Well, I have a friend, who knew a friend, that knew someone . . . . you probably get the picture. I spent this morning with a fellow by the name of, you guessed it, Pete Taylor. Pete and his nephew bicycled from Billings MT to West Virginia last summer to attend a family renunion. Soooooo, Pete was gracious enough to meet me at a local coffee house where I picked his brain about long distance bicycling.
Pete did this 1900+ mile trip in basically 3 weeks: June 1st through June 24th. He was under a time constraint on both ends of the trip so his average miles per day worked out to be ~82. WOW! In fact, while bicycling across North Dakota they ran into head winds so stiff that they were averaging about 5 miles per hour so you can imagine what they cranked out on other days. To quote Kipling: Your’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din.
I learned a lot from Pete. First, and foremost, he stressed having fun and meeting people along the route. No matter how hard the day is there will always be someone along the ride that will pick your spirits up if you let them. As he put it, ‘Angels don’t always have wings.’
Here are a few pointers from his trip:
- If you make your own granola mix use the real M&Ms, not the off brand. Real ones don’t melt; off brand ones turn your granola into a gooey mess.
- Don’t be afraid to mail unused items home during the trip to save weight. Pete felt that carrying too many clothes was the biggest ‘extra’ that he did.
- Don’t be afraid to have some items shipped to General Delivery along the route. This goes for ‘better clothing’ once you reach the end point.
- Couch Surfing is not just a term, it is a website where you can locate places to stay along your route. Friendly people looking to meet other friendly people and offering a night to stay in exchange.
- Google Maps has a selection for planning a route for a bicycle trip. I have used Google maps plenty of time, but never notice the ‘bicycle’ selection. At the moment, this selection is in ‘beta version’, but looked fairly accurate based on one section of our planned route.
- Carrying ‘water flavoring’ packets comes in handy because many of the water sources in campgrounds do not taste good.
- Carry your ‘valuables’ in a fanny pack. When you stop it is easy to grab the fanny pack instead of taking time to put everything in your pockets, and vice versa when you get ready to leave.
- When camping in state parks try to stay in the middle areas. Many times animals such as raccoons will go through your equipment looking for food; this may happen less if you are in the middle of people. If you are camping by yourself consider hanging the food up.
- Schwalbe tires were a life saver; not one flat.
- Zippered front shirts with a ‘T’ shirt allowed a layered system. The zippered shirt could be easily partially unzipped to provide cooling.
- Leggings and sleevings could be easily put on or taken off depending on the weather conditions.
- If you sun burn easily consider wearing a long sleeve shirt that can be rolled and buttoned up.
- Consider a small hand camera with video function; make sure the memory card is large enough to hold pictures and videos as you may be several days between being able to upload to the ‘cloud’.
- Take lots of pictures and interesting videos. You can always edit things later. Keep posting to a blog or Facebook. Include the names and stories of people that you meet. Give people your Facebook/blog address information so they can follow along. Use this to thank them for their prays to help you along the way.
- Call ahead to a bike shop near your destination and ask them to save a bicycle box so you can ship the bike back. Find out if they will ‘ship’ it for you; if not, locate the nearest UPS drop spot. It cost ~$160 to ship a bike (with adequate insurance) from West Virginia to Billings. Shipping by size, not by weight, is the least expensive, plus you can load all your equipment in the box except for one pannier to use as a carry on bag for the airline trip back.
Pete shared pictures and stories about his trip which really got me pumped up about the wonderful people and sights that I will run across (94 days till blast off, or mabe it is pedal off). All in all, this was one fantastic morning with a great guy who has a wonderful sense of humor about life.
Dwight Eisenhower used to quote a saying from his days in the Army, ‘Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.’ Pete goes it one better, ‘Plan tight; Hang loose!’
I finished the blog/book that Tom did on his Missoula MT to Del Rio TX ride in 2010. It was amazing how much rain and wind he endured while heading south. No wonder he wants to go west to east.
He met a lot of interesting people and found a lot of good hospitality. This is encouraging for someone that will be needing a lot of both pedaling my a** cross country. I guess scroungy looking bicycle guys on funny looking bicycles doesn’t pose a lot of threat to most people.
Say, between string bean Tom and overweight Rick we will probably look more like Laurel and Hardy. When things get tough I can always turn to Tom and say, “Well, here’s a nice mess you’ve got me into.”
Some of the 11 hour days cranking into 35 mph headwinds do seem daunting. I suppose I could start singing along with Tom if this happens. My singing will make anyone pedal faster if for no other reason than reaching our destination a lot sooner.
His comments about dogs is certainly reminiscent on one trip Margie and took. Our bikes were load to the gills, we had just climbed a tall hill towards the end of the day, we were dog (pun intended) tired, and this hug dog resembling a piranha came tearing out from his country house. We both had dog spray but I was so tired and winded from the hill I wasn’t able to get it out while riding. I stopped, which distract the dog so Margie could keep going. Finally I managed to get the dog to settled down so I could continue on.
The Doing It Differently section at the end certainly adds somethings to consider:
- bring pepper spray to deter dogs and other animals
- make sure you carry a variety of food; the same item day after day, no matter how cheap, gets old quickly
- pack carefully and keep it light; when Margie and I bicycled self contained I carried ~40 pounds, and she carried ~30, which was still too much
- make sure to carry enough water and ‘munchies’ to get through to the next town or rest stop
- plan accommodations well in advance; changes can always be made in the event of problems
- take at least one day a week off to rest, clean up, and replenish body, soul, supplies, and bicycle
- if the ride is being done as a fund raiser do a better job of marketing well in advance
Some items I took away include:
- if carrying cellphone, tablet, and gps how will can they be charged when sleeping ‘on the road’; it appears that solar chargers are not as effective as one might think
- how to document the trip both from a camera/video and blog standpoint; helmet cameras/videos are advertised quite a bit but that is one thing more to keep track of and recharge (ah, what would we do without technology)
- make sure all ‘camping’ items are lightweight; cooking fuel is easily available and a week’s supply is easily obtainable
- carry routine items to repair a bicycle while on the road (tools, tires, tubes, lubricant)
- I am sure other items will occur to me as we prepare for the trip
I received a printed copy of the blog kept by Tom on his ride from Missoula MT to Del Rio TX in 2010 (2000+ miles). Very interesting read, and a tad discouraging in spots. The total weight he pedals when you add up his body weight, bicycle weight, and cargo weight is slightly more than my body weight alone.
Now, in my worst emaciated condition I will never weigh what Tom does, I’ll give you that. However, it is somewhat of a downer to think that I will be pushing about 40 pounds more than him no matter what I do. Maybe I will carry less and stink more; who knows. If I forget about carrying a tent and sleeping bag there is only so much blood the mosquitoes can get from me before they start looking for someone else (Tom??).
I jokingly say that I am built for endurance not for speed. At age 66 I wonder if the endurance part is true anymore. My leg muscles, breathing system, and the ol’ ticker better be in substantially better condition by the time June rolls around. I was reading an article about some self-contained long distance bikers; they talked about taking 2-3 years before they reached what they considered ‘peak’ condition. Wellllll, 7 months left and counting.
Based on Tom’s pictures, it appears he has is riding a RANS long wheel base recumbent with fenders and a kickstand in addition to panniers on a rear rack. I need to ask him about these items. I do have fenders on my bike but not a kickstand; that item may be very useful. I am also curious as to why he is switching to a short wheel base bike: need to ask.
I plan to finish his blog tomorrow and see what other nuggets I can mine out of his information.