Q: Which organizations sponsor cross-country bicycle trips?
A: If you have the stamina, here are several private and non-profit tour groups that can get you going across the country. Cycle America, based in Northfield, Minn., is one of the largest private tour groups to offer coast-to-coast trips. Their 12 interlinked state-by-state tours add up to a continental trip, starting with a ceremonial dip of tires in the Pacific Ocean at Bellingham, Wash., and ending with a final dunk in the Atlantic at West Scarborough, Maine. The trek, which lasts from June 6 to Aug. 27, costs $4,440, including a summer's worth of meals and lodging arrangements for sleeping bags in school gyms and campgrounds (participants take their own tent and sleeping bag). The daily mileage total can exceed 100 miles, so cyclists should be sure they are up to that kind of pace. For more information on the national tour or prices for the 12 individual trips, call (800) 245-3263, or write Cycle America at P.O. Box 29B, Northfield, Minn. 55057
Wandering Wheels originated as a Christian youth group, and this tradition still continues with informal devotional times, but members of all religions are welcome. The group has organized 44 cross-country trips for nearly 3,000 riders since 1966. This summer's coast-to-coast tour goes from Seattle to Rehoboth Beach, Del., June 14 to July 28. The trail fee is $1,695, which includes two meals a day during riding weeks, lodging arrangements for sleeping bags in church buildings and high schools, insurance and amenities such as a "sag wagon" van to pick up tired cyclists. Riders must be 15 or older. The average age is 35, and two 69-year-olds have signed up for the trip so far. The average pace will be 100 miles a day. For more information, call (317) 998-7490, or write Wandering Wheels, P.O. Box 207, Upland, Ind. 46989.
For those in a hurry, or looking for a very intense athletic experience, Pac Tours plans to travel from Seattle to Williamsburg, Va., a 3,400-mile distance, in 24 days, beginning June 13. The pace is punishing -- 140 miles a day -- so cyclists should be in peak condition, defined as being able to ride 200
miles in a 14-hour period. The trip costs $2,495, which includes most meals and lodging at motels. The company also offers a trip from San Diego to Charleston, S.C., for 21 days beginning in mid-September, at a cost of $2,295. For more information, call (815) 943-3171, or write Pac Tours, P.O. Box 73, Harvard, Ill. 60033.
Bikecentennial, of Missoula, Mont., is the largest non-profit bicycling group in the country, and serves as an informational clearinghouse for bike tours. The group, with 33,600 members, publishes "The Cyclists' Yellow Pages" with a listing of tour operators from American Youth Hostels to Zahn's Glacier Tours in New Hampshire. The guide also offers information on maps for cyclists, hostels, bicycle repair and cycling groups for women.
Membership in the group costs $22, which includes a Yellow Pages guide, Bikereport magazine, published nine times a year, and a discount of up to 29 percent on maps. For more information, write Bikecentennial at P.O. Box 8308, Missoula, Mont. 59807, or call (406) 721-1776.
For those interested in warming up, American Youth Hostels includes shorter bike trips in its Discovery Tours program. They are organized by age group: youth for 15- to 18-year-olds; open trips for 15 and older; adult for 18 and older, and groups for 50 and older. For more information, call the national headquarters at (202) 783-6161, or write to American Youth Hostels, Department 596, P.O. Box 37613, Washington, D.C. 20013-7613.