What makes a tour a win, or a fail? - CycleBlaze

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What makes a tour a win, or a fail?

Kelly Iniguez

I was recently emailing Wayne Estes about this topic. Determining the elusive qualities that make a top tour is difficult. Jacinto and I agree without hesitation that our border to border tour during COVID was our favorite tour ever. We rode from Mexico to Canada, through the Rockies, on paved roads. The variety of terrain was a big draw, there was an extra element of adversity, navigating COVID requirements (or lack thereof). I can list out the positives and a few negatives. It's hard to put my finger on.

Our most recent tour was of my own design, to celebrate my 60th birthday. Big Mountains, Small Towns - should have been a hit. We went back and revisited old favorites, plus added in new roads. There were many highlights and few low spots. But, it lacked the special something that would have made it a favorite. 

Can you put your finger on you favorite/least favorite tour? Can you say why?

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5 months ago
Graham SmithTo Kelly Iniguez

Kelly my favourite cycle tour was the 1989 tour from Istanbul Turkey to Bath England.  

Why favourite? At the conclusion of the tour, I asked my co-tourer to marry me. She said yes, and we are still married. 

Yesterday was our 33rd anniversary, and on Wednesday next week we are flying back to England for a short visit. No bikes this time. Just to visit one of our kids who is on a long working holiday in London. 

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5 months ago
Wayne EstesTo Kelly Iniguez

Kelly, the biggest difference that I perceive is that your favorite tour was mostly in unfamiliar places and your 60th birthday tour was in familiar places that you have seen many times before.

I strongly favor routes that I have never traveled before. It seems more interesting, more exciting, more fulfilling. Occasionally duplicating a previous route is also interesting, to see how things changed (or how I changed). But I generally try to design routes that are mostly new to me. My upcoming High Desert Rivers tour route is 90% new. It has 3 short segments that I pedaled previously. That's pretty good because I have done so many tours in the western US that it's nearly impossible to design a long route that is 100% new.

Last year in Utah I met a 71 year old roadie  who was pedaling from Salt Lake City to St. George for the 24th time. It's a decent route, but I want more variety.

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5 months ago
Gregory GarceauTo Kelly Iniguez

Perhaps I'm not experienced enough, or maybe I'm too easily pleased, but I've never experienced a failed bike tour.  No matter how non-exotic the scenery, no matter how mundane the route, no matter the weather, no matter how bad the food & accommodations are, well, they're all fun.  But I will say that my favorite tours have been the ones in which I see a lot of wildlife.  I'd rate my Seattle to  Minneapolis-St. Paul tour #1 in that regard.  On one single day I saw a deer with the biggest, most multi-pointed set of antlers I've ever seen, AND a mountain lion mom escorting her cub across the road not more than 40-yards in front of me.

Big bucks and mountain lions aren't all I care about though.  I also love seeing muskrats, geese, vultures, hawks, eagles, owls, moose, foxes, coyotes, prairie dogs, squirrels, pelicans, porcupines, armadillos, raccoons, marmots, bison, bunnies, turtles, lizards, bullfrogs, alligators, cicadas, etc.  The only wildlife I don't like are bugs that bite and sting.   

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5 months ago
Jeff LeeTo Kelly Iniguez

My least favorite tour is an easy choice: This one in the spring of 2021. I was waffling about whether to do the tour right up until a day or two before my wife drove me to the Georgia coast to start what was supposed to be a coast-to-coast trip.

I lasted eleven days, crossing Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. I woke up on the last morning, and knew I was finished. I quickly arranged to rent a U-Haul truck and immediately drove back home to Kentucky. I felt a combination of relief that I'd ended it, and sadness that maybe I "didn't have it" anymore.

I think a few things went wrong. The biggest problem was that I was so preoccupied with work stuff that I could never be relaxed enough to enjoy the riding. Also, it was the height of COVID, and I was worried about that. And frankly, I just didn't like the deep south that much, at least not on this tour.

It's the only bicycle tour I've ever done where I can barely remember anything about it without looking at the journal.

I've enjoyed every other tour I've done. I think the key is to be in the right frame of mind, and not start the trip with a lot of worries and unfinished business. And for me, I also need spontaneity and the chance to see new things. So I suppose that means my favorite tour was my biggest: Three months and 6,500 miles, after I'd quit my job and didn't know what I would do after I finished the tour, or how long I would be gone. If I hadn't met my future wife on the tour, who knows - maybe I'd have been one of those people who tour for years without stopping. I'd really gotten into the nomadic lifestyle for those three months. I was even enjoying camping. And I've never been so fit. I miss that.

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5 months ago
John PickettTo Kelly Iniguez

Interesting question. I have had two failed tours. My first which was short and comically inept. My second ended in me getting sick, having a sidewall blowout, in the rain, on the GAP in PA with no cell service, on a Sunday when any hope for help was nonexistent. (They are described in A Fistful of Advil.)

All my other tours were successful. My favorite was probably DC to Portland OR in 2018. I had recently recovered from pulmonary embolisms. No guts, no glory. 4,300 miles solo. No flats. 

I had some very challenging days. Scary no-brakes downhill in the rain in Iowa. A brutal 80 mile headwind (downhill no less) in Montana. Riding I-90 in Montana through 3 construction zones. 

They made the good days all the better. Five mountain passes in four days in Washington State through Northern Cascades NP. The Wright Brothers shop in Dayton OH. Meeting the man with the perfect beer gut in Indiana. Theodore Roosevelt NP which I didn't even know existed. Excellent craft beer in small towns. Met some really great people too.

Of course, there's always hope that my next tour will be even better. (DC to Bar Harbor to Erie PA to DC. Should be quite challenging.)

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5 months ago
Wayne EstesTo John Pickett

Despite the title, I think Kelly's question is not about success or failure.

I think her question is about what trips inspire fond and vivid memories, compared to other trips that you don't remember fondly or hardly even remember at all.

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5 months ago
John PickettTo Wayne Estes

In that case the thing that has had a lasting impression on me was what I call afterglow. Once I arrived in Astoria in 2018 after 4,200 miles alone, I felt an sense of calm I've never felt before. It was as if I had taken a wonderful drug that had no bad side effects. And I felt that way for weeks afterward. 

When I think about the ride itself I am reminded of my first marathon in the sense that little episodes both from the tour and the run randomly come to mind like scenes from a movie. An example: I'm riding late at night in the darkness in North Dakota, following the white circle cast in front of me by my headlight and suddenly there's a huge owl sitting in the road. It's looking right at me. Whoa. I'd been riding for over 120 miles since 9 in the morning. Was I hallucinating? Nope. 

But these scenes from the movie can't compare with that amazing sense of afterglow. My friend Anne rode Bikecentennial and described the same feeling, as did my friend Joe who rode from Chicago to San Francisco. And it's still there. In my head. Worth every rainy day, headwind, bug bite, or lung and leg burning climb. I wish I could bottle it.

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5 months ago
Leo WoodlandTo Kelly Iniguez

Favourite tours are elusive. We remember with amusement, now, the downpours, headwinds and misfortunes that, at the moment, were anything but amusing.

Who remembers so well the days that passed with gentle tailwinds and not the slightest hindrance?

Who, indeed, has fond memories of tours he may never have been on?

My friend, Geoff, has glorious memories of the week he spent exploring the Isle of Wight and the neighbouring mainland of southern England. He reminds Mike, with whom he spent that week, of the sites they saw, the cafés they were delighted to find, the people they met and the corners on which they mended flat tyres.

That tour was the best that Geoff has ever ridden and he'll never forget a moment, he says.

The only trouble is that Mike, with whom he shared this blissful period, has no recollection of it at all. So far as he's concerned, he has never ridden on the Isle of Wight. He can't disagree that it was a wonderful week, only whether he was there at the time.

Neither Geoff nor Mike is a fantasist, or old and doddery, or any more forgetful than the rest of us. Geoff says that if he'd ridden with someone else, he'd remember. You don't forget with whom you spent a week on your bike, he says. Mike says that he wouldn't have forgotten that either but, he says, he never spent a week with Geoff on the Isle of Wight or anywhere else.

One says he was there and had a good time and the other insists that he wasn't and didn't.

A memorable tour, therefore, or one quickly forgotten?

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5 months ago
marilyn swettTo Kelly Iniguez

After nearly 20 years of touring, I can't say that we have ever had a "failed" tour. We've enjoyed each and every one, although most every one has had days of challenges from difficult routing,  weather, mechanical problems, health issues etc. 

I think one of my favorite ones was the Southern Tier. It had such a varied terrain and surroundings as we traveled from state to state from west to east. Our Louis and Clark tour was a highlight as we were able to bike all of the way home from Portland. I had a copy of their journal on my Kindle and it was so interesting to read it each day as many of their experiences matched ours. So history is a big draw for us on tours. Our tour that eventually took us to the east coast and north was also interesting and a favorite one. We have fond memories of each tour!

Cycling around Lake Michigan was a shorter tour but we also enjoyed that. From camping next to that huge body of water to taking the ferry across the lake at the end. 

We've had a few disappointing tours where we had to end them due mostly to conditions beyond our control like wildfire smoke in Wyoming and Colorado to high heat and humidity in Ohio. On both of those we decide to rent a truck to get us home. 

But in the past few years, our mode of travel/vacation totally changed when we purchased an Airstream travel trailer and Covid initially stopped our tours. We really embraced and love the RV lifestyle, meeting others of the Airstream "clan" and traveling the countryside. Our cycling as we've done mostly day rides where we camp, although we did manage to do a 3 day "tour" last year in Delaware. 

We have hopes of doing some touring in the future but they will now be credit card tours, we've sold our camping gear, and they will be shorter - maybe a few days to 2 weeks if we can find spots of safely park our truck and trailer while we bike. It's unlikely that we'll ever tour in Europe or do anymore 2-3 month tours in the US. It's sad but a fact of life, I guess. We're also fast approaching the big 70! and doing long hard tours just don't appeal to us. 

Since we invested so much money into the trailer we also want to use it to travel rather than just bike. We also have many opportunities to join Airstream caravans (Alaska anyone?!) and regional rallies. So there is lots of fun in our lives ahead as we continue to bike and dance our way across the country!

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5 months ago