Workout

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Before even starting a biking program to get ready to cross many miles, I wanted to step up a daily workout. I had been doing a pretty simple one for about a month before the project of crossing the US on a bike appeared, so I only had to adapt it somehow. It seems you have to work on the core abdominals, which are necessary for good cycling, but are not built by cycling itself. They must be developed especially.

I like this workout :Β http://www.bicycling.com/training-nutrition/training-fitness/core

I dont have a stability ball, so I do most of the other exercises :

– 25 push-ups (ok nothing to do with abdominals :p)

– 20 “boat pose” sit ups

– 40 power bridges

– 40 scissors kicks

– 2×30 transverse planks

I do this routine 3 times, plus 90 seconds plank. That takes about 15 minutes all in all.

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Biking

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So, at some point in late january 2014, I decided I would cross the US on a bike ! Why would I do that ?

I’ve wanted to cross the US for a very long time, at least ten years. Its a journey that is sure to be mind-blowing. Its a rare possibility to get through a continent, while staying in the same country, with one language, on such a long distance. All the while going through amazing landscapes and referenced locations, mostly in films, but books and of course history.

When I had this plan in mind, I thought I would do a road trip, perhaps in a car, or perhaps in a RV. There was some technical issues with renting or buying / selling back a car, but it seemed feasible. There were also timing issues. Such a trip, with enough time to visit cities and places, would have to last at least a month, rather one and a half. That’s a lot of vacations to pile up at one point at once. Plus, doing it as a couple doubles the complexity of fitting that in a schedule. In the end, it didnt happen.

And early 2014, the stars seemed to align – at least as far as this project was concerned. It seemed I would be leaving my job in a satisfying condition, and with no other job lined up yet, a lot of free time would become available. At the same time, I felt I should sell the appartment I bought and refurbished with my ex-wife. That would also mean one less string. Finally, the divorce procedure appeared to reach the end, after much administrative issues. So everything could be done by the time I wanted to depart.

Suddenly being able to line up more than 2, 3 or 4 months for such a trip, I thought it would be much more fascinating to do everything on a bike πŸ˜‰

Going east ?

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Crossing the USA can be done eastward or westward. I’ve always chosen to go from west to east.

That’s not the usual direction. Most Adventure cycling tours are actually done from east to west. That’s also the direction you take, philosophically, when you want to find an adventure. Over the course of history, mankind followed the course of the sun. Going west is looking for the future.

Going east, on the other hand, means you are looking for your origins. You search for the source of the sun, so to speak. That’s what I want to do, in this phase of my life.

I’ve never known my father, and I started searching a few weeks ago. I’ve asked my mother many questions over the last few years but received very few answers. I’m not sure I will find him, or even if he is still alive. The lack of a father figure never seemed to be a problem when I was young, but I realized a few years ago how much it impacted my life and the issues I faced – and especially what was never said about him or the situation.

So, I will be going east.

If you need to know, going north means searching for a challenge, while going south means looking for appeasement πŸ™‚

Journey path

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Ok so I’ll be riding from west to east. But on what path ?

It seemed obvious to me that I would be going from California to New York, more or less. I would start either from San Francisco or Los Angeles. The distance between both cities is already quite noticeable, 500 miles, or 800 kilometers, if I ask google maps. But the ocean route is supposed to be a view in itself, so I’ll probably do that as a first leg. With some time in each city and along the way, that’ll be 3-4 weeks already

From LA, the next stop is Las Vegas, of course ! I’ve never been there. That’s another 300 miles or 500 kms. Probably a couple of weeks.

Then I’ll try to hug the south of the Grand Canyon as much as possible, aiming for Flagstaff, and after that, north-east to Denver. This part is not very clear yet, but all in all that’s about 900 miles or 1400 kms. The Rockies are supposed to be easier than the Appalachians on a bike, still it’ll be a month ride.

At this point it’s quite simple πŸ™‚ I’ll catch the TransAm bike road, which links New York to Seattle, and rides south of Kansas City, St Louis, Louisville, and north of Oklahoma City and Nashville. That’s 1600 miles or 2500 kms through the Middle West. I’ll certainly make a few turns here and there and use 1 and 1/2 months to cross three time zones. Hopefully this part will be flat !

From here on I’ll be in sight of the first colonies. I’ll reach Washington in 400 miles or 600 kms, a bit more than a week, maybe two. I will spend some time in the capital of course πŸ™‚ The final stretch will include Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and Boston. That’s 500 miles or 800 kms, a couple of weeks and at least as much visiting, so a month.

That’s my draft route, to be detailed until and after starting up. Right now I count 4200 miles or 6600 kms, and at least 5 months, more reasonably 6. If I start on early may that would lead to end october. I may have to cut some parts :p Or not, depending on how everything goes 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.

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 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™‚