Roofs and cars

My little retirement goal is to do one adult thing a day. For whatever reason, tour planning hasn’t made the cut so far. (I’ll get there. Eventually.)

A few weeks ago our insurance company sent us an email with attached photos of the roof of our house. Unless we address visible problems with the roof, the insurer will not renew our policy. Are you in good hands?

So today we had our roofing contractor come out. (Basically, this contractor has redone 85 percent of the exterior of our home. We really like working with them.) He went inside the attic and found plenty of evidence of leaks. Then walked around on the roof and found that the plywood is basically gone to pot. Most of the plywood is cheap stuff that was installed when the house was built in 1965. (He also found minor problems with the chimney. In for a nickle, in for a dime.)

So, long story short, we’ll be getting a new roof this summer. Mrs. Rootchopper also wants to insulate the attic but that awaits estimates from another contractor. To add to the “buy” list, Mrs. Rootchopper’s car needs to be replaced.

Five years ago this would have stressed me out completely. Now I just let it happen. As Mrs. Rootchopper’s cancer surgeon said, “It is what it is.” Homes and cars aren’t even in the same class as malignant tumors so what me worry.

With yesterday’s nasty shoulder pain mostly gone (I can’t even), I took off on the Crosscheck for some meditative riding. I decided to ride 30 miles without using the same street twice. This required a bit of on-the-fly planning which kept my mind off roofs and cars. My route was almost entirely on neighborhood streets and trails so it was very low stress. A day of rest gave my legs new life, I suppose. I ended up riding 33 miles and my speed was two miles per hour faster than normal. At the end I had plenty left in the tank, but I topped it off with some chocolate chip cookies just to be on the safe side.

Tomorrow, after Friday Coffee Club, a trip to the gym, and a stop at the hardware and grocery stores (did someone say Errandonnee?), I will sit down and do the itinerary for the second half of this summer’s bike tour.

 

 

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.

 

Marching like a sloth

Somehow I’ve managed to ride 1,741 miles so far this year. Last year, while recovering from a collapsed lung and pulmonary embolisms I rode 1,954 miles. Some of the shortfall is the result of going to London in January, but the rest is due to lethargy.  I feel as if I’ve eaten 1,741 doughnuts. On the plus side, I have managed to recover from two or three weeks of mysterious body aches and pains thanks to switching from Little Nellie to standard size bicycles and buying new walking shoes with a ton of cushioning.

I rode 771 miles in March, 506 on my Surly Cross Check. I can tell that I am sick of cold weather riding because even 45 degrees seems intolerable.

My longest ride was 45.5 miles on The Mule. My most spiritually fulfilling ride was Saturday’s ride to Nats Park to see my first baseball game of the year.

April promises more baseball games, a couple of family birthdays, tour planning, and numerous adulting tasks. (It looks like we need to replace the roof, one of our cars, and a 29-year old sump pump. The sucking sound you hear is coming from my bank account.)

And it’s time to start doing long rides.

Imposter Syndrome, Nightmares, Eagles, and Maps

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

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

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

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

Eagle backyard

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

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

Getting Back in Shape

My body has had a tough winter. For a few weeks I was really falling apart. I couldn’t stand up straight. I walked with a pronounced limp with pain in my left knee and hip.

Setting Aside Little Nellie

It occurred to me that my back pain was probably caused by the impact shocks I get while riding Little Nellie. Those little wheels don’t absorb much of the hit from countless tree roots on the Mount Vernon Trail. (The National Park Service is starved for money and their maintenance has really gone south in the last two or three years.)

I switched first to The Mule, then to my Cross Check, both of which have normal sized wheels (700c x 35 for the bike nerds). My back responded almost instantly to the softer ride on The Mule. When I switched the Cross Check some new back and knee problems cropped up. I re-measured the seat height and the distance from the saddle to the handlebars. The seat was about 1/2 inch higher than The Mule’s. After I adjusted it, I took off. The Cross Check’s bigger gears were just what my legs needed. I feel like my old self again.

I rode it to Friday Coffee Club today. The strong, persistent tailwind made me feel like a bike god. The ride home was a bit challenging but I actually enjoyed fighting the wind. I am back to my old commuting mileages. My last 8 days were: 30, 23.5, 45.5, 28, 31, 32, 32, and 30 miles (252 total). A couple more weeks like that should put me in decent touring shape.

Cross Check at Dyke Marsh
The Cross Check at Dyke Marsh on the Mount Vernon Trail

 

Working Out Off the Bike

I am also doing on alternate days: yoga, weight lifting, and physical therapy exercises including some with a foam roller. I don’t much care for any of these but you gotta do what you gotta do.

Shopping

My pre-tour shopping spree has begun. I’ve bought mountain bike shorts, glasses (clear and polarized, both progressive for map reading while on the bike), Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires, Croakies, Koolstop brake pads, and a combination lock. (I am trading off weight for some security but I can’t recall ever having someone try to steal The Mule while on tour.)

The other night I attended a presentation by Jim Sayer, the Executive Director of  Adventure Cycling. Adventure Cycling makes the maps that I use. Jim’s presentation really helped get my head back in the game. Jim talked up La Route Verte, the bike touring network in Quebec. This is definitely going on my to do list. The website is amazing. (And it’s in both English and French, of course.) I need to do a key word search for “black flies” though.

And just to add to the preparations, spring arrived in DC. It may be temporary but two 70 degree days are just the tonic. I rode in shorts and a t-shirt today and it was bliss.

 

 

 

Shopping

Every bike tour uses up things. I had three pairs of bike shorts during my last tour. One pair were a bit snug at the start of the tour. I didn’t much like them. I ended up shrinking into them over the first half of the ride. By the time I reached the west coast they were my favorites. After 4,300 miles, they hung on my hips. Sadly the nose of my saddle tore the stitching out of the front. They died a hero.

My gloves wore out. I wore them every day. They were just shreds of fabric at the end. They were old school, mesh gloves with no padding in the palm. I could tell I needed more cushioning when the top of my right middle finger went numb.

With these things in mind, I have made a list of stuff to acquire for this year’s tour:

  • Shorts. I learned today that it is a little early to be shopping for bike shorts.
  • New glasses, both sunglasses and clear, with progressive lenses. This will help immensely with map reading on the go. I bought these yesterday.
  • Croakies (the thingies that holds your eyeglasses on your head). Acquired at the optician yesterday.
  • Headsweat. The one I liked was last seen hanging on a shower rod in a motel somewhere west of the Ohio River
  • Adventure Cycling maps. All I need to do is commit to a route. Derp.
  • A new bag and map case for my handlebars. My old map case was help together with packing tape from the post office. The new ones won’t work on my 15-year-old bag.
  • Tires. The Mule’s current Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires have over 5,000 miles on them. I’m confident they have another one or two thousand miles on them. That’s not enough though. My baby needs new shoes.
  • New Koolstop brake pads. My brake pads have been on the bike for two years. It would be nice to be able to stop now and then.
  • Gloves.
  • Water filter. I have never used one but something tells me that way out west I may need one.
  • Health. I am waiting to see if the cortisone shot I had fixes my left rotator cuff. So far, the spasms of acute pain have been dialed down to mild, occasional discomfort after less than a week. I am encouraged. I seem to be over all the colds and body aches that plagued me this winter.
  • A lighter motor. Alas, I have gained quite a bit of weight since last summer. I am confident that warmer weather and a few 200-mile weeks will do the trick.
  • Motivation. Cold March weather is sucking the enthusiasm out of me. Fortunately, two things are coming in the days ahead. On Sunday, temperatures will rise into the 60s. Next Wednesday, I am going to Adventure Cycling’s get together in DC.
  • Train ticket: I need to get to Chicago if I am riding Route 66.

 

 

 

 

 

Tour Planning 2019

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

 

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.

New Legs

I’ve been dragging ass recently. I try to be mindful of overdoing things but lately I’ve been weight lifting and doing physical therapy and mowing the lawn and sitting in near 90 degree heat at a baseball game. On top of all that, during a recent two-week period, I rode 386 miles. I was worn out.

So I took yesterday off and did nothing physical at all, unless you count binge eating popcorn at the movies. Today I was still feeling a little tired but rode Little Nellie to the gym anyway.

Zoom.

Just one day of rest and my riding speed jumped about 3 miles per hour. I rode 28 miles and did my 40 minute weight training routing. And I feel infinitely better, physically and mentally. (I have no doubt that some of this mental boost is attributable to a Facetime chat last night with my son who lives in Thailand.)

Tonight I sat down and got back to my tour planning. I plotted out two routes.

Option A would take me to Missoula, Montana then northwest to Seattle. This one is 3,735 miles over 60 days. That averages to 63 miles per day. Very doable. I could add 87 miles to ride a bit more in Minnesota (basically to see the headwaters of the Mississippi River at Lake Itasca). That will add a couple of days.  The advantage of this route is that it passes through the northern Cascades. The disadvantage of this route is that it climbs over six mountain passes. Eek. Also, I wouldn’t actually get to the Pacific Ocean. I’d get to Puget Sound, if my geography serves me correctly.

Option B would take me from Missoula west down the Columbia River gorge to the Pacific coast at Astoria (or on to Cape Disappointment just so I can say I was there). Then I’d ride north to Bremerton, Washington and take a ferry to Seattle. With a few more days of horsing around this version of the trip totals 4,160 miles over 68 days. That works out to 62 miles per day. Doable.

Both of these routes simplify my return logistics considerably. All I have to do is find a place to pack up my bike and have it picked up for shipment home.  I can probably also ship my bike touring gear home with the same service. Then I book a flight and I’m done.

Option C which I have yet to work out would take me south from Missoula and across the middle of Oregon through Eugene to a coastal town called Florence. Then I’d be 180 miles from Portland. I’d have to skip Seattle for this trip.

As Mrs. Rootchopper pointed out earlier this evening, the Pacific northwest would be a pretty good stand alone tour.  Add it to the list!