my first bike tour: montreal to boston

My preparations for the trip had begun years before. I had no destination in mind, just the impulse that one day I would be going on a bike tour. I purchased a set of panniers, a rear rack, and justified a brooks saddle. I had one bike, and very few miles under me at that point, though I already began feeling like an expert. I would make short trips to the grocery store, loading up my panniers with milk, bananas, peanut butter, and ride back feeling the immense flex in my old steel frame. It would be years later that I would settle on what I considered a decent touring bike.

Deciding on where I was heading was less trial and error, and more arbitrary. I grew up in Idaho, and had been all over the Pacific Northwest. To me, I wanted to go a bit bigger than riding down PCH. Not just bigger, but I needed to buy plane tickets in order to avoid the possibility of putting it off for further years. My first was also going to be solo, so I had the luxury of going any place I wanted, making deciding even more difficult. I read magazines, looked at blogs, photos, reviews. I had it in my mind that selecting the location is as important as selecting the bike – it could make or break the trip.

I would learn later that location is similar to someone asking how your meal was, and you go on describing the plate you ate from.

After much deliberation, I selected a route running north to south from Montreal, Canada to Boston. I paced each day to be around 75 miles, reserving AirBnBs for each night. I had ridden 45 miles once. But, I had a marathon under my belt, and learned that if you want to get your miles up, you should intimidate yourself a bit. Buy the ticket, take the ride.

Meanwhile, I had much to prepare. At this point, the preparations I had made over the years had been either sold or damaged. I also had sold my bike a while back, knowing I needed to significantly upgrade. I had tickets for a bike trip, but no bike. That same week, I walked into my local bike shop and asked for a part time job. I had the camping gear, and a pair of chamois, but had never owned even a jersey at this point. I was a commuter, and wearing a cotton tee for an hour ride had sufficed in the past. It was May, and my ride was set for mid-September.

Over the next several months I purchased a Trek Crockett 9, Revelate Designs frame and saddle bags, stuff sacks, proper cycling shoes, two full kits, warmers, a Goal Zero charger, and a cap. I also increased my mileage and rode my first century a month before we left. I say we, because over the summer I also made a cycling buddy. I told him about my trip and he was all in.

From there the plans changed a bit. We tossed out the AirBnBs I had reserved, and opted for the ride to be more free form. We would camp where we found, and take routes the locals recommended. We landed in Montreal with only a general idea where we were heading, unboxed our bikes in the airport, and set off to get breakfast. Then we realized we didn’t speak French. It was a wobbly, directionless beginning. But, none of it mattered. We had days of riding ahead of us, and that was all I had been wanting for years.