Martin’s Every Road Tour

I met Martin Arnold in the Honey Pot in Gackle, North Dakota. Actually, I woke him up after midnight. Martin had begun his bike tour two months before mine in Brunnen, Switzerland.

For the next month we met time and again as we both made our way to Anacortes, Washington. Martin had a video camera and has made this edited account of his ride. The section of his ride in Europe is new to me. Although we didn’t see each other, our routes actually overlapped somewhat from DC to Indiana and again from Minneapolis to Gackle.

I got a good laugh out of the pictures from the Northern Cascades in Washington state. He’s going fast one second then crawling the next. Just as I remember it. Except that the crawling lasted all morning and the speedy descents lasted a few blissful hours in the afternoon.

At the end of the video is his blog address. The blog is in German but contains many more pictures including one of the two of us when we briefly rode together near Colville National Forest.

 

Coffeenuering with Susana

I met Susana several years ago at a get together in Meridian Hill Park. Although I’ve talked to her only a few times, it quickly became apparent me that she’s about as kind a human being as you could find. Earlier this year she didn’t hesitate to meet with my friend Jessica who was moving to Chile, Susana’s home country, this summer to teach English.

Susana’s athletic thing is rock climbing, not a bicycling. (I said she was kind, not sane!) I was a bit surprised when she contacted me over the summer to hear about my bike tour. After a long delay, we sat down this afternoon to chat at Firehook Coffeehouse and Bakery in Cleveland Park.

Of course, I took this as an opportunity to get a ride in. I chose The Mule so that Susana could see the bike I rode during my tour.

I rode my baby into a headwind up the Mount Vernon Trail, across the Teddy Roosevelt Bridge, up Rock Creek Park to Cathedral Avenue then up the long hill to Cleveland Park. The entire way, The Mule felt like it was an extension of my body. Sweet.

We sat in the sunny window and much talk ensued. Mostly I recounted my decade of foibles in learning how to bike tour by failing. Along the way, we covered hostels, Warmshowers, Crazyguyonabike.com, and Adventure Cycling Association maps. Time and again the conversation returned to familiar themes. No hill is too high, no tour too long that you can’t reduce it to a series of manageable efforts. People are just plain nice. Solitude is wonderful. Montana, North Dakota, Iowa,….are beautiful, each in its own way. Blood clots and collapsed lungs suck. Random conversations with plant nerds, elevator technicians, and rolfing artists are gold.

My sense is that Susana wants to bike tour. We talked about buying a bike, what to avoid (big box stores) and what to insist on (a bike that fits). One of these days , we just may see her riding from Pittsburgh to DC along the Gap and C&O Canal trails. (Hey, Susana, want to do a tour in Chile?)

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Coffeeneuring notes: I rode 38 miles round trip for my second coffeeneuring adventure. Susana had chai tea. I had the house coffee and a chocolate chip cookie. Observation: We talked for 3 hours. During that time the temperature dropped about 15 degrees. Even with a tailwind and an additional layer of clothing, I froze on my ride home. Weren’t we complaining about the heat and humidity just a few days ago?

Any Road Tour – Afterglowing

This bike tour, far more than any other that I have done, has left me with after effects that I truly wish I could hold onto.

The Physical Afterglow

Despite eating and drinking an appalling amount of unhealthy things, I managed to lose weight just about everywhere except my legs. The upper body muscle weight that I gained from lifting weights all winter is gone. My belly, although still very much in evidence, is smaller too. Mrs. Rootchopper said that the roll of fat around my waist in the back is gone. I can tell because my pants fall off.

Of course, the upside to this physical change is my body is much, much more efficient on a bike. My pedaling goes more round and round than up and down. I am a few miles per hour faster, which is not surprising, I suppose. I can stand when I climb, something that normally tires me out, and find an extra gear in the process. I noticed near the end of the tour that walking up stairs or up a hill was a snap.

I stopped doing my daily stretching and physical therapy routines for the first time in ages during the tour. It was a complete shock to me that I was much more flexible in my tent than I have ever been.

One thing that didn’t change, and may have been worse than before, is the cramping in my legs and feet. When I was putting my sandals on in the tent, I’d have cramps in my feet. My feet felt like they were curling up, kind of like the Dr. Pepper dude in An American Werewolf in London. Sometimes when putting on shorts in my tent, I’d get a hamstring cramp.One night when my calf was swollen, I had a humongous, painful  cramp in my calf muscle in the middle of the night. Ayeee! Then there was the infamous hamstring cramp in Astoria that caused me to fall off my bar stool.

I could do without the cramps but the rest of these physical changes are quite welcome. I held onto my weight loss from my Key West tour for a couple of months, until pulmonary embolisms parked me on the couch with junk food for solace. It would be great to hold onto these changes well into September so that the 50 States Ride is relatively easy. (Doing it last year with blood clots in my lungs set a low bar for “easy.”)

The Mental Afterglow

After the Key West tour, I was totally mellowed out (except for my bruised rib). This feeling went far beyond mere satisfaction from completing an arduous task over a month’s time. After this year’s tour, I had the same mental afterglow but it was much stronger and more long lasting.

I have no idea what the endocrinology or neurology of this phenomenon is. I recall reading an article about a writer who microdosed on LSD daily for a period of time. (Basically, until her supply ran dry.) She just felt happy all day long. And much more productive. I can’t say I’ve been particularly productive, but the happy part sure fits like a glove. A friend of mine once did ayahuasca and described a profound experience that she “still need[ed] to process.” I feel that same need to process this post-tour mental afterglow.

I talked about my tour with Joe, a reader in DC, at a protest I attended last week. He says he had the same thing after his tour and, to this day, he feels changed in a way that he can’t describe. Andrea, my friend from Friday Coffee Club, said something similar last Friday. She did a tour very similar to mine a few years ago.

It’s a subtle feeling. It’s similar to the feeling I get immediately after I meditate.  (Ironically, I stopped my meditation practice during the tour because it was obviously superfluous.) Maybe it’s caused by a boat load of endorphins or serotonin floating around in my head. I wonder if it made me less introverted during the tour, talking with my Warmshowers hosts or the people in the park in Wenona IL or Martin or Maria and the plant nerds. I definitely noticed it when talking to Julie in the bar the last night in Astoria. I felt like I was talking to someone I had known all my life.

Regardless of the introversion angle, I feel very different. And, just like last fall, the feeling is fading.

Can I hold on?

In the interest of holding on to the physical and mental afterglow, I decided to go for a long bike ride today. The humidity was oppressive and, as the day wore on, so was the temperature. I managed to ride my Crosscheck 92 hilly miles to Poolesville MD and back.

After the ride, I was totally zonked physically. I think riding fast on an unloaded bike brings about a higher level of muscle fatigue that riding a loaded touring bike slowly. Mentally, however, I felt the same afterglow, albeit in muted form. Then I fell asleep. And the Sandman took it away.

 

 

 

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Any Day Tour: Day 15 – Headwinds are us

The city park in Wenona was a pleasant place to spend the night. I don’t don’t have a chance to eat dinner which is probably not a good idea after riding 92 miles.

In the morning I had breakfast at The Broadway. Like most small town places it doubles as a bar and a restaurant. As I was chowing down on pancakes and eggs and sausages at the bar, a bearded burly man sat down next to me and ordered a Bud. The barkeeper asked he wanted a shot with it.

Whoa.

The early ride out of town presented me with stronger headwinds than yesterday and more hills. Ugh.

The novelty of corn and soy fields and funny birds (I am told they are killdeer) has worn off. It was just a slog up a slight grade into the wind. As the day wore on the heat, humidity, and wind speed increased.

I came upon a field of pots.

They were mums. So orderly.

Just before the town of Henry and the bridge across the Illinois River, I come to my first big downhill in days. Man, I’m going to rip down this baby. Just before I started to pedal I noticed way down at the bottom on the other side of the road two cyclists. I decided to wait for them to come up so we could chat. This would allow me the rando trick of preserving the energy from the descent.

They waved at me to come down. So I did. They were Neil and Phyl, tandem cyclists heading from Colorado to Maine. We had a long chat about many things including struggling with our unwieldy bikes in windy conditions.

Having stopped at the bottom Neil decide to walk the tandem up the hill. Phyl and I talked some more trading info on the roads ahead. I was soon to discover that her info was biased by the fact that they’d been riding with tailwinds and downhill.

They were very nice people and I’m going to look up their journal on Crazyguyonabike.com.

After crossing the river on a narrow bridge with a big truck behind me, I rolled into Henry and bought food and sunscreen. What I’ve been using has apparently been prepared with Crisco because my skin is fried.

The winds picked up, the terrain cane more and more challenging. I didn’t have any pop in my legs. There was nothing to do but hope the time passed.

In Bradford, I found a restaurant/bar. The owners were sitting outside next to a Big Green Egg grill. They were done serving lunch but offered to cook he something. I had a burger (about 1/3rd of an inch thick) with their homemade chips. Lord, did it taste good. I also drank beaucoups glasses of ice waster.

Back in the road I felt revived. But the headwinds and the hills continued to beat me down. After the town of Osceola, I encountered a road closure sign.

I decided to take the chance that my bike and I could get through. I guessed right. There was a way to scramble around the construction pushing The Mule through a path the construction equipment had made. The crew of two were finishing up for the day. We chatted for a while then they went home and I went back to business. A few windy and hilly miles later I rolled into Kewanee. The Google showed me how to get to a hotel. There’s a Motel 6 across the street. Some kids hanging around in the parking lot said there was another bike guy in the hotel. It was sold out so I came here next door.

Tomorrow I am considering going off route. Instead of going due west to Muscatine Iowa then north to Oxford Junction, I might go northeast to Davenport then on to Oxford Junction. This would shave a day from the schedule and possibly avoid some hills.

Today’s mileage was 62.5

Total so far is 1,092.5.

Any Road Tour: Day 7 – I bought my bike anchor at REI

After pigging our at the hotel’s breakfast, I hit the road late, around 8:15. I still had a bit more of a hill to climb. This was good because it warmed me up for the 4,000 hills to come. Eastern Ohio is a topographical roller coaster. The hills are shorter than yesterday which allows for a bit of hill hopping, riding hell for leather down one hill to zoom up the next one. This works a whole lot better when your bike isn’t a tank though.

My bike is a tank naked but add four panniers and camping gear and you’ve got one weighty beast. This being day 7 you might be wondering why is he carrying the tent, a heavy 2-person tent I might add, and all that camping stuff.

Because I’m an idiot, that’s why.

The truth is I want the option of camping when indoor accommodations are not easy to come by. I think the tent will become more useful in the weeks ahead. When the terrain is level. Life’s not fair then you die.

I was thinking a lot about death today as the temperature rose into the low 90s (Celsius). There were so many hills that I had to find a way to keep from completely blowing up on them. I started to pre-breath like a free diver to get as much oxygen into my system and to expand my lungs. Also, once I dropped into my granny gear, I’d just put my head down and focus on the road just s few feet beyond my front wheel. This kept me from being mentally defeated by seeing the top of the climb way…up…there.

So I didn’t take too many pictures.

There were many descents at over 30 miles per hour. The Mule can rumble!

After Barnesville I missed a turn and had a nice hilly, mile-long tour of the countryside.

This made me paranoid about missing more turns so I stopped often to get my bearings. And ice cream. And water. My hematologist warmed me not to get dehydrated. So I made sure to carry extra water. At a gas station I had lunch: PB&J, chips, a big cookie, and a Diet Pepsi that was so big I had difficulty holding the cup. I am not making this up. Ohioans must have amazing bladders.

The Mule had so much water I thought of renaming him The Camel, The Mule was not amused.

At 1 or 1:30 I came to my planned stopping point at a campground near Senecaville.

It was too early to quit and I’d only ridden 50 miles so I decided to continue on for another 30 miles to Zanesville.

Did I mention it was hilly? Did I mention it was hot? Did I forget to mention that there was absolutely no shade on the god damned road?

Fug me.

The elevation profile on my maps seemed inaccurate. I should have notice that the scale had been compressed from yesterday. I stared at the elevation profile. Just 5 more hills to go!

I was on a road that had tar on the surface. The tar was liquefying in the heat. Every so often my back wheel would slide in the stuff. And the road also featured curious patches of gravel. Gravel on a descent can ruin your whole day.

Then the terrain stopped matching the profile. I came to a highway. Oops. I had missed another turn someplace.

Fortunately the highway was US 40, the National Toad that goes right through Zanesville. Highway 40 had very little traffic, a wide shoulder, and smooth pavement. There were hills but they were gradual.

After seeing a recently painted Mail Pouch tobacco sign, I rode down the hill into downtown Zanesville. Let’s just say Petula Clark would never sing about this downtown.

I searched the local hotels until I found a decent one near food, a burger and milk shake establishment.

Heaven. I’m in heaven.,.

The detours pushed my mileage to 84 for the day, easing the tour total to 494. Not bad for a week’s work.

Any Road to the PNW – Pre-tour Anxiety

Construction, Fires, Floods, and Lions

I can’t sleep. All I can think about is the cascade of things that are going wrong with my bike tour and I haven’t even left home yet. From past experience I know that I have to go all mindful and concentrate on the here and now. This will be easier once I am rolling.

The route I am taking keeps changing and troubles keep arising. First I was worried about road construction on the route west from Missoula Montana. Next I discovered that the passes to the central Cascades in Oregon are compromised from last years wildfires. (Can’t wait for this years. Derp.) Then I found out that the route down the Columbia River gorge to Portland Oregon is partially closed because of more forest fires. This would force me to ride along the Washington State side of the river, missing Multnomah Falls in the process. For the last few days torrential rains have been wiping out the 185-mile C & O Canal towpath from near DC to near Williamsport, at Mile 100. Needless to day, the free camping sites are probably a mess too. This morning I learned that a mountain lion killed a mountain biker about 30 miles east of Seattle.

That’s right fires, floods, and lions. Whose idea was this anyway?

The Packing List

So I have busied myself making a packing list. Here’s what I am bringing.

Camping

  • Two-person tent
  • Lightweight sleeping bag
  • Silk sleeping bag liner
  • Pillow
  • Bear bag (for keeping carnivores away from my food)
  • Carbiner and nylon rope (to hang the bag)
  • Toilet paper
  • Utensils
  • Ear plugs
  • Sleep mask (for hostels)

Personal

  • Prescription sunglasses
  • Shaving cream
  • Razor
  • Toothbrush
  • Floss
  • Medicine
    • Maintenance inhalers (4) (Asthma)
    • Rescue inhalers (1) (Asthma)
    • Eye drops (glaucoma)
    • Aspirin (blood clots)
    • Ibuprofen
    • Nighttime Ibuprofen
  • Sunscreen
  • Ear plugs
  • Chamois cream
  • Back up prescription glasses
  • Book (maybe 2. Probably ancient Tom Wolfe paperbacks)
  • Passport (for going into Canada or boarding a flight if I lose my other ID)

Clothes

  • Bike shorts (3)
  • Technical bike shirts (3)
  • Cotton t-shirt
  • Off -bike shorts
  • Belt
  • Technical underwear for either on or off bike
  • Socks (3)
  • Bike shoes
  • 1 old t-shirt to use as a rag after it gets worn
  • Floppy hat
  • Teva sandals
  • Rain pants
  • Rain jacket
  • Sunsleeves

Electronics

  • iPhone
  • iPhone cable and charger
  • iPhone earphones
  • Small back up battery
  • Head light
  • Head light charger
  • Taillight belt
  • Taillight belt charger
  • Camera
  • Camera charging cable

Bike Gear

  • The Mule (1991 Specialized Sequoia touring bike)
  • Water bottles (2)
  • Extra water bottle in pannier
  • Four Ortlieb roll top panniers (2 small for the front, 2 large for the rear)
  • Ortlieb medium handlebar bad with map case
  • Bicycling gloves
  • Multitool
  • Tire levers
  • Tubes (3)
  • Folding spare tire
  • Valve adapter
  • Topeak RoadMorph Pump
  • Lube
  • Lock
  • Cables
  • Zip ties
  • Duct tape

Other

  • Adventure Cycling Association Maps (14)
  • Rudi’s route to Little Orleans (A cue sheet to circumvent most of the C&O Canal. A very hilly route that I hope not to use.)
  • Trail mix
  • Energy bars/fruit

The new stuff for this tour is underlined. As you can see I have already crossed out a few items. I wouldn’t know what to do with a cable if I had to do a roadside repair so there’s no point in bringing them. And other than the fact that I can take pictures while riding, the camera is kind of useless. I can use my iPhone for photos, and it will force me to stop to take the pictures which is not a bad thing.

The Route

Whether I like it or not, the route is changing as I type. My current thinking is that instead of riding the canal directly west from DC, I use roads to get me about 100 to 110 miles upriver. So on day one will be spent riding on the roads to Fredrick Maryland. I’ll stay in a hotel. This replaces my first C&O Canal day. Day two will involve riding roads west from Fredrick picking up the Canal and the Western Maryland Rail Trail either at Williamsport or beyond and overnighting in Hancock Maryland at mile 125. (The bike shop has a bunkhouse with showers and WiFi and such.) Day three will be 60 miles of mud to Cumberland assuming the the trail is open. If not, the pooch is screwed. But I’ll mix my metaphors and blow up that bridge when I get to it.

Today’s Fun

My anxiety woke me up at 5 a.m. I have to ride 45 miles round trip to Vienna Virginia to return Bike to Work Day materials. I had volunteered to staff a pit stop 1 1/2 miles from my house. What I didn’t know was that I was responsible for picking up and dropping off Bike to Work Day materials for the Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling (FABB), our suburban advocacy group, 23 miles away. This easy volunteering effort ballooned from a 3 hour commitment to about 12 hours. Suffice it to say, I’ll choose my volunteering events more carefully next time. On the plus side, I get to do a shake down ride on The Mule.

When I get home, I’ll watch the Nats game, do some laundry, and go a concert in DC. Hopefully, I can sleep in tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Solitude and Prapanca

It was a cold and blustery day. I could have gone for a ride outside but Big Nellie was all alone in the basement. So I went downstairs with a magazine, a book, and two water bottles are started spinning.

An article in Adventure Cyclist magazine about Joe Cruz (great name), an accomplished cycle tourist, had a paragraph that really resonated with me. Every time I do a solo tour people ask me if I get bored or afraid. Solo touring has made me appreciate the difference between loneliness and solitude. And as Cruz says:

Being by yourself makes a tremendous difference in how open you are and how you put yourself into the cultural context of the place your visiting. …[W}hen I am solo, I am getting a great big hug from the place, surrounded by mountains or terrain that grabs me and holds me and over hours lets me disappear, and the chatter in my head goes away and the place I am visiting becomes part of me.

I am infinitely more loquacious when I am on a solo bike tour. I talk to everybody I meet. Considering how introverted I am, this is quite a feat.

There is something to be said for touring with others as I did in 2016. And I find I much prefer doing event rides with a group of friends. Solo touring is a whole different ballgame.

Of course, solo touring can be a drag if you let it. More specifically, if you are prone to letting worries run away with your mind, you are in for a very miserable time. I was on my way to Indiana along the C&O Canal towpath in 2005. I was about 40 miles into the day bumping along on Big Nellie when I found my mind hijacked.

“This is so bumpy. All the weight is over the rear wheel. What if my rear tire blows out? What a spoke breaks? What if it starts to rain? This is going to suck.”

Over and over again. For hours.

After finishing the magazine I started reading the new book Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics when I learned that this kind of escalating worry binge has a name. Buddhists (in the ancient language Pali) call it prapanca.

I was crushing prapanca all the way to Brunswick, Maryland when I stopped my bike and literally gave myself a good talking to. Out loud. (The other trail users gave me a few hairy eyeballs.) I resolved to forget about all the catastrophes that might come and enjoy the fact that it was a perfect summer day and I was on vacation doing what I love to do.

And off I went with a smile on my face.

A few days later, I noticed that my rear rim was cracking. I stopped at a convenience store. The clerk told me about a nearby bike shop. The bike shop dudes told me that they’d replace the rim and pointed me to a Mexican restaurant and a motel. The next day I was back on the road with a full tummy, a good night’s sleep, and a new rear wheel.

Take that prapanca.

 

Shopping for My Bike Tour

I am in pretty good shape in terms of gear for my bike tour. I don’t plan on cooking so I don’t have to bring a stove or a pot and that sort of stuff. There are a few things I know I need and one that I might experiment with.

  • Panniers: I have been using Ortlieb roll top panniers for over ten years. I have big ones for the rear and small ones for the front. They are fantastic. Basically they are a big waterproof bag. I am on my second set of rear panniers and they are starting to leak. I think I bought them less than 5 years ago and am trying to get them replaced under warranty. Not many people use the same panniers day in day out for 200+ days a year like I do. So we’ll see if I can get them for free regardless. Otherwise, I need to buy new ones.

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  • Sleeping pad: I bought a 3/4ths length Thermarest self inflating sleeping pad about 12 years ago. It might be useful for a ten year old but I have never been able to sleep on it. This caused a bit of a problem when you’ve just ridden a tank for 90 miles and you’re body needs rest. My friend Michelle recently did some backpacking in Shenandoah National Park and raved about her REI sleeping pad so I bought one.  It’s more than twice as thick as the Thermarest and it’s 6 feet long. It is a little narrow. I am optimistic. Thanks, Michelle.

  • Mirror: I use a mirror on my recumbent. I really like it. In fact, for a while, I used two but this makes my wingspan a bit too wide for riding on trails as I do around home. The mirror on my recumbent attaches to the end of the handlebar. I can’t do that on The Mule, my touring bike, because it has bar end shifters. So I either have to use a mirror attached to my helmet or some other type. I don’t much like either but the Adventure Cycling Association sells a couple that I might give a tryout to this summer.
  • Tires: I might buy new tires. I usually use Schwalbe Marathons because they are very puncture resistant. They also last a really long time. The front one on The Mule is a Marathon Plus which is more resistant. It probably has 3,000 miles on it. Just to be safe., I will take a folding spare along just in case. (I had a tour ruined by a tire failure.)

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?