Expedition 2016: T minus 45 days and counting

Once again, we are planning a self-supported bicycle tour.  When we told our son our plan, he said, “I know that people do that ride, but in their 70s?”  We said, “Yes, they do.”  Well, we know of at least one who did, this ride, and more, at 70.  “That ride” is the Atlantic Coast Route.  We’ve done the Fort Lauderdale to Key West (actually, only to Marathon) part of the route before, so we are starting at our niece’s house in Orlando and heading north, angling out to the coast north of Daytona Beach.  This cuts the north-bound part of the route from  4200km to a mere 3400km.  But, we added a 2000km west-bound leg to make the trip more worthwhile.

A tentative bicycle travel plan--from Muskegon, we'll take the ferry to Milwaukee, but Google knows the ferry isn't running in February, so won't route us that way.
A tentative bicycle travel plan–from Muskegon, we’ll take the ferry to Milwaukee, but Google knows the ferry isn’t running in February, so won’t route us that way.

Our route will take us up to the St. John’s River, the border between Florida and Georgia, then inland to U.S. 17, which we will follow or closely parallel through Savannah and Charleston, then to the Outer Banks; Okracoke, Hatteras, and Kitty Hawk, before heading inland to Williamsburg, Richmond, and Washington, DC.  Should we have built up enough stamina by then to tackle the hills, we will continue up through Amish country, Philadelphia, Delaware Water Gap, Poughkeepsie, and across northern Connecticut, nipping a tiny corner of northwest Rhode Island into Massachusetts, then back out to the coast at Portsmouth, New Hampshire and skirting the inlets of the Maine coast to Bar Harbor.

If we are still game for more riding, we will turn west, heading over the mountains into Canada, visiting Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto before crossing back into the U.S. at Port Huron, across Michigan to Muskegon, ferry  to Milwaukee, then ride on to Madison, for a total trip of about 5000 km (3000 miles). We plan to visit relatives in the Midwest, probably by rental car, then by train home, perhaps with a stopover in North Dakota. We could be gone as long as four months, mid-March through mid-July, traveling at 50-80 km per day, six days a week.  Or, we could decide we’ve had enough fun a few hundred kilometers down the road and be home much sooner.  At our age, we’ve learned to be flexible in our planning.

At this stage, six weeks out from the start of the bicycle phase but only a month before departure by air and rental car to visit family in the Southwest on the way to Florida, we have a lot of planning to do: pouring over the maps and using Google Street View to check for shoulders on busy highways and bridges; checking on campgrounds, Warm Showers hosts, and motels, etc.  We’ve been reading other tourists’ blogs along the route to get an idea of facilities, traffic, roads, and trails.  We plan to deviate some from the Adventure Cycling Association maps, which take a more inland route through the Carolinas and Georgia to avoid busy roads and long bridges.  But, that route necessitates 100-km out and back excursions  to Savannah and Charleston, both of which are on our “must see” list.  The coastal route is a designated Georgia bike route, but rider reports show there are few actual bicycle lanes or even wide shoulders and  the off-road trails are mostly unimproved: our bike doesn’t do well with sand and gravel.

Fitting the camping gear into our trailer--it takes up more than one case...
Fitting the camping gear into our trailer–it takes up more than one case…

We’ve rounded out our supplies for the trip, with a new sleeping bag system, new GPS with maps, auxiliary battery packs to keep the GPS and phones charged, spare parts, tires, and tubes for the bike.  The proliferation of electronics marks the biggest change (other than being 30 years older and on a different bike) since our first tours back in the 1980s.  We soon need to do a trial loading of the trailer to avoid overloading it like we did on Tour 2013.  Everything needs to fit inside and the gross weight kept under 45 kg (100lb).  We also co-opted the front rack off the ’86 Santana to give a bit more gear handling space, though we need to keep the on-bike weight low, as we’re heavier than the load limit of the bike already–not having been successful at slimming down over the winter.  Finally, we will need to clean and disassemble the bike and ship it and our camping and riding gear to Florida.

Sorting electronics, tools, spare parts, and small gear.
Sorting electronics, tools, spare parts, and small gear.

Meanwhile, we haven’t been riding–it’s been a rainy winter here in the Pacific Northwest.  We worked out at the gym when we were at Lake Chelan a few weeks ago, and just today took the time to get a 30-minute workout on the stationary bikes, Judy at the gym down the hill, me on my ’79 Fuji and wind trainer in the basement.  We’ll have to step that up over the next month, plus get out on the road if the weather clears, to make sure the bike is in good mechanical shape and test out any handling issues with the front rack.  And, lastly, order 90 days worth of prescriptions.  We’ve engaged a house sitter to stay with the cat and keep the houseplants alive while we’re gone, so we’re not quite off on extended expedition like some of our Warm Showers guests over the years.

Front rack, salvaged from our venerable Santana. Truly a low-rider on the 406mm wheels, but enough ground clearance if we keep out of the sand and mud.
Front rack, salvaged from our venerable Santana. Truly a low-rider on the 406mm wheels, but enough ground clearance if we keep out of the sand and mud.

Note: This trip, should it be successful, will entail roughly one million pedal revolutions. But, spread out over three months, this is about the equivalent of 20,000 steps per day, which is just twice the recommended 10,000 minimum for people of any age. The bicycle flattens hills somewhat and lengthens the effective stride to more than 12 feet on the flats (with a tail wind), so it is faster and easier than walking. 350 hours of pedaling at an average output of 300 watts (total of both riders) is the equivalent of a bit more than 3 gallons (11.8 liters) of gasoline, or 1000 miles per gallon (236ml/100km), the most efficient transport system ever devised. OK, Gatorade runs about $6.40 a gallon, and we’ll go through about 20 gallons of it, but Gatorade tastes better than gasoline, of which we would use about 100 gallons in the hybrid car for the same trip. And, at 15km/hr on local roads, with the breeze in our faces, we’ll see a lot more of the countryside than at 100km/hr on the freeway with the windows rolled up.

Stay tuned to this channel for reports “from the road.”