In 2004, I met a lady involved in the Blue Bikes program in Buffalo, NY, where I live. The Blue Bikes program sets bicycles in convenient places, and with membership you can just unlock a bike, use it and return it to a Blue Bikes location. She told me about the Erie Canal Bike Ride, an 8 day, 400 mile fully supported ride from Buffalo to Albany, NY.
I had never ridden with a group and the longest sojourn undertaken had been a 100 mile trip from Buffalo to Warren, PA. That trip required the use of panniers to hold clothes and overnight equipment. I had no cooking equipment, but bought my meals at a supermarket.
To prepare myself for this trip, I vowed to ride 200 miles between April and the July 8th start date. Most of these miles where logged while doing everyday tasks, including commuting, for I am attempting to move away from my car. The longest of the preparatory rides was 30 miles round trip. In addition, I began to research how to return to Buffalo. There is a lot of information on the Erie Canal Ride website.
One of the most worrisome items was the concept of "boxing" my bike for the return trip home. There was a website which tries to explain the process. Bike boxes (cardboard) can be obtained free from a bike shop.
I will point out that since I backpack and canoe camp, I have a small, lightweight tent and sleeping bag. I ride a ten-speed road bike, custom made (for someone else) by BCA in Allentown, PA. I acquired it used in 1983. It is a good quality bike, with double butted joints, Shimano derailleurs and has a lightweight frame, probably of alluminum/steel alloy. In other words, I did not go out and buy the newest, fanciest bike for this trek. In addition, I own two pairs of bike shorts, which are the only pieces of clothing I would cite as imperative. They pad you a little and keep you from chafing against the seat. I did bring three athletic shirts; one was a cycling shirt, which was helpful when I went shopping. Bike shorts have no pockets. The only other things I got specifically for this ride were a bike cover (not really a necessity- kept leather seat dry at night) and a Catseye odometer, which was nice to have. The odometer/speedometer helped me keep a steady pace, gauge the distances set out on the daily cue sheets and gave me accurate mileage, for when I needed to tell vehicular SAG where a rider was located. The only thing I wished I had brought was a small collapsible chair.