The thrust at Houston is to get out of this world on a rocket, but the American Youth Hostels, Inc. have an even better idea: get into it on a bicycle. To that end, the AYH has just released a paperback atlas (North American Bicycle Atlas by Warren Asa Hammond, $1.95) chock full of information about how to prepare for a bicycle tour almost anywhere on the North American continent.
The AYH atlas is divided into three sections. The meat of the book lists 90 bicycle tours ranging in length from a week to a month and covering 47 states, six Canadian provinces, Mexico and the Caribbean, all with individual maps and texts. In addition, for the novice rider, 62 one-day and weekend rides are suggested. Each tour has its own "difficulty rating" and ranges from "easy" (eight to 15 miles on fairly flat terrain) to "rugged" (trips that may include high mountain passes, unpaved roads, long distances per day, primitive campgrounds, heavy traffic and adverse climatic conditions). In between "easy" and "rugged" are tours designed for the "average cyclist."
The longest tour described is the 3,000-mile cross-the-continent trip, more difficult now to plan than previously because of the ever-changing freeway situation, though, according to the author, about 100 cyclists a year still take oft" on their two-wheelers to attempt it. Among the most scenic tours, for those who want to leave the U.S., are the Puerto Rican Holiday (recommended for experienced cyclists "because the Puerto Rican roads tend to be narrow, with heavy traffic and daring auto drivers"), or a tour of central Mexico, listed as "rugged," with 10,000-foot mountain passes.
History-minded cyclists may want to follow part of the 1805 Lewis and Clark expedition, a tour that will take them 200 miles from Missoula, Mont, to Lewiston, Idaho; for newlyweds there is a Honeymoon Special (330 miles) that traverses New York's Hudson River Valley to Niagara Falls (where else?).
For the fair-weather all-round athlete, the author lists four dandy possible tours in Hawaii, with excellent surfing, swimming and deep-sea fishing available when pedaling palls. Traversing part of Alaska is "rugged" but rewarding for its abundant wildlife, good fishing and spectacular scenery.
Mr. Hammond's little book is fun to read even if you're not a cyclist. He overlooks almost nothing, from what kind of equipment you'll need to how much weight to carry, what time of year is best for each trip and no less than 11 possible methods of discouraging the dog that yaps at your tires.