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.


Day 49: Burlington to Revere Beach, MA

17 miles, 482 feet climbed

Today, our goal was to arrive at the beach as a group. We were to regroup at a Dunkin Donuts shop three miles from the end. From there, we would have an escort to the beach. Instead we road as a group the whole way, taking up the lane in many places and forcing those at the rear to enter many intersections after the light had turned red. It was rude, arrogant, and violated basic bike safety principles. I resented being encouraged to be a cyclist jerk (insert your own stronger words).

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Day 48: Brattleboro, VT to Burlington, MA

90 miles, 5341 feet climbed

After yesterday’s chilly weather, today was more moderate. There was a patch near Burlington where rain preceded us, leaving wet pavement in the shaded areas but that was all. The elevation gains came from many small climbs, spread throughout the day. I was hurrying to make sure I had time to pick up my rental car before the Avis office closed at 5. I made it to the hotel by 3 pm, showered and made it with plenty of time to spare.

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Day 46: Utica to Troy, NY

100 miles, 2188 feet climbed

Today being another long day, with the potential for rain, I didn’t plan on taking many photos. The rains stayed away until dinner time and were light even then. Much of the scenery was familiar from the 2019 ABB North ride. We’re following the same basic track, though with some differences in the specific streets. For example, right after Little Falls, ABB switched to the south side of the Mohawk River while Crossroads kept us on NY Hwy 5 until Schenectady. ABB’s approach put us on the Mohawk Hudson Bike Trail earlier than Crossroads’.

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Day 45: Syracuse to Utica, NY

58 miles, 1119 feet climbed

We postponed our departures from 7:15/7:30 to 9:00/9:15 due to the short distance. To our surprise as well as staff’s tonight’s hotel manager announced that he only had 11 of the 31 rooms we’d reserved. He did arrange for the rest at a hotel .7 miles away. I was one of the riders so relocated. Most, if not all, of the staff was assigned rooms in the original hotel. I suppose that is necessary logistically but it does complicate things for the rest of us. We needed to be shuttled back to the original hotel for dinner. And in the morning we have to have our luggage packed and out for pickup by 6:15 am, an hour later. Then we ride our bikes to the original hotel for breakfast and sit around for departure at 7:15/7:30.

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Day 43: Buffalo to Victor, NY

79 miles, 3264 feet climbed

The weather has turned colder again. Low to mid 50’s to start, getting up only to the mid 60’s. And fairly strong winds, mostly coming as crosswinds. Thermal arm warmers and legging were in order, along with a wind vest. Today we had more rollers, with the longest climb less than half a mile long. It was best to keep moving to generate heat and I took fewer photos as a result. Getting out my camera involved unzipping my vest to access by jersey pocket, which let out a bunch of heat and let in the cold winds.

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Day 42: Erie, PA to Buffalo, NY

91 miles, 2310 feet climbed

Today the winds were going to help us much of the day until we turned directly north coming into Buffalo, when they turned into pretty strong crosswinds. The road surfaces were among the better ones we’ve encountered. Another SAG at an ice cream place. I partook of some very good cherry product. Later, a few miles from our hotel, I had my first Boston Cream doughnut from Tim Horton’s, likely not the last.

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