Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Let's keep it clean, folks!

Some of our friends have asked about how we manage laundry, showers, etc -- and let's be honest, it's not just like at home, where you can pull a fresh kit from the drawer every time you get on the bike and throw it all in the washer whenever you please.

So here's a little introduction to basic hygiene while touring!
Not ours, thank goodness - but close!

First - I should note that not all of the cycle tourists we meet seem to be hewing to the same standards that Roger and I want to follow. That is to say, we run across some folks that probably are not staying in the nicer campgrounds, with showers available. That's okay, it's all part of the vibe, right?  They tend to be younger tourists, and there is much that one tolerates when one is young - and pockets are empty!  We are old, and we are not trying to do this trip on a buck fifty, AND we prefer our creature comforts, so we do look for campgrounds with showers. And if there is not one available?  Well, we go to the bathroom, or the spigot if there is only a pit toilet, and we do the best we can with our soap and a washcloth.  We've only had to resort to the sponge bath two or three times, so that's not too bad so far.  At one very lovely campground, we got in the river in our bike clothes to rinse off! That was refreshing, and took care of the jerseys at the same time.
Laundry day

Second - when we stay with our Warm Showers hosts, we almost always do a load of laundry. Hasn't been one yet that has not offered, and we always take them up on it. Even if all we do is wash the riding clothes that we came in wearing, it's great to get them nice and clean and dry!

If we are camping, we wash out what we were wearing that day: always the shorts (and jerseys if they need it) - and then hang them up to dry. Sometimes they do not dry before we need them in the morning, and if so, we bungee them to the packs as we ride and wear the second pair.

I think we've only had to resort to laundromat washing three times so far, because our visits with Warm Showers hosts or friends and family have given us sufficient access to washing machines that we've kept our stuff clean enough. And a lot of the little mom and pop motels have laundry rooms right on site. That's what I am using right now.

That "clean enough" phrase is relevant: we are getting so much road grime and bike grease on our kits that I am thinking of submitting them to Tide or Gain when we get home, and challenging them to remove the stains without destroying the fabric! It is certain that we will not be wearing any of this stuff when we are done with the tour - they will be retired.

In fact, we have already had to replace shorts, gloves and socks due to wear. I had two fairly new pair of Pearl Izumi shorts when we started but one of them has already bit the dust. Roger also needed a new pair, and we both lost a pair when we forgot to retrieve them from the dryer at one host's home.  Darn!

Third - Roger tries to keep the bike clean, and in fact he's off at a self-serve car wash taking care of that right now. In campgrounds, he can lube it if necessary but usually has no facility to hose it down or clean the chain. Many of the little motels we've stayed at have signs at the desk announcing that they have rags for use - so you don't use the nice towels, I am sure - and so he has often been able to clean it up that way. He takes the garbage can with some water and a bit of our soap and he usually has a can of spray cleaner for the chain and gears and that seems to be doing the trick.  On one occasion, we had the handicap access shower in our room and he was able to put the bike in the bathroom to clean it! It's sort of a losing battle, anyway. We seem to have rain so often that everything gets mucked up pretty badly every couple of days.
Tent draped over the chair to dry

Drying the tent
Everything else? Well, I have laid the tent out in the hotel room today because we had to put it up damp yesterday. The packs are a mess, and if we are staying indoors and our hosts have a rag, I try to knock most of the crud off them if we are coming in wet, but mostly they just stay pretty filthy. We have a bunch of stuff sacks that we use to segregate our clothes, bike stuff, etc, and they are inside a big heavy plastic bag inside the rear packs, so things stay clean even though the packs get dirty.

We travel with Dr. Bronner's Peppermint Castile liquid soap, so we can use it to bathe, shampoo, wash clothes, dishes, bike - whatever.  I take a little on a washcloth to wash my face and "wake up" most mornings and we always, always put on sunscreen before we ride, so at least to this point, I feel like I am not turning into a leather-face. But time will tell!  And that's about it for cleaning.

As to other matters of general body maintenance:  Our fingernails are just a mess. Everything we do with the packs or the bike just wears 'em down and breaks them off, so we keep the clippers and emery board handy. (Nothing bugs me like getting a snagged nail that catches on my bike clothes all day long.  I keep a tiny emery board in my bike bag so I can take care of things like that right away.) I had my hair cut very short before we took off but it's grown enough that I know I am going to need to find a barber and go butch again pretty soon. We had our dental check-ups and cleaning right before we left town, so we should be good for six months in that department. Roger shaves every few days but has not grown a beard, as many of the male cyclists I see seem to do. I'm glad of that! I take advantage of motels or Warm Showers hosts with bathtubs to shave my legs now and then, but to be honest that's never been a real strong habit of mine and since we wear the leg covers whether hot or cold, it doesn't seem to matter. No one sees my legs anyway!

We both take some daily meds, and before we left we convinced our doctors to give us two back-to-back 90 day prescriptions. So we have a large supply of pharmaceuticals on board. I dole out a week's worth into a small box (a repurposed patch kit box is working great!) that we keep with our toiletries, and keep the rest secure in the pack. That seems to be working very well.

Give us this day our daily meds (small box)!
Things I really love and use all the time:  The Dr. Bronner's soap - would not want to travel without it, as it serves so many purposes (and just gives me such a lift!)  Vaseline - we use it every day on lips, heels, hands, whatever.  A little piece of Fels Naptha soap - this seems to really help with the grease as a pre-treatment before we wash our clothes.  It's old fashioned, but it works. Gold Bond powder - helps me avoid heat rash on my legs.  Desitin ointment - just a dab under the chamois cream really seems to help in the saddle. Advil PM - if we've had a really tough day, it makes bedtime so much more comfortable!

Oh, and as to the size of stuff we carry: some folks really are what we call "weight wienies" - they begrudge every ounce and take small containers of everything. Well, that's okay for a couple of weeks, probably. I normally put my face lotion in a little bottle if I'm traveling (both because it's less to carry and because I can get through airport security faster that way). But for six months? C'mon! I'm going to use an entire bottle of Olay anyway, so why put it into little bitty bottles and then have to find a way to refill them constantly? Roger was shocked (and dismayed) by the weight of our toiletries and what not, but with this approach, everything is getting lighter as we use it up, and so it's all working out.  And I just did not want to be concerned about finding another tiny tube of toothpaste every week while we are out here!

So that's the story. Let me know via the comments if you have any specific questions.


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