A painting depicting the fall of Icarus from the sky.After the Natchez Trace Bicycle Tour, I made a vow to try and do two short bicycle tours a year. I didn’t have any clear idea of when or where when I made this vow, but I enjoyed being out on the open road so much that I just knew I had to get back out there as soon as possible. My thought was that I would do one bicycle tour in the Spring and one in the Fall. Money, time and energy permitting, I would try and do an extra tour in the Summer if possible. However much like Icarus, I have soared too high on my dreams of cycling and I’ve been dashed upon the rocks of reality – I’ll be lucky if I can get one tour in this year. 🙁

The first tour I had hoped to make was up to Milwaukee Wisconsin to visit my good friend Mike Rohde during the month of June. He and I planned on doing an extended weekend about like I had done for the Natchez Trace last year. I would fly into Chicago, he’d pick me up and then for the next 4 days, he and I would ride a large loop around his house. If we ran out of time, his wife could rescue us. 🙂 We had the rough outline all planned out, but as is typical in this day and age, we simply didn’t have the time to make it happen. It was nobody’s fault, we just couldn’t get it scheduled.

With my spring tour cancelled, I set my sights on where I would try and go in the fall. “Ok, so I can’t make two tours this year, I can still make one”, I thought to myself. Ideally, I would get a bunch of friends together and we’d all go riding, but I didn’t limit myself to that ideal. I’m just as happy going solo, so I thought about where I could ride close to home.

While standing in my local REI store, I eyed a Hatch Show Print poster hanging on the wall in the bicycle section. It was for a ride called the Bicycle Ride Across Tennessee (BRAT). My interest was instantly piqued and when I got home, I looked it up on the web to learn more about this ride.

Bicycle Ride Across Tennessee
The first thing I noticed was that the name was a little misleading. BRAT consists of a 375 mile loop and is not a true ride across Tennessee. Of course that is probably for the best because I don’t know that I could afford the time it would take to truly ride across Tennessee. 🙂 The route starts in Gallatin, TN and makes it’s way south to Rock Island and then loops around back up to Gallatin. According to the FAQ, the daily average is 50 miles, which isn’t bad and there’s even a one day century that’s available for those looking to put in more miles, or just see if they can complete a century.

All-in-all it sounds like a good week. The only thing that has me a little concerned is the fact that it’s fully supported. Some of you may laugh at the idea of not wanting a support vehicle carry your stuff, but I like fully-loaded touring. Will I look like a weirdo by not taking advantage of the SAG vehicle? Will I not be able to keep up with everyone else because of it? Will I even like riding with such a large group? Given that this will probably be the only tour I get in this year, making this decision means weighing all the options.

It’s not as if BRAT is a pleasure cruise, but with hotels, food, and even daily Internet access being provided, it’s about as close as you can get while being on a bicycle. I tend to shun creature comforts while on a bicycle tour, so I’m a little bit leery of signing up for BRAT. I thought about just striking out on my own and make my own route, but how do I know if I like it, if I don’t at least try it? So I convinced myself to take the week off and ride in the 2004 BRAT.

A Wrench In The Spokes
Once I made the decision to go, I next had to make sure it would fit my schedule. That’s when a wrench was thrown in the spokes – I couldn’t do the full week. I have a family obligation in Florida during the later part of the ride, so I can’t take the whole week. I tend to be an all-or-nothing type of person, so this presented a serious problem.

I discussed the issue with Holly and thankfully she was very understanding and even gave me the option of not having to go to Florida. As much as I love riding, I love our family even more, so that wasn’t an option to me. Although I did appreciate the fact that Holly was so understanding. Instead we discussed the possibility of riding as much as I could and having her pick me up on the way. You have to remember that one hour by car is typically one day by bicycle, so it’s not like we’re going to be that far away from our home. So we discussed the logistics and it looks as if this may work. I’ll ride Sunday through Wednesday and then on Thursday Holly will pick me up and we’ll head down to Florida.

Having my bicycle in Florida might be kind of nice, but I’ve ridden in Florida before, and it sucks. There’s simply no roads other than busy highways and the distances are so far apart that it really doesn’t make for a nice ride. Besides, I grew up going to Florida so there’s very little that’s new to me. In other words, I’m covering ground I know fairly well and there’s really no place to ride to that offers anything really new. Florida is great for sitting on the beach, but riding is a different story.

Still In A Bit Of A Quandary
At this point it looks good that I can still do a four day ride in BRAT, which is better than nothing, or…

I can opt to do something on my own. I could always plot my own course running south towards Florida to see just how far I could get before Holly catches me and that would give me a 5th day of riding as well, so that’s pretty tempting. It’s kind of exciting to wonder just how far I could get. Could I make it all the way to Florida? Or…

I could postpone the ride in September and plan on another tour in November. Maybe I could ride out my door and up into Kentucky, having Holly meet me up there on the weekend to pick me up. I went Southwest last November, maybe this November I go Northeast? Or…

There’s plenty of one day rides around Tennessee that I could focus on. Instead of trying to secure a week in which to ride, I could do a weekend here or there. Between now and winter, there are 5 rides that I could take including:

  1. Scenic Middle Tennessee Natchez Trace Tour
  2. HOT 100 Century
  3. Clarksville Sunrise Rotary Labor Day Classic
  4. Sequatchie Valley Century
  5. Bagels and Bluegrass Ride Across Southwest Tennessee

Most of these rides only cost $25 and could be quite challenging. On the down side, all of these rides are centuries so there’s going to be a larger percentage of Freds, who turn their noses up at anyone not decked out in racing garb. Not that I have anything against people who race bicycles, personally I’d love to have a “go fast” bike, but as it currently stands, I’m a freak in these circles and life’s too short. Or….

I could do a combination of all the above. 🙂 If I postpone the ride, then there’s a better than 50% chance that I may not be able to take part in any tour this year. They say that goals are dreams with a deadline and although it may sound corney, it’s true. Without a deadline, I can see work, or my personal life filling all the time alloted and there will be nothing left in which to schedule a bicycle tour. So as it stands right now, I think I’ll sign up for as much of the BRAT as I can and I’ll try a century or two for good measure.

In The Meantime
In the meantime I’m still getting in a lot of good riding. When I look at my numbers on BikeJournal.com, I’m currently ranked at 804 out of 1350, with a total of 427 miles ridden year-to-date and I’m only 7 miles from last year’s total.

This year so far hasn’t shaped up to be the riding nirvana I had planned on, but it’s far from over and there’s every indication that it could still turn out to be a banner year. At this point, I’ll take what I can get and keep on truckin’ 🙂

How about the rest of you? Anyone planning on taking any bike rides during the remainder of 2004?