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Along the Southern Tier

The flights from Albany to San Diego were crowded and on time. Las Vegas, where I changed planes, was warm and sunny, but San Diego is cool and overcast. I picked up my bike today at Bernie's Bike Shop, driven there by a very nice woman from Boston, one of several bankers on the tour.

We marvelled at the skills and talents of the gathering so far: nurses, a psychologist, and a physical therapist, who may be in great demand as the ride progresses. We have bankers in our group, and an English major or two. The tour members come from all over, the Northeast, Midwest, Canada, Scotland, Brazil, and three from New Zealand.

It's interesting the number of women who are fundraising on the tour for any number of organizations. Carla, from Brazil, is raising money for an organization that buys specially adapted bikes for the physically disabled. She has shirts made up with the crossed Brazilian and U.S. flags on the sleeve. At the meeting on Thursday, when we introduce ourselves, I'm sure I'll learn about other efforts and tell of my own project for ECOS.

The route we take is the Southern Tier route, one of several transcontinental bike routes developed by Adventure Cycling, an organization that supports and promotes bicycle travel and bicycle tourism. Adventure Cycling publishes updated maps for the routes it develops, publishes a monthly magazine, and has a very comprehensive website.

Our route begins in San Diego, with the traditional dip of the bike's rear wheel into the Pacific Ocean at Dog Beach. Then the route heads east over the Coastal Range, through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and then through Louisiana, the rest of the Gulf states, across the Florida panhandle to St. Augustine and the end of the ride.

The hard part is the mountainous terrain of the first third of the trip. We cross the Continental Divide at Emory Pass In New Mexico, at over 8,000 feet the highest point of the route. We're in Texas longer than in any other state, crossing the state at its widest part, through the hill country where we might see the famous bluebonnets in bloom.

I don't know what other wonders await us on the Southern Tier. I hear dogs can be a problem on the rural roads of Louisiana. I also hear that people in the towns we ride through are friendly.

Until we hit the road on Friday morning I might do a little cycling on the bikepath system here in San Diego.

My next blog will describe the first few days of the tour.

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