If everything had gone as originally planned, I'd be biking in South America right now. I'd be pedaling through the far northern reaches of Tierra del Fuego, about to enter the pristine wilderness of Patagonia. Instead, I spent this last weekend in the steel jungle that is New York City.
My original plans went astray all because of a phone call from Arlen Hall, Tours Director at Adventure Cycling Association. During this call, Arlen asked if I would be interested in helping to represent Adventure Cycling at The New York Times Travel Show the second weekend in January. If I didn't already have plans to be cycling in South America in early January, I would have given Arlen an exuberant "YES!" Instead, I hemmed and I hawed. I wanted to help at the Travel Show. But I also really wanted to get my long-awaited South America trip under way. Decisions, decisions, decisions!
|The grand entrance, welcoming visitors to The New York Times Travel Show.|
To make my decision, I needed to learn more about The New York Times Travel Show. This is what I learned: Held at the Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan, the Travel Show boasts more than 500 exhibitor booths from around the globe, 150 travel industry speakers and events, 100 cultural presentations, and 28,000 travelers and industry professional attendees. In a nutshell, The New York Times Travel Show is sorta a big deal.
I'm a believer that life places opportunities in our path for a reason. Arlen had placed an opportunity in my path, and it just didn't seem right to pass up on that opportunity. Fortunately, this opportunity arrived in the nick of time, as Arlen's phone call came just a few short hours before I planned to purchase my plane ticket to South America.
I postponed making flight arrangements and instead spent a few days giving Arlen's opportunity some thought. After carefully twisting the arms of my two South America travel buddies, I decided to postpone my trip's departure date and give Arlen a tardy-yet-still-exuberant "YES."
And so it was that I found myself in the steel jungle that is New York City.
Upon arriving into Manhattan, I checked into my AirBnB for the weekend. I was surprised to learn a fellow AirBnB guest was from Argentina. I hadn't been in New York City for more than a half hour, and I had already made a South American friend. ¡Chévere, una oportunidad para practicar mi español!
Pleased that my AirBnB experience was going to whet my appetite for South America, I wore a big smile on my face as I walked the few blocks to a dance hall. There I was to help set up for the weekend's kick-off event -- Adventure Cycling's 40th Anniversary Party.
|The celebratory cake. (Photo credit: John Ngai.)|
Yes, friends, Adventure Cycling Association is 40 years young this year! Adventure Cycling began in 1976 when four friends planned a big bicycle trip, called Bikecentennial, across the United States. Following what is now commonly referred to as the TransAm route, more than 4,000 cyclists participated in the ride. Bikecentennial was such a huge success that the founders of the ride decided to create a non-profit organization to inspire and empower people to travel by bicycle. Hence, Adventure Cycling was born.
As Adventure Cycling's 40th birthday bash got under way Thursday evening, Membership Director Julie Huck and I greeted the nearly 120 guests who attended the party. As the guests filtered by our check-in table, I recognized some familiar faces. These faces belonged to Teresa and Alice, two riders who were on my Sierra Sampler trip last fall. How great to see these ladies again!
|Julie and me greeting guests at the check-in table. (Photo credit: John Ngai.)|
Held at a fantastic venue in the heart of Manhattan, the celebration included a hearty supply of libations and yummy edibles. As more and more guests arrived, the decimal level in the party hall grew and grew; clearly the dance hall was buzzing with exciting conversation.
|Party goers pointing out their favorite routes. (Photo credit: John Ngai.)|
About an hour into the party, Adventure Cycling's Executive Director Jim Sayer gave a presentation about the organization's year-long plans to celebrate its 40th anniversary.
|Jim entertaining the party goers. (Photo credit: John Ngai.)|
Jim then passed the microphone to Charles Scott, a New York-based adventurer, motivational speaker, and author of Daunted Courage and Rising Son, who gave an entertaining talk about his bicycle travels with his two young kids.
|Charles displaying his two books.|
After the presentations, there were lots of raffle prizes to be won. Many guests became the proud new owners of Adventure Cycling socks, calendars, caps, and other great goodies.
I thoroughly enjoyed hobnobing with the guests at the party. I had a delightful conversation with the oh-so enthusiastic Danielle and Ted, who write about their cycling adventures on their blog Panniers and Granny Gears. I met Christi, who is a new Tour Leader with Adventure Cycling. We quickly learned that we share similar nomadic lifestyles and similar passions for exploring the world via two wheels. And I had a chance to meet three individuals who pedaled in the Bikecentennial ride 40 years ago. What a fun group of people!
Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were spent at The New York Times Travel Show. Early Friday morning, we set up Adventure Cycling's booth, which was nestled among other booths in the show's Adventure Pavilion. Perhaps I'm biased, but I thought Adventure Cycling had a very attractive booth -- a colorful backdrop, a pretty Raleigh bicycle, and a whole lot of information, including tour catalogs, sample magazines, and free six-month memberships.
|Adventure Cycling's snazzy booth.|
Of course, a slew of friendly faces also enhanced the booth's attractiveness. There was a core group of four folks who worked the booth the entire weekend -- Steve Powell, Julie Huck, Jim Sayer, and myself. Members Charles Scott, Bob Shattuck, and Sheila Snyder also volunteered their time to help run the booth throughout the weekend. We all had a blast working together.
|Steve, Julie, Jim, and me.|
Though the Travel Show officially started on Friday afternoon, the doors were initially only open to members of the travel industry. On Saturday and Sunday, the Travel Show opened its doors even wider to include the general public.
Over the weekend, we had an enormous number of folks stop by our booth. Adventure Cycling had given away 100 passes to the Travel Show, and so many of our visitors were members who stopped by the booth to say "hello." But these folks represented a small fraction of all the travel enthusiasts who visited the booth. Some had heard of Adventure Cycling; others had not. Some described themselves as cyclists; others did not. Regardless, we evangelized to inspire and empower people to travel by bicycle.
|Me and Jim inspiring people to travel by bicycle.|
At our booth, we advertised for a prize drawing. At the end of the month, Adventure Cycling will be giving away a Raleigh Clubman Disc bicycle and a trip with Gotham Bicycle Tours. Registering folks in the drawing was a piece of cake at the Travel Show, as all we needed to do was scan interested attendees' badges. Over the course of the weekend, we scanned more than 1,000 badges.
|Scanning badges to enter attendees in the prize drawing.|
The prize drawing, of course, was a huge draw to our booth. But so were these little blue bicycles.
|The hugely popular little blue bicycles.|
Though children valued the little blue bicycles as toys, the adults appreciated the dual functionality of the little blue bikes as both key chains and bottle openers.
On Sunday afternoon, Jim Sayer led a panel on bicycle travel, along with Lauren Hefferon (from Ciclismo Classico) and Henry Gold (from TDA Global Cycling). As always, Jim gave an inspiring speech about bicycle travel. If I wasn't already a diehard bicycle traveler, I would have instantly fallen for the joys of bicycle travel after hearing Jim talk. He's truly an empowering speaker.
|Jim speaking at the panel on bicycle travel.|
All in all, Adventure Cycling's visit to New York was a huge success. It was a great opportunity to engage with our existing members and to reach out to develop bonds with new members. We undoubtedly spread Adventure Cycling's love to the people of New York. Given the international reach of the Travel Show, we also spread Adventure Cycling's love around the globe.
Though delayed, my trip to South America has not been forgotten. I board a plane tomorrow morning for the southernmost city in the world. For the next four months, I'll be spreading my love for adventure cycling in Argentina and Chile. May all of your cycling be adventurous, friends.