Sunshine and the Oregon Coast

Mike  

Today is such a different day than yesterday. Plenty of sunshine and 55 degree day. We got out of Seaside pretty easily. Rode along the Promanade on the water front looking at all of the millon dollar homes with the million dollar views. Pretty quickly out of Seaside the 101 Highway started to climb. Not what I love right out of the box, but did it w/o much complaint. Then we started to  see some of the views of the ocean to make the climbing worth all of the effort. What a beautiful coast line. We came into the little town of Cannon Beach after a while and parked the bikes. There is a coffee shop  about every 50 feet in between the other shops (read as touristy). We picked a place to get our cup of ambition and then wandered around town. Really a pleasant little place. Got ready to go and found Deb had a flat tire. A local bike rental store took care of us and when I asked how much I owed he said “no charge sir”. Pretty cool. I made him take $10 after a few minutes. People are nice dispite what the media says.

We had a couple more climbs to do. It wasn’t terrible after the coffee and the kindness of the bike guy. Took a lot of pictures of the coast. Really hard to get to much of the Oregon coast. We finally got over the last knob and coasted into Manzanita for some food and drink. Big mistake. We talked ourselves into staying after only 24 miles for the day. Got a hotel right on the ocean. Life could be worse:)

 

One more day

After months of planning, packing and prepacking we are both so ready to just go. Even I am sick of talking about it! I just want to get on my bike and get out of here. If we aren’t ready now i don’t think we will ever be as we have checked off every item on our many lists. The hardest thing now is living in this quiet house as our pets have gone off to their temporary caretakers and it’s way to quiet.

An interesting thing has been going on in our lives though. Our daughter and son-in-law left on May 1 to hike  the Pacific Crest Trail. We are able to talk a bit with them when they have cell phone service and they keep a very  honest blog. Their adventure parallels ours in many ways. We have shared notes on lightweight equipment, clothing, adventure books and now we can follow their emotional journey and it is very similar to ours. Check out their blog!

Jill and Josh PCT blog

Mike has been urging me for months to see if I can pack up my bike with the clothes and items I plan to take so I decided to do that today. Wow. I can take like nothing.  We need clothes to keep us warm over snow covered mountain passes, clothes to hike in and sightsee, hot weather clothing, camping and cooking gear and of course our bicycle clothing. After we get over the mountains we can send home our cold weather gear, but until then it will be quite a feat.

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My Panniers

Mike has four panniers since his bike is set up for it and he will be carrying most of the cooking and camping equipment. I will carry sleeping bags and a tent on top of my panniers. We are trying to keep our weight under 50 lbs for each of us so talking to Jill and Josh (who are weight weenies) has helped us considerably. Technology has made this quite doable, and we have collected some nice equipment over our years of adventure cycling!

getting nervous

Woohoo only 43 more days until we board the train. Hope we have every thing we need and nothing we don’t. 

I’m testing out a blue tooth key board that links to my tablet. I think I’m going to like this. I was going to take a laptop to write on but thought it was to heavy. This will be a much lighter option. 

I’m starting to think about all the things around the house that needs to be done before we close it up. And all the things at work that need to be caught up before we go. Kind of overwelming, so I guess I won’t do anything and just go for a bike ride:) Alas the work is still there, but I feel better for riding at least. 

I have packed and unpacked my panniers about a hundred times by now looking at everything to be sure that what I have is nesasary and I’m not carrying anything that I won’t ever need. There are many different kinds of panniers on the market. There is a trade off betwwen weight and strength and water resistance between different brands. I’m going to use Ortlieb panniers on the front wheel. They are kind of heavy, but are really waterproof, so I will keep my cloths and electronics in those bags. 

Some say that the Ortleibs are the best and toughest ones you can get, and I think that could be true but they are pretty heavy. Something like 3 pounds each. So I started to look for some lighter weight panniers. Just so happened I was reading a book about someone who had traveled across the U.S and he had used Arkel Dry Lite panniers. They are only 1.5 pounds for the pair, much lighter. I am going to use those on the back wheel (end) of my bike. I’ll use them for cooking stuff,food, rain gear, shoes etc. Stuff that isn’t so critical about getting wet. 

When I finally get all of my stuff together and on the bike I think the whole rig will weigh about 70  pounds. Not exactly a racing set up, but going slow is the whole point of the ride. Deb and I like to stop and chat with local folks to learn about how they live their life. That to us is the best part of bike travel. We’re getting pretty pumped to get this thing started. Happy trails everyone.

Training for this thing

written by Deb

The truth about training for long-distance cycle touring is this:

Training myself mentally will most likely serve me  far better than attempting to train myself physically.

The best physical training for a big cycle tour is to ride a really heavy bike a really long way. Obviously. Guess what? We are going to do that by going on a big cycle tour. We will start off gently and hopefully in a few weeks we will most likely be as fit as we need to be. The nice thing about our tour is that we have no set schedule and our days are not planned.  We don’t have to be ready to ride 80 miles everyday the first week. This is good because we live in Michigan, and it can prove to be difficult getting much training miles in due to the weather. If we were going with a group and a set schedule intense training would be critical, but we plan on easing into it.excericeze cartoon

That being said we do have a  goal to get in 500 miles before we leave. This gives us a chance to try out our rain gear, our snow gear, our tires. We have been lucky enough to have a few warmer weekends this spring and we have been taking advantage . In fact, todays high will be 32 degrees and off we go in a few hours. We get to try out our merino wool long underwear!!

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I think mentally preparing to live on the bike will prove to be the most beneficial and crucial thing we do. Preparing to be wet and cold for days at a time. No showers, less than clean hotel rooms.  This is probably worrying me more than I think, but I am going to try to train for that too. Experienced bicycle tourists usually say the highs are super high and the lows are really low.  Mike and I have experienced this many times in our previous bike trips, but we travel very well together  and often prove to be our own great support system.  In fact Mike is usually so chipper on these rides I often tell him to go ride ahead to leave me be miserable in peace.

in an effort to prepare myself mentally I’ve been working on a few things. Being as prepared as possible will most likely  make for a more enjoyable ride and hopefully ease my mind so I can totally enjoy the experience.

  • ease off social media. I love politics, I’m addicted to news. I’ve been working on distancing myself from my need to always be connected.
  • we’ve been saving money like crazy so we can afford to sleep in cheap hotels and eat in diners along the way. We will have our camping gear, but after a long hot day in the saddle I love to know I can sleep in an air conditioned room and have a hot shower. This is more important to me then to Mike. but I’m not sure I would do this if I had to camp every night.
  • I got my hair cut shorter so I can just wash and air dry it. Not all of you will understand the importance of this, but it is a big deal to me. My hair is hot and heavy.
  • we have purchased the best gear we can afford. Comfortable clothing, good saddles, bikes we love.
  • we have given ourselves plenty of time. This ride can be done in 60 days, but we’ve allowed ourselves 4 months so we can truly enjoy the scenery and stop when we like.

What not to wear

Woohoo!  Only 85 more days to go. I’ve been following a face book page about the Amtrak Empire Builder train. They have had some delays due to mudslides and snow in Montana recently. I hope they get that figured out.  We are so looking forward to the trip in May out west on the train.

We have been struggling with what riding clothes to take along for cold weather. The mountain passes we will be cycling over can be snow covered and very cold well into June. We will be riding over  McKenzie Pass in Oregon and that pass often doesn’t even open to traffic until June because of the snow!  We will be there approximately the first of June so that could be interesting, and we need to be prepared. I’ve also read that it is not uncommon to get snow in Montana in June.

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The pass in summer

The idea is to wear lots of layers of clothes that are moisture wicking to keep you as dry as possible. I’m going to take merino wool long underwear, some long pants, and rain pants and wool long sleeve tee shirt, a bike jersey, an insulated Patagonia Nano Puff midlayer coat, and a rain coat if needed. torontostarwintercycling2The thing that I’m not so sure about is what to do about keeping my hands and feet warm. I like to ride with Keen bike sandals which are obviously are not so good for cold weather. I’m going to try some neoprene foot covers with wool socks. (I guess I’ll have to let you know how that works out). Also I am taking some wind proof type of gloves that I haven’t yet found. This all sounds like a lot of stuff to haul, but I feel like I will be able to send a lot of it home once we get later into summer and further south. In the end it will all work out I guess.

Let the adventure begin. McKenzie pass, Lolo pass, Hoosier Pass  here we come.  Brrr

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McKenzie Pass

Saddles Matter

We’re getting pretty excited to go do this thing. Just 16 weeks until we get on the train. Every night Deb and I are perusing the blogs of other riders to see how they are doing and what equipment they are using. Then we are on Amazon looking to see how much the latest gizmo cost and deciding whether or not we can live without one. Usually we can live without, but its good to see what’s out there.

When I tell people about our ride one of the first things people comment is “I couldn’t ride that far. My butt would be killing me” They then proceed to tell me about the sheepskin wool seat cover that doesn’t seem to help. No wonder they don’t like to ride their bike. Over the years I have found out a few tricks about saddles and riding position.

The number one thing I tell people about bike riding is to take the saddle that came with your bike off and throw it in the driveway and drive over it. New bikes almost always come with a crappy saddle because the manufacturer expects that you are going to change it. You can go into any bike shop and look around and find a plastic tub full of new take off saddles that people changed out. Everyone has a bum that is different and you have to find a saddle that works for you. Another thing that doesn’t work well is to put  more padding on the saddle( i.e.sheepskin). That just puts the pressure on the soft tissue and causes chaffing. You really don’t want that. You should feel pressure on your  sit bones, they should be carrying the weight. A harder, less padded  saddle will do that. An entry level saddle that’s decent will go for $35- 40. Most of the local bike shops will let you try the saddle for a few days and let you return it/ trade for a different one. As long as you end up actually buying from them. (no amazon after you’ve picked the one you want). Deb and I both have Brooks saddles. They are the Cadillac of saddles, although I’m sure many others people will disagree. Deb’s saddle is a Model S Champion Flyer

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Debs Saddle

and  I’m riding a model B 17 Imperial.

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Mikes Saddle

Brooks makes many different models, so you have a lot of options there. They usually run around $120 -$140. (Again, no ever said hobbies were cheap) Be forewarned though that most of the Brooks line is made of leather and they take a little care. They also take some miles before they break in.(300 -500 miles usually). Once it gets broke in it is the most comfortable seat you will ever have on a bike. It will last you a lifetime too.

Another trick of the trade is to get a good pair of riding shorts. Many people I  know say they wouldn’t be caught dead in tight spandex. Yeah I get that, but I never cared about fashion anyway. The fashion police have long given up on me anyway. (After all I’ve worn  a blue on blue uniform every day for the last 40 years). I like to get the kind of shorts that have the tight spandex inside and a baggy shorts on the outside.

One last thought about saddle comfort. No matter how much good equipment you have, someday you are going to get a saddle sore. There is some miracle stuff called Bag Balm that works terrific. Really made for cow udders, but all bicyclists know about it and refer to it as “butt  butter’. 20170122_144751Lots  of riders even use it every time they ride as more of a preventive thing.

Neither Deb nor I suffer much after years of riding. Hope this helps!

 

 

 

Not so easy rider

Getting your bike on the Amtrak train isn’t as easy as it sounds. Yes, it is easier than it used to be but is still really confusing. First you have to find out if the station you want to leave from has roll on, roll up or requires the bike to be boxed. We find that on the Amtrak  from Grand Rapids to Chicago you have the roll up option. Great! We will just roll the bikes up to the side of the baggage car and lift them up to the Amtrak employee in the baggage car and he puts the bikes in a rack on the car. That’s pretty cool, we can do that.

So, we make it to Chicago. Now  we have to get the luggage off the train and go back to the baggage car and get the bikes. Then we have to go to the terminal and buy a bike box and pack the bikes in the boxes. The train from GR won’t take a bike box, but to get them on the train to Portland they have to be in a box. Good thing we  have a 5 hour lay over in Chicago to box  our bikes. To fit the bike in the box you have remove the pedals and turn the handle bars sideways. And maybe take the front wheel off if the bike is to long for the box.  Now if you wanted to go from Chicago to Spokane you can just use the roll up service and just hand your bike up to the worker. But the train splits up at Spokane and some of it goes to Seattle (which does not require a box) and some of the train goes to Portland (That part of the trip does require a box ). Easy peasy.  Confused so far?

Now, to make it even more perfect, Amtrak is trying to update their equipment all the time so all of what I just said could go out the window. They said the reason I have to box them is that the part from Spokane to Portland does not have the proper equipment to do it. I’m guessing they don’t have racks in the baggage car for the bikes yet. Seems like you would want to have that equipment going to the biggest bike friendly city in the U.S.find-cheap-cardboard-bike-box-at-amtrak-train-station

Also on some parts of the route you have the roll on option where you roll the bike on the train car and put it in a rack your self. This option  seems to be more on the East coast, but you can find it at various places around the country.

It seems that Amtrak is trying to be more bike friendly and accommodate bikes, but they have a ways to go I think. Even with all  of the hoops to jump through I can’t wait to get going. It’s all part of the adventure.

You’re gonna do what?

It’s a little hard to think about riding your bike across the country when its snowing so hard outside you have to snow blow the driveway twice in 4 hours. But yet this ride crosses my mind every hour or so.

Perhaps I should share some of the plan for where and how we are going to do this thing. (Most people I tell about it say, YOU’RE GONNA DO WHAT?) So I hope it makes more sense when you learn about what we’re gonna do.

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Empire Builder

 

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In mid May of next year Deb and I plan to load our bikes and ourselves on the Empire Builder Train to Portland OR. We have reservations for a sleeper berth on the Amtrak Empire Builder. It takes about 48 hours to cross the country. From Portland we will go west even further to Astoria. We think we are going to hire a ride for that (approx 100 miles). From Astoria  we will follow the Trans Am trail down the coast to Eugene OR. The route then angles up toward Missoula Montana where the main offices of Adventure Cycling are located. https://www.adventurecycling.org/ . Then, roughly, the trail goes south east through Yellowstone and Tetons National parks and further south into Colorado where it turn directly east.  The Trans Am trail isn’t really a trail, but is a route along back roads that has been mapped out by Adventure Cycling. They make all kinds of maps just for this kind of bike travel. (approx 40,000 miles of routes in the U.S.) The maps are used a guide for bicyclists to follow and have info about water,food lodging etc on it. We still have to make our own decisions about where to go and how far to go and where to stay, but the maps help do that.

Our idea  is to staytrans-am-map in hotels, motels and couch surf as much as possible. There are several organizations such as Warm Showers and Air b n B that we plan to use also to find lodging. We will also take a tent and sleeping bags as back up. Many small towns have a city park or camp ground to stay in. Our budget is $100 a day for food and lodging so camping or free stays may have to enter into it if we get off budget.

We are thinking we will want to take our time doing this and stop and see the sights along the way. So we’ve planned for 120 days to get from Oregon to Virginia. I guess if you’re going to ride through Yellowstone you probably should stop and take a look for a couple of days.

Sounds so simple eh. I’m ready to ride. This is going to be a blast.  Did I mention this is 4200 miles??

It’s about the bikes

20160604_111520It took me a while to figure out how to get back to this blog. Shall we say technology is not my friend.

I’ve been working on the bikes getting them ready to make the 4200 mile trip. Deb is going to ride her Cannondale SR-800, she has had for a long time. She is one with her bike. The wheels that came with the bike only have 16 spokes per rim and we have had some issue with breaking spokes in the past. So I ordered 2 new rims from Velocity with 32 spokes each that I think will be stronger. I put  two new tires and tubes on it and a new rear cassette, along w/ a new chain. There were some options for what gears to use. Knowing we were going to ride some mountains I chose the cassette with the biggest number of teeth on the low gear that I could get. What is called an 11-28 set. Also the bike got a new small chain ring on the front crank set. It had a 30 tooth gear and I went with a 26 tooth gear to give a lower “granny gear’. Over the years of riding Deb had tried a few different saddles on her bike and found that the Brooks women’s is what works for her. We’ve also raised the handle bars up a bit so she isn’t leaning so much forward. We also added a rear rack for carrying panniers.

I bought a new bike for this trip about a year ago. Yes I’ve been thinking about this ride a long time. I got a Surly Longhaul Disc trucker. It is a bike made for this kind of loaded  touring. Of coarse, if you know me, you know I like to tinker with things. So I changed the handlebars and the stem and the shifters and the brake levers and the tires. I added fenders and racks and front and rear lights. Other than that it came with everything I wanted. No one ever said hobbies were cheap.

 

First blog post

I have loved riding a bike since the first time my brother pushed me down the hill on a beat up old roadmaster bike. Telling me to steer towards the way you are leaning and it will all be great. I guess it worked out, I’m still alive. And I still love biking. I kind of lost the feeling for a while when I got my drivers license and a car. But it never went away. I found the feeling again by accident when I was looking for a thing that I could do with my youngest daughter. Some Daddy, Daughter time together. We decided to ride the Kal-Haven trail, camp in South Haven and ride back the next day.I didn’t actually make the ride back to k-zoo from South Haven because my knee was killing me, but I was hooked on long distance riding. Hence this blog and my long time bucket list dream. Riding across America on my bike. This blog is about planning and doing that ride.                                             I will try to keep a running commentary of how our plans (my wife Deb is going too) are going and of our ride as we go.