Thursday, August 8, 2013
The pizza party last night started out with a slide show of the whole tour set to music – very well done, a great mix of humorous moments, spectacular scenery, and stirring photos of the cyclists and 32 days of life on the road. Then after a break for cake and ice cream, Susan started handing out personalized plaques, including a few photo prints, for each cyclist. She had something to say about each and every one of us, as we came up to shake hands and hug her and Lon. She good-humoredly gave us grief about having the fattest tires ever on a PAC Tour. It’s pretty amazing how many miles some of these cyclists have ridden with them – one cyclist has done 9 transcontinental tours with them! There were several with over 10000 miles, which gets your name on their trailer, and quite a few with over 20000 miles, which gets you a street sign with your name attached to the trailer – e.g., John Lake has a John Lake Shore Drive street sign. John Lake actually has over 40000 miles with them, starting in the early 90s, both as a tour rider and as a crew member.
The final act of the evening was the auction of the tour map, signed by everyone on the tour:
The bidding started at $500 and rapidly escalated to a bidding war between the father/son teams of Mike & Caelen and Greg & Zach, with the final bid of $3000 coming from Mike and Caelen. The money will go to a charity that Lon works with in Ghana, Africa.
On an earlier blog we said we’d come back to the all important topic of saddles – what did folks sit on for more than 3000 miles. First, Lon and Susan both ride Brooks – no surprise. Among the rest of us, we saw a good number of Brooks, Sella Anatomicas, and Rivets in the leather category – perhaps half the bikes were wearing leather. The rest was pretty widely distributed – a couple Adamos, SMPs, and Terry’s and some dang minimalistic ones on the fast guys’ bikes….perhaps they were in the saddles much less than us! A pretty popular method of avoiding serious tush pain was to rotate saddles every night by having each saddle set up on its own seatpost. Lots of variation in the saddle department – each of us looking for that perfect perch!
Finally, I wanted to describe in detail a typical PAC Tour day. Breakfast was scheduled for 6, 6:30 or 7 am, depending on the length and difficulty of the day’s ride. We usually set our alarm for 1 hour before breakfast, and nibbled on raisins while getting dressed and partially packing up our gear. Every other day, we did two sets of 20 pushups and 20 bench dips to try to keep some upper body strength while doing all this riding! The bike racks were usually set up 10 minutes before breakfast, so we’d wheel the bike out, fill water bottles from the large jug of Heed, then wait for breakfast to start. Occasionally, the hotel’s breakfast was used, but usually PAC Tour provided breakfast outside at their red trailer. We had been asked to bring our own plastic bowls and cups, in order to reduce paper waste, and the tour provided colorful all-purpose plastic sporks. There was always a large vat of oatmeal with all the fixings – brown sugar, raisins, dried cranberries, walnuts, pecans, and almonds. There were even M&Ms for a few days after one of the ice cream socials. There was a selection of dry cereals with milk, chopped up bananas and strawberries and/or blueberries, yogurt, toasted bagels with your choice of cream cheese, peanut butter, and Nutella, and a variety of pastries. Orange juice and surprisingly good coffee were also supplied. That was the standard breakfast. Every few days, they would cook us something different along with all of that, like scrambled eggs and bacon or sausage or french toast. Seating took the form of 5 gallon plastic buckets with planks between them, set out in the parking lot by the trailer.
After breakfast, we turned in our sporks, took our bowls and cups back to the room to be washed, and finished packing up our gear bags and getting dressed for the ride. Breakfast was usually 30 minutes, and then another 30 minutes was allowed to load all the gear bags and depart. Typically, John and I were one of the last to depart, right at 10 minutes after the trailer was opened for loading the bags. We weren’t sure why everybody was in such a rush to get going, and always kind of felt like we were behind right from the start.
Rest stops were usually 20-30 miles apart, ~2 hours of riding, depending on the difficulty of the terrain. There were usually two rest stops in the morning, a lunch stop, and an afternoon rest stop. On the longest mileage days, there were two rest stops in the afternoon. The rest stops were well stocked with a variety of cookies (Fig Newtons – our favorite, oreos, nutter butters, chocolate chip, etc), granola bars, Hammer energy bars, Hammer gels, raisins, nuts, potato chips, beef and turkey jerky, crackers, candy, bananas, and a bin of fresh fruit that was different every day. Over the course of the tour, we had watermelon quite often, a yellow type of watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, grapes, cherries, pineapple, plums, apples. Sometimes there were Pop Tarts or Rice Krispie bars. There was cooler full of a wide variety of soda, a large jug of Heed or Gatorade, a large jug of ice water, containers of powdered Heed or Gatorade, electrolyte tablets, copious amounts of sunscreen and chamois cream, and a cooler of ice on the warmer days. There were a few chairs set out, but usually the riders just grabbed what the needed, chatted for a couple of minutes, and were on their way again. Canopies were set up for us if the weather was rainy. Mesh bags were available if riders wanted to get rid of a jacket or tights.
The lunch stop was usually at the 75-80 mile mark, which for us was usually somewhere around 12:30-1 pm. The 5-gallon buckets and planks were set out for seating again. Every lunch was different. Sandwich fixings were always available – deli meats, a variety of breads and wraps, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, olives, veggie plates, condiments like mustard, ketchup, guacamole. PB&J was always available as well. There were always a couple of different types of cold salads – potato salad, coleslaw, asian salads, broccoli salad – and a variety of chips. Maybe every other day, the crew cooked something hot for lunch. We had hot dogs and sausages several times, burgers and veggie burgers a couple of times, spaghetti, macaroni&cheese, soup, grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches, quesadillas, burritos, fajitas, sloppy joes. There was always the cooler of soda pop, and hot water on chilly days for making hot chocolate or tea. There were always a couple of different desserts as well, whatIever baked goods looked yummy at the local grocery store, I’d guess: carrot cake, chocolate cake, lemon cake, apple pie, cherry pie, coconut cream pie, brownies, Twinkies a couple of times. We were extremely well-fed – several riders said they thought they were gaining weight on the tour!
At the end of the day, the bike racks were set up in the parking lot of the hotel, and buckets of soapy water, pumps, and tools were available for any necessary bike repairs and cleaning. A board listed the room number for each rider, and the room keys were available in a box attached to the board. The gear bags were unloaded from the trailer and lined up in the parking lot, or inside the hotel if the weather was bad. A few snacks, soda, and water were available, and there were also a couple of coolers of beer for a nominal charge. The white board listed the nearby restaurants, the location of laundry facilities, the hotel’s wifi info, and the schedule for the next day. Underneath that was the map marked with our progress so far (see photo above).
When we finished the day’s ride, John and I would check the tires for glass or other problems, then he’d clean the bike or lube the chain, if needed, while I got us a couple of beers and took the gear bags to our room and got cleaned up. We’d have an energy bar while getting showered and dressed, and if it hadn’t been a really long day, John would usually wash our bike clothes in the sink (PAC Tour provided laundry detergent) while I downloaded photos and started working on the blog. When the laundry was done, we’d walk to a nearby restaurant for dinner. We used the hotel’s laundry facilities a few times, but usually there was a queue for a single washing machine by the time we finished. Then I’d try to finish the blog. Most days there wasn’t time for much more than that! We tried to make sure bills were being paid and answered a few emails here and there and watched a little TV while we were taking care of other chores, but usually by the time I finished the blog, it was time for bed.
Of course, in between the feeding, the blogging, and the sleeping, there was a whole lot of pedaling going on. We tended to be toward the back of the group, mostly riding around Bill & Jill, Joel & Shuli (during the first part of the tour), Ellery, Gerry, Jim, Neil, George, Stuart, and David and Phaik-Foon. We also saw quite a bit of Paul, Karen, and Sid and Karen. We chatted quite a bit with Kevin on a few different occasions, and Chris on one day when he wasn’t feeling very well. Greg and Zach were usually ahead of us, getting ready to leave a rest stop just as we arrived. We never really got to know the fastest riders – we’d see them briefly at breakfast and maybe at the end of the day, but that was it!
It was a great way to spend a month – an amazing group of cyclists to ride with and an equally amazing crew that took excellent care of us. It’s easy to see why they have a 75% return rate – we’re already starting to think about another tour with them (maybe not as long!) for next year. But for now, it’s time to take a short vacation from our bike to let our butts heal 😉