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.

It’s Never Too Early to Plan a Tour

Yesterday I did a shakedown cruise on The Mule. I recently had it fixed up for my tour by the good folks at Bikes at Vienna. The bike rides fine, although it feels a little different now that it has Schwalbe Marathon Plus Tour tires on it. These tires weight 50 percent more than the Schwable Mondial tires I have been using since the pandemic hit. But the weight is worth it, because they have a beefy tread that is nearly puncture proof (knock wood).

I road The Mule to DC and back, about a 30-mile round trip. The gears and brakes work fine. I did notice that my front rack was a tad wobbly. This is not surprising as I haven’t tightened the bolts in a few years. I need to dig out my wee bottle of Loctite to make sure the bolts stay tight.

The beefier tread means that my bike computer needs to be recalibrated. I think I have it figured out but I want to do one more check before moving on to other things such as,

  1. Tent – I need to set up my tent and see if I want to use it on this trip. It’s a Big Agnes lightweight backpacking tent that is not freestanding. This is a pain. Also, the inside mesh sags. I miss my big old tent but had to abandon it when, despite, seam sealing, it leaked on me one too many times. I might buy a 2-person, freestanding tent and use that instead.
  2. Panniers – My Ortlieb roll top panniers are pretty beat up. They lost their waterproofing a long time ago. I need to go over them and cover any weak spots with duct tape. I’ll bring some plastic bags to use as liners just to be safe.
  3. Maps and Routing – I have to buy several maps from Adventure Cycling. I need maps for one segment of the Lewis and Clark Route (this will get me from the start to Nebraska). I need to do some research on how to ride across Nebraska to Colorado Springs where I will meet up with my 2019-tour friends Mark and Corey. The three of us will ride the remainder of the Trans America Route from Colorado to the Oregon coast. Mark has an extra set of six maps for this section that he’s offered me, but I’ll need to buy one map segment (from West Yellowstone to Missoula) because this was recently updated.
  4. Bike Transport – My wife and I are driving to Missouri for a wedding in May. I hope to use my Saris Bones rack on her Subaru Outback but she is resisting because she can see the marks on the paint of my Accord. An alternative would be to fold down the back seats and put the bike inside but I fear this will damage my fenders. We’ll figure something out. In any case I just bought new straps for the rack. The old ones are pretty worn out.
  5. Engine performance – Bless me father for I have slacked. It’s been three years since my last bike tour. During that time I have endured a disturbing number of cortisone shots. As of today, I can ride my bike pain free for hours. Walking, however, presents some problems. I’m scheduled for a few more shots to deal with this aspect. I have also experimented with edibles but they haven’t done a thing, except put me to sleep. Some recent experiments with yoga seem to be helping, although I have my doubts based on past experience.
  6. Engine weight – Do you know who Charles Taylor was? He built the light-weight aluminum engine used in the Wright Brothers’ planes. Without him, the Wright Brothers would be just another couple of geeky bike shop owners in Dayton OH. Let’s just say that my engine could use Taylor’s help. Every pound I don’t have to haul up into the Rockies, the better.

There are plenty of other things to worry about. Bison, elk, wolves, bears, wildfires, soul-sucking headwinds, brutal climbs, land whales (RVs), floods, withering heat, and overbooked campsites. Who’s idea was this anyway? Look on the bright side: at least I won’t have to contend with parachuting spiders.