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Embrace the New Year with Wanderlust!

Whether, you choose foreign shores or a destination closer to home - embarking on a Grand Adventure is a fantastic way to indulge your curiosity, engage your senses and expand your horizons. And if you are uncertain where to start, let us provide some inspiration…

Cycling Adventures By Winona Bateman

In 1976 nearly 4,000 people crossed the United States by bike as part of the Bikecentennial ’76 event, a cross-country bike tour created as a celebration of the nation’s bicentennial. Bikecentennial ’76 was also the name of the fledgling organization that planned the epic adventure and galvanized young Americans (and some international participants) to “bike back into America” and experience the diverse people and cultures of this vast country. Now known Adventure Cycling Association, this national nonprofit organization—with over 43,000 members—is dedicated to inspiring people of all ages to travel by bicycle.

Adventure Cycling’s programs are diverse but its mainstays are its membership program, routes and mapping program—the organization has mapped more than 40,000 miles of cycling routes in North America—and its full slate of guided bike tours. According to Adventure Cycling Tours Director, Arlen Hall, “Many people who tour with us gain a new appreciation for the varied cultures in the U.S.; you will meet people who are generous and interested in what you’re doing and will experience stunning landscapes. It’s eye opening.”

In 2012, Adventure Cycling is offering 56 tours for adventure cyclists of all stripes. While most of Adventure Cycling’s tours cater to intermediate riders, you can choose from beginner-paced trips such as its Colorado Wildflowers & Rivers tour, or pick a much more challenging tour such as its popular Denali Adventure, an advanced trip that wends through beautiful, but remote, terrain as you travel from Anchorage, Alaska, to Denali National Park. Adventure Cycling also offers many weeklong, event-style tours that come with catered meals, a support vehicle, and options for indoor lodging.

What kind of adventurers sign up for Adventure Cycling’s tours? “Touring cyclists from around the world who want to experience the U.S. like they’ve never imagined,” offered Hall. Adventure Cycling’s Florida tours may take a day jaunt to watch alligators. The Southern Tier tours take a layover day in Austin, Texas, and New Orleans, Louisiana. Curious about America’s iconic Western landscapes? Try Cycle Montana, an event-style ride that explores the best of Big Sky Country. Love rough terrain? Check out the Great Divide Canada or Grand Canyon trips. Looking for a family tour with a scenic, cultural, or historic twist? Adventure Cycling is offering three next year: the C&O Canal family tour will explore Revolutionary War and Civil War history, the Katy Trail family trip will include a perspective on the American railroad, and the Colorado family tour will immerse you and your family in the summery splendor of the Rockies.

Since 1976, in the spirit and style of the Bikecentennial ’76 event, self-contained, cross-country bike trips have been Adventure Cycling’s specialty. They are not posh particularly but offered at affordable prices and packed with adventure. Hall described that “it’s not like bringing your home on tour; we leave that behind, providing an opportunity to experience the ride more intensely and encouraging you to explore.”

Adventure Cycling’s traditional self-contained tours have a single leader and around 14 participants who share cooking duties and camp for the vast majority of overnights (on longer tours, roughly 1 indoor night per 10 riding days is budgeted). In 2012 you can join Adventure Cycling on self-contained tours crossing the North American continent via the storied TransAmerica Trail (the organization’s very first cross-country route established in ‘76) or join the Southern Tier tour, the shortest continental crossing on their roster. There is also a great self-contained option for touring along the Atlantic Coast and along a route that parallels the Pacific Crest National Trail in the West, as Hall described, “Adventure Cycling’s most challenging trip this year — the new Sierra Cascades tour.” The Sierra Cascades tour will follow the organization’s newly mapped, 2,389-mile Sierra Cascades Bicycle Route and Hall promised, “that the elevation gain will test any cyclist’s mettle.”

Want to cross the U.S. but would rather not carry your gear? Check out Adventure Cycling’s van-supported tours on the TransAmerica, Southern Tier, or Northern Tier routes. They also offer a popular van-supported trip down the Pacific Coast.

“Crossing the continent by bicycle can be life-changing,” added Hall. “You come to the beach where you’re finishing and everyone has tears of joy and happiness as they dip their tires in the ocean and celebrate having ridden from one ocean to the next.” As one tour participant on this year’s Southern Tier said however, “It is not about the accomplishment; it is about the experiences.” The food, the other cyclists, the kind strangers that you may meet along the way. For example, Hall continued, “Every year on our Southern Tier tour, the historical society in Merryville, Louisiana, hosts an amazing southern dinner for our group where they talk about their community and their work at the historical society; in the morning, they send us off with a big southern breakfast! It’s incredible, and it’s just one small example of the generosity we experience on our tours.”


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