BERLIN -- They made the best of bad weather and made history on the Bay Bridge -- but most of all, they made it.
From Leonardtown in Southern Maryland across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and eventually to Berlin, 1,640 cyclists pedaled their way across a big chunk of the state for the sixth annual Cycle Across Maryland tour that ended yesterday.
"You give them storms, tornadoes, wet bags, tents that literally float -- and they come up to you smiling and say, 'I'm having such a good time,' " tour organizer Pat Bernstein said as cyclists congratulated each other and rested on the grounds of Berlin Middle School yesterday.
This year's weather was exceptionally bad -- a week of severe storms brought flooding and tornadoes. But rain on the 350-mile, six-day tour has become a tradition, Ms. Bernstein said.
"We're considering hiring ourselves out to the farmers if they need us," she said. "This is our sixth year -- we've had rain every year."
The wet weather -- it even began to sprinkle during the awards ceremony that ended the tour yesterday afternoon -- didn't dampen the enthusiasm of participants, who came from 41 states, France and Bahrain to ride through Maryland's lush countryside.
"It was a good tour. I think the [weather] problems increase the camaraderie," said Barbara Lambourn of Columbia, who rode a tandem bicycle with her husband, Bob, for the event.
"We keep coming back because it's such fun," said her husband. "This is the first time we've done it on a tandem. Somebody said it was designed as the ultimate test of marital compatibility."
"We're still together," said Mrs. Lambourn.
Many families, or parts of them, rode on the tour. One of the youngest participants (although she didn't cycle) was Katie Dodson. The 2-year-old rode from Crisfield to Berlin in a carrier -- complete with car seat, Baby Wipes, books and crackers -- pulled by her father, John Dodson of Bel Air.
"She was all smiles. She likes to ride," said her father as he joined other family members, who met him in Berlin.
Towing Katie added some extra aerobic value to his ride, he said.
"It's like climbing a hill the whole time; it's close to 100 pounds," he said of the carrier, which has a zippered top for shade and
TC screen for ventilation.
Other riders included a blind "stoker" (the person who rides in the second seat of a tandem bicycle), three generations from a single family and a man who rode a bike that he pedaled with his hands.
"It's made by a wheelchair company," said Tim Pautsch, of Forest Hill in Harford County. "My mom asked me to do it because the guy who was supposed to do it broke his ankle, and he's still in the hospital."
Mr. Pautsch's ride had nine sponsors and raised money for The League, a Baltimore group that serves people with physical disabilities.
One rider towed a kayak the whole way, except for the Chesapeake Bay crossing -- he paddled across while the rest cycled overhead and got to the other side first. This year marked the first time cyclists have been allowed on the Bay Bridge, making part of the tour historic, said Ms. Bernstein.
The tour began last Sunday with a check-in in Leonardtown. Cycling began Monday, as riders made their way 60 miles north to Largo in Prince George's County.
Tuesday, they rode 50 miles to Millersville in mid-Anne Arundel County; Wednesday, 40 miles across the Bay Bridge to Centreville; Thursday, 70 miles south to Salisbury; Friday, south 45 miles to Crisfield; and yesterday, 60 miles to end their
trip in Berlin.
Tour participants could camp, stay in area lodging or, for some, sleep in school gymnasiums along the way. Some riders opted to take their bikes to Millersville and take a bus to Leonardtown to begin the tour.
For the return trip, buses gave those riders a lift back to Millersville and their cars. Their bikes made the trip in trucks.
Many of the riders had little mini-computers with digital readouts attached to their handlebars that gave them readings such as speed and mileage. The tour began five years ago as the brainchild of Ms. Bernstein, who was press secretary to William Donald Schaefer when he was Baltimore's mayor.
The tour is sponsored by the nonprofit Cycle Across Maryland Corp., which also sponsors other cycling activities.
"This is my baby," Ms. Bernstein said with obvious pride.
"If this is your baby, chalk up another successful one, Mom," said tour participant Steve Van Winkle, who'd just finished his third year on the tour.