How many cookies does the cook cook ?

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Well, tomorrow’s my 41st birthday and I’m preparing to welcome guests with many cookies πŸ™‚

I’ve tested and perfected a cookie recipe that I like a lot – it contains lot of chocolate, almost half of the cookie dough actually ! Here I’m preparing almost 50 cookies for tomorrow.

The anniversary will be a chance for the guests to win presents ! As I’m moving out, and most of my stuff will be stored away for months, I figured it would be better to give most of it. So, based on their success in a musical quizz, they’ll have a chance to go back home with a Wii and 30 games, boardgames, a few DVDs, video game collectables, a hair dryer, cooking books, etc πŸ™‚

This small post is also a test to publish using the equipment I’ll have on the road ! And that is, an updated iphone with a folding keyboard πŸ™‚

My old 3GS iphone is not able to withstand a day without getting charged, so I had to get another one. I figured it would replace a small laptop, as well as a camera, a gps, etc.

However, typing long texts on a small screen can be difficult, so I’m trying a folding bluetooth keyboard from iwerks. Of course, it’s a qwerty keyboard, but I’m used to switching back and forth and that shouldn’t be an issue. Much better anyway than getting mad at all the mistyping, I was having nighmares when I started with the iphone 5 years ago !

Another thing I’m testing right now is the wordpress app – will it live up to the web application quality ? I’ll see that in a minute πŸ™‚

 

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Rampup and stretching

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I started training last week. The objective is simple : to raise myself to about 80-100kms a day, with a day off here and there (at least once a week).

I’ve been riding a bike to work for years, but that’s only about 6 kms a day (going down the slope in the morning, and going up in the evening). I also do the odd ride all around Paris, which is 35-40 kms in two hours on sunday. I did that just yesterday and filmed it, but I’m still struggling to edit it down to a few minutes.

So, I’ve been searching for a program to do this training on the web, but I only found methods to reach a century, which is 100 miles, or 160 kms, in a day. This is a ramp-up which is very irregular day to day, but goes up slowly over two months. That’s not what I’m looking for. I don’t want to break any record but be able to ride regularly a long distance.

I decided to draft my own ramp-up, that you can see on the first image. It’s very simple : each week, I will raise the daily average by 10 kms, starting from the distance I’m used to do to go to work, up to 90-100 a day. So that’s about 10 weeks to do that, two and a half months, reaching a plateau on the last few weeks.

The overall idea is to be able to cross 500 kms, or 300 miles, in one week. That would be 80 kms a day over 6 days, or 100 over 5 days. That’s the average I’ve used when calculating the time I’ll need on the overall journey.

Doing such a curve on paper is easy, now I have to see if I can do it πŸ™‚

The next step was to find destinations to cover these distances. I’ve used google maps for that, moving a destination around to some interesting spot in or around Paris, until I had 3-4 objectives for each set of distance. I also tried to do some circles which covered the distance, in order to avoid “go there and come back on the same road” kind of stuff. Its not really easy with a large city so close, because either I have to go away from it, and destination points tend to be very far very quickly, or I have to go around or through Paris, with all the traffic.

Beyond going the distance, I also need to test camping around, making overnights, as well as small journeys. So I prepared some destinations that were 80-100 kms away, will stay there and come back. I drafted 3 and 4 days journeys, which should be the longest I’ll do before stopping at a motel or equivalent in the US. I’ll do these camping tests in april, with the longer ones at the end of the month, just before leaving.

Finally I’ve put all that on a planning for february, march and april, hoping to leave for the US early may. Here you can see february, with the week of the 17th where I started training and wrote down the actual distances I’ve covered. I did an average of 20 kms a day this week. I only got tired by the 40 kms ride around Paris on sunday. That was probably too much of a step at once.

Biking regularly for long distances will need regular stretching before and after. I’ve found these programs which seem fine :

Before the ride :Β http://mikesbikes.com/articles/stretching-before-you-ride-pg241.htm

And after :Β http://mikesbikes.com/articles/stretching-after-you-ride-pg240.htm

They are rather long, 15 minutes for the second part, but I guess it’s not much when compared to a 5 or 6 hours ride in a day ! I need to test these more and see if they bring a benefit.

Gift from my team

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It’s been a crazy week. On monday we signed the divorce papers at the notary office with my ex-wife. On tuesday I got to the US embassy to request a visa (I forgot to setup the alarm and woke up only 40 mns before the entry time, but still managed to reach the other side of Paris in time !). On wednesday I signed the departure deal from my work, and sent a goodbye mail to about a hundred people in the company. On thursday we signed the divorce papers at the lawyer’s office. And on friday I had a farewell at the local pub with my former team. Today I also went to the bank to announce all the changes and plan ahead. I plan to rest tomorrow πŸ™‚ (actually no, I’ll start posting the ad for selling the flat)

Parting with a job you’ve had for ten years is quite something, and when I sent the goodbye mail I felt the pressure mounting : that was it, I was gone. The kind answers I received, mostly from old-times colleagues, were heartwarming, and it softened the moment. I’ll probably come back to that along the journey.

So, on friday evening I had a gift card for a sportsware shop from my former team, that was a great gift ! I had already started buying some stuff on my packing list, and I’ve been browsing most if not all bike shops from eastern Paris for a couple of weeks now. So I knew very well what I would buy.

So people, your gift card transformed into a lot of useful stuff : 4 tshirts, a rain pants, a bike cleaning kit, a bike repair kit, pant clips, and mostly a bike computer that will certainly help me ride faster πŸ™‚ That covers almost all of the “asap” buys that I wanted to do. The rest of the packing list will be bought with two other deadlines : the “go” code, in about a month, when I’ll be sure that I can physically do the ride (I’ll mostly buy a new bike then), and the “camping” code, when I’l start testing camping outside (and of course I’ll be buying all the stuff linked to that + panniers or trailer, still undecided there).

The thanks here go to Julien 1, Julien 2, Marie-Cerise, Boris, Adrien, SalomΓ©, Manou and Fabien ! πŸ™‚

What am I gonna miss ?

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This week I am starting to prepare moving out of my flat. I will put it on the market in a few days. Hopefully I’ll find a buyer before I leave for the USA, otherwise my ex-wife will continue the process. In any case I have to weed out most of the stuff, as I dont want to rent a big self storage room. Ideally, I’ll put a few boxes here and there in friends’ basement πŸ˜‰ The rest, I will give or sell.

Most of the furniture I’ll offer along with the flat. And so the first thing I’m going to miss is certainly the couch pictured here πŸ™‚ It’s a great, comfortable couch, very large, especially for only one person ! I followed a strict diet a few years ago, focused on proteins, and strangely I dearly missed crunchy stuff. I was only eating meat and soft food, no biscuit of any kind. After a few weeks I was feeling like a crack addict in prison. I can sense, writing in said couch, that during the outdoor camping nights I will miss not having a firm and comfortable seat.

Second thing I’ll certainly miss is the very large shower. You can get lost in it πŸ™‚ Staying a long time in a hot shower rain is a luxury that I enjoy as much as possible. I often feel like the whole civilization process has lead us to this point, and we must benefit from it as long as it exists. I’ll miss it as I probably wont have a shower everyday πŸ™‚ That will be a big part of the adventure. In the same area, toilets will also be missed πŸ˜‰

Having a double bed, being indoors, sheltered, in a quiet place (at least as long as the upstairs neighbours are not waking up…), I’ll probably miss, but I’m pretty sure I will be so tired every evening that I will be sound asleep quickly whatever the situation πŸ™‚

I’m sure I won’t miss the television much, on the other hand. I had a few periods where I didn’t have one, and you can get used to that in a couple of weeks. Internet, not so much… πŸ˜‰ I’ll get my hands on a e-reader soon to see if it replaces books well enough.

One thing I will NOT miss is the one hour of ironing every week end πŸ™‚ Which turns into two hours as I forget to do it regularly. Frumpy lifestyle, here I come !

 

This was the material list of what I will miss and not miss. Of course, I’ll miss not getting to see friends now and then. If I keep the planning of about 5 months of riding, this’ll be the longest stretch of time being away yet. I spent a year on an exchange program in Leeds, UK, and as I didn’t know anyone, the first three months have been quite difficult. But here I’ll be in holidays, moving from place to place, meeting new people if only to ask for directions or a place to sleep. And as much as I like the UK, the weather shouldn’t be the same πŸ˜‰

 

The biggest change though will probably NOT being on a regular schedule anymore, not having to wake up, go to work and come back, having free time to watch a movie or a series, etc. I’ll be completely free to press forward or stay in the same place, and decide where to go next. I’ve read on other blogs that the total liberty and flexibility provided by a bike ride is exhilarating. I have never experienced that before, and I’m looking forward to it πŸ™‚

Packing list 3/3

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This is the third and final part of the packing list I’ve drawn up πŸ™‚ This part here is about me and what I’ll wear. This is not a photo of me πŸ™‚

This one is pretty straightforward really, all of us, at some point or another, will have to wear clothes and go out in the world. It’s a classy place beyond these walls, and you can’t go naked ! People will be judging you and if the colors dont match, boy will you be in trouble.

Ok I’m watching “Good morning Vietnam” and this might just be Robin Williams’ influence πŸ˜‰

Seriously though, there are some points I’ve noted on the subject of clothing. Being as clothes uneducated as I am, I didn’t know what kind of material to wear while riding, in order to “wick away the sweat” as the saying goes. The current state of my research points to a 60/40 mix of polyamide and polyester. If anyone knows better, I’m interested.

Another point is the volume of clothes to take. I intend to be in a motel every 4 days or so, in order to enjoy a real bed and do some laundry. So that means I’ll need at least 4 days’ worth of clothes. I’ll also include clothes for the evening, as, whatever the magical qualities of the material, I’ll be sweating like a horse by the end of the day.

I’m still on the fence on more evening-quality type of clothes, to go to restaurants or such. That seems like a waste of space. Another point here is the weight. I’m used to biking with a standard bike, and nothing beyond that. I need to train with more weight, but the 20 or so kilos that are planned will be a huge load.

Another point I’d like to adress here is the electronics. I originally intended to go with a gps, a small laptop, a camera, etc. And then I thought my iphone would be able to do all of that, if the battery would ever last more than a few hours. I have a 3GS iphone that’s 3 years old, and yes, the model itself is 5 years old. I’m a little bit behind the curve πŸ™‚ So, I just might upgrade to the latest iphone, if I find a deal that doesnt cost more than a bike πŸ™‚

Next up is a data deal. I won’t be doing many calls, and more so of uploading photos and text on this blog. I did a little research on mobile deals, and I can say that the US is expensive. Best I’ve found is the T-mobile all-inclusive deal at 70$ a month, or 50€. For 30€ here in France, I got my mobile, internet, landline, television, all in one, with no limits.

I *could* use the iphone as cycling computer, GPS, music player and book reader, but then I’ll have to carry a power station on my back. No, I’ll still go with specialized electronics here. Some ipod shuffle, a reader of some kind (I’m thinking Kindle here), a small Garmin-like thingie to give me speed, distance and cadence. As for GPS, I’ll go with the old trick of printed maps, especially the ones from Adventure Cycling, giving you motels, camping sites and welcoming neighbours all in one πŸ™‚

Packing list 2/3

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This is the second part of the packing list I’ve prepared. This is about camping, which includes sleeping, eating and staying clean πŸ™‚

Now, the first point I have to mention is that I haven’t been camping for something like 25 years ! I was in my teens back then, and even then, it was stationary camping, on a dedicated camping site for holidays. So, leaving for 5 or 6 months and relying on more-or-less wild camping will be a large part of the challenge ! πŸ™‚

I also have to get up to speed on the type of material I can find. I’ll be riding during late spring, summer and probably early autumn, so there shouldn’t be an issue with temperatures. As for environment, it should mostly be parks, fields, perhaps a few complete outdoors. With that in mind, I’m looking for an average / low temp sleeping bag. I’ve read here and there that you should find a n+1 tent, so I’ll get a 2-person tent πŸ™‚

Cooking equipment is pretty basic, finding it should not be an issue. But here again I’ll have to test that live to get used to it πŸ™‚

As for staying clean… I hope I’ll have access to a shower at least every other day. Beyond that, I don’t know how to do πŸ™‚ Another big challenge here πŸ™‚

I’d also like to find a small chair to enjoy the outdoors while reading in front of the setting sun ! πŸ™‚

Final point here is the food itself. I’ll buy everything when in the US of course. The only question here is the volume and weight, and more precisely how much I’ll eat πŸ™‚ I will certainly enjoy US diners in the morning πŸ™‚

How to sleep, how to eat, how to stay clean… All of this I’ll test in april, I will know very quickly if I can overcome these challenges πŸ™‚

Packing list 1/3

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A big part of getting ready is to list aaall of the things I’ll need on the ride. I’ve found a few packing lists on the web and at this stage I think I’ve covered most of the requirements. It’s of course based on the kind of trip I’m envisioning : mostly camping, and a few motel nights. That means I need to carry with me all of the stuff needed for everything : sleeping, eating, finding my way, blogging, etc. The best advice I’ve read is, for each element, not to question whether it will be needed but rather if it could be just left behind.

I’ve cut the list in three parts : everything around the bike (moving), all needed for camping (eating / sleeping), and everything worn on me (cleaning / dressing / interacting). I’ll probably review all elements from a Maslow pyramid perspective later πŸ™‚

The first part is, apart from a few elements, actuallyΒ the bike and all accessories. It’ll be a large part, perhaps half, of the total weight (excluding me !). All the bikes I’ve reviewed are around 15-17 kgs. Adding in a trailer + a bag, panniers, that would lead to around 25 kgs. I doubt I’ll be carrying around much more than that in food, water, clothes etc. Perhaps with the tent and sleeping bag it would be equal, I’ll see. But the camping equipment I’ve seen up to now seems extremely light.

I’ll be going with a trekking bike, not a road bike. It seems more logical, and I’m not used to road bikes. I have a cross bike now, but it’s not ready for getting all the additions a trekking bike has on standard. I added a few details like a saddle cover for the rain, when the bike will stay outdoors, or grips to be more efficient when pedalling. These are nice-to-have, light, and cheap.

As for the religious war of trailer vs panniers, I’ll use them both certainly, to be able to have more space to use, and not cram everything in the same place. Maybe I’m over-erstimating the need in space, I’ll see that in april when I test the whole system. Right now I like the luxury that’ll bring.

I haven’t yet got a complete list of all repair tools and spare parts required. It seems logical to be able to replace a tube, to adjust bolts… but I’m a bit suspicious of the lists I’ve found with spare cables. I’ve never had such an issue with cables, riding the same bike for about 10 years. Puncture kit, pump, chain lube seem to make a lot more sense.

And the crux question is about security… Maybe I’m oversensitive about it living in France – I’ve read a travel report from a guy who never even locked his bike – but I don’t intend to be by my bike for 5 months, and there’ll be a lot of moments when it’ll be just left behind. So, I have to beef up this part, just to feel secure. In large cities at least, I’ll leave the trailer and panniers behind in a motel while I tour the place. As for outdoors and small cities, I don’t know yet. Maybe crime is not such an issue. But with 1% of all americans behind bars (vs 0.1% of all french), I have my doubts :^p I’ve researched GPS bugs, but many will hit the market mid-2014, a bit too late for me. The existing ones are expensive and getting a bit old.

To end the list on a more positive note, I’ll tape the bikingbad.net logo on the bike and trailer to be more visible πŸ™‚ I also intend to have a flag pole (longer than the one on the pic), to attach small flags from each state πŸ˜‰

Can’t wait to have all this assembled ! I’ll start buying the expensive stuff in a few weeks, when I’ll be going up on my rampup program. For the start, I just need my current bike.