Bike Tour 2019

Here’s my plan for my 2019 bike tour.

Big U Bike Tour Map.JPG

I start in Chicago (or north central Indiana). I follow U.S. Bicycle Route 66, the dark blue line, to southwestern Missouri. This route follows, to the extent possible, the old Route 66 highway. I switch to the TransAmerica Route, the orange line, and head west across Kansas and the southern half of Colorado. In Pueblo, Colorado I take a day off after 1,300 miles. I’ll need it. I leave the TransAm Route and head west across the Rocky Mountains and into Utah. If I have it in me, I’ll do a side trip to Bryce Canyon National Park. I’m not planning on hiking but the scenery alone in Bryce will be hard to pass up. 

Between Pueblo and South Lake Tahoe, California, there are dozens of mountains to climb. Most of them are higher and steeper than the seven climbs I did in Montana and Washington State last summer. My maximum elevation last year as a little over 5,600 feet. This route has climbs that go over 10,000 feet. To add to the difficulty there will be long stretches with no services, including no water. And did I mention some of these will be in desert? I bought a water filter and plan on carrying extra bottled water whenever I can.

I’d like to cut weight on this tour but there really isn’t anyway to avoid carrying a tent, sleeping pad, cold weather clothing, food, and water. The best place to cut weight is from the engine. Unfortunately, I now weight 213 pounds. No bueno. I need to be under 200 by the time I leave Pueblo.

Near South Lake Tahoe, I turn north along the Sierra Cascades Route. I thought this was going to be the hardest part of the trip, but now that I have seen the elevation map of Nevada, these mountains will be a relief (so to speak). This stretch of the tour will take me past Crater Lake. Once I get into Oregon, I’ll decide whether to continue following the Sierra Cascades Route to the Columbia River. There I can turn west following the river to the finish in Portland, Oregon. An alternative would be to switch back to the Trans Am route at Sisters, Oregon, climb over McKenzie Pass, and ride down to Eugene, or even continue to the coast. Either way, I would use the Google to route me to Portland.

Since I fully expect to be a hurtin’ unit for much of this ride, I have thought about places where I can call an audible and change or curtail the tour. For instance, I can cut out the Sierra Cascades entirely and ride one last climb west across the Sierras to Sacramento or, even, the Bay Area.

I planned a two-month itinerary, the same as last year, even though the tour is 700 miles shorter. The lower daily mileage has more to do with the availability of resources than with the difficulty of the route itself. For example, when I am faced with the option of a 45 mile day or an 80 mile day, I am planning on the 45 mile day. (I generally end up riding farther than plan because riding is preferable to sitting around a campsite or a motel.)

I plan to start on May 15. The original idea was to take Amtrak to Chicago. Mrs. Rootchopper has dangled the idea of driving me to her parents’ house in northern Indiana. I can ride west and pick up Route 66 in a day or two (and avoid the traffic of northern Illinois.)

I am open for suggestions as to what to call this tour. The Big U is one idea. YODO in the Wild West is another. If you have any suggestions, feel free to add them in the comments section.

Stay tuned.

 

 

Imposter Syndrome, Nightmares, Eagles, and Maps

When I retired, I finally could say good bye to imposter syndrome. an intense, irrational feeling of inadequacy.  To some extent it served as motivation. Six months after riding solo across the country, I am doubting my ability to do a long tour. It makes not the slightest bit of sense but there it is.

For decades I have had nightmares about being in grad school. Typically, this involves forgetting to go to class (I missed only a handful of classes in college and grad school) or getting lost on campus. Last night I had a very disturbing nightmare about statistics, of all things. In my dream I had forgotten everything I knew about statistics. I felt utterly useless and defeated. I was rattled by the dream for a couple of hours after I woke up. This is totally stupid because I took statistics in high school, college, and grad school. I taught statistics at a college in Rhode Island. And statistics played a major role in my professional life.

A couple of hours after I woke up, I found a very woo woo guided meditation online. I just shut off my skeptic and went with it. It was recorded live and featured the sound of rain from a passing shower. After 25 minutes the lingering anxiety from the nightmare was gone.

Having restored my sanity, I went for a ride. I did 41 1/2 miles yesterday in shorts so I wanted to do a fairly easy 30 today.  I was meandering through suburban neighborhoods when I decided to go down a dead end street to take a look at the Potomac River. The street was lined with McMansions that go for well over $1 million. As I passed one of the last houses before the turn around, I spotted something in a pine tree. A big nest. And right above it was a bald eagle. I am guessing that he may have been guarding a brooding mama eagle.

Eagle backyard

Before my ride I called Adventure Cycling about some maps I need for my tour. The maps that would guide me across Utah and Nevada were out of stock last week. It turns out new maps will be available on Friday. So I ordered all the other maps I need. Later in the day, a couple of packages arrived. One contained a pair of hiking poles. I intend to put them to use in April and later in the summer. The other package had new tires for The Mule and a lightweight lock, which I will use instead of a heavy U-lock.

Speaking of weight, I have noticed that The Mule’s engine has added some mass in recent weeks. Time to dial back the beer and chips. Oink.

Tour Planning 2019

  • Warm weather and improving health have nudged me to start thinking about a tour.
  • I went to Friday Coffee Club and talked to Felkerino about the Sierra Cascades Adventure Cycling Route. He said it was not a climbing hellscape, had lots of services, and is very pretty.
  • So I just sat down and mapped out a tour using Adventure Cycling’s interactive route map.
    • Take Amtrak to Chicago (I’ve ridden across Ohio and Indiana enough, thank you.)
    • Ride Bike Route 66 from Chicago to Marshfield MO. (Basically this is in west central MO.)
    • Hang a right and take the Trans America Route west from Marshfield to Pueblo CO.
    • Take the Western Express Route from Pueblo through the Rockies, the canyons of Utah, and the basin and range terrain of Nevada to Alpine Village CA, near the southern end of Lake Tahoe.
    • Switch to the Sierra Cascades Route north to Sisters OR.
    • Switch back to the Trans America Route and head west from Sisters to the Oregon Coast.
    • Ride from the coast to Portland and fly home.
  • This tour would be 3,700 miles long. That’s 600 miles shorter than last year. This one is considerably hillier and hotter, though. I guess I could do it in 65 days.
  • If I were feeling spunky, I could ride down to the north rim of the Grand Canyon. This would add 300 miles and a week. Also, a side trip into Bryce Canyon would take a couple of days.

 

Any Road Tour: Day 43 – Downhill squeeze on I-90

Last night’s dinner at the Old Post in Missoula featured two pale ales that did a fine job of hydrating me and my dinner of a southwest burger with tater tots. Thanks again to Emma Wimmer for the dinner suggestion. Based on social media comments, Emma is missed by a whole mess of #bikedc people.

Speaking of #bikedc people, Alex Baca returned to DC today after several years living in San Francisco and Cleveland. (I think we should call her LaBron.) I can’t be at her welcome home party today but, we’ll, Welcome Home, Alex!!!!

Oh yeah, the bike tour.

I lingered over breakfast at the hotel to avoid riding in sub-50 degree weather. Did somebody say “Early April?”

I followed an informal route provided by Adventure Cycling. The ride out of Missoula included a lot of suburban ick but eventually I was on a frontage road to the very western section of the Mass Pike.

The frontage road doom turned to gravel and dirt for about ten miles. I didn’t care. I was rested and pretty much nothing would make me cranky.

Frenchtown went by in a blink and after 33 miles I rolled into Alberton. It had a general store so I parked The Mule under an extended eave and went looking for grub. It was a real challenge to find something not in a can or less than 80 proof.

As I shopped a cold rain began. I stood next to my steed eating Doritos, cookies, and a candy bar while swilling Diet Pepsi. Nutrition is my middle name.

The rain stopped so I headed out of town following my map onto the interstate. All was going well until I entered a construction zone. Traffic was one lane in each direction. I had a wide shoulder to myself until I came to two bridges which were about 150 yards long in total. No shoulder. Eek.

Fortunately the road was trending downhill and the speed limit was lowered from 80 to 55 mph. I waited uphill from the bridges and took off when I saw a big gap in traffic. I made it across with room to spare.

A mile later it happened again. This bridge was half as long but it was on an uphill section of road. I pedaled like crazy but only made it half way across before a white old man sedan rolled by me at about 30 mph. Thankfully it wasn’t a Winnebago.

I took another frontage road soon after the two squeeze plays. The views were great. The road was paved. I was following the Clark Fork River. I passed a rafting outfitter who yelled a greeting and offered me water. Nice lady.

In Superior I stopped at a funky cafe and gift shop. I ordered the peanut butter and banana panini and coffee. The sandwich came with chips, carrots, and a small piece of chocolate chip chocolate cake. And a cup full of honey for dipping.

With very happy tummy, I resumed my ride for the last 13 miles to St. Regis. This entire leg was on I-90. Once again I came to a bridge where I lost my shoulder. Once again I failed to cross the span before traffic caught up to me. I was fortunate that the first vehicle to reach me was a tractor trailer with a very patient driver. I heard him downshift as he approached. As I cleared the bridge I gave him a wave and a thumbs up.

Like yesterday today’s ride was nearly all downhill. I did only a handful of climbs of more than 50 feet. There were headwinds but they were manageable. And it rained a bit.

The best part of the day was getting to 70 miles and feeling like I could do a lot more. I didn’t. During the stop in Alberton I reserved a room at a motel in St. Regis.

Total miles: 76

Tour miles: 3,124.5

Tomorrow should be my last day in Montana.

Any Road Tour: Day 42 – Missoula rest day off

Last night I laid out my wet things in my huge room at the Holiday Inn. And passed out.

I awoke and laid about, checking on flights home from Seattle and Portland. I packed up and went next door for coffee and a breakfast burrito.

Then I hit the bank because sometimes only cash will work in the hinterlands ahead.

I rolled over to the mothership, the headquarters of the Adventure Cycling Association. A friendly young man whose name I forgot took my picture with The Mule for the legendary Adventure Cycling wall of bike tourists.

Next I met Emma Wimmer, a former resident of DC and mutual friend of about a dozen #bikedc folks. She started by giving me routing advice for the next several days. Exactly what I needed. Then she gave me the cook’s tour of the place. I’ve been a member for at least 20 years so it was fun to see how it all works. I even met Ginny Sullivan who works on nationwide bike routes. We also have lots of mutual connections and interests.

After over an hour I posed with Emma for a picture outside. Thank you, Emma. What a treat it was meeting you.

Emma gave me recommendations on a camping store where I bought seam sealer for my tent. And on a restaurant (The Catalyst) where I bought lunch. Grilled cheese on vegan bread? Well, despite the dairy anomaly it tasted great.

Next on the advice of a Twitter follower I went to the Big Dipper for some ice cream. It was chilly out so I put on my jacket while I ate.

A block away I found Missoula Bicycle Works. They replaced my pedals (they’ve been squeaking since Minnesota) and tightened my rear hub.

Next I rode gently to the west of town and booked a hotel room. There I sealed the seams of the rain fly of my tent. Then I went inside on an absolutely beautiful afternoon and fell sound asleep for three hours.

I guess I was tired. They call me Mr. Excitement.

After waking I watched an inning of the Sawx vs the Nats on TV. What ever is wrong with my Nats? I am sure that my Baseball Operations manager is working hard to fix it, aren’t you Katie Lee?

In the evening I walked a half mile to the Old Post, Emma’s dinner suggestion. She went three for three.

Miles: 4

Total miles: 3,048.5