I am 13 years old. I am a very good biker, and very fit. I want to bike across the country but my parents wont let me unless I go with a group. Does anyone know of a group that is going to bike across the USA summer of 2011, or if I'm too late, 2012? Please reply! I really want to go
I started riding "seriously" when I was 12. I am now 46. I have crossed the country 5 times and ridden across 45 states and in 9 countries. I started doing multi-day touring when I was 14. Like you, the parents made me go with a group until I got older. Now that I am a parent, I can easily see both sides. Why should I have to wait just because I am 13! Your parents respond with "Because I love you and I don't want you to get in over your head, or worse (said with love of course)!" or "Because I am afraid you will get hit by a car!" or something similar.
While it is not exactly what you want, I would highly suggest you start by joining a local bike club. Most clubs have monthly weekend overnight tours. Also, there are usually riders (typically old geezers like myself) who go on cross-state rides who would be willing to be your guardian IF you are reasonably mature (not just for your age!), and know how to ride & take care of your own repairs. A lot of states have cross-state rides or have one within a day's drive. These allow you to do something pretty cool but under the reasonable guidelines your parents want. Once you do your time and gain some experience, the parents would probably be much more likely to let you go by yourself. My first week-long ride was FreeWheel, which is an annual ride across Oklahoma. Again, all parts of the country have something similar but it may be in an adjoining state.
One thing to consider as a "starter" type trip would be to do an extended rail trail ride. The Katy Trail in Missouri or the GAP/C&O Trail in PA, MD, & DC is another. If they still won't let you go by yourself, go first to your mom and show her all the cool Bed & Breakfast places to stay along the trail where she can enjoy a relaxing time while you can ride. Mom could see all the wonderful museums and Dad could go see the cool airplanes and rockets and stuff at the Smithsonian. Help them overcome their fear, which is based on love, so you can do what you want. Let your Mom convince your Dad that this is a good idea :-). This way the parents can see what cycle touring is like and the fear will greatly subside. It is this fear that something will happen to you is what you are battling, not the parents! Help them overcome their fear, which is based out of love, so you can do what you want.
My first solo trip (other than being in a large cross-state ride not being under a guardian) was when I was 17 when I did the TransAm route during my summer after I finished as a junior in high school. I was pretty mature by then. I had built up to this by doing 4 cross-state rides, and one month-long tour with an adult. I paid about 1/3 of my trip, used Bikecentennial's (ACA's predecessor) maps, and agreed to the typical parental rules such as calling home most nights, giving a detailed schedule, sticking to the route, etc. It truly was the best experience of my life and for this I honestly hope you can go on such a trip at such a young age as it really does help you mature (further) and develop into a great young adult. As I have said, I have done many other trips but that was my favorite.
This brings up the question, are you a guy or a girl? I am a guy and I have a teenage daughter and a teenage son. While my 18 year-old daughter is easily mature enough for the trip, as a father, I would be concerned for her safety from others. Not harm from cars but from people. I probably would not have let her done a similar trip by herself until after high school. And I know the joys, risks, and rewards of bike touring. My 17 year-old son however is the opposite and I worry about him when he walks to the store 3 blocks away due to his maturity or lack thereof! My point is if you are a guy, you probably could go a year or two earlier than a girl IF you are mature and ONLY due to my fatherly protectionist issues. This may sound sexist, but I prefer to think of it more in a loving way. If my daughter was 17, very mature, could do most bike repairs, and a black belt (seriously), I would at least strongly consider letting her go.
I am not trying to shoot down your dream but give you information to help you understand what your parents may be thinking and also how to go about getting your goal accomplished. I hope you don't give up on your dream to go on a solo extended tour. Until then, consider groups such as 10th Gear, American Youth Hostels, and the various cross state rides.
If you or your parents have questions, I would be happy to answer them.