Monday, December 26, 2016

Why?

When we stopped to eat or enjoy a local site, we often talked with folks from the area. One of the most common questions that we received was, "why are you doing this?"
Riding with our friends

The simplest answer, and one we occasionally used, was and is: "Because we can." But that sounds a bit flippant, perhaps, and we never wanted to be flippant - at least I did not! Maybe Roger has a bit of that streak in him, because he'd sometimes reply, "why not?" And that's a pretty good answer and a bit flippant as well, when you get right down to it.

People would ask if we were traveling with others. No.  Were we doing it to raise money, or awareness for some cause?  No. We were just riding our bike around the country because we thought it would be a cool thing to do, and because we believed we could do it.
Being on a bike, I really enjoy watching the clouds

We'd typically follow that initial exchange with some kind of explanation about how we arrived at our plan to circle the country on a bicycle. And that's a bit longer response: we first did an extended tour about six years ago when we visited our daughter in Tahoe. That trip convinced us that we could handle a trip of several months, which we thought would be long enough to cross the country. And Roger had always thought it would be cool to ride across the country. But we couldn't just go straight across - if we were going to do something like that, we'd want to stop in and see the people we knew. And so the trip across the country because a trip around the country, because we have friends and family all over the place. There wasn't any way that we could go across the northern part of the country and visit with Roger's sister, without also coming around the southern half of the country to see my family. It just wouldn't be right!

So a couple of months, maybe, became half a year or more. That seemed daunting at first, but pretty soon seemed just fine by us. Because a big part of that "because we can" answer has to do with the fact that we are retired, without huge obligations tying us to our home, and financially fortunate enough to be able to essentially take a six month vacation. Once you have dealt with the logistics of leaving for a short while, you can pretty much stay away as long as you like.

I got a bit tickled by folks who were so amazed at what we were doing. Now, I will acknowledge that I'd be impressed as well if someone told me they were going to go on a six month bike trip. It seems, on the face of it, like such a huge effort to undertake. But in the actual doing of it, I came to see it as quite an indulgence, rather than a big job. After all, we were doing something we love to do, without paying a whole lot of attention to any of the normal stress-inducing factors of modern life, and having a good time every day (at least at some portion of it!)  It really was an excellent adventure, and we loved it.
Pie with friends is sweeter
We missed our pals at the beer stops also!

So yesterday, we spent the day riding our borrowed bicycle, out to Bautista Canyon and home again, enjoying a day with friends in the sunshine, punctuated by pie at noon and beer when we got home. And it's reasonable enough to ask of us once again: "Why? Why spend the day riding 90 miles?" And once again we have to use the answers that we've used over and over again this year:  "why not?" and "because we can"!  They are only the second-best answers, though. The really true, honest-to-God best answer is: "because we love it." We really do.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Man, I needed that!

Last week, I got an email from the Warm Showers network from a traveling cyclist asking to stay a night with us. I will confess, I did not even wait to ask Roger about it before responding "yes" to this traveler! I was so eager to have a chance to spend a little time with someone else who has done what we did that I was delighted to send a note welcoming Daniel to our home.

I made sure the sheets were clean and the guest bathroom in decent shape, and thought about what to cook for our vegetarian guest. I had an event for the Redlands Conservancy on the Sunday coming up, so I was doing a lot of baking and had prepared a big pot of pumpkin soup. But I figured a cyclist might be hungrier than "soup" for supper (based on our own experience) so I decided to offer fettucine alfredo, some roasted vegetables (something we were always hungry for) and salad.

I was in touch with Daniel several times during the day, and rode out to meet him on his way to town. Just riding alongside someone with packs on a bike felt great. I was able to see my own town and the route back home with new eyes, comparing the roads and the scenery to those I'd experienced on my way to other Warm Showers hosts during our tour.
Wishing I were going, too!

We met Roger at Escape Craft Brewery for a beer before heading home, and I enjoyed hearing about Daniel's trip. He's a good bit younger than we are, so he's riding without any end-stop on his trip. He sold his condo, quit his job and doesn't need to worry about a schedule in the least. He's just completed six months on the road, as we had, and was expecting to reach 7000 miles when he rode off on Sunday. It was great fun to be able to talk about places we'd been and ask him about his favorite days.

Sunday morning, he rode off towards Palm Springs and a planned rendezvous with friends in Joshua Tree National Park. He'll spend the holidays there, and then he's thinking he'll go south to Baja California until the weather warms up back home - in Massachusetts.

Vaya com Dios, my friend - may the wind be ever at your back!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

In Thanksgiving

Since we have been home, Roger and I have been trying to get back into the groove of daily life. Of course, we were "living" every day while we were touring, but that experience was so far removed from the stuff of normal day-to-day activities and operations that it remained an adventure, rather than just - life. You know - what you do every day when you don't have something special to do.

So here we are, doing what we did before we left, with the added bonus of recuperating from the accident. I am astounded that the scabs on my knee and ankle are still not healed. While the scrapes on my face were fairly superficial, and I scabbed up and then lost those by the end of a week's time, my leg and ankle sores must be quite a bit more severe. It has been nearly six weeks since the accident, and they are still tender. The skin has appeared to heal several times, then it gets sort of oozy like a blister, and then it scabs up again.  I guess that there must be some underlying trauma to the tissue below the skin that is trying to get itself sorted out. Maybe I bruised the bones, also, because sometimes they just hurt, and there's nothing there that I can see that would cause that.


Roger had an MRI yesterday to take a look at his knee. He is still in quite a lot of pain, particularly when he gets up after being seated a while. Then it takes a bit to get it limbered up. We'll see the orthopedist next week to learn what's up. We expect that his medial collateral ligament was torn. Don't know yet whether that's something that heals on its own, or whether he might require surgery, and if so, what that would entail.



Making pie with Grandpa

Thus, we creak along! We are enjoying our rides on the borrowed tandem, and we particularly enjoyed spending Thanksgiving with our daughter and granddaughters. For many years, Roger and I have enjoyed our own tradition of spending Thanksgiving in one of our National Parks. This was the first Thanksgiving since we've been together that we did not do so. In part, we were pretty worn out with traveling, and I just couldn't quite wrap my head around planning a trip somewhere when we'd only gotten home a few weeks earlier. Plus, we'd been able to visit a good number of National Parks during our tour, and were kind of preparing ourselves to miss our own holiday trip this year. And most importantly, we just really felt like we wanted to spend some time with Dana and the girls when we finished our tour.

Phebee really liked the dressing
So they joined us down here, and we had a grand old time. I was a little bit anxious about the food - I haven't cooked a turkey in years! (It's one of the upsides of being away from home for the holiday.) But everything turned out great. We had all our favorites, plus two pies. Yum! Honestly, I was basking in the glow of satisfaction from that turkey dinner for several days. It's probably a sin for anyone to be so caught up in the outcome of a meal, but I was.

And so, we offer our thanks for our good health, our family, our friends and good fortune. We are so very, very lucky. So often these days, whether I'm getting a coffee at Stell's or running into a friend at a holiday party, I get this greeting: "I'm so glad you're back. I mean, really - it's so good to see you."  And I know what they mean. We had so many people watching our backs. So many people following along, enjoying our trip.  So many people who opened the paper that Wednesday morning and caught their breath when they read about the accident. So we see them now, and they give us a hug, and they say, "I'm so glad you're home." Because really, this could have ended quite differently. I said something like that to Roger the other day. We were moping a bit, feeling a bit blue, and I had to pull myself out of a hole and remind myself that we both made it home. We're sad about what happened, and we're still hurting a bit, and we don't know what's next, but we're here. We're together, and we're okay. That counts for quite a lot, and for that we give thanks.

Let the feast begin!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Just like touring . . . except when it isn't

Roger and I were offered the loan of a friend's tandem bicycle, and so we've begun to ride again together. I much prefer the tandem to my own bike, even though this ride is NOT the Silver Queen.

For one thing, I prefer being with Roger, and not worried about whether I am falling behind or holding him up. And my hands get numb so quickly; I am way more comfortable being able to change up my position to keep myself more comfortable. Another issue, which may seem odd given that I have spent six months riding a bicycle lately, is that I actually haven't been responsible for piloting the bike at all in that time. I sat on the back, pedaled, called out hazards and cars coming up from behind, and occasionally used the disk brake. But I never shifted, braked, or steered. Turns out my bike handling skills are really rusty! Never a particularly adept cyclist, I am at this point like a complete novice. When we have gone out with our friends, I am extremely nervous in the group. A nervous cyclist is a plague on the pelaton! You don't want to be riding near someone who is nervous.

Mostly, since getting back to Redlands, I have ridden on a few short rides with Roger. I spent one week going out with Marsha, another of our friends that was coming back from some down time and wanted to take it slow. That works for me, usually. But Roger wanted me to join the group again, and so we took off last Tuesday on Harro's tandem - a nice white Burley. As I said, it's not the same ride, but the bike is comfortable and it fits pretty well. The frame is smaller, so our seat posts are up higher, which gives me a different perspective on the road. I've found that I can't stand comfortably to pedal because my legs hit my handlebars, but that's not too big a deal. Our first outing, I felt like the bike was real "twitchy" but in truth, that was probably more a factor of losing the weight of the packs than the difference in the bikes. The stoker position does not have drop handlebars, and I have found myself reaching down for them several times - so that tells me our next bike will need drops like I had before! (We were on the way down San Tim Canyon yesterday with a great tailwind, and I took both hands off the handlebars, intending to settle into the drops. I almost fell forward onto Roger's back as I realized quickly there was no place for my hands to go!)

I miss my bell.  I may have to ask Roger to move it over to Harro's bike so I can have it while we are riding it. It's funny how many times I have moved to ring it - but there's nothing there. I also have found that I really, really want to have my disk brake - even though I don't typically apply any pressure to it.  I tap it from time to time just to give myself a feeling like I have some control. I'm afraid there is no remedy for this.

On our first outing with the new bike, we headed over to Riverside. Roger was feeling something "odd" in his pedals, and finally figured out what was going on. He had apparently not tightened them well enough when he put our pedals on the cranks, and his right pedal was working itself out. We stopped and he tried fixing it by putting the bolt in from the back side, hoping to straighten out the threads. This seemed to take care of the problem for a while, but on the way back home, we had to stop again when, all of a sudden, his foot - with the pedal attached - came loose from the crank arm!
Roger is just a passenger for now!

This time there was no remedy. The threads were all munged up at this point, so we determined that we'd just ride back home on my power.  This is the "just like touring" part of the post. So many times on our trip, we had to improvise a fix for some little (or rather large) problem. Most of these problems caused me anxiety at first, and then relief and sometimes amusement as we figured out what to do to address them (We'll zip-tie the rack to the frame! but of course!) This little problem was not worth any anxiety at all!  By the time it occurred, we were over by the warehouses, with nothing but flat riding to get home. We'd planned to take a portion of the Orange Blossom Trail, and that worked out well as we didn't even have to contend with auto traffic for most of the trip. We even had one of our buddies doing "traffic duty" like the motorcycle cops do for a funeral procession! Clay would ride ahead to the street crossing, then stop in the road so we could ride through without having to stop.  He'd then come up from behind, catch us, and do it again. I felt like a minor celebrity in a motorcade!

And then, when is it NOT like touring? Well, that's easy. We'd planned to do a long ride yesterday, out to Bautista Canyon. This is about 90 miles - one of our favorite long days that goes out towards the mountain southeast of here, and then up a lovely canyon. This time of year, the sycamores and other plants are really beautiful, and we were thinking it would make a good head-clearing trip for us. And then, before bed Monday night, we checked the weather. Ooops! Thirty mph headwinds all the way home were projected for Tuesday, beginning about 11:00 am and strengthening through the afternoon. So . . . no. We decided not to do the ride. We can do it anytime - there's no reason to battle wind like that if you don't have to. And that's the part of this post that's NOT like touring. When we were on the road, I think we only took one day off due to weather. That was in Tucumcari, New Mexico, where we were facing similar winds and were able to see that the next day would be much better for us. Other than that, we rode. You pretty much have to, unless you really have no schedule at all. Since we wanted to get around the loop in something approaching six months, we could not just sit around and wait for better weather. I remember the most drastic example of this was our passage through Oregon. Rain on eight out of ten days. Had we waited for clear skies, perhaps we would be waiting there still!

And then yesterday, having decided that we would not fight the winds but instead look to ride them home, we elected to go over to Beaumont and return home down San Tim Canyon. This is one of our favorite routes when the winds are strong. One of our friends that came along was happy to join us as he'd been off the bike for a bit and wanted something "not too taxing."  Well, the ride back down the canyon was splendid - right up to the point when it was not. We had a good time all the way to Live Oak Canyon, coasting along for much of the way and enjoying the fall colors. But wouldn't you know it? Someone had hit a utility pole adjacent to the road, and the pole was down with live wires between Live Oak and Alessandro. So instead of being a few minutes from the end of our ride, we were faced with a climb up Live Oak Canyon and over Sunset. Our "fast and breezy" ride home turned into another hour on the road. And guess what?  That's just like touring!  You never know what you are going to run into when you're touring, because you haven't ridden the roads before. You hope that Google Maps is giving you good information, but you never really know 'til you get there. "Bonus miles" are a common occurrence on a tour, as you find your way, retrace your route from a wrong turn, or learn the restaurant you hoped to dine at has gone out of business.

So we will continue our excellent adventures both on and off the bike - just like touring.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Mourning what is lost

We've been contacted by the insurance company about the accident, and so far, all the conversations have gone well. Their representative has to say what she has to say, so for now, it's all, "once we determine fault for the accident" and "we will certainly need to look into that" and other code for "I am not promising you anything." But we have the police report, and it is clear:  this guy ran into us from behind, he was ticketed, and he is at fault. Once the insurance company gets the police report, we will be asked to provide information on our losses, and we'll go from there.

So that's on my mind. What have we lost? I have put together a list of the clothing and gear we were wearing that was damaged or destroyed. It's surprising how quickly that list adds up! Helmets, clothing, gloves, shoes - all of it "times two" since we were both scraping the pavement.  Our packs were damaged enough that they really cannot be used again.  Of course, we have some medical expenses (and more to come, as we evaluate Roger's knee injury and find out what has to happen there to make him whole again). And then there is the bike.

Ah, the bike. Turns out probably the bike is NOT okay. At least, that's what the guys down at the bike store have said. They "totaled it." Like a car. I was surprised how hard this piece of news was for me.
Together on the tandem


Leading the way on our departure. 

The Silver Queen was my graduation gift from Roger when I completed my MBA eleven years ago. We've probably ridden 50,000 miles on her - 10,000 of them this year. She has borne us through rain, and snow, and sleet; sailed along through deserts, mountains and everything in between.  We packed her up and took her to Texas. We've toted her up and down California, to Oregon, to Arizona, to Colorado, to Texas. We have spent so many, many miles on her, under fair skies as well as stormy weather, zooming along on a flat or descending San Tim Canyon or sweating and grunting to climb up a hill. TOGETHER. That's the thing.  We have ridden her together. It's ridiculous to say it, but I really love that bike.  I love riding that bike with my husband. And it is hard thinking that I am going to have to put her out to pasture now. It is really hard to realize that I was riding that bike with my husband when someone hit us from behind, and ended all that.  Equally difficult, in a different way, is recognizing that it's possible the bicycle saved our lives. Had either of us been hit while riding a single bike, we might have been much more seriously injured. The bike and our packs absorbed a lot of the impact, certainly. Our combined weight kept us from being propelled as far when we were hit. It's just physics, but if feels like she took a bullet for us.

Also hard to deal with is the sudden, abrupt end to our trip. Just like that, it was over. We were trying to imagine what it would be like to be back home, to be done with this endeavor. We'd been discussing it for the last week or more of our trip. And then - boom! Here we are, back home, trying to remember what we do with our lives day to day. Flopping around a bit, to be honest. That will get better, is getting better, but it's still sort of weird to be home, with nothing specific to do, after so long on the road.
Two cyclists, one shadow

We will certainly get another tandem. Roger is already out on the web sites, perusing models and doing some research. The bike shop did an initial assessment for us on replacement cost; if we replace the Silver Queen with another bike of like kind, our next bike could cost almost as much as our car. And we will certainly ride her all over the place, just like we have this one. But you never forget your first love. And I really, really loved that bike.

I loved the way it fit us, I love how it handled. I loved that Roger got it for me, and what that meant about our relationship and what he wanted for us. I love that we rode it together, and that we have had so many wonderful adventures on it, together. I love that I cannot get lost when we are on the tandem; Roger cannot ride away from me or take the wrong turn! We arrive together on the tandem. I place my life in his hands when we are on that bike. That's a pretty powerful thing, and so it's not just a bicycle for me. It represents quite a bit more. It says something about us, and about our relationship, that we choose to ride a tandem.

So - I know those things won't change, even though we'll be on a different bike. So - I'll get over my loss, because what matters will endure. But symbols are important, and they endure. So as a symbol of our love and trust, the Silver Queen will always have a place in my heart.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Welcome home-coming

Roger and I had originally planned to ride home on November the 5th. We wanted to come through the Cajon Pass, meet our friends at the McDonald's on I-15, and then stop by one of our local breweries on the way to the club's usual ride starting place (at the Stater Bros. lot on Alabama and Barton, also known as "Stell's" for the coffee shop there.)
We received a beautiful bouquet and gift basket from friends

Well, the accident changed all that - we certainly were not going to ride down the pass once the tandem had been wrecked - but I still wanted to celebrate our return to town and have a chance to say hello to everyone and put a bit of an exclamation point on our trip. It didn't feel right to have just arrived in town, battered and bruised, in our friend's pick-up truck, and in the dark of night, to boot. That's like a big ellipsis on the trip, and not at all satisfying . . .

So we put the word out via the newspaper, our FB posts, the club web site, and our blog, that we would be at the Escape Brewery on Saturday anyway, inviting people to come and say hello and visit for a while. I had no idea what to expect. I figured there would be at least a few of our cycling friends there, since we all like to drink beer! Other than that, I just couldn't speculate.
Cycling buddies at the party

Since arriving home, Roger and I had gone on one short ride on Thursday, starting out with the morning group and circling back after a few miles so that we probable went about ten. That was plenty for me. My bike feels very flimsy and insubstantial after the loaded tandem. Plus, while I have just finished riding a bike for hours each day over the past six months, in reality, I have not piloted a bicycle in all that time. So my bike handling skills, not very good under the best of circumstances, are really rusty. Still, we wanted to ride over to the party, not drive, so we arranged to meet the club riders Saturday so we could do at least a token ride with them Saturday before the event. We talked with one of our buddies and asked that she let us know when the group was on the way home, and that way we could ride out a bit and come back with the group.
Bridge buddies

That worked pretty well. Saturday we got our call, headed down Barton Road, and soon saw the vanguard of the group returning. As it turned out, there had been a little mishap with a couple of the riders, so this group was waiting at the top of hospital hill for the rest of the group to untangle itself and join them.  We waited with them and then headed back to Stell's when the others caught up. Actually, we ended up at the pizza place for a slice and a beer, and then we rode on down to Escape at 1:00 pm for our "homecoming party."
Roger shows friends the map of our travels

I was surprised and delighted with the crew that came by to say hello, give us a hug, and hear a bit about our trip. We had friends from the cycling club, our church, and the Redlands Conservancy come out. Our good friends and neighbors were there, and there were even a couple of people that neither Roger or I knew, but who had been following the blog, and they rode over to say hello.  It was another example of the warmth of this community, and made us both feel really fortunate that we call Redlands home.
Friends and neighbors

Neighbors and friends!
And we are glad to be home.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

I'm ready for my close-up . . .

Our accident in the desert was relatively minor, as bicycle-automobile collisions go. While we each sustained injuries, we were fortunate to be able to converse with the emergency personnel and bystanders who assembled immediately to assist us, and we probably could have gotten up and walked away from the crash (although we'd have been pretty wobbly!) That's not always the case. Both Roger and I have been present when friends of ours have gone down in all-cyclist crashes, and we've had several friends killed by motorists, just in the past few years. We certainly understand that we might have suffered far more serious injuries or even been killed, and that's a very sobering thought.

Our friends here and throughout the country have been so very supportive and kind in the aftermath of the accident. Many have expressed their consolation that we were struck down so close to the finish line. And I admit - that's a bummer!  We both have been a bit at loose ends, feeling the loss of the routine we'd established over the past months as well as mourning that it didn't end as we had anticipated.  However, we have a very high degree of confidence that we will get ourselves back out to Kingman in the not-too-distant future, and complete our planned journey.  It's just not okay to leave the map with that big gap!  We have to close the loop - finish the ride - and ride on up to our home on the bike. That's the way the script ends, and that's how we're gonna film it!
Will the circle be unbroken?

In the meantime, to respond to questions about both our own and the bike's condition, here's a little post on how we are doing. Since we don't know yet the full extent of the bike's injuries, I won't comment on that at this time.  But we have now gotten our own inventory of afflictions well in hand, and are (mostly) healing up nicely. We have trouble imagining the physics of the accident itself. To wit, our injuries and how we ended up on the pavement make it hard to figure out what actually happened. I'll try to explain that by listing what happened to me.
Ouch!

This one got infected

On my left side, my ankle, knee, elbow and shoulder suffered abrasions. The leg and ankle were discrete, hard-impact hits - not big sections of scraped up road-rash like abrasions you would get from skidding. My left shoe, left shoulder of my jersey and t-shirt are all worn through from the impact. In fact, the wool t-shirt appears to have almost "melted" where I hit the ground. However, the right side of my face and my sunglasses were well scraped up. Both hands have minor scratches and my gloves were ripped up, so they must have scraped the pavement as well. My helmet is cracked on the left side. I ended up lying on my back, with my right leg draped over the bike behind my saddle. I was impaled on something back there, which gave me a pretty deep gash behind my right knee, and I got a big bruise just above my tailbone, where I must have hit as I landed on my back. So how did all that happen?  We must have flopped around a good bit before coming to rest.  By this point, most of this has gotten more or less healed, although the wound on my ankle was infected and I had to take some antibiotics to clear it up. I am heading out to have the stitches behind my knee removed today.
Smack!

Roger also has a bruised tailbone, although it's sore without seeing any obvious bruising. He had scrapes on his left side, and a whopper of a bruise on his abdomen, but his right knee has been his most troublesome lasting injury. He has seen an orthopedist and is scheduled for an MRI soon; we think he has a torn lateral cruciate ligament. That might require a procedure to repair. We should know more soon.
These cleared up right away

We are in contact with the driver's insurance company, and we've put together an inventory of the various clothing and gear that was damaged or shredded in the accident. So, we're hopeful that we'll be "made whole" although, as anyone who's been through this knows - that's a tricky proposition. It's hard to go back to a place where you haven't been hit. I am just now trying to ride my bike a bit, and it's difficult to get over the feeling that someone is looming behind me, just about to pop me into the air. I'm sure time helps with that, as well as with the bruises and scrapes. For now, it's wait and see time.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Every ounce counts

We left our home on April 23, 2016. By April 26th, we were in the Post Office, sending home two "if it fits, it ships" boxes with about 15 pounds of stuff. Our pruning was prompted by an issue we had with the rear pack: the bolt holding the pack to the bike had sheared while we rode away from Buellton. Granted, we'd had the "endless bowl of split pea soup" for lunch, but I don't think that was what caused the problem. We just were carrying too much weight.
If it fits, it ships!

So what did we send home? Well, we decided we could do without:
- the liners for the sleeping bags
- the camp shower thing (warms water in a bag so you can clean up)
- toe covers
- a warm layer for each of us - long johns, in essence
- some socks
- glove liners
- bike shorts
- a little sun hat
- extra sunglasses
- a larger towel (purchased specifically for this trip, alas!)
- a thermos for making our coffee while camping
- underwear
- pocket knife
- crescent wrench
- bandanna
- small folding umbrella (honestly, I do not know what I thought we'd do with that!)
- our second safety vest (I kept mine)
- a t-shirt
- a carry-all sack
- some waterproof shoe covers
- an insulated bag for cold stuff

None of this junk was outrageous on its face. Well, maybe the umbrella! But even that I thought might be necessary when we were off the bike and having to hang out in town when it was raining. My bad. We did not hang out when it was raining. We rode when it was raining, and for that - as well as for hanging out, for that matter - we wore our outer layer waterproof jackets.
Modest provisions for food while camping - but it all eventually came home

Mostly, we were guilty of thinking that we were going on a camping trip, and so much of this stuff was destined to make our camping easier or more comfortable. I'd imagined having access to many more campsites of the type we have here in the mountains or national forests - fairly close to the road, but limited in services. As it turned out, we never camped anywhere that we did not have access to showers or at least running water in the bathroom to clean up. So we certainly did not miss the shower bag. Sleeping bags without the liners served us just fine. We had plenty of clothing - never missed the extra pair of socks or undies. We kept losing our bandannas, so we had to buy some more, but that was easy to do and might not have been avoided even if we'd carried that other one 8000 miles.
Pretty sure most of this got sent home, also! (Hated to lose my binoculars, but . . . oh, well.)

Roger lost a pair of sunglasses (in the river in Washington) so maybe it would have been nice to have the back-up pair. But we were also able to replace those, no problem. And the coffee thermos? Well, we didn't get a chance to sit and enjoy a second cup of coffee when we were camping. We made and drank one cup each while having our oatmeal breakfast, then packed up and headed off. The take-away message for me: if you are camping on your bicycle tour, you are not really "camping" in the sense that you are going to be out there enjoying your time in the great outdoors. You are limited in what you can carry and how far you are willing to go to find that campsite. When you get there, you want to clean up, eat (pretty simply), and get to bed. No s'mores around a campfire, unless someone else invites you over. Mornings are usually the best time to ride, so no lingering over fresh fish or flapjacks for breakfast. The campsite is just where you are until you get back on your bike, so you don't need the stuff that you'd typically expect to have on a camping trip. Eventually we decided we didn't even need the cooking supplies, and sent them home, too. Then we finally determined that our last couple weeks would all be "on plastic" (aka, in hotels) and so we sent the tent and sleeping bags and packs back to Redlands with a friend.

We later sent even more stuff home. I gave up on the "miracle skirt," recognizing that I wasn't going to wear it in the afternoon if I was worried about mosquitoes.  Too much exposed skin! We were given t-shirts occasionally and usually sent them or another one home. Random stuff like the elastic brace went into the boxes as well. (Turns out that would have been handy in New York when Roger's arm swelled up like a football, but the Medi-clinic gave us a compression sleeve so we were fine, anyway.) What few souvenirs I collected (a couple of national park brochures and some beer coasters) rode along with us until we filled the next box home. I loved the little string of lights that fit my computer's USB port, but those went home as well when I acknowledged I was not sitting in a dark tent typing up my blog anymore. Ditto the solar panels, which proved superfluous for us because our campsites generally had electricity anyway.
Used it up, replaced it

Roger was constantly trying to shed stuff to reduce our weight. His greatest contribution was losing about 15 pounds, right off the bat! He had to buy a belt to keep his pants up (Goodwill, Sandpoint ID - $2). He endlessly bemoaned the weight of our toiletries kit. But this was one beachhead I was willing to defend to the end! We'd stayed with some Warm Showers hosts who shared photos of the stuff they'd packed for a multi-week trip down the Pacific coast. It was appealing - that tiny baggie with little tubes of sunscreen, toothpaste, Vaseline, lotion and shampoo. But I was not interested in trying to find another tiny tube of toothpaste every week. Honestly, in six months' time we would have needed dozens of those! So we carried a normal size tube, and we replaced it when we used it up - twice! I had full-size containers of my Olay face lotion and night creams. I used those up and replaced them, also. We picked up shampoo from the hotel stays, but we carried stuff like dental floss and I even had my pumice thingy for my heels. Because - and this was critical in my approach - a six-month or more trip is NOT like being away for two or even three weeks. You can repair the damage you do to your face and your body in a couple of weeks pretty quickly. But if you go out for half a year and don't take care of yourself, you're going to be a mess. I did not want to come home a wrinkled, sun-baked old woman. I know myself - when I am running out of something I scrimp on it to make it last. I wanted to be sure that I had enough of these basic care products so that I could do this trip and still feel good about myself and my grooming.  One VERY important product that we made sure to have PLENTY of was our chamois creams. Roger had a big ol' tub of some stuff he'd found, and I had my tube of Chamois Buttr. Because, really - you do not want to be scrimping on that. It makes a huge difference to our comfort on the bike. And I know - you can buy those tiny packets of cream, which don't weigh anything at all. But in 6 months, using two of those a day, we'd have needed several gross of those things. At $1 or more each, it would have cost hundreds of dollars, and we would have been constantly looking for them. So no - we carried big tubes, and replaced them when they got low so we would never run out!

And so all of this is just to say:  if you thinking about a bicycle tour, you will get all sorts of advice about what to take, and what to leave behind. And I am fully certain, based on conversations with every cyclist that we met, that you will pack more initially than you will have with you by the time you've ridden a week or two. BUT - and this is key - YOU GET TO DECIDE WHAT IS IMPORTANT TO YOU. Everyone's pack will be different. Everyone will have that certain something that they just can't do without. So don't let anyone bully you into getting rid of, or taking, anything. Think it through, do your best to imagine what your days will be like, prepare for that, and then realize you can send stuff home or buy what you need pretty easily.
Really thought we'd need these, but no.

In our case, we knew that we were going to be riding through three seasons, at a minimum. It was cold in the mountains when we started, we had tons of rain in Oregon, we rode through the height of summer, and then it cooled off again. We needed to accommodate all that in our clothing and our gear. Some folks we met thought we had an awful lot of stuff with us, but then again, we met single people on bikes who were carrying as much weight as we were - just for themselves. Some people do no camping, so do nothing else. It all works out in the end. You do eventually get better at hauling your weight around as you strengthen on the trip. And then when you send some stuff home, you get that little boost from the decreased weight. So fun!
Beer coasters were about my only souvenir!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The little things

We arrived home last Monday night, with help from our friend Jeff, without doing any shopping. So, though the house has not been empty while we were away, it was devoid of one of our chief staples - COFFEE! Our housemate drinks coffee, but she is strictly a decaf girl, and that doesn't cut it for Roger and me. I rummaged around in the cabinets on Tuesday morning and found a couple of those single-serve packages that you get in hotel rooms, and that held us until we headed down to the coffee shop to meet our riding buddies at 11:00. Then we enjoyed a nice latte - one of our favorite treats.

If we'd been thinking, we would have purchased some coffee right then and there, but we weren't. (As I recall, we left the coffee shop with some friends in search of a slice of pizza and some beer. Consequently, we were not thinking about coffee!) Consequently, I woke up Wednesday morning thinking once again, "we don't have any coffee."  Argh. It was about 5:45 when I first awoke. I think we've been rising early partly due to the many time zones we've crossed lately, and partly because of the discipline we developed about getting out on the road earlier rather than later. (I suspect our accident may also have something to do with it; being hit and having to recover from that trauma is actually pretty taxing, and we've been heading to bed early.) Anyway, I lay there for a while, and then when I heard Roger stirring, I whispered that I was going to go get some coffee and eggs and bacon, and that he should go back to sleep.
Early morning sky

Thus it was that I found myself in the parking lot at our local grocery store around 6:30 or so. I didn't even know if the store opened that early. I had in mind it usually opened at 7:00, so I was surprised to see the doors open and the place bustling. Our coffee shop gives you a cup of coffee when you buy a pound, so I stopped in there first so I could do my shopping with my free java. And then I just walked through the parking lot to the store. I was so taken with the beauty of the palm trees against the morning sky. I had to stop and take a picture of them.

I picked up my bacon, eggs and bread for breakfast, then got some other staples like yogurt, milk and fruit. I got inspired to shop for dinner also, and selected some nice fish that was on sale. I casually picked up sweet potatoes, apples, broccoli and pears that looked great - firm, fresh, unblemished. I marveled at the amazing options before me. The organic produce section had been expanded since we left. Every single box, can or bottle in the store had been carefully pulled to the edge of the shelf so it just looked so pristine! Near the check-out stations, there were three guys in suits. I jokingly mentioned to another worker that "the men in black" were there in the store - was something special going on? Turns out I had arrived on the very edge of the unveiling of a store remodel, so the suits were there to complete the final inspections before the official opening.

The mundane nature of my errands hit me hard as I headed to the car. I was just shopping for a few groceries, picking up a pound of coffee, saying "hello" to the people who worked in my favorite store. To a few of them, I noted that I had been away for six months, so I was pleased to see them again. It was nothing special. But it brought tears to my eyes, nevertheless.  In that early morning shopping trip, I realized I was home.

These small rituals, favorite haunts, daily habits - they are the stuff of life. We undertook a "big thing" when we decided that we were going to ride our bike around the country.  I wouldn't try to dispute that. But it was, after all, merely a collection of "little things" that we did each day.

There can be great tedium in the little things. There's nothing spectacular about making dinner every day, or buying groceries, or doing your laundry. And yet, there is also comfort in the familiar. At least for me, that is so. I enjoy having some idea of how my day will go. I respond favorably to the sense that I can control aspects of my life, can choose what I will do and how I will do it, even while acknowledging that I am not going to do anything particularly engaging or unique most of the time.

Even when I have a chance to do something very different, my brain tends to find the structure and the order within. How is this experience like or unlike something else I have done? Within the overall boundary of our trip, we developed a few rituals that helped to calm some of the natural chaos associated with packing up your stuff and moving it 60 miles down the road every day. One of these was having a cup of coffee while we were getting up and getting dressed. We almost always were able to find that first cup of coffee, which we sometimes shared and which Roger usually prepared and brought to me in bed.

It's the patterns that are created by the little things, I think, that I find so appealing. The big things are disruptors - they break patterns or splash across them like big splatter paintings - and they are beautiful (and sometimes fearsome) in their own right. But I find the patterns beautiful, also. I like how they weave in and out of each other - the structure, the color and texture that they bring to my life.

And so I headed home, eager to have a cup of coffee with my husband.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Ch-ch-ch-changes

Roger and I had many conversations over the course of our trip, starting with the first week we were out on the road, about how the trip itself might change us.  We figured that we'd lose some weight - it wouldn't be possible to ride a bike for hours every day, six months running, and not lose at least a few pounds! And I had hopes that I would be stronger - that my legs would get more powerful as I rode more consistently, pushing that load around the country. I didn't have too much in the way of expectations beyond those two things.
My short hair cut before the trip

They have both come to pass, by the way. Now that we are home, I find that I've lost three or four pounds. Roger lost about fifteen!  Is there any justice? I do feel stronger - that was obvious pretty early in the trip. We were able to handle everything the road required, and other than general, overall "tiredness" at the end of most days, we both felt like our bodies were holding up well enough and our legs, in particular, were doing the job.

What never did happen - and as we were talking just a few days before our trip ended, it was obvious we had both expected this even if we'd never voiced it - was that it never really got any easier to do what we were doing. We'd both thought that at some point, it would be so routine to go 60 or 70 miles that we would not feel like we were working that hard to finish our day's ride.  Apparently we either expanded our expectations for what we needed to ride in a day, or the conditions were getting more difficult day by day, or we just turned out to be slackers in the worst way - because it really never did get "easy." We were always whooped by the end of the day.

So that's something that did NOT change.

What did change? Well, starting on the first day of our trip, we made changes to our planned route. When Roger started mapping out our escape from the LA area, we had hoped to stay at a campsite in the mountains on Day 1. But we learned the campground was closed, and instead found a Warm Showers host in Palmdale. That was farther than we wanted to go, but there weren't really any places to stay en route, so that's where we went. Talking with our hosts that evening, we changed our route for Day 2! They said the route we'd planned would take us through an area with no services, and suggested another road instead.  Those two days set a precedent that continued throughout the trip. We'd have a plan, and then update the plan depending on accommodations, services, terrain or weather. We made changes as well based on traffic, congestion, the season, and the availability of our friends and family. When I learned that my sister would be out of the country about the time we expected to be passing through Texas, we relaxed our pace - calculating that we'd be overtaxed by an effort to arrive before her trip, but could still get home on time if we planned to come through after she returned. That's why we decided we had enough time to take a break from the bike and enjoy a week with Roger's family at the Family Camp at Ashokan.  Even night to night, we'd change our plan, opting for a cabin instead of a campsite if the weather looked iffy.

We thought we'd be camping more than we ended up doing, so that also changed. Eventually, we sent home our cooking gear and finally even our tent and sleeping bags, opting to do the last several weeks entirely indoors. This change in our approach to lodging was a hard one to make. Neither Roger nor I wanted to risk being stuck somewhere without a place to stay, so we hung on to the camping option longer than we probably needed to. It was a lot of weight to carry around.

I got very used to dressing from among the few pieces of clothing I'd brought along. It was not long before I started getting an itch to get back to my closet, and throw out half of the stuff hanging there! If I could be comfortable wearing one or two outfits for six months, what on Earth did I need with all those clothes?! This feeling has persisted now that I am home, but I confess I am overwhelmed by all our stuff. Of course, that is a common feeling when we return home from a trip, however brief. The suitcases in the hall (in this case, the packs) need to be opened and cleared, the dirty clothes washed, the other things put back where they belong. Since we've been away so long, and have had others living in our home, many things around the house "migrated" a bit from the place where I or Roger normally expect to find them. So I am gradually putting things back the way I like them - exercising my OCD in small ways to return my kitchen, bath, bedroom and basement to a more familiar state. Once I am more comfortable in the place, I believe that I really will be able to tackle the more difficult task of weeding out some of this stuff and trying to return to that very simple life we had on the bike.

My friend Bev says I am suffering from culture shock, and I think she's right. She used to experience something similar when she returned from a mission trip overseas. When you have become accustomed to living out of a suitcase, it's weird to be back in this sea of possessions.

Roger and I have a good friend who is embarking on a multi-year tour around the world on his bike. He's interested in exploring the different locales and seeking stories to capture as he travels. I get the feeling (and I may not be quite straight on this), that part of what he seeks is also some relief from the "sameness" of everyday life.  So how do Roger and I judge this aspect of our trip? Did we find our lives to be very different, or somewhat the same? Certainly there were moments of great beauty and excitement. Some days were really delicious - beautiful scenery, great riding conditions, interesting people and places fed our souls and exhilarated us. But some days were just tedious - long, hard days of pumping our legs around and around without even being able to sense that our landscape was changing.  More even than the experiences on the bike, which tended to help us define the days as "different" from one another, our experiences off the bike solidified for us the natural rhythms and day-to-day routines of managing our life as bicycle tourists, and there was quite a lot of same-ness to that. So I'd call it a draw. Life, it seems to me, is just as exciting and exhilarating as you make it - or as dreary and dull - regardless of where you live and what you must do to earn a living. It's all in your perspective and approach to each day.

Oh, and that haircut? I got my hair cut very short before the trip so that I would not have to fool with it much (after all, it was under a bike helmet for hours every day.)  Even so, I had to get it cut about halfway through the trip, and I'm due for another trim now. Some things never change!
Go where the road leads you

Monday, October 31, 2016

192: Homeward bound


California, here I come!
I figured to use that phrase as a blog post heading one day during our last week on the tour.  The Simon and Garfunkel song has been running through my head for the last couple of weeks as I thought about the approaching end of our trip. So many amazing experiences, so much beautiful countryside, so much love from our families and friends. Yet I was ready to be home. I was looking forward to being back in my own space.

And now I am going home - earlier than we'd planned to be. And I find that I am already nostalgic for our days on the road. I'm not actually even home yet, and still I miss it.

We came into California too quickly to snap a photo of the state line, but we certainly enjoyed the sunset as we crossed the desert. But in the car, it's not the same. You can't smell the air or feel the breeze. 
California desert sunset

On our trip, we had lots of folks ask us about our journey. There were a couple of 'frequently asked questions' that I will address in the next couple of days. And, we are still planning to celebrate our return to Redlands this Saturday with our friends - we just won't be riding down the pass as we had expected.
Jeff and Roger check out the bike


So, if you've been following along, stay with us for a few more days while I wrap things up.  The adventure continues!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

191: Is the bike ok?

While we were riding through the desert today, I thought that I would title this blog post, 'The Final Countdown.' Because of course, we are just one week away from completing our trip and arriving back in Redlands.

But as you have probably guessed if you are a cyclist yourself, we had an incident today that may have brought an abrupt end to our adventure.   We had reached Kingman and were looking for someplace to have lunch, when we were rear-ended by a fellow in an SUV, who just didn't see us.

Roger says that he knew we were hit. I don't remember anything about it. I was lying on the side of the road with my leg draped over the bicycle and he was lying there to the side of me and I thought, 'how the hell did this happen? What are we doing here?'

The guy that hit us stayed to help, and a number of other people appeared out of nowhere. It was just a moment or two before I heard sirens and ambulances came up. The guy driving the car was ticketed for failing to control his speed and hitting us, which I think is fair. I don't think he was going very fast. The police officer told me that he said he was lost and looking for a road, and he just didn't see us until it was too late to stop.

I have some bruises and some scratches and I had to get some stitches in my leg behind my right knee where I think I probably got caught up in the pack somehow. Roger has no apparent injuries but was woozy and had very low blood pressure when he got to the ER so they wanted to keep him overnight to observe him. He is there now, over his protestations. I am in the hotel across the street.

We don't know how the bike fared. The police took it and have stored it at the station along with most of our stuff. We'll take a look at that in the morning. I do know that our brand new back wheel is all bent up. And Roger's saddle is bent over like a taco. I cannot imagine how that happened.

We are bummed about the accident, but thankful that our injuries are minor. We had just sent a final dispatch to the Daily Facts inviting everyone to join us next Saturday for our final leg into town, so we'll have to update that story and think of some other way to celebrate.

And now to bed. We'll figure out what to do about all this tomorrow.


That wheel doesn't look so good 

 Roger's saddle got bent somehow
 This crazy guy is Headicus Giganticus
The beautiful road we took today

Saturday, October 29, 2016

190: Don't fence me in!

We just went 37 miles today, about what we would go on a typical Tuesday or Thursday morning ride with our friends back home. It was a beautiful day. Roger said at one point, "this is almost perfect conditions for riding."  I asked him, "what is wrong with it?"  And he said, "nothing. I guess it is perfect"!

Before we finished our ride, we angled a bit further south, and the winds turned around a bit, so we did finish with a little bit of a headwind. But that was a minor complaint.

We enjoyed watching for some additional Burma Shave signs. I've included their rhymes below.
The sunlight on the train cars make a great pattern on the landscape

Other activities that we use to pass the time include counting the train cars as they go by. This is a very, very busy train corridor. We believe these trains are coming through the Cajon Pass, and then heading up toward Chicago or LA. It is not unusual to have two passing at the same time.

Sometimes we count the number of posts in a fence in a mile. That is how I learned that they are typically on a 16 foot center. Sometimes Roger will just tell me something like, 'Well, in that gear we pedal 400 times to go a mile.'   So that tells me what he's been doing for the past mile!
Descending to Peach Springs
And of course, there are always songs popping into my head. Today the wide open spaces brought one to mind: 'Don't Fence Me In.'

The day's report: Seligman to Peach Springs, 37.2 miles/9099 to date

And here's our route

Here's some of the Burma Shave signs we enjoyed today!

Slow down Pa
Sakes alive
Ma missed signs
Four and five

If daisies are
Your favorite flower
Keep pushing up
The miles per hour

 "Cattle crossing"
Means go slow
That old bull
Is some cow's beau

Thirty days
Has September 
April, June
And the offender

You can drive
A mile a minute
But there is no 
Future in it

Let me ride through the wide open country that I love . . . 

Written in 1934, with music by Cole Porter and lyrics by Robert Fletcher and Cole Porter

Oh, give me land, lots of land under starry skies above
Don't fence me in
Let me ride through the wide open country that I love
Don't fence me in


Let me be by myself in the evenin' breeze

And listen to the murmur of the cottonwood trees
Send me off forever but I ask you please
Don't fence me in

Just turn me loose, let me straddle my old saddle

Underneath the western skies
On my cayuse, let me wander over yonder
Till I see the mountains rise

I want to ride to the ridge where the West commences

And gaze at the moon till I lose my senses
And I can't look at hobbles and I can't stand fences
Don't fence me in


Wide open skies

What should I wear today?

For a cycling tourist, the age-old question of "what should I wear today?" is pretty simple to answer: if you are on the bike, you wear what you brought to wear on the bike. If you are off the bike, you wear what you brought to wear off the bike! You don't have a lot of choices, because you only have a few things - there is precious little room to carry stuff. Hence, the real question comes when it's time to pack: "what will I take with me on a bike tour?"
The jerseys, socks and coolers we started with - and the cool little beanie that Roger lost at some point!

Ah, now - that is a question that many have asked. For the benefit of those of you who may be planning a trip yourself, or are just curious how we've managed to get along for six months with just a couple of "stuff sacks" of clothing, here's what we brought along.

I'll cover the clothing in two parts - the on-bike and off-bike attire. In yet another post ("Tour-tested and cyclist-approved"), I'll "name names" and give you the brands and items that we have really found to work well.

So here we go.  Here's what we wore, while on the bike:

On our journey, we've seen a fair number of folks who ride with a t-shirt, tank top or other clothing up top. One guy we met said he was just so uncomfortable in the humidity that he wore nothing at all! But both Roger and I prefer a plain ol' cycling jersey, for a couple of reasons. One, we love the pockets. I want my wallet and my glasses with me, and having the pockets makes this easy. With a t-shirt, you've got to carry them somewhere else, and that increases the odds of misplacing them. Two, the protection from the sun. Even with the jerseys, we have tanned across our backs. Wearing a tank top would NOT have worked for me; I need more sun protection than that, and I don't really like getting all gooey with sunscreen everywhere! Three, the jersey gives you options for ventilation or warmth with the zipper open or closed, as needed. Other shirt options are not quite as flexible and easy to manipulate while you ride. And lastly, they wash and dry out quickly. That has been very helpful any number of times.
Here's the arm and leg coolers (Kathy with cousin Jacque)

We wear bike shorts, with pads. In fact, for the past couple of weeks, as our miles and hours on the bike have increased, we've been wearing two pair. It aids in "comfort" on the saddle. I've seen one fellow in a pair of cut-off blue jeans, and I can't quite wrap my head around that option. But to each his own!

We use either leg and arm "coolers" or "warmers" - pull-on sleeves and leg covers that either provide shade from the sun (the coolers) or warmth (the warmers).  So, in pretty much every photo of us, you will see that we either have black or white arms and legs, and that's what you are looking at. The coolers have saved us several tubes of sunscreen, for certain. They also are great when it's really hot - we wet them down, and then they are just like standing in front of the air conditioner for a little while!  Because we have these extenders, if you will, we did not have long-sleeve jerseys or long-leg shorts, but we have been comfortable riding in climates from about 30 degrees to 90 degrees. (You're never really comfortable when it's hot and humid, but that's another story!)

We each have a lightweight wool layer for under the jersey if it's cold. Roger wears his less than I do, since he runs warm. These have been great! Mine is short sleeve; Roger's is long sleeve. They add the extra warmth you need if it's very cold or wet, and because we had them, we did not take any fleecy jerseys. We just wore the wool layer underneath if it was cold.
Roger's wearing the warmers, shell, and puff vest

We had a couple of pair of lightweight wool socks each, one heavy pair of wool socks (which we wore in the first month or so when it was cold and rainy), and a couple pair of light socks. I used silk sock liners for the summer riding, which worked great. They were cool, washed and dried quickly, and wore well.

We have ridden for years with bike shoes that have mountain bike soles and cleats (SPDs). They are easy to walk in, because of the platforms around the edges which protect the cleats (though mine are wearing down now!)  We gave some thought to getting the Keen shoes with cleats in them, but did not do so. As it turned out, I'm glad we didn't. It is great to get off the bike, and put on a different pair of shoes. If I had been wearing Keens on the bike, I either would have had to wear them all the time, or carry another pair anyway, and so what good would that do me?

I added a visor-cap under my helmet, to give me more shade - one of those things like tennis players use. It has been invaluable. Roger had a little skull-cap that protected his noggin, but left it behind at some point and since then, he's used one of our kerchiefs as a do-rag.

Of course we also wear helmets and padded cycling gloves.

In addition to the above "every day" wear, we have some stuff for cold or wet weather. We each have a pair of long-fingered warm gloves, a stocking cap, a puff vest, a windbreaker (our cycling club shells), and a waterproof jacket.  I also had a great headband for warmth without bulk.  Because our trip was so long, and we had weather ranging from deep-South summer swelter to Oregon sleeting rain, we have used all of this stuff at one time or another. (In fact, at one point, we used it all at the same time!)  If we had been able to accurately predict when we would need it, we could have shipped it to ourselves so we didn't have to carry it all the time. In fact, we did send some of the cold-weather stuff to my mom's house after we got out of the mountains. But weather doesn't really work that way. It can be pretty hard to predict what you will run into on any given day, particularly over a six month period, and when you are changing elevation frequently.
The super-dorky "helmet and visor" look I love!

Our inventory fluctuated as stuff wore out and we got new stuff, but here's the basic breakdown. We each started with 2 or 3 pair of shorts. We now have 4 pair each.

We had two jerseys, and then the mayor of Fort Worth gave us each one, so now we have three. Two worked fine for a long time; since the club jersey was wearing out, it's nice we got a new one.

We had a couple of pair of socks each, and had to get some more when we wore them out. I was surprised how fast our stuff wore out!