The Journey

The Beginning.

My Mom passed away last year. She had blood and bone cancer. Anyone who had met her will say she had a very positive outlook on life. When she reached the deterioration point of not being able to walk, I told her how tough she was because I didn’t think I could handle not being able to get around. Her response was “No! This gives me a chance to read all the books I haven’t finished yet!” I had to shake my head and be amazed at her for finding something positive in the not-so-ideal circumstances. Only she could do that.

I bring up my Mom because she gave me a book long ago. I’m not sure why. Maybe it was my birthday or Christmas or just because. It was a book about a young guy walking across America. The book was titled “A Walk Across America” by Peter Jenkins. I enjoyed the book, but the thought of walking that far would take way too long. No, walking was not an option for me. The thought of riding a bike that distance crossed my mind as a possibility, but that crazy idea disappeared long ago.

Last year, my daughter Trina and I explored the country in our mini motorhome (www.psycho-and-cool-dad.com) and for some reason, I thought I had scratched that cross-country itch into submission. Well, maybe I did… because that journey was more East and West while this one will be more North and South. Any which way, the thought of riding a bike for a long distance has been hiding in the recesses of my mind for a long time… thanks to my Mom.

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A Good Night’s Sleep

One of the topics I’ve heard from cyclists is how important it is to stay dry and warm while sleeping at night. Having camped many, many times throughout my life, I realize that the damp, cold, hard ground is not your friend. If you do not get a good night’s sleep, cycling performance will definitely be sacrificed the next day. I’ve heard about laying a tarp down first to limit moisture, using a thermal mat for insulation and a self-inflating mat for cushioning, but something told me there has to be a more comfortable option.

I started doing some research on lightweight cots and found a good deal on Amazon for a Petrous low level cot that assembles and breaks down quickly. The only downside was its weight of 5 lbs. I did find another one that weighs only 3 lbs. but at twice the price, I decided that carrying 2 lbs. more won’t kill me. I’ll just have to cut back on weight somewhere else, like carting a 32″ flat screen rather than a 65″!

So when I’m rolling through Alaska, Canada, Washington, Oregon and northern California, I think this little treasure will keep me dry and comfortable. I will be carrying a small tent as well, so other than flash floods, how bad can it be?

 

My Shadow

A shadow… that thing that keeps following you around no matter where you go (as long as the sun is shining of course).

For my coming adventure later this year, my shadow will be an Aosom single wheel bike trailer. I’m opting for a trailer rather than panniers (bags attached to racks over the front and rear bicycle wheels) because of the weight. To me, it seems the extra weight directly on my bike would limit maneuverability, whereas a trailer would be simple rolling weight (until I start climbing a mountain pass!). I chose a single wheel trailer over a 2 wheel trailer which will allow me to take up less room on the highway shoulders and to ride down narrower trails.

As they say, you get what you pay for, but I knew I’d modify any trailer I bought anyway. This little guy was easy to assemble as the top rail pivots up and locks in place with a quick safety pin. The trailer has a spring suspension (as seen in the photo). We’ll see how that works, but something tells me I should carry a couple of spare springs considering I’ll be towing it over 5000 miles. The trailer also comes with a large florescent dry bag, a plastic fender and a safety flag. I’ll save the box as I’ll have to box my bike, trailer and gear in order to fly them with me to Alaska.

 

What I did have to modify on this trailer was the locking mechanism that locks the trailer to the new quick release bicycle rear axle which was included with the trailer. The locking mechanism was sloppy and non-functioning on one side, so I inserted each trailer arm in a vice and pressed the metal closer together until the interior steel moving piece was aligned correctly and could open and close as it was designed to.

 

Being made of steel, if any part of the trailer broke in a remote location, it could be easily welded. There are lighter aluminum trailers out there, but a TIG welder needed to weld aluminum may be a little harder to find in the deserts of Baja. I will be adding a mini kickstand to the trailer as well as blinking Led safety lights.

All in all, this is a great little trailer for my journey.

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Sashimi anyone?

What would a trip through Alaska and Canada be like without fishing gear? I couldn’t imagine, so I gathered some of my fishing gear that would be appropriate for my coming adventure. As I pack, one of the most important concerns I have is size and weight -considering I do not want to be pulling unnecessary weight on the trailer as I pedal up steep hills and mountains.

In Alaska, salmon season runs from May through October offering silvers, pinks, reds and king salmon. Salmon up to 98 lbs. have been caught up there! 98 lbs. is a lot more fish than I can eat in one day, so I’ll be fishing for smaller salmon and trout. To do that, lightweight gear will be sufficient. I’ll be taking 3 rods with me (unless I can think of a good reason to take more), all of them sectional poles that break down to 1′ sections. Two of the poles will be spinners and the 3rd will be a fly rod with all the fixings.

The reason for taking two spinner rods is that one is only 5′ when assembled and the other is 6′. I’ve always enjoyed small lightweight rods for small creeks so I think this combination of rods will help me be prepared for the waterways I encounter. In reference to size, the bag carrying the spinner rods is 16″ long and the fly rod set is 15″x7″.

I’m looking forward to catching and cooking fresh fish on the grill alongside beautiful Alaskan and Canadian rivers. The pictures below are from past fishing trips with the 2nd and 3rd photos from an Alaskan fishing trip on the Kenai River. If you’ve never been there, add it to your bucket list. The salmon are so plentiful that you would think you are looking into a koi pond. As far as the black bear, he was safely on the other side of the river. I guess I should look into a large can of bear spray and make a decision between a Rambo survival knife or a 14″ Bowie knife. I guess I could wear a bandana underneath a coon skin cap!

Thank you for following me and sharing this adventure with me! Looking at the calendar, I have about 3 1/2 months to go. I really should start riding my bike more! lol

Protein Pancakes on a Stick

I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube videos lately. Videos on Stealth Camping, Camping in Alaska and Bicycle Camping/Cooking. One recipe caught my attention… Protein Pancakes on a Stick. It sounds a little odd, but easy to mix, easy to cook and energy effective sounded good to me. That being said, I had to try this fireside gourmet treat.

The recipe is simple. Mix protein powder, pancake mix for carbohydrates and water. I mixed the concoction until I had a doughy mess and then wrapped it around a stick. From there I held it over a fire in the firepit and let it cook slowly.

My mix was 50/50, a touch of cinnamon and very little water, but seeing how the batter wanted to drip off the stick and forced me to constantly rotate the stick, I think I’ll add more pancake mix to the batter next time.

I did learn a few of things with this experiment.

1) Looks aren’t everything.

2) A thinner layer of dough on the stick will cook more evenly.

3) Damn this tastes delicious!

As far as energy, I’ll know more tomorrow when I go for a morning bike ride… but then again, I haven’t been on any of my bikes in a few months, so I can probably use all the help I can get. With 3 months to go, I guess it’s time to start training!

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Training begins

Yesterday was my first day of training for the journey. I hadn’t been on my road bike in a few months and hadn’t ridden my Scott mountain bike at all – other than a couple of laps around a parking lot. I picked up this Scott bike in Las Vegas on the way back from visiting my daughter in Salt Lake City for the holidays. Another exceptional Craigslist find. This is a 29″ wheel bike. I like the added clearance and the larger tires seem to roll over the obstacles easier than smaller tires.

I have done a few things to “Big Red” since I found it. The shifters and cables were not shifting correctly, so they were replaced along with the hand grips. The chain had a couple of stiff spots so that was changed as well. I also added a trip meter to track speed and mileage. A gel seat replaced the original uncomfortable seat and a rear carrier was added which also works as a mud guard. Butterfly handlebars have been ordered and I will do a review on them after testing them out.

 

Due to the off road tires being fairly new, I didn’t want to wear them out on pavement so I toted my bike up to the Santa Rosa Plateau for some off road fun.

 

The Santa Rosa Plateau has a variety of terrain to test ride a bike on. The trails consist of smooth dirt, sand, hills, rocks, erosion grooves, twists and turns. Mountain bike paradise!

 

Overall, I’m happy with Big Red’s performance. The shifting was flawless and the gearing seems well distributed (although I will research a granny gear for steep pavement climbing). I will be ordering tires that are better suited for on and off road performance  as well as carrying a spare chain and brake pads on the trip.

Regarding my Protein Pankcakes on a Stick, I did feel energetic on the ride and through the day yesterday. It could partially have been due to the excitement I was feeling to be out on my bike again, but having enough protein to push your body is important.  Considering the sticky mess of the stick cooking I tried, regular pancakes with my magic mix was easier and tasted delicious! I think this will be one of my traveling meals.

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Thank you for following along as I prepare for my adventure. When the thought of riding over 5000 miles crosses my mind, I start wondering if those around me who say this trip is a little crazy know something I don’t. Oh well, I’ll just keep living in my bubble and believing it’s not that big of a deal. 🙂

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Are dandelion roots edible?

I read this article a few weeks ago… Dandelion “Weeds” Kill Cancer Cells, Leave Healthy Cells Intact and found it to be fascinating. As we know, nature is full of natural remedies and foods. Considering I’ll be riding through Alaska and Canada, there will be many areas where McDonald’s fries cannot be found, so I thought I’d do a little research on this little known “Superfood.”
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Are dandelion roots edible?
Google says… “The quintessential garden and lawn weed, dandelions have a bad reputation among those who want grass that looks as uniform as a golf course, but every part of this common edible weed is tasty both raw and cooked, from the roots to the blossoms.” OK. I have to try this. Yeah, I was the kid who wasn’t afraid to sample the plants in my Grandmother’s gardens. That probably explains some of my quirks. lol.
Apparently, two of the popular ways dandelions are used are 1) Salad greens and 2) Tea. I opted for the tea recipe this morning. First, the harvesting began, and I found some ripe specimens. I then washed them and put them in a pot to boil and then simmered for 20 minutes. In the first photo you can see one plant that had a fat root which I had to sample! I cut off a piece of the root and popped it in my mouth. One word… bitter. No problem, I sliced and dropped the root in the boiling mix and moved along to my next experiment.

After 20 minutes of boiling, I checked my concoction and noticed the coloring of the water had changed, indicating the steeping was successful.

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I poured myself a cup of tea, let it cool and a gave it a try. Surprisingly, it wasn’t as bitter as I expected. I wouldn’t say it’s sweet, but it tastes fine with nothing added. I’m sure a little honey would make it tastier, but I’m still a little concerned about the Alaskan black bears and their fondness for honey. Google says, “Bears do love honey and are attracted to beehives. But unlike in Winnie the Pooh, the bears eat more than just honey. They will also consume the bees and larvae inside the beehive, which are a good source of protein.” Hmmm… I probably won’t be transporting honey on this trip.

A man rides a bike laden with styrofoam containers down a street in Shanghai

Below is some info I found on www.realfoodforlife.com

The following list of benefits is only for the yellow flowers.  The root and the leaves have even stronger properties and are more fully researched.

Possible Health Benefits:

1.  Source of antioxidants.

2. Relieve pain from headaches,  backaches,  and menstrual cramps

3. Relieve stomach  cramps.

4.  Relieves depression.

5. A chemical compound known as helenin  may be the cure for those with a problem of reduced vision in the dark.

6.  Flowers also contain Vitamin A and Vitamin B12 which are also good the eyes.

7.  In 1956, Chauvin demonstrated the antibacterial effects of dandelion pollen, which may validate the centuries old use of dandelion flowers in Korean folk medicine to prevent boils, skin infections, tuberculosis, and edema and promote blood circulation.

Interesting Facts and Trivia:

  • Botanical name is taraxacum officinale
  • Was brought to the United States originally from Europe and Asia, and was transported for its health benefits.
  • In French they are called pissenlit – literally ‘bedpissers’, an homage to the plant’s diuretic properties.
  • Other names of this plant are:  Blow Ball Cankerwort, Lion’s Tooth, Pissabed Priest’s-crown, Puff Ball,  Pu Gong Ying,  Pu-kung-ying,  Swine Snout, Telltime, White Endive, Wild Endive
  • The syrup is sweet, yet tangy, with strong herbal, honey-pollen, and citrus notes.

 

I’m almost done with my cup of dandelion tea, I’m still breathing and I’m not laying on the floor, so I guess this can be added to my http://www.AktoCabo.com recipe book! Thank you for letting me be your Guinea pig! 🙂

Comfort and Practicality

Good Morning!

My preparation for the journey has been a continuous process. I’ve made a couple of changes to my bike to prepare for the many miles ahead of me. One of those changes is the handlebars. Typically, a mountain bike comes with straight handlebars and they work great in typical mountain bike conditions. One of the challenges I’ve experienced with straight handlebars is the numbing of my hands with the constant pressure between my thumb and forefinger. I experienced this sensation on long distance motorcycle trips as well. I did try gel grips in the past, but that didn’t stop the numbing, it just delayed it.

The constant pressure numbing can be avoided by being changing your hand position. On previous mountain bikes I had “bull bar” extensions which gave me the opportunity to change my hand position from horizontal to vertical.

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Some bike tourers opt for “down bars” which you’ve seen on Road Bikes. These bars give you the option of a higher horizontal position, and two lower vertical positions. These bars are great on my road bike for short (50 mile) rides, but something tells me leaning over for days on end will be felt in my lower back.

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The bars I opted for are called “butterfly bars.” These bars give you many hand position options. I did a little research and found the positioning of the components (brakes, shifters and grips) that works for me. The rest of the bar is covered with rubber foam tubing for cushioning.

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As you can see, these handlebars give me many hand positions to avoid hand numbing.

Another change I made to my bike is the pedal stirrups. The purpose of having your feet attached to a bicycle is to divide the effort used to pedal yourself forward. When pedaling, you are pushing down and forward with each foot, one at a time. When a pedal attachment is added, you are able to pull up with one foot as the other is pushing down, therefore you are reducing the amount of pushing force necessary and using different muscles.

On my road bike, I have bike pedal clips which lock your shoes onto your pedals. The thought of having my feet locked on didn’t sound very appealing considering I’ll be going through various road conditions and pulling a little trailer. This is an example of a “clip.”

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The other type of stirrup that has been around forever has a strap that allows you to tighten or loosen the fit around your shoe. The challenge I experience with these stirrups is being able to pull my foot out quickly when need be.

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While researching pedals, I came upon the stirrups I ended up ordering for my bike. The concept sounded good so I had to try them…

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This type of stirrup allows you to position your foot forward to be able to pull your pedal up (as the other two types do as well), but without the straps I can easily pull my foot off the pedal. On my last training ride, I rode about 10 miles off road through the twisting and turning trails of the Santa Rosa Plateau and the stirrups worked great. Problem solved!

Thank you for following along as I prepare for my adventure. I’m trying to be as prepared as I can be, but life is full of surprises that we can’t always be prepared for. Today is the day my cousin is going to have an open heart surgery. He’s strong and healthy so there shouldn’t be any complications. Today is also the day a cycling friend will be having a hernia surgery. Situations like this are reasons why we should be following our dreams and pursuing our goals while we can. I could be wrong, but none of us are getting any younger and time cannot be replaced.

Please pray for my cousin and friend because positive enery is everything. Thanks again, and have a Wonderful Day!

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I had no idea skunks like fried chicken!

Hello Everyone!

As I’m gathering everything in preparation for my journey, my old friend Matt and his family are moving to Austin, TX. Matt asked me to list his house in Visalia, so I drove up there to take photos, sign contracts and see him one last time in California. A few years back, Matt, Marty (another long time friend) and I explored the twisty roads of California and the neighboring states on motorcycles over a period of 6 years. Each year we packed up our bikes and took off for a week to stay off the highways and pursue the “twisties” on our supersport crotchrockets. Our adventures came to an end as families were growing and their vacation time from work was needed to be spent time with their kids – as it should be. There are so many photos and memories from those adventures, but Matt’s “Running Man pose” was taken all over and will forever represent those good times.

It was nice seeing Matt and his family as they were getting everything ready for their own new adventure to Texas, where both of my sons currently live. Matt and I took the time to sneak away for a few hours to do some fishing in the nearby Sequoia National Forest. A beautiful area to explore and contemplate the roads ahead for all of us.

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Whether you are spiritual or superstitious, some things that occur in life cannot be anything other than a sign of good luck – like this butterfly that landed on my hand 3 times while we were fishing…

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After leaving Matt’s house, I had to swing by the Kern River for a little more fishing and to test my new tent, cot, sleeping bag and inflatable pillow that I will be using on my Alaska to Cabo ride.

Everything worked well. The two person tent gave me a little room to move around inside, the cot was firm, sleeping bag was comfortable and the inflatable pillow worked well after I let out some of the air to soften it up.

After setting up my sleeping quarters, I relaxed in my camping chair and played with my guitar as the sun sank behind the hills, while I enjoyed a glass of white wine and muched on some fried chicken that I picked up at a deli on the way up the river. The sky continued to darken and after a while I heard some rustling nearby. I looked down and there was something trying to get into the bag with the fried chicken right next to my chair. I couldn’t immediately tell what it was until it turned a little and I noticed the white stripe! Yes, a finger-licking-fried-chicken-loving skunk! I politely shoo’d him (or her) away as I didn’t want to test his self-protection skills. Ahhh… OK… back to my guitar and wine. Wouldn’t you know it, that little chump came back and tried to get in the bag again! Once again, I shoo’d him away, but this time I took the bag with the chicken and put it in my truck. Sorry I don’t have a photo, but I wasn’t thinking about capturing the moment at that time.

What I did think about after that experience, was the importance of not having food near my campsite in Alaska. Why? Bears. My research indicates that it’s more than wise to do all cooking at least 100 yards from a campsite, do not get food scents on your clothing, put all food in a bag and tie the bag high up in the trees at night. Maybe that little skunk was nature’s way of stressing the importance of those Alaskan back country survival rules.

Thank you for following me and for your comments! Have a Great Day and Memorial Weekend!

Getting My Act in Gear

Hello Everyone!

Training has continued for me in many forms. I’ve been going to the gym Monday through Friday and spending some quality time on the spin cycle to get my spin rhythm groove going. Although the spin cycle has many different settings, I’ve been consistently choosing the hill climbing setting. Endurance is one thing, but if you can’t climb hills, you’ll end up pushing your bike… up the hill.

The first time I rode the Rosarito to Ensenada 50 mile bike ride, I trained, and trained, and trained. That year, I rode a heavy mountain bike and made it up El Tigre (a hill that keeps you in 1st gear for 3 miles) and the 2nd hill which wasn’t much easier. My thoughts were that the back roads of Mexico would require a mountain bike, but 75% of the riders were on road bikes. The years after that, I rode my road bike and enjoyed the lightness and speed of half the bike weight.

One of the changes I made to my road bike was change the rear gear cassette, adding a larger 1st gear which made hill climbing easier on the knees. Yesterday morning, my bike ride goal was to climb one of the steepest hills around here that I’ve scaled on my road bike in the past. I wanted to see how my 29’r would do considering there will be a few hills and mountains on my coming adventure and I will be pulling a trailer. My 29’r currently has an 11-32 9-speed rear cartridge. I have noticed that first gear is pretty low and has taken me everywhere I needed to go while training… but long, steep, paved hill climbs had not been attempted.

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I picked the Santa Rosa Plateau for training once again as there are steep hills and little traffic early Sunday mornings. I crested the hill I had in mind and appreciated the stock gearing of my 29’r, but something tells me I will have greater challenges in Alaska, Canada and along PCH (Pacific Coast Highway). Considering these challenges ahead, I’m going to order an 11-36 gear cassette and climb this hill one more time.

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Overall, my testing was wonderful as the morning air was cool and the sun glistened through the blossoming poison oak along the trail…

 

 

Other good news is that my adventure will officially begin July 21st. I have my ONE WAY ticket to Anchorage, Alaska. No turning back now!

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