Bike trip stuff

I’m starting to amass some new stuff for my bike trip. Two new Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires to replace the two I’ve been riding for a year and nearly 5,000 miles. (The old ones are still usable but won’t survive a long tour.)

A new Ottolock will replace my heavy U-lock. I’ll be mostly in rural areas so this should provide ample security. It’s a combination lock so I don’t have to worry about losing my key.

Spray on sunscreen for the ever growing solar panel on the top of my head.

And a pile of Adventure Cycling maps to keep me from getting lost.

I’ve also bought new Koolstop brake pads for my front and back wheels.

I’m going to buy a water filter and maybe a merino wool t-shirt before I leave.

About five or six weeks to lift off. Stay tuned.

Rain, Rest, Motivation, and Maps

Last night I took 2 ibuprofen PMs (ibuprofen with a sedative) to make sure my wonky left knee didn’t wake me. It worked. I overslept Friday Coffee Club.  This was pretty convenient because I would have ridden 15 miles to DC in a cold rain.

I needed the rest. I’ve been pretty disappointed with my body this winter. Sore knee, shoulder, hip, achy back,…., I want my mommie! Self pity won’t get my act together but exercises, new walking shoes, and riding my bike, alternating hard and easy days, will. So, for the last seven days, I rode 207 miles, mostly on my Cross Check. And I did a couple yoga torture sessions, a weight session, and two foam roller super six sessions. Each day included specific stretches for my iliotibial bands in hopes my left hip and knee will heal themselves.

Now that my body is starting to come around, I need to work on my brain. Bike rides and daily meditation are not getting it done. Two things happened the other day that should help. First, the maps for the middle part of my bike tour arrived. They span the gap between Pueblo, Colorado and South Lake Tahoe, California.  The thought of riding this section of the country is intimidating. I will sit down in the next day or three and do a day by day itinerary in the hopes of getting enthused.

The other thing that happened is I stumbled on a video blog about a coast to coast bike tour. Ryan and Ali are two film making fitness people who fell in love. Having been together only three months, Ryan didn’t want to ride across the country solo so Aly agreed to join him, despite her inexperience at bike touring. Being obviously smitten with each other they decided to interview people along the way and ask them the secret to maintaining their relationships with their partners. They called their tour LoveCycles.

To document the trip, Ryan made 37 videos, each about 20 minutes long. To be honest I found the love interviews a bit boring after a while, but the parts documenting the tour are amazing.  He even used drones to capture the spectacular landscapes and the two of them riding through them.

I’ve watched the first twenty videos. I was especially enthused by the first two that documented the Oregon beginning of their trip from Fort Stevens State Park (where I dipped my front wheel in the Pacific last summer) to Portland (where my trip ended).

Their ride through Washington State, eastern Oregon, Nebraska, and Wyoming is really beautiful. So if you want to get a sense of what bike touring is like out West, check their videos out.

There are a few things about their tour that differ from mine. First, they made up their route as they went whereas I use Adventure Cycling maps. It turns out the Google isn’t the best bicycle touring router. Yeah, well. On the plus side, they received great route advice from people along the way.

They also traveled with four panniers between them. How the hell they managed to do this and carry video equipment is beyond me. They each brought about a third the clothes that I do, for a start. Their two-person tent is about half the size (and weight) of mine. They have nothing on their rear racks and no fenders. So their bikes were considerably less heavy than mine. And their engines, lacking belly fat and boobage, were much lighter. (For what it’s worth, my father’s genome provided me with a competitively compact ass.)

People often ask me how I managed to ride across the country alone. After watching these videos you’ll see that spending 24/7 with someone under stressful conditions can be trying. (Much of the stress happens off camera, but they make it clear that the trip wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns.) After over 2,000 miles, I actually welcomed Martin’s fitful companionship as I rode through North Dakota, Montana, and Washington. It added variety to the proceedings. It’s a good thing he’s a nice person though. In general, however, solitude works for me.

So it’s back to the videos, only 17 more to go, then a big time bike planning and itinerary session.

Enjoy the rain.

 

Planning: Any Road Will Take Me There

  • I’m thinking of naming my bike tour the Any Road Tour. The reason is I can’t seem to decide on a route let alone a destination. And as lyric thief George Harrison said, if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.
  • So a special note to Tim Jones, Lindsey, and Brittany: I still don’t know if I’ll make it up to the Seattle area. As they say on the Facebook, it’s complicated. I should have a better idea if/when I get up your way in late June when I am somewhere near the Missouri Breaks.
  • The route options go through Missoula, Montana. They are:
    • Ride to Seattle directly from Missoula. Return home around July 22.
    • Ride through Portland then on to Astoria Oregon. Backtrack to Portland. Return home around July 24
    • Ride through Portland then on to Astoria Oregon. Continue north to Seattle. Return home around July 29
    • Ride to central Oregon Coast. Then to Portland. Then to Seattle. (I haven’t mapped this out). Return home around August 6.
    • Ride to central Oregon Coast then to Seattle by way of Astoria. Return home about August 6.
  • All these routes have pluses and minuses. And as Mrs. Rootchopper noted, I could make a separate, month-long tour out of them. (Seattle to Missoula to the central Oregon coast to Portland to Seattle, for example. Or maybe go south to Crater Lake…..)  So this routing uncertainty is a good problem to have.
  • I have met a couple of times with a local bike tourist named Marie. She and her husband Roy did nearly the same tour in 2015 and blogged about it. I didn’t want to read her blog because I thought it might include spoilers, but I finally gave in. It’s wonderfully written and contains all kinds of useful information.
  • I had lunch with Marie the other day. She gave me one of her Adventure Cycling maps of Oregon. And imparted some good advice
    • Feel free to wander from the ACA routes, especially east of the Rockies. There are some surprises, good and bad, to be had. The Google is a pretty good resource.
    • Each county seat in North Dakota has a motel (to sequester juries). So if I get sick of camping I can probably use the Google…
    • I will probably follow their route through the Twin Cities instead of around them. The ACA route goes east from St. Paul, then north, then west. Marie and Roy went northwest and re-connected with the ACA route.
  • Marie and Roy made the trip without camping. Other than staying with a friend or two, they just booked a hotel a day in advance and rode to it. They appeared to average about 2 miles per hour faster than I expect to ride.
  • With the weather finally settling into something resembling spring, I am getting antsy. I still have a few things to take care of for the trip, all of which happen just before I leave.

Tour Planning – Many Moving Parts

The longer the bike tour, the higher the probability of hitting snags. My trip to Key West was fraught with weather complications. My UP tour presented the possibility of sea sickness on three ferries. Both tours worked out fine.

This tour is twice as long as the Key West tour. I bought some bike touring maps from Adventure Cycling Association. Using these I constructed an itinerary in a Google spreadsheet.

Capture

This is the tab covering the main route. There is an alternate, slightly shorter route in Minnesota. That itinerary is on the MN Shortcut tab.

One thing I discovered is that there are beaucoup camping opportunities, including in city parks, presumably for free. Free is bueno.

I tried to make an itinerary that averages about 60 to 70 miles per day. Each day’s segment is determined by the availability of shelter. Food and water are generally available along the route, with the exception of a 78-mile stretch in Montana. As long as I know this, I can plan accordingly.

My route follows several ACA routes and, by design, goes through Missoula, MT, the home of the ACA. The map, that would guide me from Missoula to Clarkston, Washington along US 12, is out of stock. I did receive an addendum to this map, however. It notes that US 12 in Idaho will be closed intermittently for 50 miles this summer. Adventure Cycling is working with the Idaho DOT to figure out how to get its members through the construction zone.

I called Adventure Cycling for more information. They didn’t have much to say other than they are still trying to work something out with the Idaho DOT people. I guess they don’t call it adventure for nothing.

I do have a viable option, albeit one that pretty much rules out stopping in Missoula or riding through Oregon. This one would simply follow the ACA Northern Tier route across the top of Montana, Idaho, and Washington, ending in Anacortes, Washington. This is conveniently close to a high school friend’s home which I was planning on going to anyway. It is also at least 200 hundred miles shorter than the route I have been working on. So depending on how the US 12 situation plays out, I may just call an audible and take the northern route.

And another thing. I learned this morning that my son, who lives in Thailand, is thinking about coming home for a few weeks in July. He would be bringing his girlfriend, whom I have never met. So for obvious reasons I’d like see him while he’s here. Unfortunately, July coincides with my route being in the middle of nowhere. As the Christmas song says, I’ll have to muddle through somehow.

 

 

I hope I don’t forget the maps

Whenever I travel, I obsessively check for my wallet and keys. Losing them can ruin your whole day. On the second day of my trip from DC to northern Indiana, I lost my vest on the C&O Canal. (I made a hurried exit to get away from a camper who was grossing me out.) A few hundred miles later I was caught in the rain. I stopped at a convenience store and bought some 30 gallon garbage bags. I take a 27 gallon bag but you have to make do with what you can.

Today, the cleaning people came to our house. I took off for the gym.  It’s 3 1/2 miles but I went the long way to kill some time. By the time I arrived,I had ridden 22 1/2 miles. I dismounted and immediately noticed that my pannier which contained my lock was not on my bike. Oops.

Retracing my steps wasn’t an idea that pleased my frozen toes so I decided to ride home and see if I left the pannier there. I found the pannier inside the front door. I never carried it outside. Moron.

I rode back to the gym and worked out. By the time I arrived at home, I had ridden 33 miles.

This evening I began mapping out the route I plan to take to the Pacific Northwest beginning in late May. I had figured I’d do about 3, 700 miles. Wrong. It will be more like 4,200. Dang. I selected some maps from the Adventure Cycling Association. One was out of stock. I hope they print more or I am in a bit of a pickle.

Basically, the route goes from DC to Iowa, turns north to Fargo, North Dakota, then west to Montana. There it angles southwest to Missoula (home of Adventure Cycling) before turning west again for the Pacific Coast. I’m still trying to figure out where on the coast I should go. Once there I plan on heading north into Washington State where, if all goes well, I will flop on my high school classmate Tim Jones‘s lawn and declare “I will ride no more forever.”

All I have to do is follow the black line that I drew on top of Adventure Cycling’s U. S. route map. (Note how there are multiple routes through Montana to the coast.)

One of the cool things about this route is that it is all downhill and there are nothing but sunny skies and tailwinds.

My route to the PNW

No Way So Hey – Day 2 

After 88 1/2 miles yesterday I was up for an easy day. How’s 60 1/2 miles grab ya? 

I woke before the sun and waited for the rain to stop as it pitter pattered on the roof of my cabin. 

If I went and the rain returned in the form of mist with a dash of fog. I wore my reflective vest (thanks Bike Arlington) for visibility. 

My day began with a hill but it wasn’t as bad as I expected. In fact none of the hills today were all that difficult.

Unlike yesterday’s suburban bike hell that is officially called Prince William County, today’s ride was mostly rural. I was counting on breakfast at a country store about 20 miles into the ride. It was closed. Out came the granola bars. 

I ate six. Not exactly fine dining but it kept me from bonking.

I stopped to help a turtle cross the road. I thought of Ultrarunnergirl who did the same on a ride we did a couple of years ago. 


40 miles of farms and field led me to Ashland. Along the way my route US Bike Route 1 overlapped with the transAmerica bike route, US Bike Route 76.  If I took a right I could go to the Pacific! That’s for next year.

A major east coast rail line goes right through the center of town. The Iron Horse was the first eatery I saw. Good enough. I had a club sandwich. It was big as was the side of slaw. I was tempted by the beers on tap but Diet Coke won the day. The waiter kept me watered too. And he filled my bottles with ice water. 

The rest of the ride was straight into Richmond. I could tell when I saw the statue of A.P. Hill in the middle of the road. He was facing south. I rode up and down Monument Street and saw the ludicrously immense statues of Robert E. Lee on Traveller and J.E.B. Stuart with a dramatic cape. 

After seeing the capital building and rolling through the location shooting for Homeland, I headed to the hostel. It’s clean and cheapish. They have free laundry and breakfast and in a few minutes popcorn and evening entertainment. I am heading out for  vittles and grog. 

Once I got cleaned up I reviewed my route for the next few days. I managed to overlook about 70 miles of my trip so I may be getting to most of North Carolina a day later than planned. 

Oops.

Key West Bike Tour Planning

  • My Atlantic Coast Route maps have arrived from the Adventure Cycling Association. I spent an hour plotting a tour from DC to Key West.
  • There are many maps covering about 30 miles per map. Each one has tons of detail indicating camping, food and lodging locations along the way. Mostly this means that you have to curtail a day here and there to find a place to rest your head. It also means that getting past Miami will likely involve riding a century. This will not be a whole lot of fun.
  • Each of the maps has a narrative. Sections of the Florida Atlantic coast sound very unfun. There are long sections of the route with no bicycle repair facilities. Derp.
  • I addition to riding the main route straight to Key West, there are four optional side trips to choose from.
    • I can ride the outer banks of North Carolina. This adds 80 miles and about 2 days to the trip. It might also add a whole lot of wind. And sand. I’ll probably take the inner route since I have already driven the outer banks.
    • A spur route goes to Charleston. This would be fun. Another 2 days.
    • A second spur route goes to Savannah. Another 2 days.
    • There is an alternate route through the Okefenokee Swamp. This only adds 15 miles and I’ll almost certainly do it just for the bragging rights.
  • I tried to plot a course that averaged 60 miles per day. It’s not really doable, because of camping/lodging issues. I’ll probably end up averaging 70 miles per day which is okay since I don’t expect to be dealing with a lot of hills once I get to North Carolina. I am more concerned about wind and thunderstorms and meth addled rednecks and alligators. Oh my.
  • A possible alternate route would take me diagonally through Florida from Jacksonville to Orlando and on to Fort Myers on the southwest coast of the penninsula where I would take a ferry to Key West then ride back to Miami. The instructions for riding in Fort Myers are pretty scary. (Ride on sidewalk. Take the lane. Call your momma.) Also, this diagonal route might cause me to bypass Saint Augustine which might be the coolest thing ever.
  • I am still debating with myself whether to do this as a straight unsupported tour or to do Jacksonville to Key West as part of a supported charity ride. The charity ride has lots of logistical advantages. Basically I’d flip the tour on its head. I’d have the bike transported to Jacksonville at the start, ride back to Key West, then get a lift in the support support van, back to Jacksonville, and ride home). The charity ride adds the burden of raising $2,000 by October. Over the last weeke or two, I have watched a friend drive herself to distraction raising money for a charity (for a different ride) in the last couple of weeks. Being a world class introvert, I honestly don’t need the stress nor do I feature hitting people up for money. Worst case scenario: I raise only a couple hunder bucks and I’m on the hook for the shortfall.
  • I can think of a thousand reasons not to do this trip at all. So the thought of just getting on the damned bike and riding until I run out of road has a very strong appeal. I can figure out the return logistics once I get to the Keys. There are three options: fly back, take a train, or rent a van and drive my ass home. What I don’t want to do is schedule the return too far in advance. Then I would stress out about meeting a flight or train for the last week or two. The best option is to fly Southwest back (using points) and ship the bike home via bikeflights.com.
  • I know of 3 or 4 people who live directly on route (depending on my specific route). I am not above mooching a layover at their places.
  • Finally, there is the unanswered question: what size bike pump would I need to fend off meth-addled rednecks and alligators?

 

Planning 2017 – At Last

After two months of dithering, I have finally started to sketch out my battle plan for 2017. I have only a couple of solid commitments to deal with and the rest is flexible.

Solid Commitments

  • Volunteering – because every time I see Michelle (WABA’s event manager) I feel guilty.
    • Vasa Ride – I’ve done this ride several times during the event and on my own or with others during the summer and fall. It’s well worth doing and you should give it a go. I mean when was the last time you had warm blueberry soup?
    • Tour de Fat – I am a trained beer puller. I have two hours of Tour de Fat beer pulling expertise. It would be a shame to let my skills evaporate like beer suds.
  • Family Events
    • Holy cow, my daughter’s graduating from Butler University. Woot! (This one is not at all flexible.)
    • Family reunion – this is in the middle of July.

Bicycling Events

This is a much shorter list than usual but has two new (to me) rides.

  • Car-Free Skyline Drive – I just heard about this today. It’s a brutally hilly road but, well, no cars! Also, I totally suck at hill climbing.
  • Bike to Work Day – probably my last one. Not because I don’t like the ride but because I am retiring in August.
  • Tour dem Parks – A ride around Charm City (Baltimore) that has very good word-of-mouth reviews. Also I might get to meet Eleanor (who was a bun in the oven the last time I was in Baltimore) because I hear she is swell.
  • 50 States Ride (my 10th!) – Need I say more?

Baseball

So far, I have committed to an exhibition game against the Red Sox on March 31 and an Orioles v Red Sox game in April in Baltimore. I blocked out on my calendar all the weekends that the Nationals are at home. If you want to go to a game with me, I am tolerable company. I can provide references. Also, I will shamelessly accept any tickets you get comped or otherwise stuck with. Also, there are two road series against Philadelphia. I might drive up for a day game just for the hell of it. Wanna ride shotgun?

Hiking

When the Nats are not playing I have free weekends. So these are all potential hiking days. My white board list of hikes is pretty similar to last year because I failed miserably at hiking last year. Doh.

  • Potomac Heritage from Turkey Run to Chain Bridge and back
  • Thompson Hollow Loop
  • Buck Hollow/Mary’s Rock
  • Double Bear Rocks
  • Stairway to Heaven
  • Broad Hollow/Pine Hill Gap
  • Loudon Heights/Split Rock
  • Jones Run/Doyle River
  • Corbin Mountain
  • Fountainhead

Mostly these are in the mountains to the west. If you live in the DC area and don’t mind getting up at the crack of dawn, feel free to come with. As with biking, I may be old but I am slow.

I could also use these non-Nats weekends for bike trips. Maybe an out and back between Williamsburg and Richmond on the new-ish rail trail.

Foreign (?) Travel

My daughter is thinking about going overseas for grad school so this would be an excellent excuse for a trip. If she goes to school in the US, this will require a college move-in road trip. Also, my son may still be in Thailand next winter. I wouldn’t mind seeing the place when it’s not pouring rain.

Bike Tours

Since I am retiring in August, I am saving up my annual leave for a big check. Once I get the 50 States out of the way, I think I might ride somewhere warm. Key West sounds like a good destination. The rough plan is to take the Adventure Cycling Atlantic Coast Route about 1,500 miles to Key West, take a ferry to Tampa, ride across Florida to Miami and take Amtrak home. I figure this will take about a month to do. This would be the warm up for the big one in 2018 which will probably involve riding to the Pacific Northwest.

Also between my birthday and the 50 States Ride I may have time for a short tour. I have no idea what that might entail. Maybe a road trip to rail trails in Virginia. Or the Grand Canyon of the East.

 

 

 

 

UP Bike Tour Day 6: Where Does All the Water in Lake Michigan Come from, Daddy?

Yesterday’s last 15 miles were no fun. Good thing I didn’t camp out because violent storms came through Escanaba overnight. I managed to hobble to the hotel pub for a sammich and a couple of Great Lake Brewing’s Oberons before falling asleep in my room while watching the Nats game. (I woke up. Then they lost. Maybe I should take a Nats vacation, too. Nevertheless, I am holding Klarence fully responsible for their mediocre play while I am gone.)

I ate a truly uninspiring hotel breakfast (oatmeal, fruit, English muffin. OJ, coffee) then rolled out, headed for Spindrift Cycles. I got to the address right on the lake and the shop was nowhere to be found. I checked my phone. Spindrift Cycles is in Ludington, not Escanaba. Erp.

Lucky for me I passed another bike shop. Mr. Bike and Ski was open and its three employees were eager to help me out. Tom and Hunter worked on my bike, and I talked with Micky about bike touring. She gave me some great info on the road ahead to Manistique.
image

I noticed that in Escanaba the Fargo accent is behind me. Now people seem to have an Ontario accent, eh.

I headed north along Little Bay Du Noc toward Rapid River. The route took me through the nicer section of Ludington and the bayside town of Gladstone. On the way out of Gladstone I was briefly on US 2, a major trucking route with heavy traffic. My big paved shoulder disappeared twice, once for a narrow underpass and again for a bridge over the Escanaba River. Eek.

Made it unscathed.

I was cruising along with ease, a marked contrast to yesterday’s slog. And my mysterious auto shifts had disappeared. Tom and Hunter done good. Also the flat road and tailwind probably had something to do with it.

At Rapid River, I was on US 2, heading east-ish. US 2 had a 12-foot paved shoulder with a rumble strip between me and the traffic. And the road was mostly flat. And the tailwind persisted. And the sun was shining. And it was 70 degrees. Not. Half. Bad.

Alas, bad weather was forecast for 2 pm onward. My 11 am start did not bode well. Bad weather up here is super violent thunderstorms with hail and lightning and lions and tigers and bears.

Two pm came and went and the clouds were a-buildin’. But no rain fell. I pulled into a roadside store for bananas, quinoa, and kale. Sadly, all they had was beer and junk food. I settled for the latter and an energy drink.The proprietor let me use the bathroom. It was an outhouse. We’re yoopin’ now!

When I came out the rain was starting. The owner was talking with a customer. It seems the customer’s wife’s car was ruined by a hail storm yesterday. It came and went in only a few minutes.

The rain was very light. It came and went as I rode the second half of my ride. I left US 2 and headed on back roads for the last 16 miles. The clouds thickened. The skies darkened. Rumbles. Flashes of heat lightning. Then the winds picked up and the temperature fell.

Now I had a tailwind and a half. And a crosswind and a half. And deafening thunder. And cloud to ground lightning. And rain. Harder and harder and harder. I pedaled on making note of shelter along the way. Anything would do. A carport. An overhang in front of a closed store. An abandoned house.

Nothing focuses the mind like impending doom. My friend the Great Flogini calls my bike commute my meditation. Meditation ain’t got nothing on a bike ride in a violent storm.

With six miles to go I was totally soaked but flying along at 18 miles per hour. Tailwinds are the bomb. As I pulled into Manistique, the rain was so heavy I could not see where I was going. Cars were surrendering, pulling over to the side of the road. I pulled into a gas station and stopped next to the gas pumps under a canopy that did little to keep me sheltered. Laurel and Nicolette were working in the station’s minimart. They told me to come in with my bike. SAVED!!!
image

We chatted until the rains subsided. They set me up with a hotel room east of town and sent me on my way down a street that was closed for construction. Laurel promised a smooth ride. What she didn’t know was that the storm drains were apparently covered. The street had at least two feet of water on it. No lie.
image

I pedaled through one lake then stopped at the next. I am glad I did because the deep water obscured the torn up road beneath. I’d have fallen for sure. I managed to find a somewhat dry path around the perimeter and after riding through some construction and other town activities (there’s a folk festival of some sort in town this weekend), I walked into the hotel lobby and everyone had a good laugh. I was utterly drenched. No worries. Take your bike in your room. Have a cup of coffee. Do some laundry. Relax.

Don’t mind if I do.

I was worried about getting caught in the storm. And I know it’s incredibly irresponsible and stupid to ride in this sort of thing. But it was such a rush!!!!

Tomorrow, dry and cool is the order of the day. I ride until I don’t feel like it anymore. It is likely my last full day on the UP.

Livin’ and Goin’ Long

Anxiety is creeping in.

Indecision is taunting me.

My bike tour is just a few days away. I have an important decision to make. Once I cross Lake Michigan on a ferry I’ll be in eastern central Wisconsin. From here, I can follow Adventure Cycling Association maps to the west and north before turning due east for Michigan’s upper penninsula. This is about 330 miles. Some of it hilly. Hills, especially when carrying a load, are not my strong suit.

An alternative is to ride from the ferry northwest to Green Bay, mostly on a rail trail. Once past Green Bay I would turn northeast along the shore of Lake Michigan. This would be only about 150 miles, thereby chopping some 170 miles from the route and saving me 2 1/2 days. I could use that time to doddle about the upper penninsula and to stay on car-free Mackinac Island for an entire day.

Because I am traveling in a counter clockwise direction around the upper half of Lake Michigan, I have to decide my route from day 1. Another issue is getting through the 4th of July weekend when the hotels and campgrounds are likely to be full near the end of day 1’s riding.

On the plus side, I seem to be in top cycling shape (for me at least) heading into this tour. My rides to work have been effortless. This is something of a surprise to me as I was off the bike for most of three weeks about a month ago, and tore a stomach muscle after that.All the walking (and careful eating) I did in Scandinavia took a few pounds off The Mule’s engine.

After weighing the options, however, I am going long. I got this. Bad things might happen. Good things might happen. Hills go up. Hills go down. Bike tours are like life.

As Augustus McCray once said, “It’s not dying I’m talkin’ about Woodrow, it’s livin’.”

Woot!