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A Scout’s Cycling Experience

What is Patrol Z?

You wake up to the sound of your rain fly shaking and the voice of your patrol leader telling you to get up. Quickly, you get dressed and hop out of your tent. Soon your patrol members start cooking a delicious breakfast. Each time you leave your campsite, a new adventure begins, one completely different from the other.

Scouts of Troop 185 have many adventures to look forward to, from sailing and canoeing, to cycling and climbing, but they regularly take adventure to the next level.

An activity unique to the troop is the cycling trips the Scouts take along the New Orleans levee system. The system of grassy hills and gates is nearly 75 miles long, but is mostly paved, which is perfect for cyclists.

Preparing for the Trip

Before they leave for their first trip, each Scout takes his bike to a meeting to make sure everything is in pristine condition. Months before, each Scout learns everything he will need to know, including mechanics, first aid, and safety.

Hitting the Asphalt — With Speed

In the early morning the troop meets at the Fly, a section of Audubon Park on the Mississippi River. A Scout volunteers to bike in front to set the pace, and they depart. For a while, the leader cycles on a smooth sidewalk next to River Road, then suddenly the path rises and merges with the levee, over 16 feet higher.

When they cycle, the Scouts have to be prepared for anything from cold winds and rain to dehydration and heat stroke.

Once they conquer the climb up onto the levee, the Scouts reach high speeds and fly across the levees. Soon, they have traveled half the distance and take a short break to drink water and make any repairs.

Back on their bikes and returning to the park where they started by lunchtime, the Scouts have their gear packed up and are ready to sleep the rest of the day. Even though this cycling adventure is over, they still have many more to come!

Bigger Plans

The first big cycling trip the troop plans to take since 2004 will be in the spring in Vicksburg, Mississippi. After many months of training on rides just like the one described here, they will embark on a 60-mile tour of the Vicksburg National Military Park. The hilly park will be unlike the flat pavement of the levees they regularly travel on, and even the experienced riders know this will be a trip unlike any other.

The Cycling Merit Badge

Not only is each Scout physically stronger at the end of each trip, but at the completion of 150 miles and with a few other requirements met, they are eligible to earn the Cycling merit badge. The badge, which is one of three options (Cycling, Hiking, and Swimming) for one of the required Eagle Scout merit badges, also brings him one step closer to earning Scouting’s highest rank.

At the end of the day, Scouts who just got their wheels, along with the cycling pros, both leave the asphalt knowing more about their bike and having a great adventure.

Cycling is an excellent way to prepare for the 2013 National Scout Jamboree. How are you preparing for the big event?

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