Or, How I Think it’s Going to Work:
Karen asks for details on how the cycling tour is going to work. Here’s what I think it going to happen (obviously afterward I’ll let you know what really happened).
Are you bringing your own cycle?
Yes. While the tour company (ExperiencePlus) provides bicycles in France for the able-bodied riders, I’m going to bring my own handcycle (and, thank goodness, my own handcycle mechanic). My husband has already done a trial run and has been able to break down the handcycle and pack it into a standard bicycle airplane case measuring 47″ x 30.5″ x 10.5″ (see photos at the end of this post). The packed case weighs about 65 pounds, and has wheels and a strap for dragging it through the terminal. In the worst case, I assume we’ll have to pay an overweight baggage fee to check it. In the best case the airline will consider it a mobility device and won’t charge for it. I’ve heard of both from others who travel with handcycles and racing wheelchairs.
Are they able to transport everything for you?
Yes, just like they do for the able-bodied riders. This is one of the reasons we’ve chosen a supported ride. The company transports everyone’s luggage from hotel to hotel each day.
What do they do with your wheelchair?
The company provides a support van each day, and they will have my wheelchair. We will decide each day where and when the van will meet me along the route. My goal is to cycle the whole route each day, but being picked up early is an option. The company has asked that when they do pick me up that one of my companions (I am traveling with three able-bodied people, my husband and another couple) be available to help the driver put the handcycle on top of the van. We’ll all have cell phones and will be able to contact each other.
Will the hotels be accessible?
The company has already checked on this. Of the hotels they normally use, one (the first night) does not have an accessible room. They have agreed to find an accessible hotel in the same town for us for that night, but everyone else will stay at the usual hotel.
What if you have to pee while you’re riding?
Ah, the $64,000 question that started the whole thing. I do not cath, so this is actually harder for me than it might be for someone who is more disabled (or who is male). I’ve learned that I can ride 3-4 hours without needing to pee, if I manage my liquid intake carefully. At that point, I’ll either need to get the van to meet me with my wheelchair at a lunch or snack stop, or I’ll need to depend on the kindness of strangers to help me out (which I am willing to do). I’m going into this with an open mind, a flexible attitude, and a willingness to crawl.
I want to add that I’ve been discussing logistics with ExperiencePlus since August, and while they’ve had very little experience with handcyclists on their tours, they have been very open minded and flexible in thinking about how it’s all going to work. Some of it we’ll be able to work out in advance; other things we’ll just have to handle as they come up. I’m optimistic and enthusiastic that it’s all going to come together well.
What questions haven’t I thought of?