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Messages - John Nelson

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Southwest / Re: AZ to VA
« on: June 06, 2014, 12:12:26 pm »
The shortest route is 2249 miles, so if you want to do this in 21 days, you don't have much wiggle room. The support vehicle, however, gives you some options if you're not too picky about riding every mile.

The shortest route, however, is mostly interstate, so I don't recommend it (and bicycles are prohibited on much of it anyway). If you ask Google maps for driving directions with the "avoid highways" option, you get a route that is only 113 miles farther than the shortest route, so that's not too bad. Still a difficult ride for three weeks.

A more pleasant route would have you take the ACA Southern Tier route to St Augustine and the ACA Atlantic Coast route up to Richmond. This would be 4183 miles, however. I would recommend it nevertheless. Perhaps you could ride in your support vehicle for part of the way, or perhaps you could find more a few more weeks time. If you're going in the spring, it is probably advisable to stay southerly to avoid possible late winter storms. The Rocky Mountains in Colorado are not reliably passable by bicycle in early and mid spring.

Southwest / Re: AZ to VA
« on: June 06, 2014, 09:56:57 am »
More details would help. What time of year do you want to go? From where in AZ to where in VA? How long you you plan to take? How many miles a day do you plan? Are you planning to camp or motel? Do you want a fairly direct route, or are you okay with a bit of meandering? Do you prefer high-traffic roads with shoulders, or low-traffic roads without shoulders? How do you feel about hills?

Routes / Re: To Detroit from Pittsburgh
« on: June 04, 2014, 05:58:25 pm »
Google "avoid highways" driving directions typically gives you a reasonable and fairly direct bicycling route. You can adjust it as desired.

I have suggested to ACA in the past that they provide some way for their members to rate the campgrounds, motels and restaurants along the route, especially the ones listed on their maps. In addition to the rating, I'd like to see people give the price they paid. I might be interested in a $45 motel, but not a $145 motel, or a $15 campground, but not a $50 campground (yes, $50 campgrounds exist--and they're not necessarily that special either). Especially on a bicycle, if you find yourself at that $145 motel or that $50 campground, it's often too late for Plan B, so we more than anybody need to know what to expect ahead of time.

I have found a headlamp invaluable. Maybe that's because I sometimes ride so late that I need it to set up my tent.

Some of my "least used gear" is important nevertheless, such as my tools and spare parts. I'm very happy not to use them.

A clothesline is one of my most-appreciated pieces of gear. I also occasionally really appreciate my eye mask, especially when camping under a light. And my iPod is much appreciated to quiet my mind before I go to sleep.

Food Talk / Re: Food by Mail
« on: May 31, 2014, 11:41:19 pm »
I think Michael Pollan said it pretty well, “Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food.” Your great-grandmother would not recognize Clif Bars. His other advice is excellent too. He sums it up in seven words: "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants." "Eat food" means to eat real food -- vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and, yes, fish and meat -- and to avoid what Pollan calls "edible food-like substances." He also advises not to eat anything with more than five ingredients, or ingredients you can't pronounce.

General Discussion / Re: General Advice- TransAm Route
« on: May 31, 2014, 11:23:27 pm »
I took 70 days, and averaged $16 a day ($14 for food and $2 for a place to sleep). I was solo. Economies of scale would make it cheaper for a pair. With some effort, you never need to pay for a place to sleep on the TransAm, with a few exceptions like National Parks (I camped two nights in Mammoth Cave NP for $17 per night--camping in Grand Teton and Yellowstone was cheaper because they have hiker/biker spots). I only took one motel, and I didn't have to, but I was cold and wet. I spent about half my food budget in restaurants, so you could drive the food costs down even further by not doing that.

Gear Talk / Re: Roadside repair knowledge list?
« on: May 30, 2014, 09:46:00 pm »
Let's assume you start with a good bike in excellent condition. Here's what skills I think you need, in order from most likely to need to least likely. Only the first half of this list are essential skills.
  • How to reassemble your bike at the start.
  • How to pump up your tires.
  • How to lube your chain.
  • How to replace a flat tube.
  • How to patch a tube.
  • How to tighten your bolts on your racks, cages, pedals, etc.
  • How to adjust your brakes as the pads wear.
  • How to replace your pads when they wear out (although you can usually wait until you get to the next bike shop).
  • How to fix a broken spoke, if not with a real spoke, then with a FiberFix.
  • How to replace a broken spoke nipple.
  • How to make minor adjustments to your shifting.
  • How to boot a tire.
  • How to true a wheel.
  • How to clean and lube your derailleurs.
  • How to make minor adjustments to your saddle height.
  • How to fix a broken cable and/or ride with a broken cable.
  • How to fix a broken chain.
  • How to straighten a bent derailleur hanger.

General Discussion / Re: Mailing to Myself On the Road
« on: May 30, 2014, 09:29:07 pm »
I only occasionally have a state map with me, and it's usually given to me by a cyclist going the other direction. I don't really need it, but it satisfies my curiosity about "where am I?", a question not well answered by the ACA maps. I use paper maps for daily navigation (because they fit in my map holder and my phone battery won't last all day with continuous use), but it's nice to also have a smart phone map to occasionally look things up (like directions to your host for the night). If you are going to rely on your smart phone map, however, make sure you can access the maps offline since you won't always have a connection.

General Discussion / Re: General Advice- TransAm Route
« on: May 30, 2014, 09:07:23 pm »
Ignore the wind. In the big scheme of things, it makes no significant difference (except in Wyoming). More people do the TransAm from East to West than from West to East.

Best time to leave from the East is the first half of May. Best time to leave from the West is the first half of June.

We started in San Diego  expecting the wind to be at our back but it didn't happen.
Yea, those mythological "prevailing westerlies" cannot be counted on. But the concept is so ingrained that almost everybody believes they exist, despite the evidence. Wind patterns vary by location and season, and are only a slight bias.

General Discussion / Re: Yorktown Accommodation
« on: May 29, 2014, 11:18:11 am »
Yes, one-way car rental is a viable option. For best results, reserve it in advance and don't rely on getting one at the rental counter.

Another option is to fly into Newport News. It's an easy ride from that airport to Yorktown.

In Yorktown, the Duke of York Motor Hotel is very close to the start, right on the water, and they also have a restaurant. Or, contact Grace Episcopal Church as they allow you to stay in their guest house (they accept donations), which is only about two blocks from the Yorktown Victory Monument.

Food Talk / Re: Food by Mail
« on: May 29, 2014, 11:11:59 am »
Percy, I understand and admire your commitment to quality food. Given that, I think your plan to carry your own is probably your best option. There are many parts of the TransAm where quality food is not available. You can go days in Kentucky and Virginia along that route without finding any source of fresh fruit, vegetables, bread or dairy.

Good luck and I hope your reach your goals.

General Discussion / Re: Mailing to Myself On the Road
« on: May 28, 2014, 11:47:19 am »
1. The "post office address" is usually just "city, state zip", not a street address. Some people like to add "Hold for cross-country cyclist" on the line after the name. This is unnecessary, but it might add some amusement to the small-town postmaster.

2. I've never seen nor used the 9999 suffix.

3. Every town that has a post office accepts general delivery. But not all post offices do. So if a town has multiple post offices, all the general delivery will go to one of them (it's not always obvious which one). For this reason, I try not to use general delivery in towns with more than one post office. You could end up having to go to more than one to find your package. Also, as you note, many very small post offices have very few manned hours. The USPS website shows the hours of each post office, so be sure you know what they are. Note also that every town that has a zip code doesn't necessarily have a post office. As I said, the USPS website identifies all post offices. Only look at real "post offices", not "self-service kiosks", nor "approved postal providers".

4. As mentioned above, you don't get to pick which post office your general delivery package goes to. A big city like Albany would not be my choice because of this.

BTW, there are many threads in this forum about General Delivery. If you search, you'll get lots of other information and tips.

Buffalo Prairie, IL has a real post office, but only has very limited hours (see below). But you can send them General Delivery if you want and are sure you're going to be there during their open hours.

18401 206TH ST W

    Phone 309-537-3169

Pickup Services Hours

    Mon-Fri 8:00am - 10:00am
    Sat 8:00am - 9:15am
    Sun Closed

Interesting side story. The post office in Dalbo, MN is very small, similar to the one in Buffalo Prairie. But they know that almost all general delivery packages are for touring cyclists. They also know that almost all touring cyclists stop at the Adventure Bicycle Bunkhouse a couple of miles out of town. So when they get a general delivery package, they give it to Donn Olson at the Adventure Bicycle Bunkhouse and put a sign on the post office door saying where it is. Donn puts it on the table in the bunkhouse.

Food Talk / Re: Food by Mail
« on: May 28, 2014, 10:44:45 am »
This may not apply to you at all, but I'll mention it just in case.

Racing (or even rushing) the TransAm, even at a very low level, would make the route about 10% as much fun as taking a bit longer. So please carefully consider whether you even want to rush this trip. Maybe this race is not the best option for you. Unless you are an exceptionally goal-driven person, and/or have very limited time, taking a few more weeks for this trip would make it ever so much more fun. But maybe you're not out there for fun.

Getting half or more of your calories from Clif Bars is not a balanced diet. My guess is that your body will revolt. I further guess that this strategy will only save you a few bucks a day at most. A typical Clif Bar has 230 calories, and cost you (according to your figures) 59 cents plus 24 cents mailing costs (315 calories per dollar). An two-pound sub sandwich at Safeway costs $5 (on sale) and has 1642 calories (328 calories per dollar). You can eat real, fresh food for less! Furthermore, the all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet in Marshfield, Missouri costs $4.50 and can easily provide you with at least 1500 calories per dollar.

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