THE BROCHURE must have read like grade-A bike-tour porn: 366 days, 20,000 miles, 45 countries. Droool.
But in October, with several thousand miles still to go, the wheels came off Odyssey 2000, and organizer Tim Kneeland, founder of Seattle-based outfitter Tim Kneeland & Associates, declared that the around-the-world jaunt had run out of cash. Citing air-transportation costs, he asked the tour's 247 riders—each of whom had paid up to $36,000 to sign on—to cough up another $3,000 a head to finish the tour.
For many, it was the last straw. In Italy, for example, Kneeland had told riders they'd, uh, have to keep their wet clothes on for another few days because the gear trucks had been temporarily abandoned for lack of insurance. Not counting the multiple broken bones and one amputation (a lower leg, removed following a brush with a semi in Sweden), the low point came when riders arrived in Japan—sans bikes—and spent nine days riding from campsite to campsite in a bus. (Kneeland blames Malaysian Airlines for the snafu). "I could not give him any more money on principle," says Gerry Rolfsen, a 62-year-old retired architect from Nova Scotia, who hopped a flight home. An estimated 60 riders paid the $3,000 transportation surcharge—as allowed for in the contract—but at press time around 190 had opted to cut their losses and bail out.
Many accuse Kneeland of poor planning (the disgruntled have rallied at a Web site, www.odyssey2003.com), but he chalks up the debacle to an unforeseeable increase in air-fuel costs—and more than a few bad attitudes. "For some, it was not as much fun as they expected," he says. "They weren't prepared to rough it. A few seemed to expect five-star hotels." For that you'd presumably have had to pay an arm and a leg.