Back to work

Okay kids – fun’s over! It’s back to work today.

Hits and misses: Some things I tried for this trip were great ideas. Some, not so great. Here are a few reactions after the trip is over.

  • Hit: the new bike – it was light, responsive, held up well.
  • Hit: integrated brake/shift levers – nothing new to a lot of you, but I still use downtube shifters and being able to shift without moving my hands (a thumb or a finger only) and being able to shift while out of the saddle make a big difference in >4000 miles.
  • Hit: new sleeping pad (though, in the end, it could have been thicker)
  • Mixed: tent (it was roomy but it leaked and condensation was terrible)
  • Mixed: bringing a sleeping bag – it was usually too hot and when it was cold I could have just worn more clothes. A fleece blanket would probably have been enough.
  • Hit: full zip jerseys
  • Hit: zippered 3 gallon Hefty bags – one for jerseys and gloves, one for shorts and socks, one for rainwear, one for cold weather wear, etc. (regular clothes, too.) You can squeeze out all the air and have less bulk and keep everything dry.
  • Miss: jumbo Ziploc bags – they were hard to seal, leaked, and tore easily.
  • Hit: new zip tie-like bike locks – these were an impulse buy at a sale and were great for quick lock-ups at a coffee shop. They fit in an under-saddle bag and will at least stop impulse thieves and slow down other thieves.
  • Miss: Sigma bike computer – a switch quit for about a month mid-trip (then started working again); went through six batteries (3 each for wheel sensor and computer), complicated programming.
  • Hit: Nulaxy keyboard – this made typing way easier and faster than a phone keyboard and takes less space than a tablet (plus costs hundreds of dollars less than a tablet).
  • Hit: bringing clothesline and clothespins
  • Hit: bringing only sandals and bike shoes – I had no need for “real” shoes
  • Hit: CO2 cartridges – great for emergency on-the-road inflation after a flat (“puncture” to the Brits in the audience)
  • Hit:  snack bag as waterproof iPhone holder
  • Hit: Velcro straps under saddle bag to hold extra stuff – this was an improvisation. My sleeping pad came with straps and a nylon sack. The straps were superfluous but were great to fasten rain gear under my saddle bag, or in case of an impulse purchase.
  • Hit: Clif shot bloks – handy way to get electrolytes when I ran out of Cytomax (lighter and easier to carry, too). Before a climb I would stick one between teeth and gum and let it slowly dissolve. Also helped with dry mouth in arid regions. Sometimes it is hard to breathe and swallow at the same time (long steep climbs at altitude). These helped.
  • Miss: Gatorade – I’ve already talked about that.
  • Miss: Greg not securing Wi-Fi passwords for all overnights
  • Mixed: tools, parts, and warm clothes I didn’t need – all stuff I might bring anyway, as insurance.
  • Hit: solar charger. I usually had access to electricity to charge the phone but this sure came in handy to keep a back-up battery charged at all times. 

    Coming soon: My top ten and bottom ten lists (good days and bad, good weeks and bad). Neither list will necessarily contain ten items.

    And now, because I haven’t worked it in before, because I mentioned truffles yesterday, and because it is one of the under-appreciated Beatles songs:

     

     

     

     

Trees!

We have arrived in Northfield for a day off. My tent is dry, my laundry is in the machine.

It was a beautiful day – warm, sunny, breezy. I saw trees – not just tree or a windbreak, but actual woods!

Even the air smells and tastes richer here.

We saw the famous 2-story outhouse. I couldn’t figure out how you get in the upper door, and I wondered why there is a power line to it.

I also passed a sign for a “Man Sale”. I couldn’t figure out what that was. Later I saw a sign for a “Man Sail” and it appeared to be a garage sale of stereotypically male stuff. I also got a picture of our fearless leader hard at work.

The most remarkable thing about this group of people is how unremarkable we are. Sure, we have our eight time iron (wo)man and a former competitive arm wrestler (who retired when she broke her arm in competition) and the guy who has ridden cross-country seven times now (five of them self-contained), but if a bunch of us walked into a café you wouldn’t think anything of it if we weren’t wearing these weird biking clothes. If a bunch of NFL players walk into a café, you know it. We are a bunch of unremarkable people doing a remarkable thing.

Stuff

A while back I wrote about what to bring for a trip like this. Today I’ll talk about how that has worked out so far.

My duffle bag is infamous for its density. It contains tools and parts I hope not to need. The other night a rider needed a 16Nm (Newton meter) torque wrench. The one the mechanics have only reads to 6Nm. I had one.

I had my first “patient” (besides myself) needing Kinesio-tape. She saw the tape on my hamstring tendon insertion (which lasted a week, peeled off, and the tendon is now fine, thank you very much for asking).

I taped her Achilles‘ tendons and she told me that she rode pain-free for the first time after that.

I bought a new tent for the trip. My old one was pretty ratty. The new one has side entrances instead of at the end. They are on both sides and both have vestibules. I can store gear in one and use the other as an entrance.

It is a two-person tent so, when it is raining, I can keep all my gear inside with me. In addition to the usual gear pockets in the corners, there is a really handy net pocket in the ceiling, above my head, where I can safely store my glasses.

I bought a new sleeping pad. My old self-inflating pads are fine for a short trip but I would not want to use them for a bed for two months. This one is self-inflating and 2.5 inches thick. It is great, though would be heavy for backpacking.

I have a great fall/winter/spring sleeping bag but it is way too warm for summer. I have car camping bags (heavy, flannel-lined). I bought a new lightweight summer down bag. An unexpected bonus is that the zipper pull glows in the dark. I never realized that would be useful.

I thought about bringing only a flannel sheet and a fleece throw instead of a sleeeping bag. That still might have been a good idea.

I’m not mentioning brand names, lest you think this is a commercial site and someone is paying for my praise. If you want to know more, ask in the comments.

Some parachute cord and a few clothespins have come in really handy. While I usually wash my bike clothes in the shower with me, my collapsible kitchen sink has been handy when that was not possible (and to soak my feet).

I brought a mid-sized saddle bag; bigger than the one I usually carry that fits only a tube, patch kit, tire levers, and ID. It can’t hold rainwear or extra layers, but the straps that came with the sleeping pad  enable me to lash that stuff under it. So far it has been big enough.

Inside, it holds tire changing stuff (including patch kit, two tubes, two CO2 cartridges, and an inflator), sunscreen, Cytomax – not any more – I drank it -money, ID, and (currently) an emergency shot of espresso that I saw in a convenience store a few towns back. (Not any more – I drank I it in an emergency)

An item that goes unnoticed is a water bottle and cage. Having a combination that works makes life much easier. I can reach down, get the bottle, drink, and put it back without looking or changing cadence. That’s a bigger deal than it seems and, if your bottle and cage don’t work well together, can be a repeated pain in the *ss.

Stuff wears out and gets used up

Stuff I’ve needed to replace:
– tires (2)
– tubes (about 5)
– chain (new one going on tomorrow)
– shorts (they touch my under-saddle bag with each pedal stroke – repeat that enough times and they wear through)
– Dr Bronner’s soap (16 oz bottle almost empty – used as soap, shampoo, laundry soap), sunscreen (on my second tube), toothpaste, dental floss
– Cytomax (4.5 lb can of powdered drink mix gone)
– Hammer Gel (16 oz bottle of concentrated electrolyte/carbohydrate)
– chain lube (almost gone)

Across the Mississippi!

After a day off Sunday we will cross the Mississippi River into Wisconsin on Monday.

We have ridden >2500 miles. Five people are leaving after this week and 14 more are coming on. (I guess Wisconsin is popular.)

We’ll end the week with a ferry across Lake Michigan.