For several years after Jerry died I took week-long cycling trips with WomanTours, an operation that is actually run out of Rochester. Everyone who works for WomanTours is female: bike mechanics, tour leaders, sweep riders, cooks for the longer trips where they make more of their own meals. You have to be female to sign on for one of their tours. I had a friend in Rochester whose biking level was comparable to mine; she and I often signed up together. But it was comfortable to go alone. You can pay a single supplement and have a room to yourself. Or, you can room with a different member of the group every night and get to know people. The model makes a lot of sense.
Average age in the group is late 50’s, but they have riders in their 80’s. WomanTours has lots of U.S. rides, including a cross-U.S.A. one. They also run international tours: Ireland, Italy, Spain, Croatia, Albania, South Africa. You can ride your own bike or rent one of theirs, including an E-bike that augments your pedaling power.
My two biggest and most interesting trips were around the Big Island of Hawaii, and from Argentina into the Chilean lake district over the Andes Mountains. That last one, although I had trained, was really too hard: it was 40 degrees and sleeting the day we went over the mountain, and most of us bailed and wound up in the support van. On other days, even those where we rode the designated distance, we were wet and cold and miserable by the time we arrived at our lodgings for the night. The weather was supposed to be spring-like; we hit a cold and wet patch, which was random bad luck.
I did take my first and only white water rafting excursion as a side trip — that was spectacular and not to be missed. The water came off the snow-capped mountains and was frigid — we wore full wet suits. But the day was sunny and gorgeous — our one nice weather day.
I note they have far more trips now marked “leisurely” than “moderate” or “advanced”. Just as a point of reference, that Andes mountain trip was categorized as moderate, although that was hardly accurate as far as I was concerned. Leisurely means a 20 or so mile a day ride, with not too many hills, and at a 12-14 mile an hour pace. Moderate is 35-40 miles, hillier, and faster. Advanced might be 50-60 miles a day, lots of steep climbs, and a faster pace yet.
I haven’t ridden my bike at all since moving to Seattle — too hilly, too many cobblestone streets, less motivation. I was tempted a little when I got the WomanTours catalogue — I could certainly train for 20 miles a day if I put my mind to it. You see a country in a very different way on a bike. This is a uniquely comfortable group to join as a solo female traveler.
But the temptation hasn’t lasted long. I think this is not the kind of travel I’m going to be doing going forward. I enjoyed looking through the catalog, and then moved on to the rest of my day.