January 21, 2014
I took a call in the tours department recently from a woman inquiring about Adventure Cycling’s Northern Tier tour, an epic, three-month-long van-supported tour. Her questions resonated with me, because I asked all the same things of myself when I was planning a long distance journey by bicycle. Will it be hard? Too hard? Will I be fit enough by the start of the tour? Will I be comfortable sleeping on the ground, in a tent, in a sleeping bag? Can I handle riding in the rain/heat/cold/wind? If I sign up by myself will I be lonely? What if I’m the slowest in the group? Will I like the food, the people, the weather, the miles, will I like being inside my own head while riding so far, so long? These are all legitimate questions that most people ask when contemplating that type of tour.
The van-supported Northern Tier tour traverses 4400 miles over 87 days — three solid months of living with people who start out as total strangers, in physically and mentally challenging circumstances. This year the journey runs from east to west, from Bar Harbor Maine to Anacortes Washington. Sure, the Appalachian and Adirondack Mountains aren’t as tall as the Rockies, but there are wicked steep, short ascents and lots of them in the first few days of the trip. And yes, participants have the van to carry their camping and personal gear, but sometimes just powering your own self over those “bumps” is as much as you can manage. When accomplished, it’s a feat to own and to treasure forever.
I tried to reassure her while answering the questions that I could. I recommended gear that I like. I said she’d receive information about training in preparation for the tour. I told her that she’ll be able to meet her fellow travelers via Google Groups months before the journey starts and that the very capable leader will answer all her questions about food, terrain, gear, weather, group dynamics, cooking rotation, and all those practical matters that make such a long-distance venture successful and satisfying.
Then there were the harder questions that went unvoiced, the ones only she could answer — would she make friends? Would she find — or forge — the steel at the heart of what she’s made of? Our discussion touched lightly on these topics, but over the length of our talk I sensed her becoming more comfortable with the idea of the Northern Tier, more confident that she really did have what it takes. By the end of our conversation she was bubbling with the enthusiasm she’d had within herself all the time. I think she’ll sign up.
Top photo by Russ Roca | Bottom photo by Chris Guibert
ON THE ROAD is written by the tours team — Lydia, Darrah, Mike, Mandy, and Arlen — tours specialists and intrepid bicyclists, covering all things related to the Adventure Cycling tours department. Check out our 2014 Guided Tours today!