Scouting The Great American Roadtrip
Less than two months from now, TDA Global Cycling will run its inaugural Southern USA cycling tour – TDA’s Great American Roadtrip. In normal times we would run a scouting trip well before the tour is planned but, as we all know too well, these are not normal times. The trips are done to verify the choices we have made, to see if there are unexpected surprises that do not show up on maps, the internet or travel guides, to check on hotels, campsites and, most importantly, to find ways to improve the tours, to find hidden gems off the beaten track and get a sense of what the ride will be like. After all, TDA is known as the leading long distance cycling operator and that means that we strive to create adventures that are unique.
If you have already signed up for TDA’s Great American Road Trip, or as we now call it ‘GART’, you will know that we will be cycling over the Rockies. That means some great views, for which you will have to work hard, very hard, starting on the first day out of Santa Monica. I suggest that you begin that day riding slowly and enjoy the views as you cycle through Beverly Hills, past Rodeo Drive and out of greater Los Angeles. Soon enough you will be puffing hard, making your way to our first campsite.
On the subject of campsites, we will have three less than we originally planned for, as those will now be replaced by hotels. In these campsites as you can imagine, you will experience a whole cross section of styles and environments from desert types with limited water to luscious green and swampy parks with air-conditioned bathrooms, where there is an opportunity to canoe the bayou and maybe even catch a glimpse of an alligator. Those of you who know me understand that I have camped all over the world, but I will say that the bayou campsite must rank at the top of the list! Personally, I plan to be in camp early, so I can rent a canoe and paddle the swamps.
Talking about sites being on top of one’s list, if you decide that you are too tired on your rest day in Flagstaff and do not check out the Grand Canyon, do not despair. One day out of Flagstaff, as myself and my scouting colleague Andreas were checking the daily route, we spotted a dirt road and, on a hunch, decided to check it out. It turned out to be a spectacular dirt road with vistas of the Mogollon Rim that will leave you breathless, with the additional bonus of avoiding all motorized traffic.
Another stunning site to check out before risking a possible alien kidnaping in Roswell is White Sands National Park. The area is famous for a variety of reasons, including being the site of humankind’s first use of atomic power. White sand is visible from the road that you will be cycling, but it is better enjoyed if you choose to visit the White Sands National Park. The entrance is right on the road you will be cycling along. By the way, the park is completely surrounded by White Sands Missile Range so do watch out for nasty flying objects. Incidentally, the white sand which creates the spectacular dunes is not sand at all, but rather gypsum crystals left over from shallow sea that covered the area during Permian period.
I had never been to Texas before, so I must admit that when I thought of the state, many things came to mind, but never did I imagine a place such as the UNESCO biosphere reserve called the Big Thicket. Besides being a wonderful nature site where nine ecosystems converge, it also has a fascinating history, that begins with the indigenous peoples of the area, to the outlaws and Confederate deserters during the American Civil War. You may want to check out this video to whet your appetite for what is awaiting you if you choose to explore it.
After Texas comes Louisiana, the melting pot of Indigenous, African, Spanish, French, Acadian, Mexican and American cultures. Is it any wonder that this combination produces its signature cuisine and world renown music? It is for this and other attractions that we added a rest day in New Orleans, which will give riders the chance to explore and enjoy.
Continuing on, we come the beaches of the Gulf Coast. If the wind is on our side and, looking at the prevailing winds maps that could happen at times, the beaches and communities along the coast will be a joy to ride. And if the wind is not cooperating, the sites through which you will ride will raise your spirits. But when the winds do not cooperate you will have ‘Georgia on your mind’, the final state in our cycling odyssey.
And, as we slowly make our way to our final destination, charming Savannah, we will start reminiscing about the places we have seen, the food we have tasted, the animals that have crossed our paths, but most importantly, the people we have met, the warm welcome we have received, the stories and anecdotes we have accumulated. For if there is one thing that the Southern USA is known for, it is its people and their hospitality. It is no wonder that cycling through southern USA is the preferred route to cross the country from coast to coast.