A storage locker, with doors open, was tucked into a corner of the motel parking lot in Old Town, Albuquerque. Continuing the array along the backside of the lot stood two bike racks, each able to accommodate half a dozen bikes. Completing the layout was one of PACTour’s distinctive support vehicles—the silver trailer and van, forty feet long from end to end, with bike wheels on top. Mounted on its sides and on storage shelves inside was a wide range of equipment and supplies needed to support an extended, aggressive bicycle tour.
A second trailer and van, also forty feet in length was parked across parking spaces in front of eight or ten motel units, all of which were reserved for some of the company who were registered for the Grand Canyon Tour 2010. A canopy deployed from the trailer’s side provided protection from bright sun at ninety degrees. On the sidewalk between the rooms and the van and trailer PACTour benches were set out: eight-foot long, nicely finished, one by twelve planks resting on empty five gallon paint cans.
At 3:30 in the afternoon, the riders gathered for orientation. After the nine members of the support crew were introduced, some of them left to continue their preparations for the tour. Most of the twenty-six registered riders were present, their bicycles already assembled, and they listened as Lon Haldeman, one of PACTour’s principals, explained three pages of notes about how the tour would be conducted.
The roster provided names, phone numbers, and addresses (residence and e-mail). Registered as riders were fifteen men and nine women, from fifteen states, Canada, and the United Kingdom: four in their forties, ten in their fifties, ten in their sixties, and two in their seventies, a surprisingly mature crowd for a cycling event that would travel nearly 1,100 miles in two weeks! Twenty of the group had ridden at least one other PACTour event, and some had ridden several. One member of the support team would ride enough during these two weeks to earn entrance into the elite 10,000-Mile club, and he too would have his name displayed on permanent boards mounted on the side of the red trailer.
Lon explained that the support team strives for consistency in the daily routines. At a certain time each morning, the bike stands, pumps, tools and supplies are out and ready for use. Ten minutes later, breakfast is available at the red trailer for thirty minutes. Then comes the thirty-minute period when riders bring their gear bags and computer cases to the silver trailer for loading. During that same half hour, the riders head out to begin their day’s ride.
Because the first day would be a long 106 miles and the high temperature an unseasonable 95, breakfast was served at 6:30 so that cyclists could be on the road as soon as daylight was firmly established. On most other days, the schedule would be half an hour later.
In clusters of three or four, the cyclists moved out into the cool early morning air: south on the bike trail along the Rio Grande River and State Road 47, though the Isleta Indian Reservation to Los Lunas, then west on State Road 6 and snatches of Historic Route 66 through the Canyoncito, Laguna, and Acoma Reservations to Grants, New Mexico.
Every twenty-five miles or so, one of the trailers would be positioned to provide water, snacks, tools and pumps, and other supplies to keep the cyclists on the road. One would be the lunch stop with real food designed to be attractive, nourishing, and easily digested. These stops were timed to accommodate cyclists riding at speeds averaging from twelve to seventeen miles an hour. At each location someone from the support crew would check the roster to be sure that everyone was accounted for.
“Rooms won’t be ready until 2:30,” Lon explained. “If you get to town before then,” and we all knew that some were fast enough to do it, “don’t bother the motel people. Hang out at the Dairy Queen.”
Although I would get to town long after 2:30, hanging out at the Dairy Queen made sense to me.