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!’