Day 7 — Florence to Bandon, OR

81.1 miles, 4026 feet climbed

Today my goal was to make sure I visited the Bandon Dunes golf courses, one of the top golf complexes in the US. I thought it might be a bit off course but it was not. I was rewarded for my initiative by a flat tire on the access road. I spent most of the day riding with Lou(ise) and John, who didn’t stop for photos and thus my two shots are from the courses, now 4 in number.

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Day 5 — Tillamook to Lincoln City, OR

48.2 miles, 3094 feet climbed

I’m writing this on Day 14. Why so behind with postings? Several factors, chief among them flaky WiFi at many of the hotels along the way. We don’t start riding as early in the day as I’m used to on other tours, which means arriving later in the afternoon. For the most part I’ve been going out to dinner with other riders and not at fast food joints, taking more time from blogging. And the one beer I generally have with them puts me in a sleepy state. So, be patient and express no surprise if it is a week or more after the tour ends before you have a complete set of 25 days plus an epilogue.

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Day 4 — Long Beach, WA to Tillamook, OR

87 miles, 4450 feet climbed

Today we crossed the Columbia River into Oregon, familiar to me as the starting point for America by Bicycle’s America North ride, which I’ve done twice, in 2004 and 2019. After leaving Astoria, we rode through the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park and then over to the coast at Seaside. Near the end of the day, we passed the Tillamook Creamery, just north of its namesake.

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Day 3 — Westport to Long Beach, WA

79.8 miles, 2529 feet climbed

Today was a bit of a slog, with headwinds from the southwest for the second half of the ride. I’m not sure how I did it, but about a mile before Raymond, I managed to twist my chain such that it wouldn’t go through the rear derailleur without turning sideways and the chain would flip between adjacent gears on the cassette. Dominick was about a mile away where most of the riders had stopped at the coffee shop next to the Northwest Carriage Museum. He picked me up and we changed to my spare chain at the coffee shop rather than the side of the road.

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Day 2–Shelton to Westport, WA

67.9 miles, 2341 feet climbed

Looking again at the elevation profile, it is difficult to see where the 2341 feet of climbing came from. But that’s what my Wahoo bike computer tallied and I’m sticking with that story. Our motel was over half a mile to the nearest eatery and 2 miles to the downtown core. No Uber or Lyft drivers. The support vehicle, while emptied of luggage, still was full of bike bags and boxes. Bob and I ordered pizza and salads, which the very accommodating front desk lady (and perhaps the owner too) offered to pick up for us.

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Day 0 — Another Cycling Adventure Begins

August 26, 2023, 0 miles, 0 feet climbed

Tomorrow my newest bike ride–from Seattle, Washington, to the Mexican border, begins. I tried to ride America by Bicycle’s version in 2021 but it was cancelled due to insufficient interest. Interestingly it was not due to COVID, from which we were just beginning to recover, though that might explain the lack of interest. The route, supported by Bike Adventures, a British company, adds to the front by beginning in Seattle instead of Astoria, Oregon, and to the end by going all the way to the border south of San Diego instead of stopping in Costa Mesa, California.

We have 17 riders, hailing mostly from the UK excepting 1 Canadian and 5 from the US, plus two guides–Dom and Steve. Bob Mountz, whom I’ve ridden with on my last two rides–ABB North in 2019 and Crossroads in 2022–is one of us yanks.

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Finally, a year later, here are my thoughts and recommendations. First, here’s a compilation of our individual days’ routes, courtesy of Ben:

Getting home from Boston went fine. I had a chance to have dinner with Joe Howard from the 2018 ABB East (he rode the first half) and 2019 North rides. We’d been correponding about his decision to get a Seven Cycles bike for himself and he brought it in his car to show me. It looked quite nice.

Getting to Logan airport was an adventure. If I had to drive around Boston every day I think I’d move. There are no easy places to gas up a rental car when coming from the west through downtown. So I returned the car with less fuel than I started with and incurred the extravagent refueling charges. The direct flight to Sacramento on Jet Blue went fine though we were delayed nearly an hour waiting for a mechanic to look at what turned out to be a faulty warning indicator in the cockpit.

Some of you may be waiting to hear my thoughts about the route we took and Crossroads as a tour provider. The bottom line is that I would not ride this route again no matter the provider. As this is the only route that Crossroads rides, I won’t be riding with them again and probably would not choose them for a different route.

There were places where there was no choice but to ride on the Interstates or major Federal Highways. This is true for the stretch from Indio to Blythe and much of the route until Kansas. But my impression is that Crossroads hasn’t put in the work to find alternatives for some of the Federal Highways we rode in Kansas and beyond. A straight line between towns seems to have a higher priority. The interstates, except for the constant noise from trucks and cars, shoulder debris and those pesky tiny wires that caused so many flats and slow leaks, had wide shoulders. Many of the Federal Highways, however, while having fewer trucks, often had narrow shoulders made even more narrow by a rumble strip in the middle.

My point is that the romance of riding the west and taking in the scenery is siginificantly diminished by the need to keep one’s eye on the pavement ahead to look out for debris or irregularities and to steer narrow strips between rumble strips and the pavement’s edge. I wanted to ride this route and pestered ABB to put it on their schedule at the same pace as the North. Having ridden it, I’m over that urge. If you want to ride across this great land, I recommend the ABB North route over this one. Of those on the ride who have ridden both, not one disagreed with me. I’ve not ridden the ABB Challenge route, which starts in San Francisco and pretty much mirrors the Crossroads route after Dodge City, Kansas. It likely has a lot of interstate riding in Nevada and Utah leading into Salt Lake City.

This comparison of routes may be academic, however, as in the aftermath of the death of ABB’s founder has ended ABB. I’ve been in contact with a lady who is said to be taking over ABB’s assets; we’ll see what comes of that. While the routes would likely remain the same, the level of service that a new owner would provide is uncertain. Take that into account as you read the following comparision between the old ABB, whom I’ve toured with on 4 occasions beginning in 2004, and Crossroads.

ABB provided a wider variety of snacks at SAG stops. Crossroads’ SAGs were fewer and further apart with a less extensive and constantly varying selection, seemeing more intent on surpising us each day. Most cyclists settle on a selection of snacks (for me that would be fig bars and raisens) and would like to see them every day. I told most of the staff early in the trips that raisens were my jam but only saw them in the SAG selection 2 or 3 times, the first being halfway into the trip. Before that, I ended up purchasing my own raisen snack boxes at grocery stores. Some repeat riders said that this year’s SAG spread was actually more extensive than in past years; they have a ways more to go.

Crossroads owners and staff were all on the road with us. ABB’s founder and at least one other staffer were back at headquarters, backing up the on the road staff. I think they would have pre-checked the road conditions from the top of Hogback Mountain into Brattleboro and noticed that it was impassable in time to reroute us around the blockage and saved us the delay at the top while staff figured out a backtracking reroute.

Maybe the best indicator is that the phrase “it is what it is” was used so often that it became a running joke.

Your mileage may vary, as they say.