Tour Planning – The Pile, The Route, The Body and The Brake

The Pile

I have been building the pile o’stuff for my tour. It’s getting pretty big. In a couple of days I’ll stuff it all into the panniers, load it on the bike, and try not to crash from the sheer enormity of it. At this stage, I keep thinking of things to bring like butt wipes and little bottles for castille soap and chain cleaner. (I hope I don’t mix them up. Could make for an interesting laundry or bathing experience.) There’s also a small jar of peanut butter. And a bigger camp towel. And clothing. I am debating whether to bring allen keys and a chain brake. If I do I may leave my multitool at home. It’s a pain to use. Another item that may get left behind is my water bladder. I used two in the deserts of Utah and Nevada but they were hard to use. In any case, I should have no trouble finding bottled water along the way. The U-lock is for use before the trip. I’ll use a lighter Ottolock for the road. You may also notice a Covid quick test kit in the pile. I’ll organize the small items into Ziplock bags, one for tools, one for medicines, one for maps, one for toiletries, etc.

The pile is growing. Gotta find a way to cut weight.

Of course, every tour begins with too much stuff. Then, after a week of slogging all this up hills, I’ll go to a post office and mail thing home.

The Route

My original plan, Plan A, has been to follow the Adventure Cycling Association’s Lewis and Clark Trail to southeastern Nebraska. This would involve about 200 miles on the Katy Trail, an off road route, then country roads along the Missouri River. The route continues across Nebraska before angling down to Colorado Springs where I meet up with Mark and Corey. This first part of the trip is about 1,000 miles. The three of us will follow the Transamerica Route up to Yellowstone then eventually to the Oregon Coast, another 2,000 miles.

The other night I mapped out a more southerly route. Using Plan B, I’d stay on the Katy Trail to the end in Clinton, Missouri. Then head south to Bentonville, Arkansas. Next I’d head west into far northeastern Oklahoma before angling up to Medicine Lodge, Kansas. There is a road through the Gyp Hills from Medicine Lodge to Coldwater that is supposed to be one of the best cycling roads in the country. After Coldwater I could ride to Dodge City because cowboys, Wyatt Earp, and buffalo hunters. From Dodge I’d angle up to Pueblo, Colorado then up to Colorado Springs.

There are several drawbacks to this route. It looks pretty hilly getting to and from Bentonville, for a start. Also, I can’t find much in the way of cheap or free accommodations on this route. I’d be hopping from one hotel or motel to another. It’s also over 300 miles and five days longer than Plan A.

Plan C is pretty simple. Ride the Katy Trail to Clinton. Then ride two days south to Ash Grove, Missouri which is on the Transamerica Trail. There’s a guest house there with a pool that welcomes bike tourists. (This is where I met Corey and Mark in 2019.) I would just take the Transamerica Route west to Pueblo as I did in 2019. There are three very big advantages to this. Nearly every town on the route has free camping or cheap hotels. The TransAm is the oldest long distance route in the US, so people who live along it expect to see bicycle tourists. And, probably most important, I’d be certain to encounter other bike tourists who can offer help, information, and companionship across the rather boring plains.

A final idea is to use the Katy and TransAm to Hutchison, Kansas, northwest of Wichita. Then I could angle southwest to Pratt. From Pratt I’d go due south to Medicine Lodge. Then the scenic road Gyp Hills road goes straight west to Coldwater. After which it’s a couple of days northwest to Dodge City. From Dodge it looks pretty straightforward to ride back to the TransAm at Scott City.

The red dots are the TransAm.

The Body and the Brake

In 2019, I did my ride from north central Indiana to San Francisco on one good leg. My left knee and hip were aching most of the way. It didn’t help that my front brake pads rubbed most of the way.

In 2022, the knee, hip, and brake problems are fixed. Alas, I am now 66 years old with an 86 year old back. I kind of like to think along the lines of Augustus McCrae: the older the violin, the sweeter the music.