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!

It’s Hard to Like April

Mostly, April 2018 will fade from memory, because nobody wants to think about cold, wet, windy weather. April did have a few high points. For a start, my pulmonlogist was pleased with my recovery and backed off the prospect of leaving me on blood thinners for years or maybe even forever. She also lowered the dosage of my asthma medicine. And hopes to further lower it when I get back from my bike tour.

My bike tour planning is going along very well. I received several bike maps from the Adventure Cycling Association a few weeks ago. This allowed me to plan my trip as far as Missoula, Montana. There are numerous options for the rest of the trip to the coast. The southern route goes through central Oregon and follows the Adventure Cycling Transamerica Route. The middle route follows their Lewis and Clark route down the Columbia River gorge, through Portland, and on to the coast. Both these routes are encumbered 50 miles on road construction through the Lochsa River valley. In this corner, Felkerino, who is a man of many miles, advises that this road is awesome and contains a continuous downhill stretch of over 90 miles. In the opposite corner is Andrea, a woman of many miles too who rode the Northern Tier from Seattle east. She (and some commenters on this blog) both say the Cascades are awesome.

Two more maps arrived today from Adventure Cycling. One is for the missing segment from Missoula to the western edge of Oregon on the Lewis and Clark. The other is the segment of the Northern Tier that goes through the Cascades. To get to the start of that route, I’d need to ride a truck route along the Flathead River. I’ll plan both routes out and wait until I get out west before finalizing the way to the coast.

Getting back to my health, I did an acupuncture treatment last week that has done my left arm and shoulder a world of good. Yesterday I rode a 52-mile event ride called Breaking the Cycle. It was cold. The first 28 miles were uphill into a headwind. I rode The Mule as a test ride for the tour. It did fine except for some chain skipping on the cassette (which I had tended to today). At Friday Coffee Club last week, I bought a Brooks Flyer saddle from Felkerino. I mounted it too flat and spent much of the ride sliding my butt back to the rear of the saddle. This caused pain in my bad shoulder. Today I tipped the nose of the saddle up just a bit and my shoulder is happy again. So happy in fact that today’s visit to the gym involved two machines that I have avoided for over a month. So I cancelled tomorrow’s physical therapy session in a fit of optimism.

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The Mule at the Turn Around Point

A word of warning about acupuncture, if you don’t want to look like a junkie, you might want to avoid acupuncture if you are on blood thinners.

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The Golden Arm

Near the end of April, the sun came out. The trees and grass did their thing and we got to enjoy a shit ton of pollen. This is my car today.

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There was one excellent thing that happened in April, I went to three baseball games! On my bike, of course. I missed catching a home run at the first game. The Nats lost. At the second game I nearly killed my buddy Kevin with a nacho bomb. The Nats lost.

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At the third game, I avoided batted balls and gut bombs but the Nats still lost. I sense a disturbing pattern.

Despite its crummy weather, April did give me my biggest mileage month of the year. I rode 27 out of 30 days for a total of 789 miles during the month. For the year, I’ve ridden 2,743 miles. That’s a pretty decent foundation for what lies ahead.

 

Rainy Friday, Worth the Ride

Rain. Cold rain. On a Friday morning when most retirees stay in bed. I got up and hit the road a little after 6:30. The rain, blown by a northeast headwind, spit on my face. And I rode. I arrived at Friday Coffee Club (yes, we capitalize it) around 8. The crowd was predictably small, given the crummy weather: Ed, Ricky, Andrea, Jeff, and a player to be named later. (Sorry, I didn’t catch your name.) Ed and Andrea were discussing a 400 kilometer randoneuring event they are participating in tomorrow. (Ed is riding. Andrea is volunteering.) That’s 248 miles (plus 5 because the course designer is a sadist.) In one day or so. I can’t even.

Ed brought a lightly used Brooks Flyer saddle with fancy copper rivets. I bought it from him for my tour. It has lots of room for tension adjustments. My tush should be a happy camper.

After Andrea, Ricky, and the PTBNL left, Ultrarunnergirl made her first appearance of 2018. Yay! I haven’t seen my biking-hiking-baseball-flaming drinks buddy in a very long time. Hugs and smiles. She took the bus because she is nursing a messed up hip. We must get her well for future adventures.

After I left FCC, I rode to the gym and went all Hulk for 40 minutes. Next, I did 20 minutes of physical therapy at home. Then, I went to an acupuncturist down the street.

I had a hard time tuning my ears to my acupuncturist’s heavy Korean accent but with some forbearabce, we managed to get the gist of my problem understood. He examined my tongue and poked various parts of my body. Mostly this was painless, but a couple of pokes in my feet caused sharp pain. (A similar discomfort shortened a Thai massage a few years ago.)

As I lay on my back, He pinned me in my upper left arm and at various other points all over my body. After about 15 minutes, he flipped me over and repeated the process. Acupuncture is rather hocus pocus to me but I have had success with it in the past. I have to say that my arm does feel better this evening. I’ll wait a day or two before declaring the trip a success.

At the end of the appointment, he placed small stickers on spots on my hands. This mark points that I should prod and massage to help my shoulder heal.

When I got home I ordered two new maps from Adventure Cycling. Over coffee, Ed has made the road west out of Missoula sound like bicycle heaven. He said there is a 90 mile gradual downhill that follows a river through the mountains. I stumbled across a blog online that described the shortcut to the Cascades in less than glowing terms. I will use the maps to work out itineraries for both routes.

One of the maps contains a small surprise, a short cut to Missoula from the east. I’ll have to give that a closer look at that. (It probably involves a climb of horrific proportions.)

I think the only way to properly plan for this trip is to go with the flow and see how I feel when I get to Montana.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Settling In before Moving On

I confess to be dealing with sporadic pre-tour anxiety. I can feel it welling up inside. And with it comes the little voice of depression. Welcome to the party, old friends.

For the last few days I have been feeling worn out physically. Doubts about my physical ability to ride 4,000 miles started creeping in. Time to apply exercise therapy.

Before jumping on Little Nellie, I raised the saddle about 1/8th of an inch. You’d think this wouldn’t matter much but it does. It felt like a new bike. It felt like it fit me perfectly. And off I went down the road effortlessly. After 7 1/2 miles I arrived at the gym. It was crowded, so I used the machines as they came open instead of following my usual boring routine. When I was done I felt a little queasy. This is a good sign. It means I pushed myself beyond my comfort zone. I’m going to need that somewhere around the middle of North Dakota.

After the gym, I went for an easy 18 1/2 mile ride. It felt great, my first enjoyable ride in days. It occurred to me that the arm strength I have developed over the past few months at the gym will vanish by about the time I cross into Ohio on my tour. This is not a bad thing. I need to take weight off the engine before I reach the big mountains out west. If history is a guide, I’ll weigh about 20 pounds less when I reach Montana.

After the ride, I signed up for an acupuncture session at the local spa. The benefits of my physical therapy have reached a plateau. My left arm now has a normal range of motion but I still have pains when I move it in certain ways. So it’s time to shake things up a bit. I had the interesting thought that doing acupuncture while on blood thinners could be rather colorful.

After watching the Nats crush the Giants on TV, I did some further research on the alternate route I am considering between Missoula and the coast. The stretch from Missoula in the lower right through the Flathead Reservation and the Coeur D’Alene National Forest is about 190 miles along Highway 200. It’s a scenic byway with two big climbs and many miles of riding along the Flathead River. What I know is this is a two-land highway with some stretches lacking a paved shoulder. There will be logging trucks and other big metal things to deal with, but I can’t imagine it can be any more intimidating that my route through South Carolina and Georgia last fall.

Alt Route to Anacortes

Once I reach Sandpoint, Idaho, I can pick up the last segment of the Adventure Cycling Northern Tier route. The good news is I will have all kinds of information about services. The bad news is that there are several mountain passes that may kill me. I have no experience whatsoever with riding a bike up honest to god mountains. Eek.

Riding up these mountains will be no big deal once I am doing the business of actually riding. These things tend to get cut down to size when you experience them first hand. It’s a bit like painting the peak of the exterior of my house. The 24-foot ladder looked scary as hell from the ground, but once I was at the top with my brush and can all I saw was the siding in front of me. My mind had cut the daunting 18 foot elevation of the side of the house down to a four-foot-by-four-foot chunk. As long as I didn’t do something stupid, I was perfectly safe. The mountains are high, but I am slow and I have all damned day to get over them. Lord willin’ and my blood don’t clot.

I figure the total distance will be about 650 miles. That’s about 11 days, factoring in a couple of short mileage days for climbing.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Tour Prep Begins

Today was the day I planned to take some baby steps to get ready for my bike tour to the Pacific northwest. It turns out it was a good thing I started today.

To kick things off the Post Office made a surprise delivery of the Adventure Cycling Association bike maps I ordered last week. I now have all but one of the maps I’ll use on my trip. (The missing map was out of stock.) With a block of a couple of hours, I can make a day by day plan of the trip using the info on the maps.

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Just follow the directions and your dreams will be fulfilled

Next, I put new tires on The Mule, my 1991 Specialized Sequoia. I am using Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires. The ones on the bike were still in decent condition but I didn’t want to worry about having my tires wear out in the middle of nowhere. The new ones took some convincing to get on. Then I took the bike for a test ride. The tires felt fine and so did the bike. This bike owns me.

Unfortunately, my bike computer had a battery light on, indicating that one of the two batteries was low. I guessed that the one needing replacement was on the pick up which is mounted to the right fork blade. I rode the Mule to the drug store and bought a new battery. When I went to install the battery I learned that the screw-on cover to the battery compartment was stripped.

I rode to my local bike shop. They confirmed that the cover could not be removed. They did have, however, a replacement and they gave it to me for free. I rode home and installed it. No matter what I did I couldn’t get the computer to get a signal from the pick up. I think perhaps the reason the bike shop had this part lying around was that it didn’t work.

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This thing basically wasted a Sunday afternoon

In the course of all this messing around, I found out a couple of other problems. The strap to the right toe clip was frayed and the metal clasp was rusted. So I replaced the strap with one from an old pair of pedals I had lying around. Of bigger concern was the fact that my right front brake pad was not releasing from the rim. Last fall I had paid a mechanic to take care of issues like this but apparently it was beyond his ken.

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They used to make these out of leather. Yeah, well.

So tomorrow, it’s back to the local bike shop for a new bike computer and some brake maintenance. You would think that a brake mechanism would last more than 27 years and 45,500 off miles, but nooooo!

Another thing I discovered is that my leather saddle is almost out of adjusting room on the tensioning bolt. The saddle feels fine riding around the neighborhood but I had some very unpleasant perineal nerve pain during my last two tours. So I think I will check out a new Brooks Flyer saddle to replace this one.

I was planning on test riding this bike next Saturday during a 50-mile event ride but that doesn’t look likely now. Drat.

I am considering starting a separate blog just for the trip. Stay tuned.

One final bit of planning that I need to do is to come up with a name for the tour. Hmm…

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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

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.

 

 

 

 

Fairfax County Gets with the Program

Richmond Highway in Fairfax County is an eclectic mix of old and new tied together with traffic jams. Old motels, high rise residential buildings, new hotels, and big box stores are intermingled with gas stations, trailer parks, garden apartments, office buildings, and a seemingly infinite hodge podge of other retail businesses. It offers a lot. I avoid it like the plague.

Fitful development replaced suburban blight in the 1990s. The Department of Defense relocated thousands of workers to Fort Belvoir and the County did a land swap that led to the construction of a residential city of sorts near Lorton, both on the southern end of the corridor. DC bound commuter traffic overwhelms the highway during rush hours. Transit is heavily used but is simply not enough to move all the people through and within the corridor.

So Fairfax County is developing plans to re-invent the corridor over the next 25 years. If it doesn’t do something, southeastern Fairfax County’s economy will choke on its own auto exhaust. Using bus rapid transit (until it can get Metro service) to reduce or mitigate car traffic, the county will develop a chain of mixed use communities, not unlike the Ballston to Rosslyn corridor in Arlington or the Town Center in Reston.

Today, riding a bike in this area is very unsafe. Pedestrians fare no better, with many being sent to hospitals and morgues each year. The plan calls for bicycle and pedestrian facilities along the highway. Input from bicyclists at prior meetings convinced planners to include bicycle and pedestrian facilities on feeder streets and in each of the mixed use communities. I heard no negative push back on these additions to the plan tonight.

How this all plays out over the next couple of decades is anybody’s guess. It is comforting to see that after decades of embracing car-based suburban sprawl, Fairfax County is finally moving toward more transit, sensible development, and livable communities. Will the county be able to stick to its plans as Arlington and Reston did? Time will tell.

Working on Plan B

Because of inept planning and some unanticipated scheduling conflicts, my bike tour of Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin is in serious doubt. I bought the Adventure Cycling North Lake route maps and thought I could cover the distance in about 2 weeks. I’d need an additional 2 days to drive to and from the starting point at my in-laws house in north central Indiana.

Then I studied the maps. It looks like the route would be about 200 miles longer than I thought. The route goes from my in-laws’ house to Mackinac Island. Then I would ride west through the upper peninsula of Michigan. I’d enter Wisconsin and ride to Manitowoc where I’d pick up a ferry across the lake to Ludington, Michigan. What I failed to take into account was the mileage from Ludington back to my in-laws’. That’s an additional 230 miles pushing the tour over 1,200 miles. A comfortable touring pace would be 70 miles so 1,200 miles would be at least 19 days. Not gonna happen.

So here are some alternate plans:

  • Find somewhere near the ferry in Ludington to park my car. This would eliminate the 460 to and from my in-laws’ place. Now we’re down around 800 miles and 11 or 12 days. Add two days of driving (12 hours each way) and no complications (including wasting a day waiting for the ferry) and the tour is doable. I am investigating parking options.
  • Dump the entire Lake Michigan thing. Drive to upstate New York and park my car at my sister’s place just north of Albany. Do the Adventure Cycling Adirondack Park Loop which is 394 miles. I could even add about 60 miles riding to Burlington Vermont and back for the heck of it. That’s 460 miles or so. A bit hillier than the North Lakes route so I figure 7 – 8 days. Plus two days of driving. Doable.
  • Drive to Albany as above. Do the Adventure Cycling Green Mountain Loop. The loop is 376 miles. Albany to the southernmost point of the loop in Ticonderoga NY adds about 100 miles each way for a total tour distance of 576 miles. This would take about 9 – 10  days allowing for hills. Total days including driving is 11 – 12.

I had thought about doing the latter two loop tours in one go, but that would be around 1,000 miles. Hilly miles. Not gonna happen.

I need to pull the trigger on one of these alternatives in a few days to allow for shipment of the maps from Adventure Cycling.

Tough call….