Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Plane Tickets are Booked (gulp)!

OK, now this is real. I just booked plane tickets and, together with Bob, settled on an actual ride start date of June 16th. We'll fly out to Portland Oregon and then head two hours West by rental car, to Astoria, Oregon, where we will formally launch this adventure. And then it will take a full two days to bike ride back to Portland! Sheesh.
Both of us will be keeping and updating blogs during the ride. Mine is right here; Bob's is at 
Some folks are already asking us why? I answer: why not? Seriously, this is about my third mid-life crisis at this point -- fortunately none so far have involved red sports cars or trophy wives. Biking cross-country seems like a pretty good outlet. And biking is something I've always loved to do. And I've slowly been creeping up on this project. Blogs from some earlier, less ambitious trips (at least in comparison), are at the links above.
In addition, although my primary goal is to complete the trip in one piece, my secondary goal is to try to raise some $$ for I Challenge Myself, a biking charity of which I'm the Board Chair. Since 2005, ICM  has been helping lower income high school students in the Bronx, Washington Heights and Harlem develop leadership and workplace skills, as well as confidence and self-esteem, through endurance cycling training and rides, including a Century Bike Ride at the end of Spring semester. You can find out more about ICM and, if you're so inclined, make a donation, at (or by clicking the "Donate to ICM" button above). Thanks in advance!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Preliminary Route Outline

Adventure Cycling Association actually maintains a slew of cross-country bicycle routes that have been mapped out and tested over the years. Bob and I intend basically to start on ACA's Lewis & Clark route, out of Astoria, Oregon, and then segue north to follow their Northern Tier route. But we'll use their routes only as baselines. We are already planning a number of variations. 

In all, our plan calls for about 4200 miles over the course of three months. From Astoria, we intend to ride to Portland, OR, then on to Walla Walla, WA, across ID and into Missoula, MT (where both ACA and Climate Ride are headquartered), then up to Glacier National Park (and across the Continental Divide), then on to Cut Bank, MT and Dickinson, ND, then down to Badlands National Park in SD, then northeast to Minneapolis, MN, across WI, and into the Upper Peninsula of MI. After that, we probably will bike along the north shore of Lake Erie into Ontario and to Niagara Falls from the Canadian side. Then, finally, on to Albany, NY and the Big Apple.

Why West to East? Two reasons primarily. The first is hard to pin down as factual, but most accounts out there suggest that prevailing winds go in that direction more than they go East to West. We'll take any assist we can! Secondly, we both felt that, psychologically, starting out far from home and heading towards home, was more appealing and motivating. Finally (yeah, I know that's three reasons), we're pretty sure the best scenery will be West of, and crossing, the Continental Divide. If we were to bail on this trip after a month or so (although, for sure, we hope that doesn't happen), we'd already have some great riding in (conversely, leaving the best to the end didn't appeal as much to us instant-gratification bikers).

Preliminary maps of our possible route, generated by the fantastic site Ride with GPS, are below (if it's your first time here, they may take a while to load). But, technology willing, each day's post will have a map of the actual route we took and its related metrics. I'll be relying on my Garmin Edge 800 biking GPS unit which, while far from perfect (see my Amazon review here), will allow me to pre-load possible routes overlaid on actual maps of the relevant areas, and not need to rely on having cellular coverage. And it should also be able to record the days riding data for uploading to this blog. I hope.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Equipment (Part Two)

From the prior post it may seem like I'm obsessing about weight, but the sad truth that has slowly dawned on Bob and me as we've trained over these past few months is that every ounce counts. It is SOOOO much harder to get yourself up a hill (and, let's face it, there are actual mountains where we're going) when you're carrying extra weight. So, after a few test rides (I was literally cycling around with barbells in the panniers), my new mantra for packing was "lose the weight, baby."

Which made some of the decisions difficult. Bob and I intend to do a "credit card" tour -- i.e., we'll be looking for a hotel, motel or B&B each night -- primarily for a warm shower and a comfortable bed. But should we nonetheless bring a sleeping bag -- which, at minimum, is a 2 lb investment? A tent? A tarp? Bob and I went back and forth a few times about this: and were we planning for contingency only or for actual planned outdoor pleasure? We each ended up getting a light, 55+ bag from REI, so I guess we still don't know.

But for those of you who are interested in such things, here's my evolving packing list. So far, I've kept it under 20 lbs, an accomplishment of sorts (I think):

Bike Clothing
2 Pearl Izumi Pro Shorts
1 Baggy shorts with liner (Cannondale)
1 bike shoes (Giro)
4 pair socks (2 lightweight; 2 wool)
Short sleeve wool jersey
Long sleeve wicking jersey (Craft)
Long sleeve sun jersey (Nike)
Gore rain jacket
Cannondale wind vest
Arm warmers (Smartwool)
Knee warmers (Smartwool)
Marmot wind gloves
Pro rain booties
Nike sleeveless shirt (1 or 2)
2 regular cycling jerseys (Cannondale)
Giro helmet
Castelli bandana
Bike gloves (Giro)

Bike Equipment
3 water bottles
2 liter folding water bottle
Arkel Tailrider
Garmin GPS
CygoLite LED
Ortlieb Front Rollers
Arkel Rear Panniers
SKS fenders

Off Bike Clothing
Patagonia Polartec longsleeve
REI Vest
Merrell barefoots
Nylon  shorts (double as bathing suit)
Regular shorts (Ex Officio)
2 boxer underwear
2 collar button shirts (short sleeve)
2 t-shirts (wicking)
Lightweight long pants
REI Sleeping Sack (55 degrees)
REI MultiMat
REI baseball cap

Prescription Glasses
Contacts (two pairs)
[Prescription Sunglasses]
Bike Sunglasses (Oakley)
Waist pack
Bullfrog Suntan Lotion (spray)
iPhone and charger (and extra pack)
Tablet and charger and case
Bluetooth keyboard
Cable for Garmin/CygoLite/SD card adapter
Earphones [ear plugs]
Stick (for muscles)

4 oz. Eurostyle Chamois Butt’r
3 oz. Origins shaving cream
Razor blade and set of cartridges
Nail trimmer
Swiss army knife
Toothbrush and toothpaste
Contact Lens Solution
Micro towel (eyeglasses too)
Regular meds
4 tubes Gu
6 Power Bars
Travel Clothesline

Bike Tools
Pump (with pressure gauge)
2 tubes and flat kit
Cassette mini remover
Electrical Tape
Extra hex nuts
Shock cord
Baby wipes
Wrenches for fenders
Cable lock
Zip ties
Zip lock ice bags

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Equipment (Part One)

Okay, I caved and bought a new bike -- a Surly Disc Trucker, so named because it's one of those relative rarities, a road bike with disc brakes. The brakes add some weight over traditional calipers, but for stopping in the rain, they're really unparalleled. The bike also has a steel frame, which is another one of those weight trade-offs. Steel (as compared to aluminum) is heavier, but gives a softer, less bumpy ride, which is an important consideration when tackling over 4000 miles.

But buying the bike is only the first step. There's a lot of customization that follows. Which pedals? (I bought Time.) Then you have decide what racks you need (i.e., will you be carrying luggage on both the front and rear wheels, or only one?). Fenders? (Yes, an absolute must in the course of three months of riding.) What about the saddle? (I swapped out the decidedly sub-standard one that came with the bike for a Romin Evo Pro.) Gear shifters? (I also swapped out the OEM bar end shifters for Shimano STIs.) Handlebar shape? Handlebar tape? (Both changed.)

The first picture below is of the bike fully-loaded (speaking of weight) -- I ended up deciding to go with two smaller front panniers and a rear trunk bag that also has two light-duty panniers. The idea is to balance the weight between the front and back of the bike for better handling. And I think it works. I tried a boatload of different configurations before settling on this one. It also means, I hope, that I won't overpack (speaking of weight again). If I don't have the space to fill, well, it doesn't get filled.

The other pictures show you some of the hardware complexities involved (especially with disc brakes). The S shaped metal brackets are for mounting the front panniers. The last photo shows my front fender mount which, if you inspect closely, I had to bend by hand to fit down and around the disc brake.