Restoring Chaos, Post-Tour: Settling in for the Winter

After our impromptu grand tour of the U.S., through 19 states by car and bicycle, we are home at Chaos Central at last. Our 30-day adventure evolved when the planned fall bicycle tour of Upper Michigan got derailed in September, and just simply overtook our lives for several months. We had returned home at the end of September, having traveled over 6000 miles in our loop from Washington to Wisconsin to California, with only 30 days to plan our next trip.

Faced with a longer, more difficult bike trip, we augmented our bicycle camping equipment and actually managed to work in an overnight bicycle camping trip to test our gear and our fitness, after having not ridden for a month. A week or so before leaving, we had hosted a succession of late-season bicycle tourists headed south on the Pacific Coast bike trail, and had ridden with the last group on a final 30-mile “training ride,” not exactly a proper training and conditioning regimen for a planned 400-mile fully-loaded tour.

One of the factors affecting our pre-tour training was the need to catch up on work projects largely shelved for our September excursion. The other was the onset of cool, wet weather in the Pacific Northwest. When we finally left on the final stage of Tour 2011, headed east through Montana before angling southwest toward Florida, morning frost followed us as far as St. Louis. Finding ourselves riding 60 miles a day in 80-degree heat and searing sun was, quite frankly, a shock. That, combined with road conditions unsuitable to our equipment, led to modifying our tour to suit our capabilities, in mid-tour, well documented in earlier posts, as was the long trip home across I-10, I-8, and I-5.

When we at last arrived back at Chaos Central, we found our network down, from a power outage incurred several days earlier during the first winter storm of the season. Getting the services back on line was necessary before resuming work projects. While we were gone, our landscape contractor had been busy, with most of the major digging, rock work, and large plantings done. But, much detail remained, taking a couple of weeks of distraction. A scheduled servicing of our now-not-so-new Jeep Patriot showed that the 35,000 miles we had driven since January, mostly at freeway speeds, had worn out the factory tires. Indeed, the noise level in the car had grown steadily on the trip home, as the wear bands moved closer to the road.

In the midst of the emergent work, which included some software issues on one customer’s server, email issues with another, and web updates and issues for several others, we began to unpack, finding places to stow our newly-revised camping gear complement, and performing cleanup, tuning, and reassembly of the Bike Friday “Q.” The rain fly on the tent was a bit musty, having been packed since that last dew-soaked morning on the shores of Lake Okeechobee nearly two weeks before, but aired out fine and was repacked. The bike did not seem to suffer as much as we feared, after its dowsing with brackish water on the ill-maintained bike trails in South Florida. Application of an aircraft anti-corrosion treatment (ACF-50) on the trailer parts and some of the lower frame parts seemed to take care of visible effects. But, the real shock was the discovery of a broken spoke on the rear wheel: this had undoubtedly occurred during our mad dash down the Overseas Highway which had resulted in three flat tires, and loosened the headset and the trailer hitch. I had probably ridden the 76-mile day on it, but hadn’t noticed any handling problems, since the wheel is built for tandem loads.

Another casualty of the Marathon Gauntlet: a broken spoke on the rear wheel.

Fortunately, the broken spoke was on the left side, so could be replaced without removing the freewheel cassette. Bike Friday does include two spare spokes of each of the three sizes needed. But, we did not have the freewheel removal tool in our kit, an omission we quickly remedied with a stop at REI on our next trip into the Big City, along with other supplies to finish the post-tour grooming of the bike, something that is progressing slowly.

Work still hasn’t caught up: a couple of projects have yet to be restarted; planned end-of-the-year computer upgrades have not yet been ordered. When the bike is finally assembled, we need to construct indoor window inserts for the winter, an alternative to simply taping plastic to the old single-pane windows at Chaos Central. The lumber and plastic film awaits. All we need is time…

End of a hard season: salt-crusted bike cap