Telegram & Gazette
April 27, 1997
By Lynne Tolman
Dr. Tom Germano of Sterling remembers riding on a childhood buddy's bike, in the tailgunner position on a banana seat, hurtling down a flight of concrete steps and somehow staying upright.
Today his biking style is different -- he'll leave the stunts to BMX trick riders and downhill mountain bike racers -- but his sense of adventure is intact.
Germano, 34, first biked across the country in 1993. He pedaled his Cannondale cross-country again, on a different west-to-east route, in 1995. Now he's dreaming of a third transcontinental bike trip: the TransAmerica, a 4,450-mile route from Virginia to Oregon that is the granddaddy of the coast-to-coast tours run by Adventure Cycling Association.
Hundreds of bike touring companies have sprouted since ACA was founded in 1976 with the name Bikecentennial, but ACA remains unique. While other tour operators pamper cyclists with gourmet cuisine, luxury accommodations and "sag wagons" to carry luggage and even tired riders, ACA pushes bicyclists to go "self-contained" -- carry their tents, stove, food, tools and clothes on their bikes, camp out and cook for themselves -- whether on an organized ACA tour or on their own.
ACA tried van-supported, inn-to-inn tours in recent years "because of the market," said Kenny Miller, instructor at an ACA leadership training weekend this month in Littleton. "But really our thing is (biking) self-contained. What's so satisfying is it's rugged. It makes people confront their personal level of comfort, and push that envelope. The inherent satisfaction is in the mastery of things you didn't know you could do."
Germano, an emergency room doctor at University of Massachusetts Hospital in Worcester, compared his pedaling adventures to his work on his application for his E.R. residency. "You're forced to use what you have, to improvise," he said.
Riding across the United States, he found that given the chance, "people will take care of you" -- an amazing lesson for a native New Yorker. One memorable encounter with the locals came during horrendous thunderstorms on the plains of North Dakota. Twenty-two miles short of their destination, in the tiny town of Binford, with no motel or campground, the cyclists stopped at a little grocery store seeking shelter for the night.
"The guy in the store called his brother, who was a policeman, and he called somebody, and the mayor ended up giving us the keys to the elementary school," Germano said. "I don't mean he let us in and said we could only use the gym or which rooms and equipment were off limits; he just gave us the keys. That wouldn't happen on the East Coast."
A couple of years later, when Germano bought a new personal computer, he donated his old model to that school.
Germano and two dozen others who took the three-day leadership course in Littleton may or may not be offered paid positions as leaders of ACA tours, which range from weeklong road and mountain biking trips featuring various national parks to 13-week cross-county expeditions. "I owe some of the best moments in my life to this organization and owe something back," Germano said. "Not a day goes by that I don't think about those trips."
For ACA maps or membership information, call 406-721-1776 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. For $28 a year, members get the monthly Adventure Cycling magazine and discounts on cycling gear, books and maps.
The New England Women's Challenge Series has expanded, giving female road racers incentives to advance in the sport. The points series' cash prizes drew record numbers of women to Category 4 (beginner level) races last year, and separate Category 3 competition has been added this year.
Many women earned enough points last year to upgrade to Cat. 3, and separating the categories "should help beginners have a chance of learning and staying with cycling," said series promoter Fran Castano of Watertown. "If we can get enough women to work toward upgrading to Cat. 2, then the last stage of the series, Cat. 1/2/3 races, will roll out next year."
Points are awarded to all finishers in 26 races through September, with each rider's best 20 finishes counting toward series standings and end-of-season prizes. After races last weekend in Maine and Cape Cod, Dina Smith (Castano Wheels) of Belmont is leading the Cat. 3 women, and teammate Rebecca Taylor of Somerville is leading the Cat. 4's. The next race is Saturday at Jiminy Peak in the Berkshires.
For series information, contact Castano at email@example.com or 617-926-3462.
TIP OF THE HELMET -- To the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles for including information about bicycling in its driver's manual for the first time this year. Drivers and cyclists alike benefit when everyone understands that the same rules of the road apply to both. However, the manual contradicts state law on one important point. It says bicyclists "must use lanes or paths that are specifically set aside for bicycles" when such routes are available. In fact, cyclists may use such paths, but still have every right to be on the road.
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