Divide.
So many memories ... cycling over the Mississippi River, canoeing in Louisiana, seeing my first firefly, kayaking the Ichetucknee River, “second breakfast” stops, sitting in a McDonalds for six hours waiting for a tornado to pass, Florida highway patrol car lights pulling John and I over on our bikes (the freeway is not a good shortcut), and the beautiful Gulf Coast ... so many many memories, I can go on and on ...
I remember the triumphant memory of reaching the Atlantic Ocean and dipping my tire in the ocean, popping open a bottle of champagne, toasting my fellow Southern Tier compadres, and then I ran and jumped into the Atlantic Ocean! Tire dip? I needed a dip!
I was one of those “EFI” cyclists on this van supported tour — determined to ride “Every Fabulous Inch” of the Southern Tier, and I did. (OK, some of you replace the F with another word.) Here’s a big thank you to Adventure Cycling and my fearless tour leaders for making my “55 and Alive” tour part of my life history.
Cheers to 2018 and the Southern Tier! I look forward to meeting the Southern Tier group March 4 in San Diego. Let the next adventure begin.
Missed out on the first van-supported departure? Don’t worry, there’s a second Southern Tier guided tour leaving March 11 and a third self-contained departure in September. Don’t miss out — sign up today!
Photos courtesy of Kelly Hannegan (Dubay)