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Old 07-24-11, 10:04 AM   #1
DougG
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Catered Touring

The past couple years, I've done big week-long tours here in Michigan - Michigander and Shoreline West. I enjoy the routes and people, but only tolerate the camping even though I use Bubba's Pampered Pedalers to provide the tent, etc. In ideal conditions, I can almost enjoy it even with substandard facilities in the high schools we stay in, porta-johns, mass-served food, etc.

But last week's Michigander was brutal: ride 60+ miles in humid, mid-90s conditions, then get to a blazing hot campground where you couldn't even stick your head in the tent until the sun went down, then try to sleep in muggy 80-degree air. I called my wife after a couple days and she drove over to rescue me. At 65, I just don't need this and it isn't like I can't afford better!

Anyway, I'm thinking of trying a longish tour next year, such as the Great Allegheny Passage plus C&O Canal trail that is on my bucket list. There is a new big campout-type tour next June (bikegapco.com), but I've been looking into a smaller tour where you can stay in hotels at the end of a long day.

The trouble is, most of these seem to be for really casual bikers and are billed as "guided tours". I'd much rather ride on my own schedule and at my own pace, and don't really like riding with a group that I don't know pretty well. One nice thing about the larger tours is that you eat breakfast, look at your route sheet, and then are on your own until you get to the day's destination. So it looks like a choice between "freedom" and "comfort".

Does anyone here have any experience with these higher-end catered/guided tours? Any particular suggestions?
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Old 07-24-11, 10:23 AM   #2
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There are 3 requirements for civilized life: hot showers, flush toilets and air conditioning.

For the last several years Mrs. Grouch and I have done a "Pedal Across Wisconsin" week long tour. (We missed this year and the year that our son got married.) Overnights are Super 8 class motels and they have somebody to schlep your baggage. We've been known to deviate from the published route. In fact, the last time that we went (to Door County), I don't think that we ever rode the same route as everybody else. We keep going back so obviously we're happy with them.

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Old 07-24-11, 10:47 AM   #3
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the "guided tours" that i have done were quite good actually. i always found someone to hang out with and really appreciated the hotel, ac & decent food. just don't bring up politics, religion and the schlecks vs contadore thing until u know the people a little. otherwise it's a good alternative to the camping which i think is for younger folks. with the gap to dc passage if u check the website they provide lodging info. u can then contact the b&b's and hotels along the way yourself and organize a great "supported" tour on ur own as well.
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Old 07-24-11, 10:57 AM   #4
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I'm a regular tourist. Most recently I did an 8-week tour of eastern Canada and the US, 2500 miles starting and finishing in Toronto.

I don't really understand your problem. You don't like riding in groups you don't know, you can afford to stay in hotels/motels, you want to ride on your own schedule and at your own pace. So why not just go on your own, book your own accommodation etc? That's what I do. Accommodation isn't difficult to find, and touring alone is great. It's amazing how many people you meet.
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Old 07-24-11, 11:01 AM   #5
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A few years ago we lucked into an ideal situation with older friends who had no interest in cycling but acute interest in antiques and local history. We stayed in the same motels/hotels but each morning after breakfast went separate ways with our luggage going along with them in a battleship huge SUV. In the evenings, speaking of sybaritic luxury, they also hauled us to excellent local eateries they had discovered during the day. Our only responsibilities were doing routing and reservations, picking up a few restaurant checks and staying interested in their discovery tales.

I think it would also be fun to tour with a cycling couple and alternate driving/riding days.
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Old 07-24-11, 11:22 AM   #6
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It's called credit card touring. If you do 60 a day just take some time to map out a route that will do about that distance each day and make a series of reservations. Worst case is something horrible happens and you get a long cab ride one day with your bike in the back of an SUV cab. But if you do some net searching I know you'll find a tour group that meets your needs. There are high end fully supported tours with great food and hotel accommodations. I still do all my touring by camping - pitch my own tent, get my water from rivers and lakes, etc etc but I can understand anyone's aversion to the same.
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Old 07-24-11, 02:52 PM   #7
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If I do the tour that I'm thinking of, my wife is thinking of coming along, but using our own car and not as part of the tour group itself. She's not a morning person, so can sleep in while I leave on my ride for the day, and then she has the day to wander around and meet up at the next hotel. The touring company is OK with that, and can also arrange to include her in the couple of group dinners that are part of the package.
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Old 07-24-11, 08:34 PM   #8
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I'm a regular tourist. Most recently I did an 8-week tour of eastern Canada and the US, 2500 miles starting and finishing in Toronto.

I don't really understand your problem. You don't like riding in groups you don't know, you can afford to stay in hotels/motels, you want to ride on your own schedule and at your own pace. So why not just go on your own, book your own accommodation etc? That's what I do. Accommodation isn't difficult to find, and touring alone is great. It's amazing how many people you meet.
Great points. I've tried touring a number of ways and prefer solo touring. I enjoy sleeping in my tent, stopping/starting at my schedule, and meeting locals. In groups you get lost in the group and don't tend to mingle with the local folks, see what you want, and go at your pace. No way will I ever do a supported "tour" again. That really isn't a tour in my opinion. Different strokes...
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Old 07-25-11, 07:00 AM   #9
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I don't really understand your problem.
Well, I really couldn't write my life's story in this post to clarify everything :-). I've traveled coast-to-coast both camping and in motels in the way you describe, but that was back in my motorcycling days. In my current situation, I'd just like the extra security/backup that comes with having someone to call on, especially 100s of miles from home (and a concerned spouse).
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Old 07-25-11, 07:10 AM   #10
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Well, I really couldn't write my life's story in this post to clarify everything :-). I've traveled coast-to-coast both camping and in motels in the way you describe, but that was back in my motorcycling days. In my current situation, I'd just like the extra security/backup that comes with having someone to call on, especially 100s of miles from home (and a concerned spouse).
Fair enough. But I see from your later post that your wife was thinking of coming along with the car? That seems a perfect solution to me, your own personal support vehicle only a cellphone call away. You won't get that sort of support from a tour company, and you can pick the route and timetable that most interests you both.
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Old 07-25-11, 08:52 AM   #11
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I just did a wonderful self-guided trip in Europe. One of the owners of the company met us at the start of the ride, gave us maps, GPS, vouchers for the hotels, detailed route directions and a cellphone that worked in Europe. And after that we were on our own. Some mysterious individual who we never saw took the luggage from one hotel to the next and all we had to do was ride, eat and drink beer (this was Czech Republic. Seriously good beer). And yes, it was nice to have a number that we could call, and to know that the luggage would be in the hotel room when we arrived.

Nice hotels too. Seriously fun trip.
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Old 07-25-11, 09:04 AM   #12
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I just did a wonderful self-guided trip in Europe. One of the owners of the company met us at the start of the ride, gave us maps, GPS, vouchers for the hotels, detailed route directions and a cellphone that worked in Europe. And after that we were on our own. Some mysterious individual who we never saw took the luggage from one hotel to the next and all we had to do was ride, eat and drink beer (this was Czech Republic. Seriously good beer). And yes, it was nice to have a number that we could call, and to know that the luggage would be in the hotel room when we arrived.

Nice hotels too. Seriously fun trip.
Do you recall the name of the company?
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Old 07-25-11, 09:07 AM   #13
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I just did a wonderful self-guided trip in Europe. One of the owners of the company met us at the start of the ride, gave us maps, GPS, vouchers for the hotels, detailed route directions and a cellphone that worked in Europe. And after that we were on our own. Some mysterious individual who we never saw took the luggage from one hotel to the next and all we had to do was ride, eat and drink beer (this was Czech Republic. Seriously good beer). And yes, it was nice to have a number that we could call, and to know that the luggage would be in the hotel room when we arrived.

Nice hotels too. Seriously fun trip.
Wow, that sounds like an awesome time. Maybe one day...
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Old 07-25-11, 09:45 AM   #14
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What I'd like to try would be what I call a loop tour. Go someplace interesting and do day trips that end up back in the same hotel.
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Old 07-25-11, 10:47 AM   #15
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I did both Summer Tour (in Michigan) and Shoreline (west), years ago. As I recall, most of the riders were not really strong. If you get into a big tour with fit cyclists (like DALMAC), then you get monster pacelines. Even if you ride solo, you will probably collect a tail.

I have done Vermont Bicycle Tours a number of times but that was years ago. I always did tours in their "challenging" category and they don't have those anymore.

I did a couple of Cycle America Tours. Those were in the western national parks and were quite good.

More recently, I have been getting my multiday tour fix with the Florida Bicycle Safari. It is a camping tour and spends 3 nights in Live Oak FL and 3 nights in Cherry Lake FL and goes off in April. The roads up there have light traffic and amazingly courteous drivers (at least as far as FL is concerned, here in Central FL, cyclists seem to be regarded as vermin).
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Old 07-25-11, 02:01 PM   #16
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What I'd like to try would be what I call a loop tour. Go someplace interesting and do day trips that end up back in the same hotel.
My wife and I do a variation of that when we can't break away for long periods. We drive to an interesting area, park the car at a motel, put bags on the bikes, and ride out for anywhere from 2 to 5 days of credit card touring. If we have more time or get back early, we relocate to another town, another motel and another 2 to 5 days of credit card touring. Daily distances range from 20 mi to 60 mi, ... or we might just hang out in a town for a day or two if something there catches our attention.
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Old 07-25-11, 05:33 PM   #17
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What I'd like to try would be what I call a loop tour. Go someplace interesting and do day trips that end up back in the same hotel.
You remember Andy Hampsten? First American to win a stage at the Giro d'Italia? On that snowy mountain climb? Yeah, that Andy Hampsten.

He owns a touring company in Tuscany that does exactly what you describe. Cinghiale Cycling Tours, Inc has some incredibly interesting tours. I hope someday to do their Cycling and Cooking tour. Stay a week at a hotel, cycling in the morning, cooking in the afternoon.

Of course, I'd also someday like to own one of the bikes he and his brother make. Their Strada Bianca model is named for the white roads of Tuscany. It would be cool to have one built, pick it up there, and tour the region it was named after, with the guy who owns the company.

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Old 07-25-11, 05:39 PM   #18
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I just did a wonderful self-guided trip in Europe. One of the owners of the company met us at the start of the ride, gave us maps, GPS, vouchers for the hotels, detailed route directions and a cellphone that worked in Europe. And after that we were on our own. Some mysterious individual who we never saw took the luggage from one hotel to the next and all we had to do was ride, eat and drink beer (this was Czech Republic. Seriously good beer). And yes, it was nice to have a number that we could call, and to know that the luggage would be in the hotel room when we arrived.

Nice hotels too. Seriously fun trip.
Another request for information on the company.
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Old 07-26-11, 06:55 AM   #19
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PMing the both of you with the details. I really can't recommend them too strongly. It was an awesome trip.

I could also provide the strongest possible "do not touch this company with a bargepole" advisory for a totally different firm that led a (badly guided) tour of Southern California in March, but that's another story.

Edit: PM sent. I realize it sounds a little rah-rah, but we really did have a most amazing time.
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Old 07-26-11, 08:03 AM   #20
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It's not nice to keep secrets.
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Old 07-26-11, 10:20 AM   #21
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Any particular secret you looking for, Blues?
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