Saturday, May 16, 2015

Final preparation for three challenging tours

I am with Paul Wood, owner of Black Bear Adventures, on last year's Natchez Trace Parkway tour. He will be leading the first of my three momentous mountainous summer tours, which have nearly 200,000 feet of elevation gain. It scares me just thinking about it.

Tour One -- Continental Divide -- June 6 to June 25 -- 1378 miles, 60,600 ft elevation gain

This ride has been organized by the same group I rode with on the Natchez Trace Parkway last May, and will be similarly led by Paul Wood and his Black Bear Adventures team. Bob Long, of Pasadena, CA, heads up a group that loves cycling adventures all over the world, and he worked with Paul to create this epic tour. Bob, Paul and five others will be riding the full 35-day tour from El Paso, TX to Jasper National Park in Alberta. In all, 23 riders will participate in different segments of this ride. I was fortunate that Bob invited me.

I will be riding only half the tour, 18 days, from El Paso to Jackson Lake, WY. Why only half? Because when I was invited, I had already committed to another tour (See Tour Two below) which departs Cincinnati in early July. 

Tour Two -- Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway -- July 5 to July 12 -- 610 miles, 65,000 ft climbing

This is a Cincinnati Cycling Club-organized ride, with eight riders and two van drivers. Eight of us will squeeze into two vans and drive to Front Royal, VA at the northern end of Skyline Dr (the other two are from North Carolina). It will be fun and emotional for me to do the Blue Ridge Parkway again, after my "triumphant comeback" ride in 2008, which was the theme of my book, Head Over Wheels (Paul Wood and Black Bear Adventures led that ride, my first with him).

This time, the ride will include Skyline Drive, which is similar to the Blue Ridge Parkway. It stretches 105 miles north from the start of the BRP to Front Royal, which is 70 miles due west from Washington, D.C. We will ride south from Front Royal for seven days to the conclusion of the BRP near Cherokee, NC.

Part of the reason I decided to join this ride was to "force" me to have hilly training (since there are few serious hills here in Southwest Ohio) to prepare for the tour I registered for first, which is Tour Three and will likely be the most difficult. But now that I'm doing the Continental Divide first, I should be in good shape when this Tour Two begins.

Tour Three -- Pacific Crest  -- Aug 2 to Aug 13 -- 1238 miles, 72,800 ft of elevation gain

This ride will average 103 mi/day and 6066 ft/day of climbing. THAT will be quite a challenge, but I'm comforted somewhat by knowing that I will have the experience of the first two tours under my belt. This tour will be my first with the well-known PAC Tours, which I've heard about for years because of how tough their rides are, and therefore wanted to try one some day. To illustrate their reputation for being strenuous, their cross-country tour takes only 21 days, which is 160 mi/day average! I always thought my ride across the country in 2007 was fast at 32 days and 115 miles/day, which it WAS compared to the "usual" cross-country tours at about 56 days and approximately 80 mi/day. So I cannot imagine 160 miles average per day.

PAC Tours is headed by a husband/wife team of famous endurance cyclists who set numerous records in the 1980s. Lon Haldeman won the first two Races Across America in 83 and 84, and set many other incredible endurance records, as did Susan Notorangelo. Google their names if you want to be completely amazed at what the human body can endure.

The actual Pacific Crest Trail, made famous in last year's movie, Wild, starring Reese Witherspoon, about Cheryl Strayed's adventure on the hiking trail, runs 2663 miles from the Canadian border to the Mexican border. There is a road route that generally follows the hiking trail and crosses it 21 times on its entire length. Our bike ride will be from almost the Canadian border to Ashland, OR near the California border.

Here is a Wikipedia  entry about the Pacific Crest Trail Bike Route:

We will ride near and around many scenic Cascade Mountain peaks - Rainier, Hood, Sisters, Bachelor, Crater Lake, and others. Our tour will include riding up Mt Hood to stay overnight at the famous Timberline Lodge! That day will be only 52 miles but has 8000 feet of climbing. At that rate, we will be climbing almost all day long! On this ride will be Bill Phillippi, who rode across the country with me in 07.

I am hopeful that Katie, Jeremy, and Liam can drive about an hour into the mountains to visit on Aug 11 as I pass nearest to Eugene. That evening I am scheduled to visit with two HHS Class of 69 buddies, Thom Orth and Dan Jones, in Bend, OR. In Washington, I'll likely visit with Helen and Peter Falco as we pass near them on their camping trip with Helen's siblings. I stayed with Helen and Peter in Atlanta both before and following the Natchez Trace Parkway tour last May. At the end, in Seattle, I will visit with Geoff Swarts, who also rode across the country with me in 07.

I will be driving my car across the country for this ride. I will visit Clarkston, WA for four days, corresponding with Janet's flying there with Tyson to visit for a week. I will continue on to Everett, WA on Aug 1 to start the ride the next day. On the drive back across the country to Ohio, I will stop in Clarkston again to load up the car with items from Janet's parents that she and her son Aaron wish to have; her parents are trying to "downsize" their belongings in case they move to a smaller condo. 

With that as an introduction, I will continue training over the next few weeks and also ship my bike to El Paso on about May 30. What a biking summer this will be! I will miss Janet, though. I'm glad for the short intervals between the three tours to return home to be with my Soulmate.
(From our 2012 epic tour to Alaska)