I submitted my online payment 10 days after my December 15th self-imposed timeline for registration, but it seemed quixotic to pay the $250 tour deposit on Christmas Day. This trip is, after all, the ultimate gift to myself ... thus far in my nearly 30 years.
As I was reviewing the online registration information, I began to worry that perhaps I had not done enough research on bicycle touring companies. Maybe there were better touring companies out there, with more exciting routes and more competitive prices. And I had not failed to notice that - since I began working on an estimated budget back in June - America By Bicycle's "Across America North" triple occupancy rate had increased by $100 to $6850 for the 2010 ride.
Those factors, coupled with the words non-refundable and non-transferable were aiding and abetting my mounting anxiety. So I did what many people do in times of doubt and trepidation. I googled.
I briefly reviewed other bicycle touring companies I had previously considered and was reminded that a few alternatives involved camp sites and slightly steeper prices - two elements that I had no interest in including on my adventure. Some touring companies had fewer all-inclusive amenities and imposed additional fees for services provided by their tour mechanics and baggage transportation if you choose to make your own hotel reservations along the route. Other websites were merely instructional rather than service- and product-oriented and another solely sold transcontinental cycling maps and route kits. I googled a few other key word search variations to double-check that there were no other companies I might have missed.
As a woman and novice cyclist with general safety and comfort concerns, I sought the most relatively pampered tour I could find; yes, John Schubert, I'll be "credit-card touring". But the tour features that led me to believe that America By Bicycle was my best choice included - in order of what I found most important:
- Lodging in AAA-rated hotels chosen by AbyB "for quality, comfort and cleanliness"
- Nutritionally balance breakfast and dinner included daily, served buffet-style in fine restaurants or hotel function rooms
- SAG stops provided at 25-40 mile intervals to rest and refuel with snacks, fresh fruit, water and sports drinks
- Support vehicles, equipped with modern communication, to transport luggage and equipment - and cyclists and their bicycles, if necessary
- Mechanical support provided in a "rolling bike shop" with no hidden repair charges
- Cycling and support staff (1:8 staff-to-client ratio) to assist with direction, repairs, encouragement or serve as ride companions, with daily route briefing, individual maps and cue sheets, and discussion of route issues, weather, terrain and local sights
I returned to America By Bicycle's website, entered some brief information about myself, blinked at the $250 transaction prepped and ready to send via Pay Pal ... and I paused ... the arrow-shaped cursor suspended over the "Pay Now" button. I had not expected to feel so much hesitation. I mean, I had not exactly envisioned this moment, hovering over my laptop, staring at Pay Pal, unsure of my next move, but I had expected to feel more excitement and confidence in making my tour official.
I clicked the mouse anyway.