I’ve got the right bicycle, it’s strong and fast and I know how to keep it happy. I’ve got what I’ll need to eat, sleep, and to stay relatively dry. I’ve got the bus ticket that will take me 1000km from home and leave me with only my bike to return on. I’ve got maps, calendars, timetables, and backup plans. I know what things I’m going to bring on tour.
What I don’t know is what kind of physical and mental shape I am in. A lot of my reason for wanting to tour alone is to explore these limits. I know I can ride a metric century in a day, but I don’t know if I can do it day after day for a week and a half. For the most part my knee is pretty quiet, but after a few hours climbing in drizzle it can get pretty stiff. I don’t know how it will feel after crossing mountains in the rainy season.
What I do know is that this trip is going to teach me a lot about the inside of my skull. It’s going to kill my legs and then build them up again. It’s going to test my patience and my emotional discipline. It’s going to warp my proprioception to the point that any motion but pedaling feels off.
I’m trying to figure out why I am so anxious about touring, but all my reasons for being nervous sound disproportionately serious upon reading them back to myself.
More than anything I am excited. I am thrilled by the idea of waking up and having nothing to do but ride my bike, and ride my bike, and ride my bike. I will be fine.
It’s raining right now, and the sound is growing more comfortable.
Things are coming together, in a way. I leave on my tour in 18 days, and I’m trying to get myself both mentally and physically equipped. I’m fortunate enough to have some really good gear lent to me, including a set of large Jandd panniers, a nice down sleeping bag, and a lightweight stove. But right now I’m looking at the rest of items on my list that I haven’t procured yet, maps for instance. So tonight I did a bit of research into my route.
I’m first going to be traveling West from Portland to the Pacific coast, and I’ll cross the Oregon Coastal Range in my first 70 miles. Made up of many small hills, my route will accumulate about 4,600 feet in climbing before I get to the ocean. Once I make it to the shore I can follow a pretty flat and well traveled route all the way South and into Northern California.
Over the border I’ll head East relatively soon, with 140 miles of mountain roads ahead of me. At the junction of Interstate 101 and CA-299 I’ll turn East and enter the Klamath Mountains, and this is where it gets kind of intimidating.
Instead of many smaller hills with restful descents in between, the first two major hills are black and white: all climbing, or all descending. Starting at about 100’ above sea level, I’m going to climb to 2,300’, descend to 1,000’, climb to 2,800’, and then descend down to just above 600’ at Willow Creek. This is all in less than 40 miles. This is madness. This is only the beginning of madness.
Then there’s the 1,800’ more of climbing in the 23 miles between Willow Creek and Del Loma, after which it gets relatively flat for 25 miles or so. Right around Weaverville and Douglas City the road swings skyward again, climbing 1,900’ in the shadows of the Sawtooth Mountains. After a short drop back down I’ll begin my final ascent, climbing about 3,200’ in 20 miles to straddle the Trinity/Shasta county line. When I get into Shasta I’ll immediately descend toward Redding, and back into the blessedly flat central valley.
This last section of my tour —from the coast to the valley— would take less than three hours to drive. I’m hoping I can make it in three days.
I don’t really know what kind of weather to expect on my tour. Almanacs tell me that the Oregon coast usually experiences lows in the high thirties and highs in the fifties during March, which is pretty ideal for riding. Though it will be the tail end of the rainy season, I’ve heard accounts of near-constant downpour from some people while others speak of a clear entrance to Spring. To avoid the embarrassment that would come with drowning, I’ve decided to err on the side of precipitation.
I went for a wet ride this afternoon tested some of my rain gear. Turns out my current rain jacket is only waterproof in theory. After a few hours of rain the shoulder seams began leaking through, and the front zipper demarcated a small river that soaked through to my chest. I’m looking to upgrade to something a little better sealed, and hopefully in something a bit more visible than black and dark green.
My cycling shoes are about as water proof as an open paper bag, but a pair of wool socks underneath kept my toes warm and functional. Feet can get pretty miserable if they’re left to soak for a few days though, so I think I’m going to get some waterproof booties to pull over my shoes.
Nylon/spandex shorts and leg warmers were similarly warm despite readily soaking through, but I think the Burley rain pants I’ve already got will do well in combination with a pair of wool knickers.
I’m spending more than I though I would in getting ready for this trip, but I know it would be so much more expensive if I didn’t work at a bike shop. I guess I’ll just have to go on more bike tours to make it all worthwhile.
I bought some parts today: an XT m770 rear hub, a set of DT tk7.1 rims, six or seven hundred spokes (not all for me), some 8 speed barcons, and nice German-made fenders (since the Oregon coast in March might be a little wet). Should be able to have the touring bike re-assembled with a new wheelset by the end of the week.
Steve said I could borrow his Jandd large mountain panniers, which is super excellent. I’ve got some woolen goods on the way from the folks at Rivendell.
On Wednesday I’m going to go look at some tents. THIS IS HAPPENING TO ME.
I’m not sure when I started, maybe this time last year or over the summer, but I’ve been making threats against myself.
“Have you ever gone on a bike tour Jono?”
“No, but I’m going on one next Spring.”
It occurred to me today that “next Spring” means my Spring break, and that’s only one month away.
From Portland, OR I’ll ride down the Pacific coastline and back to Chico, nearly 650 miles.* Spring break gives me a week off from classes, and I’m alright with taking another week off as well, but I think I can swing the whole trip in nine or ten days.
Between now and then I need to prepare: I need to put my bike together (again), I need maps and a sleeping bag and more, and I need to find out if anyone is fool enough to ride with me. I need to read up and tone down and so much else.
I’ve never done anything like this before, and to be honest I’m not sure if it’s a terrible idea or not. I am resolute though, I am going to go on tour.
* Though 1,000 kilometers is a much nicer round number.
In the first my hair has grown too long. I look in the mirror and it’s at least twice as long as I thought it was. “Maybe I just haven’t looked in the mirror in a while?” I say to my friends. “We’re worried about you Jono.”
In the second I am writing one of those 25 Things You Didn’t Know About Me list memes that have been making their way across various social networks. All I can think of are foods I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve never tasted. Again, friends are concerned for my well being having never eaten broccoli or bacon.
In the third dream I am trying to leave my apartment. Whenever I reach for the door I realize I’ve forgotten some small item and turn around to retrieve it. I’ve forgotten my shoes, the laces of which are terminally knotted, or I’ve misplaced the watch I don’t own and have such trouble finding.
I haven’t gone for a real bike ride in a few weeks, wish I had the time to do so.
I am still coughing like a cheap lawn-mower set to rabbit. I should be sleeping more, and drinking more OJ.
I am supposed to be taking Wednesdays off from work to give myself one other day besides Sunday to rest and ride and rehearse and relax. Last week I spent a few hours at Paul’s shop, and this coming Wednesday I’m covering for Steve at Pullins. I can’t wait for my next day off.
I’ve got a valentine, and I’m making something nice for them. Something that will perforate their heart.
I bought a ticket to see Modest Mouse when they come to town next week. I’ve loved them since high school, and I can’t even remember the last big act I’ve seen live. About $40 for a ticket doesn’t seem like too much considering how many of their albums I’ve stolen. I hope they play weird older songs, and I hope they are incredibly loud.
I might try to start a band with my neighbor, I really miss being in a band.
I’m going to go to bed now so that when I wake up I’m not tired, at least that’s the plan.
And last, tangentially, Heidi Swift reminds me that suffering should at least be interesting to read about.
Dear Blog, It’s been nearly a week and a half since I’ve written you, and that’s okay. I’ve been relatively busy.
I’m back in school and taking a very light load this semester. Some basic trigonometry, a General Ed. english class on the topic of ‘academic writing’, and an introductory mechanical engineering course on technical drawing. Next Fall is when I’ll swing back into being a full-time student, and begin in earnest the Mechanical Engineering program.
I’m still working two jobs, wrenching at Pullins Cyclery and doing assembly work for Paul Components. I get a lot of satisfaction from both jobs, but it sucks to have to split my time between them. Even when I work a six day week (which I try to avoid now that I’m back in school) I feel as though I ought to be working more at both jobs. This is made worse by the fact that the spring season is getting closer and business is picking up.
Something I’ve come to realize about my work ethic is that I behave as if the business I work for was my own. I can become very sensitive to the ups and downs of my job and I let this affect me in a pretty strong way. This is both good and bad. In one sense it makes me take a critical look at my own efforts on the job, and I try to find ways to become a better employee. But at the same time I allow myself to become stressed out by decisions that aren’t mine to make and circumstances that are not my own.
For example: We’re short staffed at Pullins right now, and we’re looking for someone to help with sales and service. Having lost two employees in the last few months, we’re down to just three. Since going back to school I’ve also cut my hours from three days a week to just a day and a half, and part of me feels like it’s my responsibility to find a replacement.
Ultimately though, that’s not part of my job. If I need to work less in order to make enough time for school, then I should be able to do so without feeling guilty about working less. I also don’t need to vet each applicant. I should give my opinion if I don’t think they’re qualified, but the onus isn’t on me if they turn out to be incompetent.
I hope to work for myself someday.
In addition to the recent stresses of school and work, I worry I might be getting sick. I really ought to get more sleep.
No I haven’t recorded any music in a few weeks, though I have been writing some stuff I like. Hope to get back to the mic soon.