UGRR Resumes!: Introductions, Logistics, Equipment - Underground Railroad Route (Northern Half) - CycleBlaze

June 5, 2011

UGRR Resumes!: Introductions, Logistics, Equipment

My wife and I (Rhona and Dave), completed the southern half of the Adventure Cycling Underground Railroad Route in 2010. The original plan was to start in Mobile Alabama and tour north to Milford Ohio. The plan did not take into account that we would be arriving in the Louisville area at same time as an annual local event(The Kentucky Derby). We learned about the Derby when we arrived at Corydon, Indiana (southwest of Louisville) and hotel rooms were scarce and expensive. To make matters worse, heavy rains were forecast throughout the weekend. Our decision to end the tour early proved to be a wise one as flooding throughout the area was extensive. Cycling on through the Ohio River basin would have been problematic.

This year, the plan was to resume the tour at Corydon at the beginning of May. I was unexpectedly called out of retirement back to work for a month and a half and the starting date was posponed until June 5. Throughout the month of May we watched news accounts of violent storms and flooding conditions throughout Kentucky and Ohio. I recall one day Kentucky listed 160 roads closed because of floods. It looked like the delayed start was fortunate, although Rhona worried that high temperatures were going to prove to be a problem.

Logistics for a bicycle tour that starts in one location and ends in another location (in this case another country) can be complicated. In this case, I almost had to draw a diagram to make sure I didn't end up somewhere with one too many vehicles for the number of drivers, or even worse ending the tour without a way home.

Here's what "Plan G" (the final plan) involved.

1. Memorial Day Weekend Sunday- Drive Toyota Corolla pulling a utility trailer with a motorcycle loaded to Rhona's uncle home in Cambridge Ontario. Leave a bicycle rack in the trunk. Leave Trailer.

2. Memorial Day Weekend Monday -Ride motorcycle home to Keyser, WV (First experience with 95 degree heat for the year)

3. Ride motorcycle to work all week.

4. Sunday June 5 -Drive Equinox with tandem on to Super 8 in Corydon, Indiana to stay overnight. Make arrangements to leave the Equinox in the corner of the parking lot. Leave a bicycle rack in the trunk.

5. Cycle to Owen Sound Ontario

6. Rhona's Uncle and Aunt met us in Owen Sound in the Corolla with a bicycle rack on the back. Loaded the tandem on the Corolla and drove to Cambridge Ontario.

7. Drive the Corolla pulling the utility trailer to Corydon, Indiana to pick up the Equinox. Bicycle rack in the trunk

8. Drive the Equinox and Corolla pulling the trailer to Keyser, WV.


We decided we would not camp on this trip, so we didn't pack the tent, pads or sleeping bags. This saved us having to ship our camping gear home as we seem to do on many of our tours after we decide we can find enough noncamping accomodations. Last year we were able to cram all of our gear into panniers, a front handlebar bag, one seat bag and a bag on top of the rear rack. Most mornings started with a struggle to stuff everything into the panniers/bags and heaven forbid we should buy something during the day's ride. Also, with much of the weight high on the rear rack, the handling of our Cannondale tandem was sluggish, especially when crossing the deep rumble strips that were so popular in the south. This year, we decided to pull our B.O.B. trailer which we hadn't used on a tour since an abbreviated attempt on the Adventure Cycling Continental Divide several years ago. This time, we went ahead and purchased (using Christamas Gift money from my Mother and Father) the B.O.B. bag that was designed for the trailer. Great decision!

Rhona realized that the B.O.B. bag could also serve as a portable bathtub!
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No longer did we have to struggle to stuff everything into panniers. We did still pack items in ziplock bags to keep dirty items from soiling other things but in the morning, we literally dropped the plastic bags into the B.O.B. bag with little rhyme or reason. The B.O.B. trailer removed most of the weight from the tandem frame and placed it much lower to the ground. In most respects I was unable to detect the presence of the trailer while riding and in motion. However, parking the 12 foot long tandem/B.O.B. trailer was more of a hassle than parking a tandem with only panniers. In addition to having to find a longer parking area, the lack of a kick stand meant we had to take special care that the front wheel (of the tandem leaning against a wall) did not turn to the left and crash to the ground. Rhona learned to lift up on the trailer while I lifted on the rear wheel to move the tandem parallel to a stationery object. Many times I was not able to just steer the bike to a parking spot.

12 ft. of Cannondale Tandem and B.O.B. trailer at the Super 8 in Corydon, IN. Note the addition of the West Virginia University pennant on the back of the trailer. We hoped the WVU pennant would make us more visible as well as indicate our home. I would have preferred an Adventure Cycling Underground Railroad Route pennant, but they don't sell one.
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We made one other signficant equipment change that the bicycle tour equipment geeks among us may find of interest. The tandem has 26 in. wheels which limits touring tire selections. On this tour, we rode on Schwalbe Marathon Plus 26 x 1.35 in. tires (along with tubes) which we had to purchase directly from the Schwalbe website. After 14 years, I've finally found the perfect tire for the tandem! While researching this purchase on forums, two concerns surfaced. Some cyclists noted that they were heavy and difficult to get on and off the wheel. I had no problems mounting the tires on my wheels (other wheels may be more difficult). The tires are heavier than the Panasonics I took off, but seemed to actually roll better on the road, perhaps because of the stiffer sidewalls. Regardless, because of their reputation I didn't take a spare tire along (which saved a little weight and space) and stopped even worrying about punctures, even when riding through the debris alongside of the pavement. In fact, I never had to even add any air pressure during the entire tour.

The clerk at the Corydon Super 8 obtained permission from her manager to allow us to park our Equinox at the corner of their front parking lot for the 3-4 weeks we expected to be on tour. We promised to stay another night when we returned although she did not request us to. The price for a weeknight stay this time was only $63, much more reasonable than the $200+ during Kentucky Derby weekend.

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