Thursday, May 30, 2013

Thinking the impossible

How strange it is for me to be so consumed with the thought of getting on my bike and not looking back.  I almost can't sleep at night.  Even last night at about 3:00 a.m. I did research on my iphone on how to approach corporate sponsors.  I've stayed up late looking at maps, getting down to the street level to see what exactly the situation is for a bike.  Sometimes I don't like what I find, but most of the time everything seems fine.  I study the towns.  How far can I go when towing a trailer?  Can I do an 87+ mile day with a trailer over some stretches of desert?  Can I then get up the next day, especially if I have been camping, and do it again?  I'm hoping not to camp too often, but when I do, how difficult will it be for my body to get back on the bike?

Stupid little thoughts nag me - like what do I do when I need to pee and I'm in the middle of nowhere?  The only thing I can sort of think of is to have a tarp somewhat handy to give me a little privacy.  When I rode to the beach with a friend recently on a 30-mile outing, she didn't pee the whole time.  She wouldn't use a public restroom.  My bladder doesn't give me that option.  I have to pee every few hours period, and I can't afford to be too choosy.

I was reading over Steve Garufi's log of his 2011 cross country trip, and I'll probably follow part of it, but the Alamagordo to Cloudcroft section has me nervous.  It's 22 miles up uphill only and an altitude gain of 5000 feet.  I guess if worse came to worse I'd just stop as often as I needed to in order to catch my breath.  After all, I'll be towing a trailer which will be constantly wanting me to go backwards!  I think I'll be all right.  That may for sure be one night when I opt for a hotel room to give myself some recovery time.  Because I am not very good with hills even without a trailer.  My lungs just give out pretty quick.  Maybe it's just that L.A. has such steep hills if you want to do hills at all.  So I'll just do it as best as I can because I'll have to get over the ridge somehow.  From there I'll follow his trail to Snyder, TX, but after that I will head a different direction since I'll stop to visit my sister in Granbury.  Then I'll head down to San Antonio and New Braunfels before turning north and then to the east.

Today on the way home from work I came to a 4-way stop and was signalling that I would turn left.  I didn't feel good about signalling because for some reason I didn't feel balanced, and when I let go to signal, I indeed lost my balance.  I was coming to a stop anyhow, and I try to step out of the fall, but my pants were catching on the pedal, and I was tangled, so down I went.  It was a soft fall.  I didn't even lose skin although I think both knees have some bruising.  Try as I might I couldn't get up for being tangled, and that's when I felt helping hands.  The woman in the van behind me got out and was helping me up, and by the time I did get up another man had pulled his car over and had come to offer help.  I was only slightly shaken by it.  That's my 2nd fall at a stop, but I have had a couple of close calls. Nothing like getting your heart pumping!

My new bike pump came today.  It will be so much better that the skinny little hand pumps and the large floor pump I currently have.  It weighs no more than 2 lbs, and I know that every pound counts, but I'd rather have a really good pump that will get me going faster than to have a dinky hand pump that won't help me.  Either that or I just had the worst hand pump ever. 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Gathering info

Thursday on the way home from work I stopped by I. Martin Imports to speak with my favorite bike mechanic, Ryan, about what modifications can be made to my bike.  First off I wanted to know if I could have a front pannier rack put on the bike.  He said that because I have a front suspension fork, it isn't likely but that he was going to check around and see what was out there.  He said if I had a stiff fork it wouldn't be a problem.  I'm not sure I want to change out forks, and having a front pannier rack isn't critical to me anyhow because I don't like extra weight on the front tire.  For example, when I have hung groceries off the handlebars, I never liked how heavy that made the front of the bike.  So, it isn't a deal breaker for me one way or the other.

I'm sort of wondering if I bought the right sized tent or if it's too small.  It hasn't even arrived yet and I'm having doubts.  Why?  Because even though I bought a 2-person tent, and it's 5x7, that may be fine for sleeping but not for living, and I may want more living space, a little a home, since it may be a home.  Yes, extra weight on the bike or in the trailer is an issue, but so is comfortable living space. Yes, I'll be touring a lot and staying some with other folks, at least whenever I can, but for those times when I might just want to hunker down in a tent for a few days and rest or camp, I don't want to feel like I am in a coffin.  I suppose that if i decide it's too small, I'll just resell on on Ebay and order another one.

Here's the new pump I got  It will do up to 100 psi, and since I only need 80, it's more than plenty.  It will also fit nicely in my top pannier - and I'll feel so much better on the road with it than one of those cheesy hand pumps.  Seriously, I don't know if I bought my hand pump from a store or it came off of Ebay, but it's completely worthless.  That's why I had to find something more sturdy and reliable.  Plus this is a foot pump, so the upper body won't get exhausted trying to get the pressure right - and it will be faster!  Leg muscles are so much stronger than arm muscles.

This is another thing I bought for my trip.  It might seem ridiculous, but I do like having eggs, and if I'm going to be camping, I need to have a way to keep them from getting smashed.  I actually hope to find some fresh fresh fresh eggs along the way, maybe some farmers markets or roadside stands, but I guess I'm not expecting to find many of those in the desert.  Perhaps once I get more into farm country.  However, I hope to get fresh veggies and fruits as often as I can.  4-6 eggs in the morning, however, can really start my stomach off right - fills me up and I don't get hungry for a long, long time.  I don't plan to keep it filled, but I do plan to have it.

I've got so many things marked on Ebay to watch right now, things that will be useful on the journey.  I still haven't decided on a proper camp stove.  I don't want something totally flimsy but I also don't want something that requires pressurized fuel.  So I've been thinking more of a sterno stove.  Easy fuel source that isn't highly combustible.  Can be easily replaced, and from my experience with sterno, the little cans last quite a long time.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


I'm thinking of starting the trip in mid-February but certainly no later than March 1, so that's now less than two years away.  My mind is on it every moment... studying my routes already, working it out, looking at Google street views, looking at terrain and altitudes and how much climbing I have to do.

Another cyclist has suggested that I make my own MREs for the road.  It's different what I need to carry because I am camping vs. someone who stays in hotels each night.  That will not be in my budget at all.  Steve Garufi traveled light.  I don't want to travel heavy, but I do have all my camping gear to take plus some food.  I will try to get some fresh fruit down me every day.

Today while I was grocery shopping I looked with a keener eye towards some products that I could use to make MREs, so I picked up my first 4 packets of Starkist tuna.  Tuna combined with rice at night could be a good meal.  If I see a farmer's market or any little farm roadside stand, I will pick up a few things.  How cool it would be to get truly fresh eggs now and then.

I also picked up some pot scrubbers, and I have one set aside for eventual use.  I'll just get a small travel bottle and fill it with dish detergent.

I've been thinking that I might make some MREs and send them ahead to my sister in TX when the time comes.  That way i don't have to carry too much.  I'll make sure I have breakfast and dinner in the MREs and then fresher foods during the day for constant energy.

I plan on purchasing a Camelbak 100oz but don't plan on wearing it all the time.  Definitely will wear it on the very long days and long stretches of desert.  Otherwise not.  I will also carry a gallon of water besides what is in my water bottles, and it will be a priority to make sure that they are topped off at every opportunity.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Date has been set - sort of

Well, I've decided that in two years it is time for me to leave all this behind and go on the bike trip.  It is still dependent on when my dog passes away, and if she hasn't passed away, I will toss her in the doggy trailer and take her with me. 

So now I begin in earnest to look at gear that I need.  I have some big ticket items to get since i will definitely have to camp some nights between Warm Showers hosts or friends.  Buying that first big ticket item, however, is a mark of  BIG commitment to the dream because, for example, what else would I use a tent for?  It's not like I go camping as a regular thing.

When 2X cross country cyclist Steve Garufi started his 2nd tour, he started from Huntington Beach, but that's quite a distance south of me.  He made it to Riverside the first day, but it will take me 2 days to get to Riverside because I'm coming from much further west.  Lots of Warm Showers people in Riverside.  From there it's a big jaunt over to Palm Springs, and I'm not sure exactly how Garufi did it after getting off of the Jack Rabbit Trail.

A little while later....

Okay, so I purchased the Coleman Sundome 2-man tent  Plenty of room to sleep in and still have extra space for the other stuff.  I would have like to get an orange one, but only green were available on Ebay.  I know the Sundome 3-person weighed 8.5 lbs, so this will weigh less.  I guess the next major purchase will be a sleeping bag, but that will be in a few months.  I'll pick up some smaller things in the meantime.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Cycling as a lifestyle

I think people get onto cycling for many different reasons, obviously, but the transition can be a work in progress for quite a while. Some people jump into it and never look back, but I suspect the lifestyle change takes time for most.

For me the change is still evolving.  Last year it was about getting the bike outfitted with lights for night riding and also getting rear panniers so that I could deliver my cookies by bike instead of by car. I am still a little pannier crazy. If I see an interesting one on eBay, I will likely bid on it because I don't think a bike can have enough little panniers.  The rear panniers I have purchased, however, aren't really suitable for touring since they cannot be fully closed. Therefore, they are not waterproof.  The next set I get will be for touring.  

This year my focus will be on getting equipped for touring, especially the camping aspect.  Since I am starting from scratch with nothing in that regard, I suspect my first purchase might be a tent. I may just go with Coleman equipment down the line as much as possible.

I have the dog trailer that I can use as a regular trailer as long as I don't overload it. It can do just over 40 lbs, and I sure would rather have a trailer hauling the larger items than try to overload the bike. 

One of the things I've been thinking the trip will be good for is stoking my creative writing as I want to use the trip to do some writing.  I mean writing other than blogging. That would mean bring along at least a netbook and possible a full sized laptop since my preferred writing medium is MS Word.  

I just wish the time to tour was closer.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Bikes and Hikes and other things

Yesterday I volunteered to help with the West Hollywood Bicycle Coalition booth on Santa Monica Blvd from 9-11 a.m. The event promoted bike awareness, and  I got a little swag from it as we'll as spending time chatting with Tess Lotta.

The event was held in front of Bikes and Hikes, an Eco friendly tourism business, and I thought I'd go in and meet them, see what was going on employment wise.  There were three men in there, and one of them said that they had just hired six people for the summer.  But they said I could leave my resume or card, so I promptly gave them one of my bicycle blog cards.  Maybe they think I can't keep up, but I can keep up plus I know the city. Plus I am a good leader and am good with people.  They'll probably never call me, and I'd only be available on weekends anyhow, but it would be interesting!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

To camp or not to camp

So I've been thinking about the possibility of camping my way across the USA.  Of course, there will be many nights I can stay with friends or churches.  In fact, the trip is already set up largely that way, but there are gaps where I will have no one.  I will do my best, however, to fill my gaps with Calvary Chapel churches across the country or other Christian churches. 

Coleman's SunDome 7x7' 3-man tent.  I like it.
I feel like I want to have a tent big enough to bring the bike into, if I have a tent.  Coleman has a series of tents that can be easily set up by myself and just as easily taken down.  The thought of camping means ramping up the supplies I need, because i don't have the basics like tent, sleeping bag, matress pad, whatever.  I have nothing.  There is no way I can afford to stay in motels every night although certainly that would be convenient during the gaps. 

I haven't been camping since I was a kid.  My family, all 8 of us, used to go camping a lot.  We had a tent trailer and a big six-person tent.  That tent was set up with two sets of bunkbed cots, and we used to go up to 11-Mile Canyon in Colorado or to Lake Teryall and sometimes to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, but mostly it was 11-Mile.  My dad went off to fish and the rest of us played in the woods, hiked and explored.  I would like to have been fishing with my dad, but that was something he really wanted to do alone.  Still, it would have been nice to have a fishing pole.  Sometimes he caught trout and sometimes he didn't, but my mother always prepared a nice camp supper for us regardless.  The tent trailer was sold in the summer of '73, and I don't remember camping after that.  I went to stay with my aunt in Iowa for a little while to help her with her two small boys when she and her husband first moved there, and when I came home, the tent trailer was gone.  I was sad to see it go.

But camping now brings up a ton of other issues.  I don't want to be carrying pots and pans and cooking stuff.  Just for the following items I would need to set aside $272 (approx): Coleman twin inflatable bed, Coleman SunDome Tent, sleeping bag, fleece liner, Camelbak 100oz.  I do have the pet trailer which can carry 40 lbs, so it can double as a cargo trailer with limited cargo.  I will have the full panniers also, although I don't know if I will put panniers on the front wheel.  I am quite certain I am completely over-planning this.

I will say that I have been looking at a new route - that instead of getting on the 10 freeway outside of Palm Springs to head eastward, I'd like to take a detour south to see the Salton Sea, a place I've never been to.  They have public campgrounds there.  So I might go south after that and catch the 8 freeway across.  Eventually I'll go up to Phoenix and stay with friends there.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day blog

Today won't be about cycling nor any gushy platitudes towards my mother because I have something different to say about Mother's Day.

Today, being a Sunday, the pastor at my church is doing a Mother's Day sermon - which is a great thing if you are a mother, grandmother, expectant mother, a woman who hopes to be a mother... but I am not in any of those categories.  I am going to be 54 this year, and that biological clock doesn't tick for me.  It ticked loudly about 15 years ago, but now it is silent.  I will say that I am grateful at this stage of my life not to have children, and quite frankly, although parts of me think i would have made a good mom, I could have just as easily been the mother who drowned her five children in the bathtub.  I think motherhood would have put me into an early grave.  That's not to say that I don't enjoy children, but they need to go home at night!  So I just feel like I don't fit in when these sermon days come.

I appreciate the the church's stance on family, but having a husband and children never happened for me and I've moved beyond that wanting.  It is part of the reason why attending a women's Bible study has never been appealing to me.  I did try it for a while, but I felt so out of place, and it got to the point where wild horses couldn't drag me there.  I really was in hysterical tears one day about it when one of the leaders called me to see if I would be there.  No, I wouldn't.  Now if it were men and women, no problem, but something about the women's group just made me feel like an outsider looking in.  I didn't fit the mold of the woman's role.  I really don't understand the need for women to have their own Bible study anyhow or for the men to have their own.  Everyone should be together.

When I was much younger, I was a little jealous of girlfriends who were getting married and I wasn't.  It got to the point where I wouldn't go to weddings.  Unless it was a family member, I didn't go, and people seemed to know not to ask me.  Even so, I could count on both hands the number of weddings I have attended, and half of those were for my siblings.  I'm not anti-marriage at all and part of me still has a candle of hope lit that someday I might find a man who is my best friend and soul-mate and who wants to spend the rest of our lives together (and he needs to enjoy riding a bike and going for adventures on the bike).

So here I sit, purposefully ignoring the Mother's Day sermon that is happening.  I will listen to some older Greg Laurie sermons from Harvest Church instead.  And then later I will take a little bike ride and explore a Beverly Hills street that is an alternative bike route.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The bike I forgot

When I first moved to California in 1989, I moved into a condo that I shared with two other gals, Janelle and Christie.  Christie had a 10-speed bike that she either gave to me or sold to me for next to nothing. I say next to nothing because I was poor, poor, poor. I was living off of student loans and occasional temp work while doing my MFA at The American Film Institute.

I had a car but I did ride that bike around the neighborhood.  I didn't have a helmet or any special gear. I don't even remember if it had a bell. I don't remember ever pumping up the tires, but at some point it did go into a bike shop   somewhere up Sunland Ave. near Tujunga because I had a brilliant ride back. 

Alas, the garage door was left open too long one day and someone stole the bike.  Stupid mistake on my part as it may have been me. However, I didn't have garage parking privileges so maybe it wasn't me. 

It was 16 years before I got another bike, the bike I have now. 

This is my first post from the Blogger app.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Staying warm in church after a ride

Today it's very overcast, the kind of cloud cover that looks like it could release a deluge at any time.  Because we have had unusually high temperatures the last few days and now the temp has dropped, this has also created a blustery, gusty wind... or at least, that's the way it was around 11:30.

I left the house at 11:30 to head to church where the service started at 12:30.  It was quite blustery, with little whirlpools of wind whipping up fallen magnolia leaves into circles that swirled across the asphalt.  When I arrived at the Wilshire Blvd.  intersection, I was nearly blown sideways as the wind channeled down between the tall buildings.

This ride was my second time on the new route portion, and it was smooth and perfect.  I've only just discovered that all the construction blockages at National/Robertson/Venice are because of the overhead Metrolink rail system being built there, so I guess I'll be using my detour for a while.

With today's high being 64 and the wind making it colder, I wore a t-shirt with my merino arm warmers.  Sometimes when I get to church and I cool down from the ride, I can get chilled, so I decided to keep the arm warmers on, and I stayed comfortable.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

April's "30 Days of Biking"

In April I took a challenge to do "30 Days of Biking" - something I found on Twitter.  So I did it.  I did it every day.  Some days it was 30 miles, some days 2 miles, but because I had made the commitment, I got out the bike every day.  The car has been driven less than 10 miles in the last 6 weeks because all the miles went onto the bike.  The biking was mostly to and from work, so it was no big deal really.

I put a "wanted" in the Los Angeles Freecycle (a Yahoo group) saying that I was looking for a bicycle trailer for my dog, and someone has offered their child carrier made by Instep.  The details haven't been worked out yet, but it's over in the Pasadena area, so I'd have to drive over and pick it up.  It gives me hope that I can think about doing the L.A. River Ride if I can take the dog with me and be gone all day.  So, if I can get her used to it a little, perhaps it will work.

Oh, and there's one more thing I want to say about CicLAvia - that I had wanted a ride on free flowing, open streets, but the bicycle congestion was terrible, worse than rush hour traffic on the freeways.  So the city needs to truly recognize the greater need for open streets, and the organizers of the event may want to have more than one route on that day so that a single route doesn't get over-whelmed.  If I want to sit in traffic, I'll drive a car, and that's sort of not the point of being on a bike.