No journey of 2,500 miles could be completed without encountering some challenges. You might think 2,500 miles was challenge enough, but it is inevitable that there will be more. You can read about some of the challenges we faced below. Stay tuned for a post about my favorite aspect of the tour – the people!
A Rigid Schedule
With any type of organized tour, you have a schedule. Every piece of the schedule depends on the others, so the schedule cannot be changed. (Can you imagine the havoc of changing one day, and then having to change 20, 30 or 40 more days of hotel reservations for 20 plus rooms?)
So one of the biggest challenges was the schedule itself. If the weather is hot, cold, raining, snowing, windy, whatever . . . you ride. If you really would like an additional day to rest . . . you ride.
Cycling in Bad Weather
Did I mention we rode regardless of the weather?
In North Carolina, we rode in the wind and drenching rains of Tropical Storm Ana.
On the day of our longest ride – 97 official miles – it was May, in the 90s and humid.
In Connecticut, we rode in the rain when the wind chills were in the 40s. I was chilled to the bone and almost couldn’t go on!
And days on end, we cycled into headwinds. Some soul sucking headwinds, some just damned annoyingly constant.
Cycling Bad Roads
On any cycling journey of 2,500 miles, trying to avoid the worst traffic, you inevitably cycle on bad roads. Some were humdingers! In the Delaware Water Gap, we cycled up a long steep hill, only to find an equally steep downhill, that was so full of holes, it could barely be considered paved. Everyone finished with tired hands from braking down that hill to keep from killing themselves!
Cycling the Hills
A few rollers crept into our ride in North Carolina. Virginia, with its rolling hills and horse farms, brought even more. Virginia also introduced the A–hills that we would face almost daily the remainder of the trip. Hills so steep, you wondered whether you would make it to the top . . . or simply topple over. By the second turn of your cranks, any momentum you gained on a preceding downhill was gone. Heart pounding, legs screaming, hardly able to breath. Coming into Freeport, Maine, there was a 7/10ths of a mile climb averaging a 14% grade. Every muscle fiber in my legs were on fire!
The A–hills were accompanied by lots of other kinds of hills. A 6/10ths of a mile 8-10% grade climb, followed by a slow and steady 3 plus mile climb, just in case the steeper hill didn’t satisfy your climbing needs!
Cycling in Traffic
It is also inevitable when cycling more than 2,500 miles through some of the most densely populated areas in the US that you will encounter traffic. And sometimes, lots of it. Two lane roads with no shoulder and fast moving big rigs, cars and trucks. Four and six lane roads, with and without shoulders. Annoyed drivers passing too close and moving fast. Loud tires and engines. The occasional jerk blowing their horn and yelling at you to get off the road. Nerve wracking!
The Deadly Combo
Facing any single one of the challenges was, well, not that challenging. But we often faced them in combination. Headwinds and bad roads. Rain and traffic. Rain and hills. Hills and bad roads. Hills, traffic and bad roads. The mental and physical energy expended grew exponentially with the number of challenging conditions we faced in combination.
The Hardest Thing to Face – No EFI
Late in the journey, after one of the days that I cycled in conditions that many others choose not to, someone asked if I was “EFI.” I had never heard the term and asked what EFI meant. “EFI” stands for “Every F#@!ing Inch” – as in cycling every inch of the trip. Anyone who knows me well knows the answer to the question. I am an EFI kind of girl.
But here I was, an EFI kind of girl who didn’t know the rules before she started the trip.
If you’ve kept up with my journey, you know that about ten days in, I managed to break two spokes in my rear wheel that sidelined me for about 20 miles here in Georgia. I moved heaven and earth to get the bike repaired (with Bob delivering alternate wheels in case a repair was not possible!). Because the missing 20 miles were in Georgia, I planned to come back for them. And to cycle additional miles on the trip to make up for them. Which I did, including the 1,600 foot climb up Cadillac Mountain for another 12 miles.
But apparently the rules of EFI are unforgiving. If you miss any miles on the route, you are NOT EFI. You can’t make them up with extra miles. There were also ten miles a group of us missed because of bad route directions – we were three miles past a turn that wasn’t properly shown on the route map, in the pouring rain. We faced the unhappy choice of cycling an additional six plus miles in the rain to go back to the turn, or continue on the road we were on and live with vastly more traffic. We choose shorter distance but more traffic. But apparently because the ride leaders gave us this choice, these missing miles don’t count against the EFI calculation.
So there you have it. I cycled the distance. More than 2,500 miles. I rode in heat, wind, rain and cold. I climbed brutal hill after brutal hill. And I made it Bar Harbor.
But I am not considered EFI.
I overcame all the other challenges. Now its time to overcome this one!