FAQ - The No Tear Tier - CycleBlaze

FAQ

frequently asked questions

"Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I'll spend the first four sharpening the axe."
          -  Abraham Lincoln  -

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These are questions I get asked frequently. Most of them are the same questions I got asked last year (and the year before that, and the year before that), so some of this may be repetitive for those of you who read my 2007 blog.

Q: You're going WHERE?
A: From San Diego, CA, to St. Augustine, FL.

Q: How far is it?
A: A couple of hundred miles. Right? It IS isn't it?
A: Around 3100 miles.

Q: On THAT?
A: Yes. 

Q: Are you camping?
A: Yes, I have a tent and a sleeping bag, and will be camping. I'll also stay in some motels. On my first trip, in the summer of 1982, I pedaled about 3,000 miles and only stayed in a motel twice. Now that I'm getting older (and will have a paying job upon my return), I tend to cough up the money a bit more frequently, though I frequently regret it when I do. I lie in the bed thinking that I could be sleeping in my tent outside under the stars.

Q: What if your bike has a flat?
A: I have a patch kit and can fix it. I carry a small tire pump which will allow me to pump it back up on the side of the road if necessary. I also carry a spare tube and a spare tire, just in case I'm unable to repair either one of them.

Q: What if your bike breaks down?
A: I also carry other tools, and can even changed out a broken spoke. I carry spare spokes in my seat tube inside my bike. A bike is a fairly simple thing, like me, and isn't that difficult to figure it out.

Q: How heavy is all the stuff you carry?
A: Last year, I weighed all my gear just before I left. All totaled, it weighed 35.0 pounds. This year I'll probably be carrying a few extra pounds since it's a longer trip.

Q: How many miles do you average in a day?
A: Around 60. That may seem like a lot, but consider this... there are 24 hours in a day. Let's say you sleep 9 hours (does anyone?). That leaves 15 hours. An hour each for breakfast, lunch, and dinner leaves 12 hours. An hour to set up camp and an hour to break camp, and you're down to 10 hours. Ten hours left to do nothing but pedal. If you ride an hour, take an hour break, ride an hour, etc., that's five hours of riding (NO one would take that long of a break that frequently). If you travel a mere 10 miles an hour, that's FIFTY miles you've ridden. Take away two hours of your five hours of break time and you've gone 70 miles in a day. I'm not a super athlete. It's just a matter of sitting on the bike and pedaling.

Q: What's the farthest you've ever gone?
A: On a single trip, the 1982 trip was my longest (about 3,200 miles). In a single day, 138 miles on July 4th, 1991. I had a nice tailwind that day, so it wasn't all me. The longest I've traveled without a tailwind (and, in fact, I had a headwind for the last 30 miles) is 117.

Q: What was your shortest day?
A: (no one ever really asks this, but I thought if I tell you my longest I could also tell you my shortest) 8 miles. In 1982, while pedaling through northern Kentucky, I got a really late start (a different story), around 2PM. After a mere 8 miles, I passed 4 people sitting out on their wraparound front porch, enjoying the afternoon. They saw me riding by and, after a second's hesitation, began to yell at me, "Hey, Stop!! Come'on up here! We've got beer! We've got pork chops! We've got ice cold lemonade! Come here!!" I stopped, and spent the rest of the afternoon and evening on their front porch enjoying their hospitality. 

Q: What if it rains?
A: I stop riding until it stops. (sense enough to come in out of the rain?) It's pretty unusual for it to rain all day for several days. If it rains in the summer (at least where I ride), it's generally just an afternoon shower. It'll rain for 30-60 minutes, then stop. I take cover until it passes, then start riding again. Once, just for the heck of it, I decided to put on my rain gear (a non-waterproof windbreaker) and pedal. My day's destination was only about 8 miles away. It was an odd sensation because with each passing yard under my wheel, everything got heavier and heavier as it became saturated with water (this was also on my first trip in 1982). I just bought new pannier bags a couple of weeks ago and am very excited about them - you're supposed to be able to submerge them in water without anything inside getting wet.

Q: Aren’t you worried about…. (someone hitting you with their car, someone robbing you, lions/tigers/bears)?
A: No. In fact, every time I take a bike trip my faith in humanity is renewed. It's amazing how generous and kind people are. Maybe it's because I'm on a bike (what am I going to do? ride off with their TV?), or maybe it's because of my boyish charm (Heather claims that’s a hard No), but everywhere I go people open their arms to help me out. I've been sitting outside a convenience store in Indiana when the bread delivery guy walked by and said, "Hey, you want a loaf of bread?" I just strapped it to my bike and ate it with some peanut butter and honey I bought. I've been in the middle of West Texas when a hailstorm was only minutes away when an old farmer pulled up in his battered pickup truck and told me to take cover in an abandoned house. I was safe inside the abandoned house when the hail hit. I've asked where a good place to camp is and, repeatedly, people have said, "Right here in our yard!" And later, "Why don't you just come inside and have supper with us? We have plenty." And eventually, “We have an extra bedroom. Why bother pitching that tent?” Repeatedly.

Q: What do you eat?
A: Roadkill, mostly. It's really not that bad if you season it right.

Q: What do you REALLY eat?
A: I don't take a stove. (I'm on vacation!) When I arrive in a town, I usually ask the first person I see where the best place to eat is. The locals generally know, but sometimes the towns are so small that there’s only one place.

Q: How do you decide where to go?
A: It depends on the trip. Sometimes I just buy a map as I enter a state and pick a route at that time. I always travel on the smaller back roads through the rural areas. On other trips (like this one), I purchase maps from Adventure Cycling Association. They have excellent maps that tell you what size the next town is, what services it offers (camping, motels, cafes, libraries, emergency services) as well as addresses and phone numbers for each. They also have historical information about each area. The routes have been selected for their safe roads/wide shoulders, scenic beauty, and historical significance. I've been impressed every time I've used one of their maps.

Q: Have you done this before?
A: Yes. Here is a list of my trips:

1) 1982 Waco to Houston - My first trip was in 1982, when I rode from Waco, TX, over to New Mexico, then up to Denver, then east across Kansas. I dipped into Oklahoma, just to add another state to the tally, then traveled northeast to St. Louis where I stayed with some friends for 5 days. When I restarted I continued east across the southern tips of Indiana and Illinois, then turned south through Kentucky and Tennessee. I stayed with another friend in northeastern Alabama for 4 days, then turned west and pedaled across Mississippi and Louisiana, ultimately finishing my trip in the Houston suburb where I grew up.

2) 1988 Burlington to Baltimore - I flew into Burlington, VT, then took a ferry across Lake Champlain. From there I traveled south through upstate New York (the Finger Lakes, Lake Placid, etc.), across Pennsylvania (the Amish county of Lancaster, which includes Intercourse, PA), and finished in a suburb of Baltimore.

3) 1989 Houston to Tulsa - On this one, I traveled with Rob and Rich when they were 12 and 10, respectively. They were great traveling companions. The most memorable thing about this trip, besides the guy we met who claims he actually saw a UFO, was the heat.... I don't think it ever dipped below 90, even at night.

4) 1990 Lexington to Glasgow - I flew to the Lexington, KY, airport and assembled my bike, then took a 4-day trip across Kentucky, ending in Glasgow. I stayed overnight with someone I had met on my first trip.

5) 1991 Portland to Pueblo - Certainly one of my favorite trips, I started in Portland, OR, then pedaled east across Oregon and Idaho to Missoula, Montana, then south through Wyoming and Colorado. My route included part of Yellowstone Park, and I finished in Pueblo.

6) 1994 Atlanta to Virginia - I started from the airport in Atlanta, Georgia, then pedaled east. I stopped a couple of days in Augusta where my younger sister, Wanda, was living. From there I continued east until I hit the coast then traveled along the coastline, including the Outer Banks and Kitty Hawk, until I crossed into Virginia.

7) 1999 Steamboat Springs to Orem - This is the only trip I didn't enjoy. I started in Steamboat Springs because it's 1,958 feet higher in elevation than Orem.... downhill, right? Those were the worst few days of riding I've ever experienced. The wind was "unusually strong" that week, according to the weather reporters, and it was blowing from the west. I've become a fair judge of wind speed, and I would say it was blowing from 22 to 25 mph each day. Although fairly calm in the mornings, by 11:00 it was substantial. I began waking up earlier and earlier each day... not my idea of a vacation, and by the third day of pedaling hard to get nowhere I realized I wasn't having much fun. I even had to pedal downhill!  SO, I took another trip that year....

8) 1999 Knox City to Rocky - This was a short, three-day trip, I took with Heather. We started in Knox City, TX, where I was living at the time. On the day of our scheduled departure, I walked outside, checked which way the wind was blowing, then started pedaling with it. Since it was blowing from the south southwest, we traveled north northeast. Three days later, we were in Rocky, Oklahoma.

9) 2000 Logan to Soda Springs - This was a short trip through the beautiful mountains in Utah and Idaho.

10) 2001 Rocky to Lincoln - I picked up where I left off from my 1999 trip and continued on through Oklahoma, across Kansas, and to Lincoln, Nebraska. I had a tailwind on this trip for most of the way and averaged over 100 miles a day. It really wasn't me, though - it was the wind. I could've put my feet up on the handlebars and leaned back and still made it. Well, almost.

11) 2004 San Francisco to San Diego - I traveled with my sister, Wanda, on this trip. We used the Adventure Cycling Association maps and stayed mostly on the Pacific Coastal Highway except where it routed us elsewhere because it was too dangerous for bikes. It was a gorgeous trip, and Wanda did exceptionally well. 

12) 2007 Seattle, WA, to Shelby, MT - This was an amazing trip, one of my favorites. (It's hard to pick a real favorite trip - they're just different. It would be like picking a favorite child) If you're interested in reading about this trip, click here. It's the first posting of the blog.  

13) I've taken shorter trips here and there over the years, two and three day trips.

Q: What do you do when you come to the mountains?
A: Pedal. I don't mind the mountains. You go up, you get to go back down. It's the wind that's demoralizing.

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Comment on this entry Comment 1
George Hall"It's the wind that's demoralizing." Yeah, I'm with you on this one. My hardest day ever was due to an unexpectedly strong wind encountered in the long valleys north of Rawlings, Wyoming. I'll take a steep hill climb any day over the Wyoming wind. I'm still scared of the Wyoming wind - the thought of it gives me nightmares - it's a killer wind. But it would be a good death, a warrior's death battling against a monster Wyoming wind. Someday...
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