Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Here Come the Complications

In yesterday's post, I started to tell you about our bicycle tour on Le Route Verte in Canada ... or, at least, the plans for our bicycle tour on Le Route Verte. Because, you see, we didn't get to do that tour.

After Amtrak derailed our bike-shipping plan (Did you notice what I did there with that pun? Am I a witty writer or what?), we had just begun looking into other options when RandoGirl went on a job interview. Actually, it was a second set of interviews, and it was for a job that we weren't sure that she really wanted. But the folks she was talking with totally nailed the second set of interviews, and suddenly we would be moving to Naples, Florida.

Now, I love Tennessee, and I really love all of my cycling friends here in Tennessee. This is a great state, with some wonderful roads and beautiful places. But, it gets cold here during the winter. So cold that roads freeze and there are sheets of ice that make me fall down and go BOOOM when I bike over them. And, yes, Florida gets hot in the summer and it's flat, and there are a bunch of old people there. But, when we visited Naples for the interview, I saw people riding bicycles everywhere. There were bike lanes and multi-use trails all over the city, and they actually go places. Riding a bike there you feel like you may even have some rights to the road. And, of course, there's an ocean down there that is literally perfect for my second-most favorite form of transportation: sailing.

So, yeah, there are things about moving that sucks ... but the good parts easily outweigh the bad ones. Our Tennessee friends will come down to see us (probably during January or February when it's frozen in Nashville), and we will come back to visit them and join them on some of our favorite rides. The bottom line is just that we had always planned to retire in Florida, and this will make that process much simpler when we're ready to stop working in a few years.

Anyway, that's the complication that kept us from doing Canada. Between getting our house in Tennessee ready to sell and finding another house in Florida, being out of pocket in the wilds of Quebec was no longer an option.

However, we knew that we still needed a bike trip this year. RandoGirl had cleared the two weeks with her new employers, who knew that she would need the break (not to mention the time for moving). So we began looking for a shorter, organized tour, only to find that the few domestic ones we could find that would fit our timeline were already booked. I pulled out an old route that I had begun putting together on the coast of Oregon when we finished our Natchez Trace tour in 2009, but that seemed a little complicated, too.

Then, just over a week before the vacation was set to begin, RandoGirl and I both hit upon the perfect solution: The Blue Ridge Parkway.

Like the Trace, the Parkway is run by the National Park Service, with beautiful scenery and a back-to-nature approach that keeps away stores and billboard signs. Also like the Trace, it has a strict speed limit and commercial traffic is forbidden, making it ideal for the touring bicyclist. Or so we thought ...

I quickly plotted out a route that ensured we had decent hotels every night, limiting our daily distance to 50 miles or less. Although we had three straight days of 90-plus miles on the Natchez Trace, I knew that the climbing on the Blue Ridge Parkway would be rough. The first two days were only 25 miles each, with three days of 50 miles each afterwards. The last day I planned for us to ride 100 miles back to our starting location, but as the elevation profile had a lot of descending on this day, I thought it would be a breeze.

That was the plan. Tomorrow, I'll tell you what really happened.

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