October 17, 2011
A great life changing experience can be had on a cross-country expedition. Whether it is east to west or north to south, an epic adventure will help put everything into perspective. It has happened to me on each of my four cross-country adventures: Southern Tier, TransAm (twice) and a modified Lewis & Clark-Northern Tier. How life-changing? I was a software consultant ... now I organize bike tours for Adventure Cycling. Maybe the Pacific Coast, Atlantic Coast or Sierra Cascades will provide that experience for you!
Some of my most memorable life experiences were created when I cycled cross-country with my son Brandon (twice, when he was 13 and 17), and on shorter trips with my son Chris. Sharing arduous adventures while exploring diverse landscapes and cultures with my children helped bond us together as a family, and instilled a deep desire to share those experiences again. Our family-oriented tours on the KATY Trail in Missouri, the C&O Trail in Maryland, and our family ride in Colorado are excellent opportunities for you to begin to have similar experiences with your children, grandchildren, nieces, and/or nephews (leaving the arduous behind).
When my friends describe my riding style, they say something like: "No matter how many miles he rides, 10 or 90, Arlen takes the entire day to do them. Never expect him in before 5 pm, and always expect a story when he arrives in camp." Sometimes I meander down the road, but typically I find quaint, out-of-the-way diners, wineries, pubs, and other hidden treasures to while away the hours. Why not explore the many wineries on the Wine & Harvest or Finger Lakes Loop (self-contained) tour? Mileages are modest, with ample time to enjoy the local harvests. Or maybe you share a passion for pies? I am forever in search of the best coconut cream pie in North America, and have found ample samples at Weaver's on the C&O Canal and Pie-in-the-Sky on the Sierra Cascades, and I've heard about great places where I haven't yet been, in places like Sandpoint, Idaho, and near my newly adopted hometown of Missoula, Montana.
Thinking of dabbling in the world of self-contained touring, with or without camping? Our new East Coast offerings on the Outer Banks of North Carolina and Cape Cod, Massachusetts, are great ways to try it out. Both tours offer lower mileages, flatter terrain, and a chance to really dive into group self-sufficiency on the road. I lived in Massachusetts for the past 24 years before moving to Missoula, and spent many a spring and fall riding the roads of southeastern Massachusetts and around the dunes of Martha's Vineyard and Cape Cod. You will LOVE the sandy beaches, lighthouses, rail trails, and comfy New England aura. Even the Outer Banks are connected to my past: I was born in Dayton, Ohio, home to the Orville and Wilbur Wright Bicycle Shop (Kitty Hawk, NC, the birthplace of aviation, being the Wright Brothers connection).
My favorite, all-time, over-the-top inspirational place to experience by bicycle has to be Bryce Canyon, with the hoodoos carved out of the colorful Paunsaugunt Plateau. Bryce typifies the power that nature has over us and our surroundings. Adventure Cycling offers this stunning panorama with the Red Rock Ramble (Inn-to-Inn) and Cycle Utah (fully-supported) tours. Other memorable locales for me have been the Black Hills of South Dakota, Zion National Park, and the Columbia River Gorge. I know that I am looking forward to creating extra special memories in the near future in other locales like the Grand Canyon, Denali National Park in Alaska, Death Valley, and Glacier & Waterton Lakes National Parks.
I have met my closest friends cycling. Whether it is out on the road on a tour with a group, along the lonely road of a solo tour, in search of my heritage in the deep South, or with a group of teens on a charity ride, touring by bicycle has opened my eyes to the world around, allowing people to touch me deeply and me to connect with them in ways that I could not have imagined. It takes me out of my element and sometimes my comfort zone. Cycling helps me create memories of a lifetime.
I could spend the rest of the day, and the week, sharing cycling memories, but I will leave the rest to you. Adventure Cycling is offering many other tours that will allow you to create your own memories of a lifetime. Check out the complete tour offerings at adventurecycling.org/tours. Start dreaming!
Photos by Arlen Hall