I write this post sat in my hotel room at the Comfort Inn & Suites in Jacksonville, Florida waiting for the 12:00 shuttle to take me to the airport for my flight home to the UK via Atlanta, Georgia. My bags are packed and my bike carefully boxed, it’s very quiet and strange not to be preparing for another day on the road.
I headed down for breakfast shortly after 08:00 this morning just in time to say goodbye to Harry and Brian who were waiting for the shuttle bus to the airport. The America By Bicycle vans were gone so I guess the staff made an early start for their drive back to New Hampshire. There was none of the normal daily hustle and bustle of bikes arriving in the lobby and the general chit chat that has become so much part of the last three and a half weeks of tour. Jim joined me for breakfast – he is waiting for a friend to arrive later today before they head out tomorrow riding on to Fort Lauderdale? It felt a little bit like the night after a good party but without the hangover if you know what I mean.
Ride The East has been a new experience for me in the sense that it is the first time I have ridden with America By Bicycle. They are a fully supported bicycle touring organisation meaning that they transport your luggage from hotel to hotel each day, provide one or two SAG’s depending on the daily mileage and have a very competent mechanic who can deal with almost any eventuality that you may have on the road. All the food is covered aside from your lunchtime meal but the SAG’s are well stocked, so a quick stop at a gas station or Dairy Queen is all that is normally needed to supplement the calorie intake. Mike, Karen, Judy and Pam, the staff for our tour, were always very professional in whatever they did and they were all very highly focussed on keeping us safe on the road. Would I ride with America By Bicycle again – sure I would?
The ride itself was basically in two halves. The first part of tour was in the northern and central states of the east coast and involved quite a bit of daily climbing. The second half in the Carolina’s, Georgia and the tip of Florida were flat as a pancake and necessitated a different riding technique completely. Climbing can be tough but it also means that getting out of the saddle uses different muscles in your legs and provides respite for your butt. Riding the flats is good fun, much faster but sometimes you just crave for a hill to take the pressure off of your bottom and stretch your legs. The scenery in the north is more varied whilst in the south, the roads are long and straight and seem to go on for miles and miles.
The riders I rode with were a great group of people and being the only rider from across the pond, made me feel very welcome from the beginning. Most were about my age and retired or semi retired but there were a couple of younger ones amongst them. They came from all walks of life but we all had a common love for cycling and seeing the American countryside from the seat of a bicycle.
Having a puncture, sorry ‘flat’ is a part of daily life on tour. It can happen when you least expect it and can make a major difference to how your day goes. I had just two on tour, one was literally within walking distance of the evening hotel and the other was out in the countryside of North Carolina. Both I fixed unsupported although the latter I was glad of a CO2 canister from Michael rather than have to utilise my pump in the hot afternoon sun. Others had derailleur issues including two broken derailleur hangers, creaking bottom brackets and a few other minor issues. A couple required more serious repairs which required a trip to local bike shops along the way.
Riding the east meant that I was close to the homes of riders I rode cross country with and it was a bonus of this trip that several were able to join me for a few miles together on the road or to meet up for lunch or an evening meal. To each I say a big ‘thank you’, it was so great to see you again and rekindle our friendship and to ride together like old times. Many also followed this blog or Facebook and to you I also say ‘thank you’ for taking the time to read my blog and for offering many words of encouragement and support.
I guess that really is the end of another great ride. I hope you have enjoyed reading this blog and thank you for coming on this adventure with me. Some may be asking what my next adventure might be – well there is still the west coast trip that I would love to do and to close out this blog – “who knows, one day, that dream may also come true too”.
Many thanks, Ian (Living the Dream).