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Top 5 best and worst things about the tour

I've been having difficulty trying to decide what the topics of my last blog postings will be. The tour ends Thursday.

I decided to do a top 5 best and worst things about the tour across America, from sea to shining sea.

Ok, what were the top 5 worst things about the tour?

5. Headwinds. The received wisdom is that prevailing winds in this country blow from west to east. I was hoping for tailwinds the majority of the trip. Instead the winds blew from the east every day. Sometimes from the southeast, sometimes from the northeast. But mostly in our faces as we cycled east.

We saw loaded touring bikes headed west, including a couple from Gloversville. They must know something we don't know.

4. Flat tires. Enough said.

3. Equipment failure. As the weeks wore on, the punishment our bikes took was pretty significant. You've heard the story of my broken fork. ... Bent derailleurs, bent wheels, brake problems, shredded tires (one actually blew up) -- all examples of bike trauma on the tour.

2. Cold and heat. Actually the heat in Arizona was extreme because of the unusual spring heat wave.

1. And the worst thing of all, the personal injuries. On the first day, riding out of San Diego, a cyclist rode over a wet stretch of pavement, skidded and fell. A bad shoulder injury ultimately made her drop out. A few weeks later, a broken shoulder sent another rider home. A third cyclist broke her elbow. Another was hit by a car.

These are not especially numerous, nor especially serious accidents, but when they happen, it becomes very unsettling for the rest of us on the tour.

As for the top 5 best things about this coast-to-coast tour?

As I write, I'm suffering the incredible itch of an attack of Florida no-see-ums, tiny cousins of the blackfly, so I'm not sure I'm in the proper frame of mind, but here goes.

5. The incredible expanse of this country of ours. I know it's a cliche but I was knocked over
by the size of America. It's huge, especially when viewed at 50 miles a day.

4. Our diversity. We Americans, especially along our southern border, are a true mosaic of color, ethnicity, languages, race.

3. Seeing the athleticism of women, especially older women. We have grandmother triathletes, women in their 60s riding 100 miles a day.

2. The ability of women not only to care for themselves but to care for others. This includes caring for their bikes, being able to change inner tubes, fix derailleurs, adjust brakes, and do the many mechanical adjustment s needed to keep a bike running smoothly.

1. The best thing about this tour, and the idea that saw me through some tough times, was the fact that I was riding for ECOS, the Environmental Clearinghouse of Schenectady. This coast to coast ride was the toughest thing I have ever done. Yet when I saw the oil and gas platforms in the Gulf, the headlines in local papers about the BP oil spill, I understood the importance of making a statement in favor of clean energy.

The no-see-um itch is about the worst I've ever experienced, but it will go away, I hope. Soon, I hope. And then I'll be home in time for the blackflies.

Read all of Pat's blog entries on her journey here.

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