Wednesday, February 27, 2013


Count down is now in the single digits.  This time next week, I will be wrapped around a Margarita in San Diego.  I am so tired of the cold/rain/snow/wind that I have to check in the mirror to see what happened to the winter loving person I used to be.  

The broken tree is trimmed and removed, the fence repairs will happen soon and now we are left trying to figure out what to do with the remains of the carport.  Getting the bent and twisted metal out of the way would be a good start.

Everything else is pretty much taken care of.  The "stuff" is either packed or ready to be packed, the lists are disappearing, very few decisions left to be made. After two years of planning,  I am ready to get this show on the road.  

Ready or not, here I come!

Friday, February 22, 2013

One more reason....... be happy about going to California in 12 days.

This was the view out my back door this morning.  That used to be a carport that sat between the house and the garage.  Until the tree to the left decided that it really didn't like supporting all that ice on those branches.  Fortunately, most of the tree will be salvagable - it is a maple that turns a brilliant red-orange in the fall.  Also fortunately, no damage to the house or the garage and no one was under the carport when the limb fell.  Most of the ice melted today, though it will refreeze tonight. The mess will be cleaned up and the fence repaired by the end of next week.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

No turning back

Not that I want to turn back, but as I write, my bike is being packed up for shipment to California.  That brings a certain sense of inevitablity to the venture.  

 I am pretty much past all the apprehension of the past month or two, now it is mostly excitement and eager anticipation. And I am more than ready to be out of the cold weather we have been having lately.

Now that the bike is taken care of, I can move onto the packing.  It's not so much of a "what to take/not take" thing as it is a "what needs to go in checked baggage and what needs to stay with me on the plane?"  Some things will go in  one bag for the flight and into a different bag for the tour.  The weight limit is not a problem, I've never been a heavy packer, nothing goes unless it can serve multiple purposes and/or will be worn multiple times.  The routines on this trip will be different from anything I have ever done before though, so the organizing will be somewhat different too. 

I like to be organized (though it might be hard to tell by looking at my desk or my craft room) so I don't have to think too hard about things.  I like being able to look at my stuff and tell if it's all there, I like to be able to check just a couple of places to make sure I haven't left anything behind.  So now I am fitting a new routine onto an old habit pattern, it's slightly disconcerting, but I am quite sure it will work fine.

I'm ready.  Let's go.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Three weeks and counting

The tour is within spitting distance now and everything is coming together.  My calendar now fits on one page and many of the major tasks have been scratched off the "to do" list.

This is different from other trips I have taken for several reasons.  The biggest is dealing with all the variability that might be involved.  

  • Being outdoors every day, in a different place every day, over a span of two months means that the weather is more of a consideration than usual.  I'm trying to make every item of clothing or equipment do double duty.
  • Not knowing exactly what supplies might be available along the route and at what  frequency means carrying enough to get by but not enough to weigh you down or take too much space (though I am pretty sure we will be within spitting distance of a Walmart//Target/Walgreens wherever we go.  
  • Traveling by bike, even with support, means special needs.  There are bike shops along the way, but Murphy's law tells me that I can't count on one being nearby at the exact time I need it, so the bike needs to be in the best possible condition for traveling 3,000 miles.  The packing and shipping involved on each end is also a new experience.
  • Leaving my "normal" life behind for two months means arrangements for communication are vital.  Fortunately, the electronic age means that there are lots of options for staying in touch.  There are fewer and fewer places now that don't have cell coverage or wi-fi. 

 I feel like I'm on a familiar glide path now - the normal "getting ready for a trip" stuff that I've done hundreds of times.  I'm calm, cool and collected - mostly.  The big arrangements are all made, the supplies are all purchased, the training is what it is.  I plan to spend the next few weeks enjoying the anticipation.  All that's left to do is pack my bags and get myself to the airport on time.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Bike, part two

It has taken a while and quite a bit of trial and error, but this is how the bike is configured for this tour.  Because it has a 15" frame it is proportioned more like a touring bike with a long wheelbase relative to its height.  The extra computer is set up for use on the trainer, it isn't going on the tour.  The fenders are Crudcatcher MK2 Roadracers., very light and designed to break away if something gets caught.

The Topeak saddlebag will hold two half liter water bottles (currently contains one) with room for  tire changing kit and extra tube.  It doesn't fit my rails very well, so it's attached with velcro straps through the saddle rails and the seat post.

The main handlebar bag can carry two one liter water bottles (currently carrying one) plus snacks, multi-tool kit, sunscreen, chamois cream and a windbreaker. The small bag with the reflective stripe has a quick release attachment and holds cell phone, camera and billfold - it will be my de facto purse on the tour and means I can take the valuable stuff with me if I ever have to leave the bike unattended.  The mirror is an Ultralight mirror. The "see me" lights are Planet Bike Spoks with velcro attachments.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Bike

My first bike was a Miss Marple hybrid bike, complete with wicker basket.  That bike was perfect for how I had planned to ride - running errands, going to the library, visiting the yarn shop to knit with friends and cruising along the bike path.

new bike

A couple of months later I signed up for this mega-tour and it was quite obvious that my beloved toodling bike wouldn't be appropriate.  While women have done this tour on pretty much every kind of bike imaginable, including a folder, some bikes make it easier than others.  So as I learned to ride the bike of my English Countryside fantasies, the search was on for one that would be more appropriate.

I had LOTS of help in the search, and since the tour was two years away, there was lots of time.     I sopped up information like a sponge.  I got recommendations from WomanTours, from women who had been on the tour, from touring blogs, from my cycling friends on Ravelry and Daily Mile and anywhere else that had anything to say about cross country touring.  I pondered, and learned and developed my appreciation for all things mechanical.  

The consensus was that either a road bike or touring bike with straight top tube would be the best choice.  I followed every lead, checked out every suggestion but couldn't find one with a top tube low enough for my short legs to stand over.  Since a custom made bike was out of the question, it looked like I would have to look at a different type of bike.  I had almost decided to do a build up on a mixte frame when I took another look at a bike that had been in the showroom the whole time I had been using the local bike shop.  Voila, the right bike.
2010 7.5 FX
Of course, it was only potentially the right bike, for me to be able to ride it in comfort, a few changes had to be made.  Some were made just to make it rideable for me, some to rig it for the tour. 

First I swapped saddles, lengthened the stem and put on trekking/butterfly handlebars - that made it a bike I was comfortable riding.  Then came the fine tuning.  It was really hard for me to shift into the big chain ring because I evidently have some arthritis in my thumb from an old injury.  When it got to the point where I was avoiding shifting, I found a thumb shifter which made things better.  I played with the positioning of brake levers, shifters, computer, bell and a variety of handlebar and saddle/rack bags as I began to ride longer and longer distances.

As the tour got closer, I started really focusing on what would be required for long days on the road.  I would be riding on pavement, including the infamous Texas chipseal, the climate could be hot or cold or anywhere in between.  All kinds of weather were possible in 3,000 miles.  And, oh yes, there would be hills, lots of hills.

This is a fully supported tour with a SAG wagon stopping about every 20 miles.  But.  If the SAG had a flat tire, or had to take someone to the hospital, or I got off the marked route somehow, I might have to go longer than 20 miles with what I had on the bike.  Tough tires, check.  Tire liners (after a run through a patch of goatheads), check. Tire repair kit and extra tube, check. .  Snacks, check. Gloves, sunscreen, tissues, got it.  

Water?  Oh my, what about water?  Because of neck/shoulder issues I wanted to avoid a Camelbak if at all possible.  I was raised in the Southwest, so I know that water can be literally a matter of life or death.  Under normal conditions I drink 1-2 oz/per mile, so if I had to go 40 miles and it was hot.......I needed more than the one bottle cage I had.  After some trial and error I found a BIG saddle bag and collapsible water bottles.  Now I can carry almost 4 liters of water on any day that I think there is any risk of needing it.  Watering holes, even in this day and age, can be few and far between in the desert so I'd rather be coming in at the end of the ride with water in the bottles than struggling on empty.

That took care of the basics and now I had over 3,000 miles on this bike - what else could I do to make this a better trip.  I learned to ride clipless.  We changed the cassette to get 1:1 gearing, went down two tire sizes, added fenders just in case I had to ride in the rain.  We also added flashing tail light and some "see me" lights on the front.  

So - I guess the bike is ready.  Am I?