One of the greatest pleasures of long-distance cycling is the opportunity of making friends along the road.
Almost 12 months ago to the day, I arrived in Bluff, New Zealand, the most southerly point of the country’s mainland. A few days behind me, covering the same ‘End-to-End’ route, was Steve Wesson, a director of Bike Adventures,
not only fulfilling a personal ambition, but also doing a ‘reccie’ of the country for a future organized tour. Up to that point, we had been following each other’s progress via our respective blogs.
We met as I alighted from the ferry coming back from Stewart Island, and we shared a ride together back to Invercargill, from where I caught a flight to Sydney and Steve prepared for his trip back to the UK.
Steve has recently returned from leading that planned tour of New Zealand, driving a support vehicle for his group as they enjoyed 4 weeks of near care-free cycling. Nothing of the simple, basic life of tent-camping here. They had their hotel/B&B accommodation waiting for them at the end of each day, to be rested, fed and watered in preparation for the next day’s adventures.
Steve and I arranged to meet up the other day, deciding that a halfway point between our respective homes, with a suitable pub for lunch (Great Chesterford in Essex) would give us both a good 80 mile ride. Steve was interested in my recent trip to Florida, not only because he is going there himself next week, with a few cycling buddies, to put in some personal mileage, but he is also planning an organized group trip in the near future.
And of course, the conversation over lunch was inevitably about all things cycling: from GPS technology to paper maps, from weather conditions to cycling terrain, from the cost of ferry crossings to the cost of motel rooms. These are some of the minutiae that a tour organizer must have at his finger tips for the group’s organization to be smooth and seamless. It forcefully reminded me of the dozens of foreign school trips I had organized as a teacher to far-distant countries. I loved doing them at the time and, strangely, I enjoyed grappling with the details of health & safety, risk assessments, route planning and transport, visas and passports……but all that now is a distant memory.
My principal concerns these days, when I’m on a solo tour, is the organization of one ticket, one entry permit, one bicycle and one tent……. so much easier. But the big downside of all this is, of course, when things go wrong, I can’t turn to a tour operator and seek compensation. In other words, the buck stops with me.