Thursday, January 21, 2010

America By Bicycle Tour Kit ✔

I received my America By Bicycle Tour Kit last week. I was out of the office, recovering at home from a severe cold, heating chicken soup on the "cutest gas stove top in the world" - as once dubbed by an out-of-town visitor, who was astonished that entire ovens come in size small. Nestled within the comfy confines of my Midtown Manhattan apartment, its classic exposed-brick walls dampened the city buzz from where I lay curled on the mini-sectional couch. As a testament to the jaded mentalities of New Yorkers when it comes to what is considered livable space, fellow city-dwellers often enter our humble abode and sincerely comment, "Wow. This is big." And they rarely used to notice that the kitchen didn't - until recently - have space for a microwave. I guess the kitchen still doesn't since the microwave is in the living room. But I digress. I was curled on the couch, surrounded by balled tissues, when my roommate entered, dropped some mail at my side and said: "This might make you feel better."

A large manila envelope, addressed to me from America by Bicycle, Inc., was lodged between that week's third copy of the Victoria's Secret catalog and city political spam mail - both of which I actually consciously skim upon receipt despite their frequency. Within the week, I had read the cycling tour kit from cover to cover.

Current to-dos include:
  • Track June 18th one-way flight prices from JFK, LGA and EWR to PDX (Portland International Airport) on Yapta. Cyclists should arrive in Astoria, Oregon, no later than the June 20th Opening Day (registration, bike assembly and orientation sessions); for relative ease of travel-related stress (e.g. flight delays, jet lag), I am planning to arrive in Astoria on the evening of Friday, June 18.
  • Book reservations at the official tour hotel in Astoria for Friday, June 18, and Saturday, June 19, at my additional expense [official tour accommodations included in the $6850.00 economy level (triple-rate) package begin on June 20]; I need to add $144.00 + tax (multiplied by two) to my estimated budget. Maybe AbyB can put me in touch with another cyclist who plans to arrive early and we can share the cost. Ask AbyB if there is a hotel group rate of which I can benefit.
  • Decide if I will take a bus or rent a car for the three-hour drive from Portland to Astoria. Options: Raja Tours ($150 per person, one-way; $165 with a bicycle - I'm shipping mine from New York), Affordable Shuttle ($150 per person, one-way); Airport Time Shuttle ($150 per person, one-way); Greyhound ($16 per person, one-way - one bus runs daily at 5:45pm, arriving in Astoria at 8:15pm); Amtrak ($20 per person, one-way - bus stops at the official tour hotel).
  • Make sure my passport does not expire this year (we'll be riding into Canada on Day 40 of the tour); I think it expires in 2011.
  • Submit Registration Form and Medical History/Information Form (I processed my $250.00 registration fee online and received the forms with the tour kit) and send final tour fee payment by April 12.
  • Book reservations at the official tour hotel in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, for the night of Monday, August 9. The final day of the event is August 9, and although AbyB recommends that you stay overnight to "marvel in the spotlight of completing your cycling goal" and take time in packing, prepping your bicycle for shipping, and celebrating with the other cyclists, accommodations in Portsmouth on August 9 are not included in the tour costs. Ask AbyB if there is a hotel group rate of which I can benefit.
  • Track August 10th one-way flight prices from BOS (General Edward Lawrence Logan International Airport; who knew?) to JFK, LGA and EWR on Yapta; AbyB provides a shuttle from Portsmouth to BOS on Tuesday, August 10, departing at 7am, for $25 per person. Flights out of BOS should be booked no earlier than 10am.
  • Decide which insurance plan I want to purchase from Access America, which will serve as my primary emergency medical insurance provider while I'm on unpaid leave from job #1, as well as cover trip cancellation, interruption and other travel-associated incidents.
  • Read the "Bicycling Street Smarts" booklet included in my AbyB Tour Kit.
  • Outline my training plan as directed by AbyB's "Century Challenge & Endurance Cycling Training Guide".
  • Go over my AbyB Equipment List with my new best friends at R&A Cycles ... whenever I get that little matter of purchasing the actual bicycle out of the way.
  • Contain my giddy school girl excitement and act like the sophisticated, unphased 30-year old that I am.
There was one thing in the tour kit that bothered me:
America By Bicycle does recommend upgrading to the double or single room accommodations. With three people, three bikes, luggage, and equipment in one hotel room, it can fill up quickly. A double/single room allows for an easier daily routine, with less clutter and compromise. Fewer people sharing the bathroom each morning will be nicer and for the cost, it is a bargain. Space is limited and available on a first come first serve basis.

Once the ride has closed out, we will create a rooming block, based on age, gender, geographic location and rider rooming requests. Occasionally, this block does not work out evenly. If this happens, we will upgrade any outstanding cyclist's room to a double or single room at the cost to the participant. This does not happen often, but could affect a cyclist choosing triple room accommodations.

And from the bulleted list of notes just below the hotel accommodations disclaimer:

b) If participant numbers do not match triple room requirements, you will automatically be upgraded to double/single room at your expense.

e) Rooming option prices subject to change without notice.

This is a very big deal because the double-room rate is an additional $2,050.00 per person and the single-room rate is an extra $4,500.00 per person - above and beyond the $6,850.00 (triple-room rate) I have already committed to pay.

While the wording initially feels like I'm being set up for hidden fees, I understand why America by Bicycle reserves these rights. If triple accommodations close out unevenly, the tour company cannot eat the costs of reserving hotel rooms across the continent for one or two cyclists who only paid the triple-room rate. Unfortunately, it's this disclaimer that is giving me pause about scaling down my nights at the lounge [job #2] or submitting my two week's notice at the lounge as early as I had hoped. I am eager to dedicate free time to conditioning for the tour, but in my middle-income, Manhattan life, it's a catch-22.

I have very little free time because I work two jobs to cover my monthly bills and retirement investments prior to contributing the remaining income to my cycling tour fund. The funds are necessary to finance the tour and correlated costs. And in order to begin and complete the tour as comfortably and efficiently as possible, I need to train and condition. But in order to train and condition, I need free time.

Queue cliché idiomatic expression here: There just aren't enough hours in the day. And there aren't enough days in five months. June 20 is starting to feel like it's coming fast.

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