No Name Tour: Day 6 – Near Death Experiences

The day began at 3:30 a.m. I woke up stressing about the fierce weather approaching from the west. The day’s sole objective was to not get caught in the maelstrom.

After inhaling the hotel complementary breakfast (they had Cheerios!!!), I hit the road at 6:50 wearing 2 shirts, my jacket, and my long pants. It was only 48 degrees outside and the wind was blowing. Fortunately for me the wind was either at my back or to my side all day.

I hopped on a rail trail and rode it southwest out of Staunton. I passed a couple of horses munching near the trail side. One was a palomino, my favorite. It brought to mind the dearth of livestock I’ve seen in this trip. There have been no herds of cattle or horses to stampede like last summer in the northern plains.

I flew by into Edwardsville in about 2 hours. There I pondered whether to take a google maps short cut to St. Louis or continue following Route 66 on a circuitous track to the north. After briefly attempting the google route I decided to stick with my Route 66 maps. Google has too many turns and, for all I know, goes through sketchy areas.

Before crossing the Mississippi into Missouri, I stopped at a market to buy snacks. It’s been painfully obvious that I haven’t been eating enough on this trip so I bought apples and candy bars and cheese.

The river and a connected canal looked bloated as I rode across the old Route 66 bridge which is now closed to motor vehicles.

Route 66 bridge over the Chain of Rocks Canal
Route 66 Bridge Bike Trail
The Mississippi River

Turning south, I followed the riverside trail and passed a Missouri DOT truck parked at a trailhead. The truck’s flashing lights were on. The driver was asleep. I continued for another 100 yards and found my wheels encumbered with thick, slimy river mud. I worked my way up to an adjacent highway and started scraping away at the gunk in the narrow paved shoulder.

An African American man of about 40 pulled up and stopped in the north bound lane.

“Are you okay? Do you have a flat?”

“Nope, just clearing off mud.”

“You should get up in the grass out if the road.”

So I did. He pulled his white SUV onto the grass next to me.

The people who drive on this road are crazy. You gotta be careful.

Seconds later: BANG

Two sedans collided on the road. One went one way. The other ended up right where I was standing.

As the SUV driver, whose name was Jerry, said, “That would have fucked you up.”

All I could do was think of my friend Dave.

One of the two cars took off up a side road. The driver of the other car walked up to us to see if we got the car’s license. Unfortunately I was too dumbfounded to notice. For someone who just went through a hit and run this drivers remarkably composed, as if it happened every day.

Off she drove shaking her head.

Back at my mud chore, I notice that my right index finger was bleeding. Jerry pulled out a first aid kit and gave me alcohol swabs, disinfectant patches, and band aids.

He then gave me his phone number to call him if I got stuck in the storm later in the day. Finally, he gave me directions to get back to the trail where it runs atop the levee, away from the mud.

“Whatever you do don’t stay in this road. It goes through the most violent neighborhoods in the area. Two or three people get shot every day.”

I thanked him profusely and followed his guidance. Unfortunately the trail diverted from the levee back toward the river. The mud in this area was several inches thick and super slick. I had to backtrack about a mile and ride in the road again.

This road has heavy truck traffic. Big trucks too. It’s a good thing that truck drivers are patient because every one of them passed me with plenty of room.

At Broadway and Grand Boulevard I had a choice: go two more miles along the river risking crazy drivers and gawdawful mud or ride up a steep hill toward the center of town. I chose to ride up the hill thereby bypassing the Gateway Arch and the interesting buildings along the riverfront. Having already seen them I didn’t think it was worth the risk. Plus, the hill cut some distance and time from my route, a good thing since I had lost at least an hour of time to the mud.

The neighborhood I rode through made the gnarliest DC neighborhoods look like paradise. It was hard to decide what was sadder, the depressing poor people at the bus stops or the shattered big round stained glass window in a beautiful old church. This was obviously a neighborhood bereft of hope.

Then suddenly I was in Grand Center, a few city blocks of lovingly maintained old theaters and businesses. Next came St. Lois University with gorgeous gothic revival buildings.

Turning west on Lindell Boulevard I passed the majestic Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis. On past Forest Park I pulled up to the main entrance to Washington University. The main building stood on a hill facing the city with an unobstructed view. Sadly the University has cluttered the place with modern buildings, with another being added.

Washington University

Soon I was heading west out of town through posh suburbs with hectic traffic and traffic lights that always seemed to be red.

This was taking too long but I had no choice. My original plan was to stay at a motel in Ellisville but the google picture made it look like a dump.

I forged ahead 12 more very hilly miles to Eureka. Along the way I rode on Woods Avenue. It was about a 3-mile, 400-foot windy, wooded descent, the stuff of bicyclists’ dreams.

Unfortunately this was followed by a 1-mile, 400 foot climb that taxed my body to the max. It felt just like the two mountains I climbed near Pittsburgh on last summer’s tour.

As if to pat me on the back for surviving the climb. The road descended 400 feet over the next mile, after which another 200-foot climb was a non event.

I pulled into a Burger King. After I dismounted I was shaking from the effort of those nasty hills. I ate an Impossible burger, a veggie burger that is supposed to taste like beef. It did. Well played BK.

The last two miles were uneventful. I checked in to my hotel, showered, inhaled some snacks then checked the weather.

We were under a tornado warning. Soon sirens blared. This was not a drill.

The hotel’s guests were gathered in the lobby looking at the radar on a big screen. Scary stuff.

It took a ton of effort, sone luck, a trail Angel, and way too much mud but I pulled it off. A day for the ages.

85 miles today. 380.5 so far.

And this happened on one of those nasty climbs.

The Mule Turns 52

No Name Tour: Day 5 – Getting a Push

My hotel is the tallest building for miles (I was on the 24th floor). It made faint creaking sounds from the wind. They didn’t keep me up. Nothing could have. I was exhausted.

I started the day with a short ride to Abraham Lincoln’s house. It’s in a cute, preserved neighborhood with wooden sidewalks and gravel streets. Unfortunately I was 90 minutes too early for a tour so an exterior photo would have to do (sorry Jessica).

I was anxious to get on the road because the wind, albeit a light one, would be at my back. I made it two more miles before stopping for breakfast at a diner.

Eggs, sausage, hash browns, toast, and coffee.

Burp.

With a full tank of gas, I boogied out of Springfield on a rail trail. The solitude was lovely but the trees along each side blocked the wind. Still, I was clipping along at twice yesterday’s speed with no effort.

In Chatham the trail gave way to hilly roads through suburban developments. Once clear of them I was on level country roads with my friend the wind nudging me along.

I started bonking after 25 miles and stopped at a gas station shop for food. I managed to gag down some Gatorade, pretzels, and crackers then hit the road again.

The temperature was in the low 60s and I struggled to keep my body temperature under control. A jacket was too warm but a shirt alone was chilly. I opted for chilly and continues south on a rather poorly maintained rail trail.

Five miles later I was back on 66 which was a frontage road for I-55. With good pavement and the wind at my back I was comfortably cruising at 14 miles per hour.

Bonking again, I stopped for lunch at a family restaurant in Litchfield. The service was glacially slow but my body appreciated the opportunity to recharge. I had a Wisconsin butter burger (a cheeseburger with a dollop of butter on top and a glob of mayo on the bottom).

Fortunately the waitress knew CPR and I was back on the road with a belly full of fat and grease.

It was just what my body wanted. I was riding in the 14 – 17 mph range and came to the town of Mount Olive where I visited the grave of Mother Jones, the famous labor activist.

How does he find such interesting historical stuff? When you’re going 10 mph through town the signs every two blocks are hard to miss.

I was briefly considering riding the wind for another 20 miles but after six more I arrived in Staunton and called it a day. By the way, Staunton, Virginia is pronounced Stanton. In Illinois, locals swallow the second “t” so that it sounds like Ralph Kramden called his friend Norton.

The Super 8 here is inexpensive and has breakfast. Much more importantly it’s located next door to a Dairy Queen.

Guess where I’m going as soon as I post this?

71.5 miles for the day brings the tour’s five day total to 295.

No Name Tour: Day 4 – Headwinds Are a State of Mind

After yesterday afternoon’s massive feed, I fell into a food coma in my hotel room. Laundry was accomplished. Nats best Cubs on the telly. I slept for 8 hours.

Just what I needed.

The hotel breakfast was decent: cereal, OJ, coffee, yogurt, fruit (including 2 apples for the road), and toast.

As I left the hotel the wind nearly blew me over. Once I got on Route the wind was in my face. I was determined not to fight it. So I plodded along at 8 miles per hour. During the day, the wind intensified and my speed crept downward.

No worries. The temps were cooperating, staying in the high 60s and low 70s.

I decided to just forget about how long the day would take. I stopped from time to time to check out the sites.

It turns out that a business in Santa Monica (the western end of Route 66) makes huge fiberglass statues as advertisements. Most of them look like Paul Bunyan carrying an axe or whatever matches the business being promoted. Mufflers were popular. A hot dog business in Illinois had one made with a giant hot dog. It’s named the Paul Bunyon statue because of restaurant trademark conflicts. It now stands next to the road in Atlanta, Illinois.

Paul’s a whole lot bigger (and my head is much smaller) than he looks in this picture.

I was plodding along thinking the bike gods that the road was mostly level.

I stopped in the town of Elkhart and had a light lunch at an Amish cafe. I was happy to get out of the wind for an hour.

The wind picked up even more when I saw Stephen and Bernd coming my way. Steve is from New York and Bernd is from Germany. We had a nice chat. They were loving their tailwind. Steve said they rode more than 80 miles yesterday and “didn’t break a sweat.” He also said that the winds were so strong in Arizona that he was literally blown off the road into a ditch.

Steve and Bernd happy to riding the wind

Isn’t bike touring fun?

I rode into Springfield expecting to camp but the campground looked boggy so I headed into town in search of a hotel.

Along the way I saw some signs for Lincoln’s tomb so I checked it out.

It turns out that 3 of his 4 sons (Robert is buried in Arlington) and his wife are also buried here. This surprised me because Willie was buried in DC (the basis for the book Lincoln in the Bardo).

I know my history fanatic friend Jessica is going ape over these pictures but there’s more! Lincoln’s tomb is just up the hill from the graves of the Korndog (sic) King and Mr. Accordion!

I’ll bet that made Jessica spit her cerveza.

After checking out an inexpensive Howard Johnson’s they looked like a perfect spot for meth sales, I ride into downtown and grabbed a room at the Wyndham. I’m on the 28th floor and I can hear the wind howling outside. I have an amazing view of Springfield and let me tell you it’s totally not worth the picture. (I grew up in Albany and I’d feel the same way about the view there do don’t give me any grief y’all).

In spite of the headwinds I logged 52.5 miles today making the tour total 225 miles.

Tomorrow I check out Lincoln’s house before riding headwinds outta town.

No Name Bike Tour: Day 2 – Getting My Kicks

Something must be wrong. I slept like a log and my knee didn’t ache. Good thing I was in a hotel because a storm went through the area and had golf ball sized hail.

The complementary breakfast wasn’t worth the price. A small bowl of Raisin Bran, toast and jam, and coffee. Normally I’d eat everything twice but not today.

It was a dreary day with cool temperatures and drizzle. On went my rain jacket.

On the road by 8:30 or maybe 7:30. I have time zone confusion. On the way out of Kankakee I was treated to the curse of the miles long freight train. Actually it was fun watching it roll by. Forever.

Once freed I was treated to a tailwind for most of the morning. I had decided to ride west to intersect Route 66 in Dwight, Illinois. I let the google do the navigating.

Off I went on country roads, a very pleasant experience until I hit the unpaved part. “Continue for 9 miles.” The google likes to joke.

After about five I turned off and headed to the two lane highway.

Did I mention that these roads are level. (Bike tourist never use the “f” word.) I was clipping along at 15 miles per hour with little effort. What a pleasant contrast to yesterday’s slog.

The fields were quagmires so I knew camping wasn’t going to happen.

As I rode into Dwight, some 37 miles after I began, I could tell I was bonking. The fuel from breakfast was used up. Fortunately there was a family restaurant at the turn to Route 66. (Family restaurants are ubiquitous in the Midwest.) I ordered lunch and was thrilled to see piles of food arrive at my table. It took me close to an hour to down it all. No crumbs for the mouse this day.

Just before entering the restaurant I checked my weather app. It predicted a thunderstorm for the next two hours. It was a false alarm.

I rode 66 southwest with the wind aiding my effort. The highway is concrete with many patches and pot holes. Many years ago the state decided to let the western two lanes deteriorate. It reminded me of snowmobile trails in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

My original plan was to stop in Dwight but it was barely afternoon so I forged ahead to Pontiac. On the way I passed through Odell where I crossed my route from last year. I re-took a picture while I was in town.

Pontiac boasted several museums. I went into the Route 66 museum. It was filled with memorabilia. I thought of my friend Rachel’s descriptions of the Haines, Alaska Hammer Museum.

Route 66 changed course several times. In Pontiac there are sections that date back to the late 1920s. Somebody decided to build a bypass in 1930.

There are restored buildings along the road from time to time. The Standard Oil station was cute. It would have looked better with a big 1930s car out front.

Despite the fact that the trail is clearly marked and that I had an actual map of the road, I missed a turn south of Pontiac. The level terrain made it no big deal, perhaps an extra two or three miles, but I felt embarrassed to have screwed up something so simple.

I recovered and found my hotel outside Chenoa. The desk clerk is from Gurjarat in India. It’s amazing how many small town hotels are staffed by Gurjaratis. I often wonder how they find these places.

After check in I discovered the tap water had the faint smell of sulfur, probably untreated well water. I’ll be buying bottled water for tomorrow.

So Day 2 ends at 70 1/2 miles. I’m hoping the Nats v Cubs game is on the telly tonight.

Props to all the folks back home who participated in Bike to Work Day. Thanks to Monica for offering to grab a shirt for me.

No Name Tour: Day 1 – Headwinds, Rumble Strips and Thunderstorms

The day began with my in laws taking us out to the Fingerhut Diner in beautiful downtown North Judson, Indiana. Maybe it was pretour jitters but I couldn’t finish my omelet. My tummy was in knots and my left knee was barking at me.

We went back to the in-laws’ fabulous home atop a sand hill (the land around here is either sand or bog). I packed up and my mother in law offered me some granola bars and a fig bar. I put a few in my handlebar bag because what’s a few more ounces when your bike weighs a ton.

The engine

Hugs and kisses were followed by me riding The Mule down the curving driveway and into the wind.

Crops are only now being planted around here so the vast fields offer little break from the constant winds from the south and west. I was going west south west so my entire day was spent fighting the wind. Of course, as the day wore on the wind speed increased. Did I mention that I hate weather?

The county farm roads were empty but disconnected so I had to use two lane highways from time to time. I spent about five miles going south on US 421. It had rumble strips along the narrow paved shoulder leaving me no choice but to ride in the travel lane. I spent most of the time looking in my rear view mirror (if you tour without one you are a fool). Dozens of tractor trailers and dump trucks passed me. They all gave me plenty of room. Only one honked at me.

I turn west onto Indiana Highway 10. No rumble strips! But still beaucoup trucks. Fortunately 10 gave way to some paved county roads that I had all to myself. I used the google to navigate the grid and made it quite along ways on these bike friendly lanes.

Better than a rail trail

Alas, all good things must come to an end as I rejoined 10 with still more trucks. Cowering to the edge was a bad idea. I caught my front tire in some gravel and nearly crashed. Luckily my wheel caught pavement and I recovered traction.

As I headed due west I could see the skies on the horizon darkening. On coming traffic had its headlights on. No bueno.

First state line of the tour

I arrived in the Illinois town of Momence and stopped to check the weather radar. As I did I heard a rumble of thunder. The radar showed a massive line of dark red approaching from the near northwest. It had dozens of lightning strikes displayed.

Eek!

I have been caught riding in Midwest thunderstorms several times before. They are scary. Heavy rain. High winds. Hail. Lightning.

Fortunately the google indicated that a fast food joint was only two blocks away. Having ridden 50 miles with only the fig bar to eat since breakfast I understood that the universe was telling me to eat some French fries.

And do I did. I munched slowly as I waited an hour for the storm to pass. Thinking ahead I made a motel reservation ten miles west in Kankakee.

After the storm passed, I hopped on The Mule, made two turns in Momence and rode 10 miles straight to the motel. I didn’t even care that scores of cars zoomed past me as I rode.

And so I arrived at the Super 8 covered in road spray but feeling pretty darned good about the first day of the tour.

I still have no idea if this left knee of mine will hold up to daily abuse but there’s only one way to find out.

Onward to Bicycle Route 66 tomorrow.

No Name Tour – Day 0

We drove 13 hours to north central Indiana today. My mind kept ticking off all the places along the way that I have bikes to and through in the past. Many good memories. Okay, riding over the monster hill in Wheeling in my recumbent in 2005 was no picnic.

Tomorrow morning we go to the local diner then I take off for Kankakee IL. I will stay in a motel since it is supposed to be a stormy night.

Wind will be an issue. There are no crops in the fields to hide behind. Maybe the weather gods can give me a push.

My left knee is very unhappy with the time in the car.

The Olympics has a motto: Citius, Altius, Fortius. Faster, Higher, Stronger. The motto for this tour is Maior, Corpulentiores, Deterioria Mereri. Older, Fatter, Sorer.

Onward.

And a note to the folks back in DC: I am sorry to have miss led this year’s Ride of Silence tonight. As my father used to say: you done good.

The No Name Tour: Get Me Out of Here

The last few days have been a scramble to get important stuff done before I leave for the tour. Today involved trips to the post office and putting together all the stuff for the tour. This took way too long. I had hoped to get to the Book, Jacket, and Journal Show in DC that my friend Katie Lee told me about but I ran out of time. Check it out if you are in town over the next ten days.

After about 90 minutes of work, The Mule is ready for a bike tour. Me not so much. But the time has come.

Mule at home

You will note that this bike weighs a ton. Some of the load is consumable. Maps. Soap. Chain cleaner. Lube. A book (Devil in the White City). I switched from a Kryptonite U-lock to a much lighter Ottolock to save weight. But I added two water bladders and a water filter so the bike weighs about as much as it did at the start of last year’s tour.

The bike feels much heavier though. I think I need to work on weight distribution. Everything in the so-called water proof panniers is in a plastic bag. That’s because the panniers have proven not to be water proof. Live and learn.

The engine is a bit heavier than last year. I attribute this to beer consumption. This year I consumed; last year I did not. After a few hundred miles and some temperance, I should be complaining about my pants being too loose.

Last year my body was in decent shape except for a sore left shoulder and arm. After a cortisone shot, that problem seems to be mostly gone. My left knee is very wonky though. I am seriously worried about it. The hills of Missouri should be a tough test.

Weather looks nasty. Missouri and Kansas seem to be having nonstop rain and thunderstorms. Let’s hope tornados are not in the mix.

I have the tour route roughed out. The starting point is still up in the air. Presumably I’ll start on Thursday from my in-laws house near North Judson, Indiana. If so, I’ll ride 60 miles to Kankakee, Illinois. On Day 2 I will connect with Bicycle Route 66 about 20 miles away. There is some discussion of driving me to Chicago where Route 66 begins. My first day will then likely be a confusing 65-mile ride to Joliet, Illinois. (If this is anything like riding out of Miami, I will be cussing for 6 or 7 hours.)

We shall see.

Oh, I don’t yet have a name for this tour, so I’m calling it the No Name Tour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oink – Preliminary Bike Tour Packing List

I will be using four panniers and a handlebar bag. I may swap two big panniers for my two little ones in front so I can carry more water. But for now here’s how the packing list looks:

Camping

  • Two-person tent with rainfly and ground cloth
  • Sleep sack (light weight sleeping bag)
  • Cocoon (silk sleeping bag liner)
  • Full length sleeping pad
  • Travel pillow
  • Knife and spork

Water

  • Two two-liter water bladders
  • Water filter

Clothing

  • Three pairs of mountain bike shorts.
  • Three techincal t-shirts
  • 3 pairs of socks
  • 1 pair bike gloves
  • Sun sleeves for my arms
  • Cotton t-shirt for off the bike
  • Shorts and belt for off bike
  • One pair technical undies for off bike
  • Bathing suit
  • Teva sandals
  • Floppy hat for riding in Utah and Nevada
  • Buff (for combating desert sun)
  • Headsweat
  • Gloves
  • Rain pants
  • Rain jacket

Electronics

  • iPhone charger cable
  • Camera
  • Headlight (with mount for helmet)
  • Chargers for all three

Medical

  • Aspirin (blod clots)
  • Compression sleeves (blood clots)
  • Antihistamines (allergies)
  • Ibuprofen with and without sedative (old body parts)
  • Eye drops (glaucoma) – 2 small vials
  • Arnuity (asthma) – two inhaler discs
  • Albuterol (asthma) – one inhaler

Toiletries

  • Sunscreen
  • Toothpaste (lots of little travel tubes to be tossed as I go)
  • Toothbrush
  • Razor (Fusion – one blade will last the whole trip)
  • Shaving cream
  • TP
  • Dr. Bronners (for washing me and my clothes)
  • Wash cloth
  • Towel
  • Spare prescription glasses

Handlebar bag

  • Chapstick
  • Spanner for Brooks saddle
  • Sunglasses
  • Wallet
  • iPhone
  • Backup power source (small with USB port)
  • Ottolock (small lock in place of u-lock – much lighter)

Tools

  • Multitool
  • Chain tool
  • Piece of coat hanger (to hold chain during repairs)
  • Master chain links (2)
  • Cables (1 for brakes, 1 for shifters)
  • Fiber fix emergency spokes (2)
  • Tire levers
  • Patch kit
  • 2 spare tubes
  • Folding spare tire
  • $1 bill as a tire boot
  • Wax lube (for chain)
  • Oil lube (for everything else)
  • Degreaser
  • Rag
  • Duct tape
  • Zip ties
  • Road Morph pump
  • Swiss Army knife

By far the heaviest single item is the two person tent. I can’t camp in a one-person tent. It feels like I am in a coffin.

In any case, this is quite a load. Roughly the same as last summer, adding the water items and ditching the u-lock

If anyone has any ideas about cutting weight, please post in the comments.

 

 

 

 

April in my rear view mirror

After a week of mourning and activism, I need to move ahead. Dealing with the sudden death of a friend is always very hard. Seeing the incredible outpouring of love for Dave in the local community (and beyond) has been amazing.

I pulled up a bunch of old Flickr pictures to share with friends on Facebook. I had said in my last blog post that I’d known Dave for five years. The pictures say that it’s more like ten. I had forgotten how many rides we did together.

He may be gone but like Tom Joad he’ll still be here.

A fellow ain’t got a soul of his own, just little piece of a big soul, the one big soul that belongs to everybody.”

But unlike Tom Joad, Dave had an enormous soul. And his passing leaves a our one big soul broken.

When I heard the news, I didn’t even want to look at a bike, much less ride it thousands of miles. That feeling faded with dozens of tearful hugs from friends over the last week.

My Errandonnee activity came to a screeching halt however. It just didn’t seem right to continue. Most of my rides in the last week were to and from DC to visit the site of the crash twice, go to a happy hour with mutual friends, and attend a rally at the District Building (city hall) to call for the city to up its game to keep vulnerable road users safe.

Near the end of the month my Cross Check’s odometer hit 12,000 miles. I put it away and switched to The Mule for the rest of the month.

Ironically, on my first ride to the crash site, I found out that the brakes on The Mule were nearly useless. When I got home I tried to put new brake pads on the bike but the hardware on the 28-year old brake mechanism was so rusted that I couldn’t get one of the old pads free of the caliper. Fed up, I took the bike to my local bike shop where they swapped out the old cantilever brakes for new mini v-brakes. Afterwards I could skid my back wheel. A vast improvement.

The planning for my tour continues to march ahead. The expected start date is now May 16. Launch will occur from the small town of North Judson, Indiana instead of Chicago. This is because Mrs. Rootchopper will be driving me there in her new car. Her 15-year-old car was burning oil like a bad diner cook. Speaking of diners, North Judson has an awesome one that I will hit up before departure. During Lent, they make killer paczkis, which Dave, who lived in Chicago and its environs before moving to DC, would have appreciated.

I have built a decent mileage base, riding 868 miles in April. So far this year I have clocked 2.609 miles, mostly in 30-mile days.  That, and riding 1,300 miles from Indiana to Colorado, should put my legs, not to mention engine weight, in good stead for the climbing during the middle of the trip.

My long ride of the month was a 64-mile jaunt to Bethesda and Potomac, Maryland. A few days ago I did a hilly 39 miler. I also rode to six or seven baseball games at Nationals Park. The rides were better than most of the games. Blame the bullpen.

Last night on the way home from the last game of April, I spooked a yearling in the dark along the Mount Vernon Trail. It bounded along the trail ahead of me for a few hundred yards, its white tail dancing in the white circle of my headlight.

On to May….

 

 

 

 

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.