December 17, 2013
Looking through the Adventure Cycling 2014 Tours Catalog and reading the descriptions and itineraries as I sit here in snowy Missoula is exciting, reminding me that better weather is on its way, and that I’d better decide which tours I’d like to ride this season! I’ve settled on three that I can say might become my favorites. Let’s start with something relatively easy.
After a long, bike-less winter, the eight-day C&O Canal and Great Allegheny Passage self-contained tour is just what the doctor ordered. Even though we camp and carry our own gear and food, the slow, gradual grades over 350 miles of hard-packed dirt and crushed limestone give this ride a Beginner+ rating. Most days are in the 40-mile range. It comes as a complete surprise that, so close to the megalopolis of Washington, DC, we pedal through deep hardwood forests, along the wilder upper reaches of the Potomac River and past bucolic farm-scapes. But don’t think this ride is only about scenery. History is well-represented along our route. We have an opportunity to visit the National Mall and Harper’s Ferry and Antietam National Battlefields memorializing the Civil War battles fought so bitterly here. The C&O Canal and Great Allegheny Passage themselves are transportation routes from the early days of our nation. This is my favorite type of tour, combining both physical and mental stimulation.
My second pick for the cycling season would be the June start of the Great Lakes Inn-to-Inn tour, since it’s still a tad early for something epic and mountainous. This getaway, 11 days in duration but only 356 miles in length, runs through some of the most scenic parts of northern Michigan, along the shores of Lake Michigan, Superior, and Huron. Most nights we stay in small, charming, family-owned lodgings. Every night is indoors on this trip, with hot showers and restaurant meals making it a true vacation. Adding to that feeling of relaxation is the fact that most of our time is spent in relatively leisurely cycling, with two rest days and a further two days with distances of only 20 miles.
My last choice is appropriately scheduled at the end of a long cycling season. The epic, 1845 mile route of the Pacific Coast van-supported tour is not for the faint of heart. In late September we launch our expedition in Bellingham, Washington, take a quick jaunt up to the Canada/U.S. border and come to rest at the Mexican border 41 days later, arriving more muscular, relaxed, and sun-browned than when we began. Along the way we cruise beside great waterways, navigate some of the most exciting cities in America, and linger in charming and historic towns. From the lush temperate rainforests of Washington and Oregon, through ancient stands of soaring redwoods, along craggy, isolated beaches ringing with the cries of gulls and sea lions we pedal south into the arid and cactus-strewn landscapes of California. All of the epic tours that Adventure Cycling offers are rated as Advanced. It takes grit to ride for 41 days, over varied and often strenuous terrain, with the same 14 people day after day. In the end you will have forged friendships to last a lifetime, pushed your self-reliance to the limit, and come to a deeper understanding of what you are made of.
The itch I always get at this time of year is well-scratched by poring over the Adventure Cycling Association’s Tours Catalog, and after all, winter is the time for dreams and plans. Maybe I’ll see you along the trail this season. In the meantime, I’m wishing you tailwinds!
Post by Mandy Hale | Top photo by Todd Williamsiddle, middle photo by Susan H. Grant bottom photo by Mark Johnson
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!
Oh dear. Where to start?? Thanks for nothing Miz Mandy Hale! I want to do them all!
You, me and Sharry all three! Let's get planning, girls!
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When am I going to do a bike tour? Hmmm...