It’s not too late to join me on this epic journey. We’ll be leaving Everett, Washington on Father’s Day, June 17. Splashdown on Cape Ann, Massachusetts is Saturday, August 18. In between the route is split into 9 segments. You can join me for one or all.
For those of you from my neck of the woods, take a look at segment 6.
At the very least, maybe you could join us from Baraboo to Beaver Dam on Thursday, July 26. That’s almost Wednesday Night. A couple hundred extra riders would make quite a splash (and maybe get me kicked out early, who knows?)
If you can’t join us on the ride, and you’re on the west coast, join my friend Keith Greeninger some time this summer. He’ll be at the Freight and Salvage in Berkeley on Father’s Day (the day we start to ride) and in Oregon and Washington in May. I’ve been looking for a way to work him into this, so I could link to a song he wrote several years ago but stays current.
For those who never worked in construction, most major cities have a spot somewhere (in this song it is K-Mart and Home Depot, in San Francisco it was Goodman Lumber in my day) where day workers (“casual labor” in a strange use of the language) gather in hopes that a contractor will come by in a truck and offer them work for a day.
This song is about a contractor looking for workers to build a wall, a border wall that gets higher in each retelling. He’s willing to hire undocumented workers.
Some of the half-fast cyclists are currently touring Catalunya (part of Spain to some, but not to the Catalunyans). One sent pictures of the climb of Rocacorba:
Photos by Tim Morton
As you can see, it is 13.8 km of climbing, gradients of ~10% (7-15% by report, though it looks from the sign at the summit as though the overall average is 6.5%). If you saw the whole series of photos (starting at km 5) the smile becomes more of a grimace as they got higher, though the smile comes back at the summit. I’ll have to remember that trick when I cross the continental divide – stop for pictures rather than rest breaks;)
What to carry depends on a few things. If you’re on a self-supported tour, you carry everything you think you’ll need and can’t get along the way. Tent, sleeping bag, pad, stove, staple foods, snacks, clothes. You’ll buy fresh foods every day. Parts, tools, supplies for foreseeable repairs. If you are on a deluxe tour with hotels and restaurants, you carry next to nothing. My friend Ken, who rode across the country when he finished law school, joked that he was going to have a fitting brazed onto his bike frame to carry a credit card and would carry nothing else. He would eat in restaurants, sleep in hotels, and pay for anything and everything he needed.
I was on a supported tour some years ago and at the end of the week we were told that we had been provided 7500 calories/day. Carrying and preparing that much food is a lot of work – one reason I’m doing this as a supported tour. They will carry and cook food.
I’ll bring a tent, sleeping bag and pad (we’ll be camping every night); but they’ll carry that stuff – I’ll ride my bike. I would normally bring a pump. (I’m going to try CO2 inflators for emergencies on this trip, since the pump in my previous Davidson bike
picture won’t fit on this bike frame) I’ll carry a patch kit, tire levers, spare tubes, spare tire (though I’ll be riding on new tires), spare spokes (though I’ll be riding new wheels), spoke wrench, freehub removal tool to get at drive side spokes, a spare chain, connecting links, and chain tool, lubricant for chain and brakes (hubs, bottom bracket, and headset have ceramic sealed bearings and are fairly new so should not need any attention). Spare cables (though, again, I will have fairly new cables in place).
The company I’m riding with has mechanics available (for a fee) and the ability to order parts to be delivered along the way for anything I didn’t foresee. I will only carry what I reasonably expect to need on a given day. The rest will be available to me in the evenings (including a pump for keeping tire pressures optimal, so I’ll bring the CO2 inflators for emergencies only).
I’m having second thoughts on the day I edit this. In my youth, Campagnolo parts were available at every quality bike shop. Now the evil empire (Shimano) has such a stranglehold on the market that Campagnolo parts can be hard to find in the US. Should I be riding a Shimano-equipped bike to make it easier to get spares? Stay tuned.
I’ll also carry some favorite snacks, electrolyte replacement, multiple sets of riding clothes and mild detergent to wash them every night. The best prevention for saddle sores is to wear clean clothes every day and change as soon as the ride is over. After ride clothes will probably be pretty limited and basic. I will bring rainwear for riding.
I plan to buy a cell phone for the trip (I don’t yet have one – update – now I do). I’ll carry it during the day to use as a camera so I can post photos (day one will include a picture of us dipping our wheels in the Pacific Ocean) and I plan to use it in the evenings to write this blog, rather than carry a computer. I’m bringing a solar charging system that I bought on IndieGoGo. I understand we will have showers available every night. I haven’t decided what books to bring (or if I’ll read on my phone like modern people do).
Most importantly, I will be bringing a nearly new and very light bike, with a wide gear range. I will be bringing a trained body. While I have ridden 130 miles in a day, crossing 5 mountain passes and climbing 15,000 feet; and I have ridden (an average of) 85 miles/day for 6 days; this is an endeavor way beyond anything I have done. I know how to train. I have trained for riding. I have trained for martial arts and other sports. This is quantitatively different, but qualitatively the same thing. I am also 65 years old, which was not the case for those other endeavors.
P.S The Giro d’Italia (one of the three Grand Tours in bike racing) began yesterday in Jerusalem. There are three stages in Israel before the tour moves to Italy. Stage 6 (Thursday) will be the first mountain stage.
P.P.S. Those of you who have already ridden across the country, use the comments to tell me if you think I’m a fool for bringing something you found unnecessary, or a bigger fool for leaving out something essential. If you just think I’m a fool in general, please keep that to yourself.
P.P.P.S. Spring may be here. 80 degrees on Monday, so my first back-to-back days getting out of town on the bike. 25 mph wind so I had to work heading south out of town. I saw a magnolia in bloom – thought I’d stop for a photo on the way back, but I returned a different way.
On Sunday, nothing was green in the countryside except some winter wheat poking up through the ground. On Wednesday, grass was green, a few trees were blooming – and I saw a snowy owl at the top of the last climb of the evening. A thunderstorm arrived minutes after I stopped for a post-ride pizza.
Thursday: Maples bloomed today, bleeding hearts bloomed today, buds on the apple tree. More rain. As soon as the sun comes back, more stuff will bloom.
On October 30, 2017 I took the bike for a shakedown cruise after some parts changes. The photo below is the bike as I intend to ride it across the country.
I’ve swapped out the wheels, mounting the custom wheels from Yellow Jersey. I’ve switched to a Terry saddle. Georgena Terry became famous for designing the first saddle made to fit a woman’s body. She was successful enough that she designed and made a lot of other products, including saddles made for men and designed for long-term comfort. I’m hoping she’s right. For the geekier of you, it is a “Fly Carbon” model. She also built bicycle frames proportioned for women.
I switched to more conventional water bottle cages – what came with the bike were plastic studs onto which a special bottle mounts directly, with no cage, saving a few grams. I wanted to be able to use my bigger bottles, so switched those. Along with the new wheels were a new cogset and chain, so I wanted to make sure everything shifted smoothly before putting the bike away for the winter. The sleet visible on the roadside and on my jacket was just a bonus.
The picture is from a Half-fast fall ride. For several years now, a group of 4-6 of us meet for breakfast at the Blue Spoon Cafe in Prairie du Sac, take a roundabout route to Baraboo (across the Merrimac Ferry, through Devil’s Lake State Park or up Devil’s Delight Road) for lunch at the Little Village Cafe. After lunch we take a different route back to the Blue Spoon for hors d’oeuvre (not to be confused with hors categorie).
One more picture, just because I haven’t figured out where to put it. This little frog was on my brake hood one morning in Door County on a camping trip. My first attempt at a photo with a cell phone and not a “real” camera, so it appears the focal point was the brake lever, not the frog. Sorry.
Any book has an acknowledgments or dedication page, where the writer thanks everybody who helped along the way. It is time for that now, before I hit the road.
First I need to thank the folks at work who made this possible, particularly Sarah, Noreen, and Jane. Without their understanding and willingness to see this dream/plan come true, I’d be working all summer, not riding. Yes, I promise to come back. Retirement is nowhere in sight. When I asked for this time off, I didn’t realize the excrement was about to strike the air-circulating appliance. Jane has since retired and I hope she is sitting back, enjoying life, and reading my blog. Thanks, Jane, for all you’ve done over the years. Once, years ago, my son called me at work. He had been hit by a car. Jane immediately offered a ride home, knowing I was on my bike and she could get me there faster and be available to transport my son, if need be.
Since the time I wrote this post, a number of other changes have happened at work. It turns out I won’t be the only one gone this summer, so I need to thank everyone who will be there working while we are short-handed.
Next is my first riding partner, Al. In high school we rode motorcycles together. After that we switched to bikes. We often rode side by side, in the same gear and at the same cadence. We were a matched pair. My first loaded tours were with Al. It was with Al that I sprinted to a highway wayside in a gathering thunderstorm, pitched a tent in record
time, and settled in. It was with Al that I got kicked out of said wayside by a county sheriff when the rain stopped. We were told he had better find us in a campground or out of his county by nightfall or we would be spending the night in his jail. He would be checking that wayside, and all waysides in the county, again. We found a campground after briefly considering an attempt at riding home in the dark. (This isn’t entirely true. Actually, we were in the campground and it was late at night when we considered packing up and riding home. We realized we needed fresh batteries for our lights and no stores were open.) There was a really good tailwind and only about 60 miles to go. I was also with Al on the backpacking trip in New Mexico which resulted in the ankle injury that brought me to my first new bike, the Motobecane I wrote about a few weeks ago.
Andy at Yellow Jersey built my first set of custom wheels back around 1980 (Campagnolo Record hubs, Weinmann concave rims). His partner Tim built the wheels that will make this trip (DT Swiss carbon ceramic hubs, Velocity rims [asymmetrical rear] – I thought aluminum rims would be better suited to the long journey than the carbon fiber rims that came with the bike).
Chris is the guy who sold me this bike after he had used it just long enough to break it in – he is the west coast sales rep for Wilier. The custom paint job was chosen by him.
The half-fast cycling club has ridden with me through the years – some of them I’ve ridden with off and on for 40 years, some less than that. It is a changing group of friends as some have given up on longer distance riding. Rosebud deserves a special shout out – I tried to get him to come along on this trip. He is one of the originals, from many years before the club name came along. We used to ride to Salmo Pond (right) to swim and have a picnic lunch before riding back home.
By the way, even those in the picture don’t know that I named us. They may disavow any knowledge or responsibility once they read this.
Various anonymous people on the west coast deserve thanks. When I was a stranger there I discovered the joys of club riding when I didn’t have an informal group of friends to ride with. They introduced me to century rides and the Death Ride. I never joined a club (like Groucho I wouldn’t join any club that would have me as a member) but rode with several. A particular guy from up in the mountains near Lake Tahoe was a riding partner for parts of several centuries. He rode with the Alta Alpina Cycling Club.
Ken, who tried to get me to leave my job and join him on a cross-country tour when he finished law school, made me realize I would do this trip someday, somehow. I didn’t join him then. His mom (my boss) would never have forgiven either of us.
Peter is my teacher/facilitator and taught me how to train. It is thanks to him that I know what I need to do to get ready for this trip and that I will do it. http://chenghsin.com/chenghsin-main.html
Greg at Cycle America, who has fielded phone calls from me and met with me in his office in a small town in Minnesota (Cannon Falls, on the way to Northfield from Wisconsin) to answer my questions, deserves mention. This probably won’t be the last one. I found a Cycle America brochure in my files from 1991 (one of the other times I was considering this trip). Greg didn’t agree to match those prices.
Jake, the well-tempered ear, who gave me some blogging guidance along the way. Jake said “more pictures”, so I’ve been adding pictures.
Finally, I need to thank my family. My mom, whose legacy helped to finance the trip; my brother, who insists that mom’s instructions were to spend our inheritances frivolously (I’m not sure I believe him, but I wasn’t there); my kids, whose dreams I supported as they grew up and who now support mine in turn; and my wife, who is willing to be a completely empty-nester for two months and knows how important this trip is to me.
P.S. I found out that a couple of unfinished posts scheduled for June leaked out somehow. Ignore those if you received them via email. Updated versions will come out on the intended dates. Some of the posts composed on my phone instead of desktop may come out looking weird. Let me know in the comments if that happens. (Or contact me directly if you know how to do that, as I’ve heard from one person that she isn’t able to comment online – we’re working on that.) On the computer I can see previews in desktop, tablet, and phone formats. On the phone, obviously, I can see only the phone format. If pictures are too small or too big, let me know.