Monday, September 5, 2011

A Touring Machine

I started planning our August tour in April. When the world was simple.

You see, I'd already told work that I was going to take two weeks of vacation in August for Paris-Brest-Paris. Then, when my messed-up hip decreed that any daily cycling distance over 200 miles was off-limits, I took it as an opportunity. Like my mama always said, "If life gives you lemons, they're probably rotten. You don't get nothin' for free in this world, kid."

OK, mom didn't really say that. If life gave my mom lemons, she would make a really good lemon meringue pie. That's why I was fat as a kid.

Anyway, back to the opportunity. Since I already had the green light from work for two weeks in late August, I decided that I'd better use them. So, RandoGirl and I immediately began planning a nice two-week cycling tour, working from two basis premises:

  1. We wanted it to be self-supported -- just us, carrying panniers with whatever we needed, staying at hotels so we didn't need camping gear.
  2. It needed to be in North America, so we didn't have to ship bikes overseas and lose any days running around airports.
Since we also wanted the weather to be bearable, we immediately hit on the perfect solution: Le Route Verte in the province of Quebec in Canada.

We first heard about this in a Bicycling Magazine article. Basically, it stands for the Green Route, and is a network of cycling-friendly roads, multi-use paths, and hotels perfect for the bike tourist. As the forecast temperatures for the area sounded ideal in late August, we started researching which parts of the Route we wanted to ride.

As we looked into airfare for us and our bikes, RandoGirl hit on another fun option. If we took Amtrak, we could drive to Atlanta and catch a train to New York City. We could then spend a couple of days there, and then catch another train to Montreal and begin our tour. A nine-day loop north and west would give us some great cycling and lovely country. We would then retrace our train route back to New York City and then Atlanta.

Doesn't that sound like fun? An overnight ride on a train, then a couple of days sight-seeing The Big Apple from bikes, and then a long bike tour in the country? Almost too good to be true.

Yeah. You got it.

The first hiccup came when I contacted Amtrak to get clarification on the bicycle-baggage policy. The neat thing about this policy is that, if there's room, you can bring your bicycle on board the train and stow it in the baggage car just like any other luggage ... except that they don't charge you anything for it! Really! When I first heard about this, I started planning all kind of fun touring trips involving trains to cool cities.

So, the bikes could easily get to New York City. How about Montreal?

Oh, no, sir. You can't take them to Montreal.

Because it's Canada, right? No worries -- we'll get off at the border and bike across to Montreal.

No, sir. There's no luggage service on that train.

So, we have to carry on our bikes?

No, you can't carry on bikes. Only bags that will fit in the overhead compartment.

Grrrr. So, now we're trying to figure a way to ship the bikes to Montreal, and forget about the New York City sight-seeing by bicycle stuff. Not a big deal ... just less cool than it would have been.

And that's when life got complicated. More on that in tomorrow's post.

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