Tuesday, April 24, 2012

An Unedited Open Letter about the Southern Tier

Dear Peg,

I have done both the Southern Tier (2010) and Eastern Northern Tier (2011).  Each of these rides was unique, so it is difficult to compare. The friends, seeing parts of the country I have never been to, the laughing, sharing, and comradery!  I met Bev and Donna on the Northern Tier last year.  If I had to choose my favorite of the two, however, it would be Southern Tier!

WomanTours provides an amazing amount of support on all their rides.  We always felt safe.  We had a "sag" vehicle every 20 miles where we checked in.  That way we were always in contact by phone to someone close who was trained in first aid, CPR, as well as providing food, ice water and mechanical support for our bikes.  Some riders took advantage of a 20-mile "bump" or rode back with the SAG when they felt they were done for the day. It rarely happened, but it was a comfort to know the option is there, and no one cared if you did. 

We always knew what our route was going to be.  The cue sheets were easy to read and follow. What usually happens on any ride is you find two to four people who tend to ride at your same speed, so you never feel alone.  An all-woman bike tour is different than a mixed group because I think women are less competitive and more supportive of each other.

We kid around about the different hotels we stayed at, "from 5-Star to 0-Star!"  Actually most of them were very nice, and even the few 0-Star places had wonderful character.  Besides, we were there with our friends, and it was fun!  Our two-night stays each week were the nicest places with lots to do and nice accommodations.

The food - ah, the food!  It is amazing that you will eat as much as you do!  The Chefs on our rides not only came up with a different meal every day, (we had to beg for pasta about half way through S.Tier!), but there were some of us who had special needs.  (I am vegan, some were vegetarian, and some had gluten issues).  This was not a problem for our chefs!  Hot breakfasts, diverse lunch materials and snacks set out each day before we left, as well as great dinners.  There is even a wine option before dinner, happy hour every day!  My choice was juice, but who cared?  Exchanging stories of the day's experiences was fun!

My vote for the Southern Tier ride comes from the diversity of riding experiences, as well as the extra two weeks where we got to know each other better.  Our 2010 group has already done the Death Valley tour as a reunion tour last November, and there is another gathering being planned.

I loved the diversity of scenery on Southern Tier.  East of San Diego goes up in elevation, but whenever there are going to be hills, the miles go down for the day.  It is very carefully calculated, and WomanTours has done this many times.  Next is the California and Arizona desert which is mostly flat.  The ride through Scottsdale was lovely.  New Mexico starts upwards, and into the Southern Rockies.  (Don't let that scare you...it was one of my favorite, most beautiful part of the ride.)  Texas is actually 1/3 of the ride, going from the dry cactus country into green Texas Hill Country.  By the time you get to Hill Country, you are going to be ready for it physically.

Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida panhandle to the coast are all green, mostly flat, which allows you to do 80 to 90 miles/day with no problem.  After a 7 am start our group usually rolled in around 2:00 pm.  Others stopped longer at the SAG stops and for lunch, and the self-proclaimed "sweeps" came in around 3:30 - 4:00.  That's OK, too.  It is not a race.

We got to know each other with the roomie rotation.  We never knew who we were rooming with that night until we arrived at the hotel.

You will get into a routine - after all, all you have to do is get dressed, take your bags to the trailer, eat and ride! No grocery shopping, or taking care of anyone else...you don't even have to make your bed!

The finale in St. Augustine, FL had to be one of the most memorable!  We had police car escorts the last 7 miles into St. Augustine, lights and sirens, and a motorcycle officer stopping cross traffic as we rode two-by-two into town and across the bridge to the beach.  Many family and friends were there with signs and cheering along with the tourists who clapped and cheered for us. Check out my blog for the video on that part.

Personally, the last two weeks were the hardest because the end was near, and I did not want it to end!  I would get all emotional anytime I thought about it, and I am not a particularly emotional person!  I felt I could have turned around and ridden back to San Diego with no problem!

The eight weeks on this ride is life changing.  You are stepping out of your life for 8 weeks, starting a ride with 25 strangers and ending up with 25 new best friends!  You will feel the strongest you have ever felt in your life, physically, mentally and emotionally.

If you are interested in seeing my blog, there are many photos and descriptions of every day on the Southern Tier as well as the Northern Tier. Check it out when you have some time, for the photos if nothing else.  We were quite an eclectic group on both rides, but we all bonded just the same!

This may be a big financial and time commitment, but well worth the experience!  I cannot recommend it more highly.

I am glad you contacted me about the Southern Tier Ride with WomanTours.  I would love to talk to you about it.

Call anytime! 

Rita Rowe

1 comment:

marni said...

another ST veteran here. You said it all so beautifully .