With a kind $40 donation, I have been received into the Adventure Cycling Association’s (ACA) elite membership. That’s actually what it costs to become a member, although the benefits include discounted maps and guides as well as a subscription to their magazine, Adventure Cyclist. I have avoided giving them money for a long time, only because I never needed their maps and rarely encountered their routes. With the exception of Pacific Coast travels (which barely require any navigational aides), I have only spent a few hundred miles along the ACA’s Southern Tier route along Florida’s panhandle, and most of the distance from Phoenix to San Diego; as well, US route 1A along Florida’s Atlantic Coast comprises part of the Atlantic Coast route (but the route, in Florida, barely requires maps). A magical thing happens on ACA routes– you see other bike travelers. My first trip, down the east coast, not a single traditional cycle tourist was encountered from Maine to Key West. Exiting Key West, and north through the state of Florida this remained true. The morning we turned onto Route 90 east of Tallahassee, the Southern Tier route, we saw three cycle tourists within the first hour and we continued to see people on occasion. The same was true between Phoenix and San Diego. As for the Pacific Coast, in season, hordes of cyclists are encountered. Elsewhere in America, the roads may be perfect and the scenery spectacular, but it is unlikely to encounter another person riding a bike and sleeping on the ground
I purchased the first section of the Great Divide maps beginning from the Canada border into Montana, in addition to a map containing the 213mi Canadian connector from Banff National Park down to the border. With $40 membership and $11.75 apiece for the maps, I am tied financially to my plans to bike west, then south along the Great Divide. It seems I have bet myself $63.50 that I won’t make it as far as Polaris, MT. I am determined to come out ahead on this one. I put off purchase of the other maps as I expect I can pick them up when I visit ACA headquarters in Missoula, MT, along with my obligatory photograph and ice cream.
I am, for some reason, averse to membership. I didn’t apply for REI membership until long after I had spent enough money to make it worthwhile, and I have avoided ACA membership because…I guess it just feels like spending money on nothing. Now maps, that is something I can spend money on.
A few extra days allows me to get everything dialed in; alternatively, I may just be spending money. A new merino wool shirt and replacements for items lost on a forgetful trip from Annapolis to Watertown: a small pack-towel, knife, and sunglasses. All ready to roll: not priceless.
I’m grateful for northern New York summers; they beat the heck out of the sauna that exists south of the Mason-Dixon line. These are the summers of my youth; with a healthy dose of freshwater swimming and a trail ride yesterday on my first adult bike– a cromoly, USA-made rigid Trek 820 Mountain Track– the air is thick with history, not humidity.