Planning and Thoughts on Safety

Planning The Ride

  • We started our planning with American Cycling Association maps for the Northern Tier. These maps are well thought out and have a lot of detail information in them.
  • We quickly realized that there were some deviations that we wanted to make, so I picked up AAA maps for each state and province, mapped out our ride, then cut the maps down so that they contained only our biking route.
  • At this point I found a website, Ride With GPS Mapping, where I could lay out our ride for each day. We were looking to average about 65 miles a day so this provided a starting point. From there I could look at the amount of climbing, towns along the way, scenic attractions, and overnight locations. Then I finalized each day on the mapping program. We changed the route several time while on the ride, and I was able to go into Ride With GPS, map the changes, and see the impact on our ride. I am using this same method to plan the North to Alaska ride for next summer. The website is super/duper.
  • We used the GPS on our cellphones to find specific locations when we were in a given town. This worked very well.
  • I kept track of the specifics for each day on my Garmin Edge 800, and uploaded the data as frequently as possible.
  • Frequently people made suggestions about different roads to take. We learned quickly that a short detour over good road to a car driver can be an out of the way route with roller coaster hills. We also learned that a Tuesday evening bicyclist may consider his route through the country to be a nice ‘scenic’ way to go, but again, it may not be the best way for a tired loaded biker trying to reach the next town to pedal. Let the listener beware.

Thoughts On Safety

  • We rode on all types of roads: interstates, US 2 & 4 lane highways, state 2 & 4 lane highways, county roads, and through cities. Some roads had nice wide margins, some had narrow or no margins, and a few had rumble strips in the middle of the margin making it difficult to avoid debris.
  • Regarding entrance/exit ramps on interstates: When riding interstates or limited access highways we would ride up the exit ramp until we could quickly cut directly across, or ride as far beside the entrance ramp as necessary to ensure good visibility before cutting across. We rode on some very busy highways but always felt comfortable navigating the ramps.
  • When riding on roads with very narrow margins I tended to ride to the left of the edge markings, rather than try to stay on the small edge to the right which might be broken and crumbling. I felt that a car had a better chance of ‘noticing’ me and not side swiping me.
  • Overall, I considered my bike a moving vehicle and preferred to operate it as such.
  • I always made sure to use hand signals when making turns, and made left and right hand turns from the appropriate lanes of traffic.
  • I never rode up beside a line of traffic stopped at a stop sign/light, rather I always stopped behind the last car in line and moved forward as appropriate. I felt this would minimize the chance of someone making an unexpected right turn into me after I had ridden up beside them.
  • I always accelerated as quickly as possible through intersections to minimize becoming an obstacle.
  • I always made wide sweeping turns at an intersection, rather than short cutting the corner. This allowed cars to easily make a turn on my left side. Early in my riding career I short cut a corner and a car went around me on the right then almost side swiped me; no accident, but a learning opportunity.
  • I stayed off of sidewalks.
  • I was the most nervous riding bike paths through large cities and tended to avoid them when ever possible. Cars go one direction and most moves can be anticipated. On the bike paths there were runners, skaters, and bikers going all different speeds and directions, getting on the path and turning off the path without warning, cutting in and out from sidewalks, and running stops signs and lights. In my case, I felt far safer riding my bicycle through Toronto, Montreal, or other large city on the streets rather than on the bike paths.
  • I also tended to be nervous in bike lanes because of cars pulling into traffic or making right turns to a side street. Drivers tend to look for movement in the lane of traffic where cars are moving, not a small lane next to the curb where their vision may be blocked by parked cars.
  • I personally believe that no one will hit me on purpose. That being said, an accident will happen in the blink of an eye through someone’s inattentiveness: mine or someone else’s. I want to be obvious to automobile drivers not obnoxious to them.
  • Note: Everyone has their own comfort level when riding on the road in traffic. What is my comfort level may be terrifying for someone else. Each person needs to find their own stride when out on the road.

Camping, Cooking, Clothing, & Hygiene

The following Camping items were taken, following each are notes about usage and whether or not I would take it again.

  • Big Agnes Seedhouse SL1 tent & footprint: This tent went up easily, packed up quickly, and kept me dry during several rainstorms. I would NOT use this again for several reasons. The Seedhouse product is a front entrance tent, as such you were constantly crawling in over everything which includes tracking dirt and debri. Also, it is a one person tent. In the future I plan on using a small 2 person tent with a side entrance. I like the quality of Big Agnes tents so plan on using a Copper Spur UL2 model, a side entrance tent, which only weighs a pound more than the Seedhouse SL1.
  • Eureka 30/50 double temperature sleeping bag: this worked very well, would take it again
  • Exped medium air pillow: this worked well, but was a tad small for me, would take it again, or maybe look for a larger inflatable pillow
  • Exped AirMat Basic UL 7.5LW air mattress: this worked very well, would take it again
  • Exped Mini-Pump: this worked very well, would take it again, but might consider the Exped Schnozzle. The mini-pump has a foam core in it which seemed to take set when compressed for periods of time. It always recovered, but the Schnozzle is strictly air inflated.

The following Cooking items were taken, following each are notes about usage and whether or not I would take it again.

  • Jet Boil TI SOL cooking system: This system works very well, however, I did not find it as versatile when using pots/cups not designed to fit this stove head. I would NOT take this again, instead I will take a Snow Peak GigaPower stove.
  • Optimus TI spoon, fork, & knife: these worked well, would take them again
  • Snow Peak TI 1400 cook set & TI 450 cup: these worked well, would take them again
  • 2″ x 32″ Velcro strap: this was used to hold the TI 1400 cook set together rather than use a ‘stuff’ bag, would take this again
  • 2 – GI P51 can opener: worked well, would take again
  • dish soap and 1/2 scotch bright pad: these worked well, would take them again
  • small BIC lighter: did not use this, would take again

The following Clothing items were taken, following each are notes about usage and whether or not I would take it again.

  • ball cap: not necessary but I enjoy wearing a cap when off the bike, would take again
  • ear muffs & pair Topeak glove liners: these were used during the ride, would take again, however, I will look for a pair of riding gloves that work with a smartphone touch screen
  • long black stretch riding bottoms: these were used almost everyday in the early mornings, would take them again
  • nylon windbreaker jacket: this was used almost everyday in the early mornings, would take it again
  • 3 – pair Under Armor bicycle socks: wore these in warm weather, would only take 1 pair next time
  • 1 – pair long white socks: used these frequently, would take them again
  • 3 – pair boxer shorts: would only take 2 pair next time
  • 2 pair White Sierra shorts: would only take 1 pair next time
  • 3 – Columbia long sleeve shirts: would only take 2 shirts next time
  • 1 synthetic T shirt: would take this next time
  • 1 pair White Sierra zippered leg pants: would take this next time
  • pants strap for chain protector: would take 2 protectors along next time
  • pair Sanuk Vagabond shoes: wore these everyday in the evenings, were very lighweight and confortable, would definitely take these again
  • rain suit top & hood: this wasn’t used a lot (the nylon windbreaker worked in light rain) but when you are cold and wet you need it, would take again
  • Note: About 1/2 way through the ride I bought a sweatshirt & sweatpants for relaxing in, would take these again
  • Note: I washed one pair of boxer shorts and one long sleeve shirt every day, using bath soap, as soon as I stopped. They always dried overnight. Once a week I tried to find a laundromat to wash everything that had been worn.

The following Personal Hygiene items were taken, following each are notes about usage and whether or not I would take it again.

  • 15 eye glass cleaning packets & 1 cloth: these were used, would take them again
  • Norelco PQ208 battery powered razor: This was used 3-4 times a week, performed very well, and the batteries lasted 2-3 weeks. I also used it to trim the length of my mustache and goatee. I would take this along next time
  • toothbrush, container, & toothpaste: I started out with a travel size tube of paste to save weight, but after a week I ended up buying a medium size; to heck with the weight.
  • dental floss: would take again
  • 1 medium size bar soap & container: 3 bars of soap lasted 9 weeks
  • hair brush (handle cut off): would take again
  • medium size PackTowl: this worked very well and dried quickly, would take it again
  • Note: Half way through the ride I bought a wash cloth, would take it again
  • Note on daily medicine: I take an aspirin, 2 two fish oil, 2 niacin, a multi vitamin, and 1 small Lipitor. I found it easier to dump the correct number of pills into a Ziploc bags and grab the correct ones each day, rather than keeping individual bottles or weekly plastic containers

Electronics, Bicycle Security, & Miscellaneous Items

I carried the following electronics & communications items with me. Following each item is a brief note about usage and whether or not I would take the item on another trip.

    • Samsung Galaxy S2 cellphone: in addition to the normal phone/texting stuff, this ended up being the only camera that I ended up using, and it worked very well for photos and movies, there are only two reasons I would carry a second camera: as a back up for the phone and needing a ‘good’ telephoto feature for wildlife, the GPS function also helped out when trying to locate specific addresses or businesses, during the day I would keep the phone on ‘airplane mode’ to conserve the battery, would definitely take a high quality smartphone again
    • charger cable & charger for cell phone: this was used all the time, would take them again
    • Garmin Edge 800 GPS unit: this unit was invaluable for keeping a record of our trip, as well as following some difficult routes, the battery typically lasted ~10 hours so on a longer days the Goal Zero battery pack was used, would definitely take this or a similar unit again
    • charger cable & charger for Edge 800: this was used all the time, would take them again
    • Samsung Chromebook, 64GB USB mini-flash drive, and mini-mouse & pad: even though this added a few extra pounds I enjoyed the luxury of update my blogs, photos, and emails without having to fiddle with a touchpad & even when wifi was not available I could create posts and what until later to post them, would definitely take this or something similar next time

Samsung Chromebook Charger: this was used all the time, depending on usage the Chromebook battery would last 2-3 days, would take it again

  • 2 spare AA batteries, 2 spare AAA batteries & CR2032 battery: these were not used, would NOT take them again unless I were going to be ‘out of civilization’ for 3-4 days during the trip
  • Goal Zero Guide 10 Plus AA battery pack: this was added at the last minute and I am glad it was as it was used off and on during the trip to back up the Edge 800 and cellphone batteries, I would hang the pack from the handle bars using a pants leg strap to plug it in while riding, would definitely take this again
  • Samsung WB250F smart camera with 64GB high speed memory card: I selected this camera because it takes decent pictures & movies, had a good zoom feature, the memory card fits into the Chromebook,and it uploads to the ‘cloud’. I didn’t end up using it much because my smartphone worked so well and was always handy, would take this again for a back up and for the zoom feature.
  • Note: Next trip I will take a separate charger/cable for each electronic device. In some locations there were limited outlets for charging things so trying to do double duty with chargers caused some problems.
  • Note: I have done some investigation on solar panels for daytime charging and using a dynamo on the front wheel for charging but have not convinced myself one way or the other.
  • Note: Next trip I will take an ungrounded to grounded electrical plug adapter along as I ran into several older ungrounded outlets on the trip.
  • Note: Next trip I will take a 3 outlet electrical plug adapter along as I ran into many locations with few available outlets. Be sure and check to see if all of the chargers will plug into the adapter at one time; some chargers are space hogs and don’t allow others to fit in.


Bicycle Security: I used a 3/16″ diameter x 8′ long flexible cable and medium sized Master brand padlock. The 8′ length allowed me to run it though both wheels and around some post or whatever was handy. Due to weight limitations I was trying to keep honest people honest; dishonest people will do whatever is necessary. I only stayed in a few ‘uncomfortable’ places, and then I tried to put the bicycle inside or ‘out of sight’. When not in use I kept one key in the padlock and the second key hidden in my luggage.

I carried the following Miscellaneous Items items with me. Following each item is a brief note about usage and whether or not I would take the item on another trip.

  • passport: I needed this for going into/out of Canada, would NOT take this unless I was crossing a border
  • drivers license, 1 credit card, 1 debit card, 1 travel cash card, National Park card, AAA card, AARP card, medical insurance cards: did not use all of these card, but would take them again
  • 1 spiral notebook & pencil: this was used sparingly, but would take it again
  • sun glasses: these were used frequently, would take them again
  • Nano flashlight: this was not used (used headlight instead), would NOT take this again
  • medium plastic bag & cord for seat rain cover: this was used several times overnight to cover the ‘foam cushioned seat’ on the bicycle, would take this again
  • individual sheets toilet paper: I was fortunate, this was not used, would take these again
  • 2 – 20′ sections of parachute cord: this was not used and this was taken in case I needed to hang food items up, would NOT take this again unless I was going to camp in wilderness areas
  • elastic net for rear rack: this was frequently used to bring food items back to where we were staying, would take again
  • 2 small bungee cords: these were not used, would NOT take them again
  • Note: I spent a lot of time writing blog sites, Facebook locations, and email addresses. Next time I plan on carrying inexpensive business cards with all of this information to hand out to people.