Author Topic: Receiving mail on the road  (Read 4600 times)

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Offline Connie808

Receiving mail on the road
« on: March 01, 2017, 11:42:06 am »
Hi! I'll be riding the Northern Tier Route this summer, and need to receive Priority Express mail once a month (with my medications, mailed by my daughter at home). I'm thinking General Delivery to Post Offices, but does General Delivery always work, or do some P.O.'s not accept the mail? (I've tried calling USPS and several post offices but can't get a straight answer). Are there other organizations who would be willing to receive a cyclist's mail? Thanks for any advice!  :)

Offline zzzz

Re: Receiving mail on the road
« Reply #1 on: March 01, 2017, 12:30:27 pm »
Hi Connie:

General Delivery works just fine but there is a couple of things to be cautious of.

A lot of these small town post offices are open for very limited hours and can have limited days as well. Call directly the post offices you're thinking of sending it to for their schedule. Do not count on the hours posted on the web or you may be spending the night waiting for your meds. I have been told they will forward a package to the next post office but I have not tested that.

Larger towns can have 2 or more post offices, make sure your package is sent to the right one.

If you get to the post office and the person working the counter looks in the cab and says there's nothing in there with your name, politely ask if you can look for yourself before you panic. It may have been missed.

Lastly, make sure everything is good on your end. I once was stuck in Springdale Utah for a couple of days because I gave my wife the address of Springdale Ut but the zip code of Springfield Ut. In a thumbs up for the post office, they really worked to get it over to me as soon as they could.

I accidentally clicked on your name instead of the topic and noticed you're from Hawaii. Is your daughter shipping your meds from the islands or from a stateside location? the reason why I ask is the additional time it may take might make coordinating when you and the post arrive a little trickier.

Pete

indyfabz

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Re: Receiving mail on the road
« Reply #2 on: March 01, 2017, 01:15:59 pm »
When I did the Northern Tier way back when I frequently had film (anyone else remember film?) mailed to me (and frequently mailed exposed film home), so I think I can say that zzzz nailed it. I tried to use medium sized towns (e.g., Sandpoint, ID, Bowling Green, OH) for deliveries so that P.O. hours would be longer.

One other thing: Is there any way you can take 3 months worth of meds with you? I was taking blood thinners daily (and still am). Back then, my insurance would normally only dispense a 30-day supply, but they made exceptions for people who would be travelling like I would be.

Offline DaveB

Re: Receiving mail on the road
« Reply #3 on: March 01, 2017, 04:44:13 pm »
Assuming your medication isn't very rare or highly regulated could you carry copies of your doctor's prescription with you and have it filled at drugstores along the way?  Also, I believe some large national chain drug stores (Walgreens, CVS, etc.) can look up your prescription from the store you usually use and refill it locally.

Offline John Nelson

Re: Receiving mail on the road
« Reply #4 on: March 01, 2017, 05:31:04 pm »
I've never had a problem with General Delivery. I choose a post office in a town small enough to only have one post office, which is about five days away, a town that I expect to pass through in the middle of the day in the middle of the week. I check the post office address carefully, and the hours. I've never had a problem with the hours listed on the web being wrong. Be careful of the weekends, as some post offices have little to no hours there. Some post offices also close some afternoons, and many small post offices close for lunch. I choose a delivery method (e.g., priority mail) that will get the package there at least two day in advance of when I plan to be there.

As mentioned earlier, make damn sure you have the right zip code. The zip code trumps everything else written on the package.

Cities with more than one post office typically designate one of them as the general delivery post office. That may or may not be the main post office, and it may or may not be the post office that corresponds to the zip code you chose. That's why I always try to choose a town with only one post office to avoid the hassle of potentially ending up at the wrong one.

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Receiving mail on the road
« Reply #5 on: March 01, 2017, 07:42:02 pm »
If you do miss a package, either because you pass through town when the P.O. is closed or because it's slower than expected, it's still easy to get it.  Take a piece of paper (or index card), write something like "Please forward all general delivery mail for Connie 808 to X," where X is your next best guess (2-4 days up the road, similar criteria as before).  Sign the card, date it, drop it in the "local delivery" box in the post office, and ride off into the sunset.

Offline John Nelson

Re: Receiving mail on the road
« Reply #6 on: March 01, 2017, 10:19:41 pm »
Thanks Pat, that's very useful advice!

Offline staehpj1

Re: Receiving mail on the road
« Reply #7 on: March 02, 2017, 08:09:59 am »
If you do miss a package, either because you pass through town when the P.O. is closed or because it's slower than expected, it's still easy to get it.  Take a piece of paper (or index card), write something like "Please forward all general delivery mail for Connie 808 to X," where X is your next best guess (2-4 days up the road, similar criteria as before).  Sign the card, date it, drop it in the "local delivery" box in the post office, and ride off into the sunset.
I have never done that, but do have another method that has worked fine.  You can stop and any post office, not just the one the package is at, and request the forwarding.  You can even do it multiple times for the same package.

On one trip we were given a large amount of dried and freeze dried food and shipped it ahead to ourselves.  We kept getting to where it was shipped before we needed it and forwarded it several times.  They didn't charge for the forwarding.  I would not ship food ahead via general delivery again unless maybe it was a mountain bike trip that was more like backpacking than bike touring, but for getting stuff from home it is a great option.

General delivery works way better than shipping to a store, bike shop, or warmshowers.org host.  We first tried having things shipped to a business along the way (with their prior approval), but when the package arrived late we either needed to wait around, abandon the package, or have them forward it to us.  Fortunately they reshipped it ahead for us for only the cost of the postage. 

Offline JHamelman

Re: Receiving mail on the road
« Reply #8 on: March 02, 2017, 10:05:09 am »
If you've purchased the Northern Tier paper maps, they include the zip codes for towns that have post offices where General Delivery packages are received. This older blog post might be of use, too, but as usual, the forum community here has made several good points not in the post:

https://www.adventurecycling.org/resources/blog/zip-codes-in-the-service-directory/

Have a great trip!

Jennifer
*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*

Jennifer Hamelman

Adventure Cycling Association
Inspiring and empowering people to travel by bicycle.
800/755-2453, 406/721-1776 x205
www.adventurecycling.org

Follow Routes & Mapping on Twitter: @acaroutes

indyfabz

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Re: Receiving mail on the road
« Reply #9 on: March 02, 2017, 01:56:07 pm »
Also, I believe some large national chain drug stores (Walgreens, CVS, etc.) can look up your prescription from the store you usually use and refill it locally.

Excellent point. During my 2015 SD trip my GP's nurse called in an RX to a Walgreen's in another part of the state rather than to one in Rapid City. The Rapid City store simply looked it up in their system and filled it.

Offline Connie808

Re: Receiving mail on the road
« Reply #10 on: March 02, 2017, 05:50:11 pm »
THANKS VERY MUCH to everyone for your great suggestions. My insurance won't cover receiving meds out of state, hence the mailing, but thanks for the ideas on that account, too.

Best plan gleaned from all of you: pick a small town that has only one post office (check ACA maps for P.O. info!); call ahead to say I'll be receiving priority express mail in a few days and that I'll be there to pick it up; locate the nearest pharmacy in case the meds don't arrive and pay out of pocket.

Thanks again and ... Happy Trails to all of you  :)

Offline dayjack119

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Re: Receiving mail on the road
« Reply #11 on: March 03, 2017, 08:13:53 pm »
If you are a member of Warmshowers.Org or Couchsurfing.Org, you can locate a member who will accept your mail. This solved my problems after years of other options.  I don't know how many times General Delivery lost my mail.  And one time the clerk said nothing was there for me, and I could see my package on a shelf through an open door behind her.  Their employees just do not care.

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Receiving mail on the road
« Reply #12 on: March 04, 2017, 09:35:00 am »
All the USPS employees I ran across (except one, in Lolo!) were diligent, helpful, and caring.  One lady missed our package scanning all the shelves.  I filled out a form to have the package forwarded when it arrived, then went outside to ride on.  She filed the paper, looked up and saw the package, and came running after us down the road to make sure I got it!

While there may be some bad apples, post office workers are generally hard workers and good people, IME.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Receiving mail on the road
« Reply #13 on: March 04, 2017, 09:56:04 am »
Like Pat, I found the postal employees who helped me with General Delivery stuff to be helpful, polite, and competent.  We never had a problem, ever, despite using General Delivery quite a bit.

I also used general delivery for backpacking restock points often in "post offices" that were just a cubby in a general store or outpost.  In those cases the people tending the "post office" were not actually postal employees, but they were generally helpful and in several cases were willing to retrieve my package for me even when the post office wasn't officially open.

The use of warmshowers hosts for me has always been one of those things that sounds attractive, but doesn't really pan out all that well in actual practice most of the time.  My touring style is such that I avoid any rigid scheduling, I find a rigid schedule sucks much of the joy out of touring.  I like being able to not decide where I will stop for the day even in the morning of that day.  I might decide that I want to knock off at a 30 mile day or may feel like pushing for a 130 mile day.  As a result I typically do not even know in what towns I will be actually staying in even the same day and definitely not exactly when I will pass through a town a few days down the road.

If using a post office you always have the option of changing the pickup location, by requesting that the package be sent further along on your route.  With a warmshowers host I feel committed to be where I say i will be when I say i will be there.  They most often quite reasonably expect notice of when and if you will be staying with them well ahead of when I typically like to make that kind of decision.  I often don't decide for sure where I will be staying until I actually arrive there.  I may roll into a town and decide to stop mid day or i may feel like riding late into the evening and knock out big miles.  To me having to commit to a time and place a few days down the road just doesn't fit my preferred touring style at all.

I know that not everyone tours that way and some plan out every stop even before they hit the road.  For them none of this is an issue, but it is worth considering whether it is for you or not.
« Last Edit: March 04, 2017, 09:59:23 am by staehpj1 »

Offline Connie808

Re: Receiving mail on the road
« Reply #14 on: March 10, 2017, 09:10:36 pm »
Thanks everyone!