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.