The Journey

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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The Countdown begins…

Hello Everyone!

With only 16 days left until I fly to Anchorage, I’m gathering the little necessities I may or may not need. Items such as a spare chain, spare brake pads and spare tire tubes for my bike and trailer. One of my concerns when I’m traveling any distance, is a flat tire. A flat will create a delay at the absolute worst time. To avoid a flat as much as possible, I ordered new road tires with a tread pattern that will offer traction and be long lasting. Having 29″ tires, the selection isn’t very large these days, but I did come upon a promising set of Surly Extraterrestrials. We’ll see how they do as the miles roll by.

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Another product I will be adding to both my bike and my trailer (to hopefully prevent flats) will be tire liners. These are thin plastic pieces that go between the tires and the tubes. I’ll take pics while installing the tires.

Other items were delivered recently, such as lights for the front and back of my bike, a mirror that attaches to my helmet and the rear sprocket set that I made reference to in my last entry.

Today was a great day for other trip details to fall into place. I made a few calls and found something of little value, but critical for the trip to occur… an empty bike box! Ryan at Bicycle Warehouse in Temecula had one available and put it aside for me. Great customer service there!

Few people ever read the complete luggage section on airline websites, but airlines do allow bicycles to be transported as sporting goods as long as they are boxed.  I will have to remove my tires and handlebars, as well as lower the seat post and partially deflate the tires. Then, I’m going to duct tape that box so nothing gets out!

Another correspondence today was a phone call from my favorite daughter’s boyfriend’s dad’s sister! Did you get that? lol. Maureen called me from Anchorage after talking with her brother Mark who told her of my adventure. She offered a room in her home for me to get a good night’s sleep, put my bike together and begin my journey. Having lived in Alaska for 27 years, I’m sure she’ll have much knowledge to share with me. How wonderful is that? Thank you Trina, Garrit, Mark and Maureen!

Another thank you goes out to my brother Greg who will be driving me to the Long Beach airport. Of course we’ll have to stop at Jim’s Burgers in Pico Rivera for a world famous pastrami sandwich!

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This journey is going to be Amazing! images (4)

Power Hungry

Good Morning Everyone!

As you all know, technology can be an amazing contribution to our lives and at the same time, be a royal pain in the ass. Although I will be on my bicycle for a long period of time, I will not be completely off the grid. My electronic devices will keep me plugged it. I gathered all of the items I will be taking me on my journey and photographed everything, everything except for my phone which was needed to take the photo.

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I enjoy the functions of all of these luxuries, but I will not have the luxury of plugging them into to cigarette lighter of a vehicle or into the wall of a building. Fortunately, technology includes power packs and solar chargers, all using USB cords. Let me give you a quick run down of the items that will be traveling with me…

My Nikon D5200 camera speaks for itself. Along with my camera comes 2 extra battery packs, 2 extra memory cards, a 110/12 volt battery charger and a telephoto lens (not in photo).

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Also along for the ride is a Samsung Notepad which is approximately 5″x 8.5″ and a bluetooth keyboard of the same size to make typing easier. Both have permanent batteries, but can be charged with 110 volts or 12 volts. They are much easier to travel with than a laptop when size and weight are important.

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Next on the list is my Ipod. Yes, this Ipod Mini is an antique, but I’ve kept it for the very good reason that I found an Ijet remote control setup that only works with this model. The reason is, the headphone socket is on the top of the Mini rather than next to the charging port as newer models are. The Ijet is a wonderful tool for my out of the ordinary modes of transportation. I’ve used this on motorcycle adventures and long bike rides. Having the remote velcro’d onto the handlebars allows me to not be “wired” to my vehicle. The Ipod can be in my jacket pocket with headphones plugged in and yet I am able to control play, pause, volume, previous and next song. It’s a wonderful toy!

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As I mentioned, all of the above items need power. When the batteries die and you are in the middle of nowhere, that can be a problem. Battery packs are saviors in situations like that. I think I will only need these two small ones for this adventure. Both will recharge my phone, notepad, keyboard and Ipod.

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Having battery packs is great, but even they need power. Fortunately, solar power has come a long way in size reduction / power capability. These two units will be strategically placed to be able to recharge themselves, the battery packs and/or my phone, notepad, keyboard and Ipod directly. They both have their own power storage as well, so all in all, I will have 4 battery packs available. The larger one at the top of the pic below is also a flashlight and has a hand crank on the side to be able to use the light at night.

Well, that sums up my need for power. Theoretically, this setup should suffice but the testing ground will be on the road between Anchorage, Alaska and Cabo San Lucas Mexico! Viva la power!

If you have not read my home page yet, explaining how and why I’m riding my bicycle thousands of miles, go to: http://www.AKtoCabo.com

Have a Great Day!

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Rubber to Road

Hello All!

As I previously mentioned, I really don’t want to get any flat tires on my journey, so I took as many precautions as possible… other than installing hard solid rubber tires. Somehow that doesn’t seem like a comfortable option. As far as my little trailer, I installed a tire liner that creates a barrier between the tire and tube. I also added a Slime filled self-sealing tube. Considering the length of the liner which went around the inside of the tire twice, I think it’s going to take a bullet to put a hole in that tire!

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My bike has been fitted with new road tires along with tire liners. Quite a makeover from mountain bike tires.

 

One of the other important factors of bike touring is storage. Wearing a backpack can put a lot of pressure on your lower back as well as make you feel hot and sweat more. Since I’ve began preparing, I’ve found various bags that mount on different areas of my bike.

 

The top left photo is an under seat bag which contains tools, a tube patch kit and extra tubes. Behind that is a collapsible bag which has a plastic liner and can double as a small ice chest for emergency cold beers. The top right photo shows the red frame bag which will hold a water bladder usually found in a backpack to sip water from. There is more room for who knows what. Below that photo is the handlebar bag with one large area and two smaller side pockets. I’m not sure what I’ll put in there, but most likely it will be items that I’ll want conveniently located. The lower left photo is a small saddle bag which has a to area for a phone or Ipod and two side pockets for my phone and snacks.

As I finish gathering everything I’ll need for my adventure, I know I’ll have to eliminate some items already. I have a bad habit of taking more than I really need on trips, but considering I’ll have to pull the weight while I pedal, less is more.

A couple of recent purchases will be extremely important for this particular journey… a water purification kit and bear spray! I did some research on water purification kits but found it to be easier to ask my brother Greg who has one and uses it as often as he can. The bear spray… well, that’s a necessity when camping in the middle of nowhere in Alaska. Hopefully I won’t have to use it, but if I do he’s going to get both barrels!

Thank you for following along as I prepare for this adventure. I do like to be as prepared as possible, although I know life is full of surprises and those are what memories are made of! One week until take off! Hopefully I get some free peanuts on the plane!

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Last Call

Good Morning All!

Today was my last test ride. I had to make sure the gears were shifting smoothly with the new gear cartridge installed, make sure the tires were round and pressured correctly, and pull my little trailer up the steep hill I’ve been testing on. As the coming week approaches, I’ll be disassembling my bike and stuffing the parts in a box, as well as putting the trailer and gear in another large box. I have the baggage size requirements available, so I’ll be modifying box sizes to keep everyone happy.

The first thing I discovered this morning was the chain was too short for the new larger rear gears. I had to add 4 links to the chain to compensate and then adjust the derailer to make sure the shifting was precise. The new gears felt good as I pedaled up the hill, but then again, my trailer was empty. I’ve come to accept there may be hill or two on my journey that I will have to walk my bike up because of the incline, but I’m ok with that. I’m not out to conquer the world. I’ll be off to explore it and overcome the challenges that come my way.

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The tires felt good being larger than the original tires on my bike, but the rear tire was rubbing on the frame a little, so I’m going to have to get out my Dremmel to make some custom adjustments to the axle mounting area. MacGyverism at it’s finest!

Another item being tested today was my foot gear. I’ve heard and read that socks and shoes are good for a while, but as our bodies heat up, so do our feet. This will result in sweaty, aching feet which can cause Athlete’s Foot. Avoiding that and the fragrant smell of well worn socks at the end of the day in a small tent sounds like a good idea to me. My friend Lee, who was one of the cyclists I met in Mulege, Mexico recommended closed toe sandals to avoid these issues, so today was the day to test a pair I selected. Having always ridden bikes with shoes and socks, today’s ride was different and very nice. No hot sweaty feet… no aromatic socks at the end of the ride. I look forward to many miles of pedaling ahead and interesting tan lines with these comfortable sandals.

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Yesterday, I gathered almost all of the items I’ve been putting aside for this adventure – something I’ve been dreading. I already knew that I would have to start eliminating things that weren’t important enough to occupy the room and weight necessary. One thing that didn’t make the cut was my gold pan kit… but I’m still thinking about taking it. It could double as a wash basin and/or a salad bowl!

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Today I’ll finish selecting the “Survival of the Fittest” items and attempt to fit everything somewhere on my bike and trailer. This minimalism traveling sure does make me think about what is and what isn’t important enough to take with me. I have to keep reminding myself that water and a little food will be accompanying me as well.

My son Jonathon told me that he discussed my trip with some of his friends, and the one question he heard a few times was, “Why?” The funny thing is, that is my favorite question! Why? Why? Why? Well… I’m fortunate enough to have a window of time in my life in which I believe I am healthy enough to do this, my kids are off on their own, it’s too damn hot to do anything in Southern California right now, my ex-wife and daughter-in-law thinks I’m a little crazy anyway and so my grandsons Parker and Grayson will have something to tell their friends about when they get older. I’ve always said, “Life’s an Adventure and I want my money’s worth!” so off I will roll with my Guardian Angels watching over me and my Tibetan Prayer Flags attached to the trailer’s flag pole blowing in the wind behind me.

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Thank you for following my journey! I look forward to sharing this with you, however crazy it seems! 🙂

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