I was just reading your information on the penny stove. I am going to make one, or maybe a few. Most cyclists who are into touring should see that article.
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I suspect in all your Southern Tier travels the weather has never gotten really cold and stayed cold. By cold I mean 0 F. 20s isn't cold. And stay at 0 F for days in a row. Blizzards don't occur when its really cold. The air is too cold and dry to hold moisture. Blizzards and snow occur when its in the 20s, relatively warm. My freehub stopped working after it had been cold, 0 F, for a couple days. Once the weather warmed up into the 20s or so, it worked fine and did not stop working again. 20 F no problem, 0 F problems.
I can relate to everything but I am more of the motivated, skilled, etc. who is not in as much shape as you. However, now that the kids are mid-teens, once I get my youngest off to college, I will be embarking on the southern tier route from Key West to complete my perimeter tour then do several others. Look me up in a few years!