Thursday, February 23, 2006

Planning and gear- you can never have enough.

I regularly post on Bike Forums, arguably the best online cycling resource and definitely a great way to avoid getting work done. I recently posted my intentions to leave on this tour for the first time, and learned about a few websites that might be a boon if we run out of places to stay. Here they are, in their own words:

Warm Showers List is a list of Internet cyclists who have offered their hospitality towards touring cyclists. The extent of the hospitality depends on the host and may range from simply a spot to pitch a tent to meals, a warm (hot!) shower, and a bed. helps you make connections worldwide. You can use the network to meet people and then go and surf other members' couches!

I'm not sure if we will need these or not, but it's nice to have the option.

Any day now I should be getting a shipment from Arkel, who have a reputation for building the most technical bags and panniers ever. This is the reason I went to them in search of a handlebar bag. Handlebar bags are to the touring cyclist what purses are to the urban woman- the go-to bag with all the things you can't live without. The problem for me has been that I hate having large amounts of weight on my bars. Another cycle tourist recommended Arkel's map case, smaller than a traditional bag but much more than a standard case, so I've ordered a couple of them for Andrea and myself.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Gettin' real paid (plus a gear update).

We are now officially sponsored! Rotofugi designer toy store in Chicago has made us their trans-American street team. Whitney and Kirby Kerr are awesome people and they have a great store in East Ukrainian Village. During our travels we will be stickering for the store, and in term receiving a bounty collectible urban vinyl. I admit it, I am a complete nerd when it comes to this stuff. It is very cool and expensive so I'm really glad to have made this arrangement. There will be a sticker travel-log on their forum, be sure to check it out.

Building the travel kitchen.

Cooking on the road is a huge unknown of this trip. In the past, camping has meant instant noodles, soups, curries, basically anything you can pour hot water over. Andrea loves to cook and has serious contention with a year of dehydrated chow. A lot of research and reading plus advice from Sean who works for Moosejaw has yielded a basic plan for cooking supplies. Here is the inventory as of now:

The Coleman stove isn't the lightest, but a) I dumpster dove it and b) replacement parts are available everywhere. The rest of the gear has been carefully deliberated over.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Andrea's massive rack and my dirty laundry.

We are going to carry a lot of stuff on this trip, there is no way around it. Our bikes will have front and rear racks to accomodate all of the gear. Andrea opted for the Surly Nice Rack which is the 18-wheeler of touring racks. It is made of tubular steel and has a capacity of 70 lbs! It took me almost a half hour to install it because there are a lot of small peices, but now that it is together it looks quite bullet-proof.

Also this week, I recieved my first shipment from Smart Wool. I intend to wear mostly wool clothing on the ride, because it is very breathable and does not get stinky. To test this, I decided to wear the same t-shirt for 3 days straight. Smart Wool t-shirts cost $60 each, which even with my employee discount, is a big chunk of change. It will be worth it to carry a minimal amount of clothing and avoid doing laundry on a regular basis. I have been riding to work every day, went to a dance party last night, and slept in the shirt as well. This morning I asked Andrea to smell the shirt and tell me what she thought.

"It smells like you," she said.

"But does it smell nasty?" I asked


"Good, because I've been wearing it the past three days!"

So there you have it. I'm gonna buy a couple more of these and be set for the year. I also got some great Smart Wool cycling socks, the tall ones that they reccomend for "riding through a bog".

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Great first post: what we're about to do and what we've done so far.

After nearly a year in the planning, our US perimeter ride is so close I can almost feel the road beneath my wheels. Andrea came up with the idea- rather than attending grad school, she did some deep introspection and came up with something close to both of our hearts and dreams- a year long, unsupported bicycle tour of our native land, of which we have each seen precious little so far.

To date, the planning process has consisted of psyching ourselves up, saving every last dime not spent on Old Style or rent, building and testing a couple of unstoppable touring machines, researching, reading up on and testing every piece of camping gear, apparel, and equipment that we can think of, and stressing about everything that we can't.

The details of our plan begin with a ride through Michigan, starting in Chicago, heading to Flint for a week with Andrea's family, continuing North to the UP, West through Wisconsin to my home town and family, then embarking on a great Westward journey through the Northern tier states to the coast.

This blog is intended as a link to our family and friends, during the process, and as an excuse for me to keep a detailed log of our time on the road. I intend to make at least weekly updates, so bookmark this page and follow our progress.