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When tours go bad

Old 12-07-06, 02:12 AM
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When tours go bad

I thought this might make an interesting accompliment to the resolving conflicts thread. Those of us who have toured with others or groups knows things don't always go well and sometimes go worse.

When I made my first transcontinental ride in 1977 I followed the ACA ( then Bikecentennial) route alone .I longed for the camaraderie of the groups I encountered along the way of the first tour. So in June of 1979 I jumped at a last minute opportunity to ride with a group of 10 people most of whom were from a DC outdoor club. The plan was to ride from San Francisco to Washington DC. I was the youngest at 22 everyone else ranged from mid twenties to early forties. There was 4 women and two married couples.I was the only one who had previously rode a transcontinental tour

Here are some excerpts from my ride journal of the first 10 days:

Days 1 and 2 Things were great on the way out to SF on the train, we all laughed, joked and had a good time. We officially started our tour from the Park under the Golden gate bridge.on June 11, Things went pretty good the first couple of days. We didn't designate a leader but the two older married guys GC and RW were both in pissing competition to claim alpha dog status. It was more amusing than annoying..........

Day 3 Placerville to Carson City, There seemed to be some tension amongst the alpha dogs and their entourage today. One of the girls (Sue) has been having almost daily bike problems,due to some hack working on her Peugeot. This morning she found she had a stripped out saddle clamp nut. Some of the group was mumbling about having to wait, I was a pretty decent bike mechanic so I offered to stay behind with her to wait for a hardware store to open then we would catch up with the group in Tahoe.

1.5 hrs later a hardware store opened and we fixed her seat. The riding to Tahoe on US 50 wasn't that steep but the final climb into Tahoe was about 15 miles long. We were about 1/2 way up the final climb when we caught up with the wife of GC. She was sitting on a wayside picnic table not looking too good.

She had been dropped on the first climb, had run out of water on the way to the second climb and had nearly bonked, No one in the group including her husband dropped back to check on her. A motorist stopped to give her water while she had been struggling along up the climb. We fed her some GORP and a peanut butter sandwich which perked her up and then we coaxed her along to Tahoe.

The agreement that morning was to regroup at the state line just outside of Tahoe for pictures and then on to the KOA in Carson City. At the State line no one was there. The 3 of us were a bit miffed that they hadn't waited,especially since none of us had directions to the KOA. We found the KOA and a very pissed off wife found her husband, We were treated to a marathon episode of bickering that lasted till 10pm.

Day 4 We mutually agreed to a day off in Carson City for sightseeing and to let the "Bickersons" cool off. things didn't cool off much, Mrs Bickerson was the first to leave the ride,she didn't even stick around to say goodbye. To this day I have no idea how she got home.

Day 5 Carson City to Fallon NV. it wasn't a very hot day so the 68 mile ride wasn't difficult. Mr Bickerson (GC) was sullen and ornery over his wife's departure so he and the other Alpha Dog(RW)whiled away the time by snipping at each other.I and a couple others dropped back from the group to escape the b!tching and had a pleasant ride.

Day 6 Fallon to Austin NV about 105 miles away. According to the locals there was only one place to get safe drinking water and that was at about 70 miles out. I and two of the other riders (DJ and EH) whom had a lot of hiking experience lobbied the previous evening to carry extra water. The Alpha dogs argued 3 bottles was enough for 70 miles in the desert. But DJ and I went out on our own that evening and we each bought a 2 gallon water bag and filled them. Two other riders took our bedrolls to free up our rear racks for the water.

GC was really being pissy about the water episode this morning and said we looked stupid with the water bags and to have fun going over Carroll Pass with the extra weight. What an azzhole!

Our agreement had been to stay together today since anyone dropped could wait for hours to get assistance.That agreement dissolved in about 25 miles, The alpha dogs along with the other dog's wife and two of the *serious* roadies decided to up the pace and dropped the rest of us. Between 55 and 60 miles we caught up with them. By this time it was noon and about 95 degrees of dry desert heat.

They were on the side of the road with the two alpha dogs arguing over a broken rim. They had been playing paceline and apparently GC had knocked RW's front wheel out from under him . The wheel it looked like a potato chip.and RW had a bit of road rash. We waited for a good Samaritan to come along and shared with the alpha dogs the water that I and DJ had carried, I bit my tongue and just kept my mouth shut. After about an hour a US Air force truck came along, They stopped and gave RW and his wife a ride to Austin NV to meet us later. The rest of us rode the remaining 50 miles to Austin together in silence.

When we got to Austin NV that evening we had planned to meet RW and wife at a motel. When we arrived at the motel there was a goodbye note from RW and his wife, They had caught another ride to Ely. That was the last we ever heard of them.

Day7 Austin to Eureka NV 71 miles, The original plan was to start at 5:30 am. Three of the riders were really tired from the previous day and begged to start later. GC was ranting and the two serious roadies were pissed and didn't want to ride during the hottest part of the day, I agreed with them about the late start but didn't see the point in getting angry, I suggested they ride on and I would stay back and lead the late group.

DJ and I stayed back to wait for the two girls( Sue and KB) and hiker dude EH. We got underway at 8:30 am.it was already in the high 80's.it was going to be a rough day.

Pace was slow ,The 110 mile previous day had KB really dragging, She could barely turn the cranks over 10mph on the flats. We had lots of water and kept hydrated. We stopped for lunch at a shaded wayside where a couple in a motor home gave us ice tea and peaches. KB was feeling better after lunch and everyone was finally in a better mood. Before Eureka was a b!tch of a hill to climb in 100 degree heat. KB was really suffering again and I dropped back to stay with her, she starts getting dizzy and stops, Fortunately not more than two minutes later a pickup truck stops and takes her and her bike the last few miles to town,

That night KB tells us that she can't go on and is accepting a ride offer to Elko NV to catch a train home.

Day 8 Eureka to Ely.77 miles. Down to 7 riders now. We didn't even discuss a plan today, everyone is uptight and just wants to get to Ely for a day or so of rest. GC and the *serious roadies* took off with barely a word this morning. DJ said he wanted a faster pace for a change so he rode with them. That left me to ride with Sue and EH. I didn't mind hanging back for the weaker riders. Sue and I had become friends,but I resented not having the choice.

Pretty uneventful ride. The anticipation of a day or two off the bike in Ely gave Sue and EH some energy and the day was a bit cooler with a wisp of a tailwind. We were in Ely by 2 pm. We had dinner that night and discussed what had happened and what everyone wanted to do. What I didn't say was that I was ready to dump all of them and ride alone. We all agreed to rest two days and to discuss our plans again

Day 9 Ely NV. Nobody quit and went home today! DJ and I hung out together, did our laundry and killed a 6 pack of Coors all before 11 am. I did bike maintenance with Sue and repaired tubes. That night we all went out to a bar together and had a good time.

Day 10 Ely NV. I slept late and then wrote a letter to home. Sue came by to tell me she accidentally overheard GC and the two *serious roadies* talking about dumping the rest of the group. Later I saw GC downtown and ask if he had anything he wanted to tell me. He stammered out a no. I let EH and DJ know something might be up.

Sue,EH,DJ and I got together that afternoon and discussed what we all want to do if the ride breaks up. EH said he would ride solo to The Grand Canyon and on to Flagstaff to see his brother if DJ wanted to continue with GC. DJ was torn about sticking with his friend EH or riding on with GC. He decided he would rather ride with EH to Flagstaff and maybe ride east alone in the fall. Sue wanted to continue the ride east but not alone,I told Sue I would ride with her but I would like to ride with EH and DJ to Cedar City UT and then turn east through southern Colorado then across Kansas and Missouri to St Louis and then on to Washington DC. She was cool with that.

That night we all met at dinner to discuss our plans. Something was definitely up with GC and Company, but they weren't talking. Finally DJ confronted GC and told him there was a rumor they wanted to leave the group. GC finally told us their desire to leave the group and we gave them our blessing,

epilogue; GC and his two pals left the next morning without a goodbye. We never heard from them again. We stayed an extra day in Ely to allow Sue and EH to recover fully and put some space between GC and us. The four of us rode southeast to Cedar City then we split up. Sue and I continued east and finished our ride on August 16th 1979. We celebrated by going to a movie theatre and watching the just released movie " Breaking Away"

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Old 12-07-06, 03:00 AM
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Interesting reading. Do you have the rest of the journal published somewhere on the web?
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Old 12-07-06, 05:53 AM
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Originally Posted by WestOz
Interesting reading. Do you have the rest of the journal published somewhere on the web?
No, not yet I have been working to get this ride and my 1977 ride into MSWord. I hope to get it done this winter and published on Crazy Guy On a Bike before spring.
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Old 12-07-06, 06:27 AM
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Thanks. I read a lot of the journals there in winter, so I'll keep my eye open for it.
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Old 12-07-06, 07:51 AM
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[QUOTE=velonomad]

No one in the group including her husband dropped back to check on her. A motorist stopped to give her water while she had been struggling along up the climb. We fed her some GORP and a peanut butter sandwich which perked her up and then we coaxed her along to Tahoe.

QUOTE]

LOL not even her husband stoped? Nice group, I would have left right after that and continued on alone.
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Old 12-07-06, 07:53 AM
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hey if you would like some help typing it up let me know.
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Old 12-07-06, 10:55 AM
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That was a great read, thanks for sharing! I was able to envision how that would go down from having travelled in a small group. Glad you were able to finish your ride.
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Old 12-07-06, 11:02 AM
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Yours is definitely an interesting read, but a bit sad. Thank you for the write-up.

Too many people can get caught up on the ego thing. On my one and only really long tour, I met many great cyclists. But the arseholes were there, too, complete with arrogance and condescension. Luckily, their numbers were very small compared to the good ones. And I was riding solo anyway, so my time spent with them was minimal.

Like the Appalachian Trail motto for hikers, "Hike your own hike." Or in our case, "Tour your own tour." Riding in any group for weeks on end, I think, is looking for trouble. But some of your group were obviously over the top.

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Old 12-07-06, 11:19 AM
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This is exactly why I tour solo. No drama, please.
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Old 12-07-06, 12:02 PM
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That is an interesting read.

Should, I assume that this experience is atypical? I have not done anything longer than a three-day, 300-mile ride with a few buddies. Then again, I have never tried to ride with 10 other people.
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Old 12-07-06, 12:17 PM
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Thanks for the post velo--it sounds like you ended up with good companionship despite the initial cranky ego trippers. I used to like touring solo, but now I would prefer to have company--maybe I'll rethink that!

Btw--how many times have you rode across?
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Old 12-07-06, 12:26 PM
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Originally Posted by invisiblehand
That is an interesting read.

Should, I assume that this experience is atypical? I have not done anything longer than a three-day, 300-mile ride with a few buddies. Then again, I have never tried to ride with 10 other people.
Depends on the group. I have ridden with groups that had too many chiefs and not enough indians (excuse the nonPC ) and everybody was miserable, I have ridden with other decent sized groups where everyone was pretty well matched in ability and the group had put a basic set of rules forward ahead of time and everybody followed them. I prefer to tour by myself, or with a very small group of say no more than 5, other times I have ridden in groups where we would meet up at a given location x number of days in the future and it was up to you to decide how you wanted to get there.

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Old 12-07-06, 01:27 PM
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Originally Posted by brotherdan
This is exactly why I tour solo. No drama, please.
There's always drama, even solo. You just have to find it...or invent it
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Old 12-07-06, 03:19 PM
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sounds like an episode of Survivor... Everybody plotting seperate things to stay on the island...or in the pack... or not divorced!!!

IDEA!!!
survivor with cyclists going across some wasteland with a bunch of those egos mentioned and just film it to see what kind of footage comes out. and all they can take with them are their helmets, a camelback, and a pack of gum (for repairs of course!!!)
Velo...can I nominate you the host???
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Old 12-07-06, 03:23 PM
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Many times, when I've toured with a small group, there's been one person who causes problems in the group. The one time I toured with a larger group, it broke up into cliques, and so everone cycled with the people who matched their style, and there was very little problem.
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Old 12-07-06, 05:25 PM
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Thanks for posting this ... I enjoyed the read.

I usually cycle alone but one of my first rules of backpacking is that you only travel as fast as the slowest person in the group. What if they are injured or sick?

Funny how these alpha males with such big egos showed such poor leadership.
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Old 12-07-06, 08:48 PM
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Velomad, thanks for the post. An amusing read because I think such group behavior on tour is the rule, not the exception. Drama is part of the ride.
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Old 12-07-06, 11:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Cyclesafe
Velomad, thanks for the post. An amusing read because I think such group behavior on tour is the rule, not the exception. Drama is part of the ride.
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Old 12-08-06, 12:16 AM
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Thanks for the comments, The Alpha Dogs were being asses but much of the friction was because riders who should have been in shape and prepared for the tour were not. I got frustrated too with the late starts and being a nanny. With the exception of RW and DJ, everyone that cut the ride short wouldn't have lasted another week. Some days it was "Survivor" other days it was "Jerry Springer"

I never did get what the weird sheot was between GC and his wife. After she bailed at Carson City, I never heard him once mention her name or refer to her the next 7 days.

I agree with Wahoonc, I wouldn't say the hassles like I experienced are typical of group tours. I have been on a few group tours since ( though smaller groups and much shorter distances) and even though there were conflicts, they usually didn't show up until well into the tour and were almost always quickly settled. But yes the drama does make it entertaining at times

Sue turned out to be an excellent touring partner, she was a strong rider but not fast so we compromised and I rode a little slower and she rode a little longer each day. She was assertive and spoke up when she wanted something or didn't agree with me ,so there wasn't any hassles between us the 54 days we rode together.

I rode two coast to coast tours, 1977 and 1979. Fall and winter of 1981/82 I rode from Tuscon AZ to Atlanta GA. So that is like 2 5/8 cross country tours? I also rode the length of US 19 (PA to FL) in 1982 and toured Europe in 1983.

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Old 12-08-06, 07:19 PM
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Thanks for the post. I enjoyed reading it, though I'm glad I didn't live it.

I've always toured alone. I've also always met people and ended up in a sort of impromptu group. I think that's the best. You get companionship and someone to come to your aid if necessary (and vice versa), but everyone knows they have no formal ties with you and you can choose to pull out whenever you like with no guilt, no hard feelings, etc.

When I rode down the west coast, sometimes I rode with newfound friend(s) all day, sometimes I'd ride with them for an hour or two in the morning (maybe until breakfast), then say, "See you in the campground," and ride off. Sometimes I wouldn't see someone for two or three days, then reconnect. Sometimes I'd lose contact with someone and never see them again. No big deal, though, because the only person I was "beholding to" was myself.

I would ride in a formal group only if I knew the people really well - family members, people I'd previously toured with successfully, old friends. And even with them, before starting out I'd want to establish some groundrules: how often must one stop and wait for someone else, what do if someone wanted to ride alone for awhile, etc.

I'd also insist that everyone train in advance, but I wouldn't be overly harsh if someone showed up in worse shape than me. However, if, after several days, someone still rode significantly slower than me, I'd be reluctant to ride with them. It seems to tire me out to ride too slowly. I'd want to agree beforehand on how to handle that. Of course, if someone on the tour was faster than me, they'd be welcome to leave me in their dust, as long as they were where they said they were going to be at the end of the ride - motel, campground, etc.
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Old 12-08-06, 08:00 PM
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When you're going on a group tour you have to be EXTREMELY flexible.

I know that this last September I was angry the whole ride. Mostly because I really didn't like the way half of the group was riding.

And in the final analysis most of it was probably my own insecurities more than anything else. I was probably worried about my own fitness (though it turned out that I was the strongest one) and so couldn't accept the way most everyone else was riding.

Luckily I kept my big mouth shut for the most part but I was probably surly to some guys who weren't doing anything different than I was doing.

Next time around I'll be less judgemental because I'll have more self confidence.

Let me suggest that you use tact instead of forthrightness.
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Old 12-09-06, 03:16 AM
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Thanks for the story, velonomad. If this is your first travelogue, it would be interesting to read the others. Good job. I love to read the travelogues that are written like yours. They are rather stories than travelogues and are written by ordinary people, those of them who have faculty to write about their life experience figuratively. It is always more interesting for me to read something that is drama or comedy than just list of facts. And no matter is it sad or funny, anyway better than nothing.

We used to drama. Every day we see drama on TV news, which is mixed up with advertising. That often looks like a show for us, but until we aren't involved personally.

I think the issue of group touring is important for young people especially. That is one of good ways to find friends ... or to loose them because of disappointment. I did it both. That gives good knowledge of life anyway and I have no regret.

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Old 12-09-06, 03:34 AM
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I want a group tour like I want to live in a group home.
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Old 12-09-06, 10:06 AM
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Excellent read, though my touring experience pales in comparison to yours, I have found similar "drama" as well. Most important rule in group touring:
Know thyself !
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