Wednesday, March 29, 2006

My steed from the North and our command center

This is my bike. It was made in Wisconsin in 1985. I eBayed the frame and fork, along with a few other bits. I built it as workhorse with classic lines.

This picture is from a few moths ago. I have since replaced the front rack with a Surly Nice Rack made of tubular steel.

Every day we make small efforts toward preparation. This week we have spent time arranging health insurance, ordering waterproof shoe covers and a card reader for the digital camera, discussing our exit with the landlord, setting up payment plans for my student loans, and trying to find the right dry-bags for our gear. It is exhausting. All I want to do after a long day of work is sleep and go out with all the friends that I won't be seeing for at least six months.

We have made a calendar to keep track of everything. It hangs on the wall, full of pencil marks, and counts down the days 'till blast-off.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Like a kid at Christmas

I just found out that a large amount of our stuff that has been on order will arrive soon! Very excited, will post pics. Should include trout pillow.

We also found a great storage space on the South Side that is cheap: 10x10x8 , $90/mo, first 2 months free, excellent security, climate controlled.

While we are not leaving for about 50 days, I will be done with work in exactly a month and will be focusing on final preparations for the trip. It will be nice to be done with my 52 hr work weeks, I won't miss that at all!

We are spending more time looking at maps. Our route through MI will take us to Flint, up the coast of Lake Huron, and into the UP.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

I'm hearing requests for more pictures of our stuff...

I'd like to start with an inspirational photo:

That's Lake Superior, we'll be there in 3 months.

This weekend we're checking out storage spaces. It looks like it'll be $70-100 a month to store all of our things. And the storage places are in god-forsaken parts of the city. Places I have to look on Google Maps to find. It'll be fun.

I realize I'm boring you into a coma writing about all of the new gear we're buying for this trip, but that's the main thing that's happening now. Wanna see a picture of my sleeping bag? No? Too bad, here it is:

The bag is from EMS, rated at 20 degrees. I don't know how often I'll need it, but Northern Michigan will be cold and I suspect the mountains will be too. I'll be sewing a liner out of a flannel sheet in the near future. The orange pad is made by Insulmat and it's comfortable. The gray thing is closed cell foam which is hard as a rock but very useful when the ground is cold. the Insulmat is 3/4 length so I may need the foam, who knows.

I have a couple other things on order:

  • A green compressible pillow with pictures of trout on it
  • an inflatable lumbar support.
I have a hard time getting comfortable so trust me, this isn't overkill. I'm sleeping on this stuff for the next year.

This is what it looks like all rolled up. I swear we are going to look like middle-aged german tourists with all this crap strapped to our bikes.

Monday, March 13, 2006

The call of the West will eventually lure me out of the city...

This weekend I saw a bunch of pictures of our friend's new studio in Montana. I don't have any of them availible to post but it is very close to Glaicer Ntl Park, which looks like this:

We are invited to stay with them if we make it that far. This fills me with excitement, which is good because I need to remember how little of this country I have seen and how great it will be to see more of it. Otherwise I will spend all of my money on stupid stuff and not be able to afford to ride to Glaicer and other amazing places. Another inspiring thing is that it was 70 degrees in Chicago this weekend. It made me remember that I love to be outside on my bike during warm weather.

I bought a new front rack for my bike, a Surly Nice Rack, just like Andrea's. You can see that i has a lot of room for stuff, like a sleeping bag and a couple of panniers full of gear.

I also hope to mount a light or two on this thing. Sam and I have been talking about ways to mount a mini maglite on a rack, which would be perfect becuse they are really tough and waterproof. There are so many lights availible that I don't know what to buy. Most are more or less the same(plastic flashlights with a mounting apperatus) and then there are the battery pack variety that cost $300, which is way too much for me. Too bad, because they are almost as bright as the lights on a motorcycle and would be great for mountain biking at night, in a non-touring scenario. Check out the Chicago flag on my front pannier. Even though I'm not from this city, I've live here for six years now and I feel like I want to represent when we are on the road. I'll have to get a big Wisconsin patch for the other side(Does anyone know of one with girls holding beer and cheese?)

One thing I will really miss when I'm on the road is riding my track bike around town at high speed. I love to be on a light, responsive bike, darting in and out of traffic and flying through the crowded parts of town. Hopefully some one will let me take their bike for a spin when we are in New York and San Francisco. I've heard that those are both great cities for urban riding. Any doubts, check out some of the nail-biting action in these alleycat racing videos.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Instead of cleaning the house...

I'm wasting my time reading tour journals. I've been using her packing list as a guide, somewhat. Its interesting to see what different people bring with them on the road

Crazy Guy on a Bike hosts a bunch of travellogs. Everyone has such different takes on how to do this. Here is an assortment of equiptment lists. Heidi Domeisen's account of her continental divide ride is particularly amazing.

Everything is gearing up for May. Andrea and I both gave our two-months notice, and both of our jobs were very positive and encouraging about the trip, going so far as to offer us our positions back when we return. It feels great to get that kind of response, and it makes our parents worry about us a little less as well. We feel very fortunate to have such great bosses.

The logistics of what to do with all of our belongings is a big project. We will rent a storage space, but most of our stuff will be sold in April. Anyone looking for a couch? A TV? Seriously, just about everything must go, I'll post the details later.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Designer Canadian Luggage

Last week I stopped by the bike shop and found that my Arkel mapcase had arrived. It was slightly smaller than I expected. I still think it will work well for holding my stuff while biking around North America.

Velcros onto the handlebars and rests against the stem.

Unfolds to display map.

Has room for all of the stuff that is normally in my jeans pockets.

Andrea got one too, because neither of us really likes the idea of handlebar bags. I know that everyone has them and talks about how great they are, but I've never had the best results with them, nor used anything besides the map case. If this doesn't work, I will buy a different bag later on.