This may be the last entry for this blog. It is a kind of FAQ addendum to the more detailed state-by-state accounts of my coast-to-coast trip (solo).
Bike: a 12-year-old Specialized hybrid “Hard Rock”. (Various equipment aspects considered below.)I had debated whether to get a new bike for this trip, a road bike. I decided not to, with the belief that adequate, rather than luxurious, equipment can suffice, in other endeavors as well as this one. My hybrid has 3X7 gears, raised (traditional style) handle-bars and 1.5” tires. Often on downhill and flat stretches I could have gone faster with a wider gear spread and thinner tires, but speed—getting as fast as possible from one point to another—was certainly not a primary concern for this trip. The bike was comfortable and stable, serving me well.
Miles biked: 3,535.
Basic route: Savannah, GA—AL—TN—KN—MO—KS—NE—WY—ID—WA—BC, Canada—WA—OR.
Basic plan for choosing routes: avoid cities and use low-traffic secondary routes as much as possible.
I planned the route using MapQuest, before setting out, and followed it quite closely until western ID and heading NW on the BC segment that was unforeseen at the outset. I had a print-out of a table with three columns: route number (one row for each route), town where that route would be taken and other towns along that route, and miles on that route. In most states, there was a info center near the entrance where I could get a free road map.
Number of flat tires: 5Two in Nebraska within a 24-hour period—one of them being a slow leak, one in eastern Wyoming, a slow leak in western Idaho, and a tack sticking through the tire 10 miles from Portland, OR. I put on new Bontrager Eco tires just before the trip (about $28 each). They were well worn by the end, especially the rear tire. One blogger found that “a tire manufacturer talks about…1250-3000 miles for their standard tires; …a cycle shop in San Francisco talks about 1500-4000 miles.”
Days on the road: 60This includes four days at my cousin’s home in Vancouver, British Columbia, and the extra travel time to get up there and down to Oregon, rather than going directly to the Oregon coast from Idaho, as originally planned. The trip would have been further shortened if I had taken a more direct route to Oregon rather than swinging up through the Tetons to Yellowstone (three nights in Yellowstone). I would guess that a Georgia coast to Oregon coast could be done fairly easily in 7 weeks or, pushing it more, in 6 weeks.
People in good shape with road bikes and supported could of course do the trip much faster. A much shorter coast-to-coast route could also be followed: for example, the San Diego to St. Augustine route followed by one tour group.
Approximate total cost: $2,700
Here is the breakdown of this total.
- Motels: $678 (12 nights). This includes two nights with Ruka in a very nice State Park inn. The other nights were in low-budget, locally owned motels, most of them around $45 a night.
- Campgrounds (mostly state or national parks) $96.00. In Yellowstone, bicyclists pay only $6 a night. Other states also charge considerably less for bicyclists than for other campers; e.g. $9 in TN, $12 in WA.
- Camping in non-fee spots off the road (most nights): $000.00. Isolated wooded areas, national or state forests with no fee, relatives (five nights), on land or in buildings of people met on the way (three nights).
- Other: $50 ($30 for two nights found through a hospitality organization and $20 left with thank-you note in another place)
- Before the trip: new grips (broader base to rest palms—glad I got these), mirror, tune-up, chain cleaned, cheapest gloves in shop (served me well). Murfreesboro Outdoor & Bicycle: $130
- 2 pairs of mountain bike shorts. Aero Tech Designs (excellent) $112.80
- Specialized Helmet, Lezyne tire pump, seat, all of which worked great throughout the trip. Perry Rubber Bike Shop Savannah, GA (excellent!)$203.28.
- New cassette, with a new seat post thrown in and adjustment of brakes. CycleWerx, Cape Girardeau, MO, Excellent service. $62.41.
- Two new tire tubes and mounting charge. In Laramie, WY. $19.06
- Biking shoes: $000.00 I wore a pair of running shoes that were no longer cushioned enough for running but were fine for the bike. I could at times feel in the feet why one would want a stiffer shoe but did not regret having gone with my running shoes. However, it might be that a lower quality running shoe would not have worked so well. Mine (Asics Gel Nimbus) have extra cushioning and excellent ventilation.
- Panniers: $000.00 My do-it-yourself panniers saved me a couple hundred dollars. I lashed together two knapsacks found lying in closets and placed them over a waterproof bag strapped to the bike rack. (In this picture, my helmet is hanging down from the front of the bike, making the left bag look longer than it was.)
Later in the trip, I bought a larger bag for the foundation, placed the knapsacks over this, and then my sleeping bag in the waterproof bag over the knapsacks. The two bags were strapped around the bike rack; straps for the more or less balanced knapsacks were not needed. A bungee cord from the rear of the bike rack up over the top bag and onto the front of the rack kept the bags from sagging backward.
- Getting to starting point (camping, food, gas): $200
- Ferries: $48 (2 ferries to Return to WA from BC and Seattle-Bremerton)
- Postage: mailing of sleeping bag, then of passport $9
- Water resistant bag (worked okay but will get high-quality waterproof one from LL Bean for next trip) & cheap (in quality as well as price) sleeping bag to serve until I got my good one through post $19.00 (Wal-mart)
- Sweatshirt: $13
- Replacement of lost hammock straps: $25
- Bubba’s Pampered Pedalers: $7,700. “Mostly camping with some motels/hotels”; 52 days: San Diego to St Augustine; does not include lunches)
- Cycle America: $6,385. 64 days, camping only, all meals provided, bike repair extra.
- America by Bicycle: $4,650 for 33-day trips, 3-to-a-room motels (supper not provided); $6,550 for 53-day trips with 3-to-a-room motels; $11,230 for single occupancy.
While checking the web addresses for these sites, I came across “Women on the Road”. In both hiking and biking trips, I’ve often thought that it is probably much easier psychologically and less risky for me as a white male to do solo trips than it would be for a woman or member of a racial minority. My brief look at “Women on the Road” indicates that it could be a helpful—and inspiring—site for women who want to hike or bike solo.
Return home: This is not included in my total since I rode home with some of my kids. I would guess that one going solo might need to think of about $750 for lodging near and getting to an airport, ticket, and shipping of bike and equipment.
Camping equipment: Hennessy Hammock. Lightweight, compact, durable, excellent mosquito net, separate rain fly. Nice in the woods, not so good in sage brush areas or when exposed to high winds or heavy rain. I have slept on it on the ground to keep bugs, etc. out. If I do another long, unsupported trip, I will consider taking a two-person tent rather than—or as well as—the hammock.
I did not take a camping stove or dishware, wanting to keep my gear to a minimum . Doing so could of course have further diminished food expenses.
Food staple: Quaker Oats’ Chewy Dipps Chocolatey Covered Granola Bar. I went through dozens of boxes of these. Other companies’ chocolate covered granola bars were also fine but not as frequently found on grocery shelves. Lightweight, inexpensive, easy to carry, and tastes good. Two bars are 280 calories, about the same as an energy bar but less expensive. On hot days and solo, I didn't mind licking the melted chocolate off the wrapper.
Drink staple: powdered Gatorade mixed into water. I took Cousin Roger’s advice to have energy drinks, not just water, while biking. I have heard and seen many amens to this advice.Well, I probably should also mention coffee. Usually just with breakfast, but occasionally at other times of the day.
Some practices that worked well:
- Use of strong, double-sealing freezer bags to keep powders and small items. Takes up less space than the original packaging and the space diminishes as the item is used.
- Baking soda spread in the shoe greatly diminishes foot odor.
- A small box of powdered laundry detergent emptied into a freezer bag served me for the whole trip. It did not take up much space and was nice to have for washing clothes by hand or in places that did not have a vending machine for detergent.
- Sunglasses. I got headaches or sore eyes when I went too long without these. One pair broke early in the trip. I paid $18 to a drugstore for a pair but returned them since they did not fit well. The clerk told me that Dollar General might sell them. Sure enough, I got a pair that fit and worked well and lasted the rest of the trip—for $3.
- Sunscreen. Cousin Roger advised me to use #50 every day and I did, apart from long-shirt days toward the end of the trip. But even then, if I did not apply it to forehead or nose, I would feel the effects. I would guess that most people could have some pretty uncomfortable, if not miserable, days if they neglected this. Since I was heading westward, I would usually wait until later in the morning to apply it to more than the neck.
- Cousin Roger had recommended Bag Balm. I did not find it but did find Equate Vitamins A & D Ointment: “Treats and prevents diaper rash [the equivalent of which can plague bikers’ sweaty butts]… Protects and soothes minor cuts and burns [such as saddle sores gained early in the trip]”. The $2 tube lasted me the whole trip. Following Roger's advice, I would apply it before starting out just about every day in the first half of the trip. I used it less in the last half, especially in the cooler temperatures.
- During the day, I most frequently refilled water bottles in fast-food places where filtered water is on tap in the drink machines on the customer’s side of the counter. Here, one doesn’t have to ask a server for help—or feel obliged to order something. Public libraries and parks are also good sources.
- Public libraries for internet access—and for relief from hot afternoons or rainy days.
- Keeping the bike chain oiled and clean. I oiled the chain about every other day, wiping off the excess oil with a small rag that I kept in the pocket with the oil, spare tubes, extra cords, and rear light.
- When I needed the rear light, I attached it to the clip of my top bag since it would have been hidden if mounted under the bike seat.
- Rest days. Roger's tour had one rest day for every 8 or so days on the road. I had a similar ratio. Some of my rest days involved short rides of 40 miles or so in the morning, early check-in at a motel or camp-site, and late check-out the next day.
Most miles in one day: 131 miles (Kahlotus to Wenatchee, WA)
Most exhilarating ride: climb into Yellowstone from the Tetons. But several others came close, throughout the US.
Most sobering time physically: My blog for the fifth day of the trip says “I felt pretty beat by the end of the day.” Actually, I felt faint and I was feeling some pain in my chest as I set up camp in a hidden place off the road. As I lay in my hammock, I thought, “If this is how I feel now, how much further can I go?” Fortunately, I did not have long to go before reaching home, exhausted, and resting up there. I probably had biked too long and hard in heat and hills for that stage of the trip. I may also have been dehydrated or eaten too little. In future trips, I think I should limit myself to no more than 75 miles a day at least for the first week. Throughout the rest of the trip I never felt as low physically as I did that night.
Friendliest state: Nebraska.
Friendliest towns: Fredericktown, MO and Hannah, WY
Most surprising natural beauty: in Idaho. I had no idea of the geographic variety and spectacular scenery here. Wow.
Strongest wind: the one that blew me off my bike in Nebraska, at the tail end of a thunder storm.
Most stressful times: getting caught on a narrow shoulder in late Friday afternoon get-out-of-Boise-into- weekend-vacation-land traffic in what would otherwise have been a beautiful stretch along the Payette River North Fork rapids. Warding off hypothermia while descending from Stevens Pass in WA.
Strangest town: Cairo, Illinois.
Strangest sights: suddenly coming upon areas ravaged by tornados just a couple weeks earlier, in GA and AL. Flooded plains of the Mississippi, the Missouri and other rivers .
Most sobering experiences: Interacting with a hitch-hiker asking for change as I passed by and a guy sitting in the shade of a tree on the edge of a grocery store parking lot, his head down, a sign roped around his neck saying “Need help”. Not interacting with a bag lady in Seattle.
An awful lot of people were kind to me tho’ we were strangers. How kind have I been to others? How kind will I be?
An awful lot of people were kind to me tho’ we were strangers. How kind have I been to others? How kind will I be?
Most extreme juxtapositions: Jackson, WY v. the Tetons; W. Yellowstone v. Yellowstone National Park.
Favorite side-of-the-road camp sites: among pine trees in GA and ID; barn in KS just south of the NE border.
Favorite Yellowstone campground: Canyon Village. Great campsites for bicyclists and hikers and reasonable cafeteria with decent-quality food.
Worst campsite: in bushes and young trees swarming with mosquitoes along a feeder stream of the Platte in NE.
Most important practice: keeping in regular touch with family—especially dear, tolerant Ruka.
Best breakfast places: Chatters Restaurant in Lyons, GA; Route 55 Cafe in Cascade, ID.
Best food: Robin’s. And Ray does pretty well at the grill.
Most wonderful event: Terri and Dave’s wedding! The theme of community that was throughout their ceremony and pre- and post-celebrations beautifully underscored experiences and reflections I had throughout the trip, concerning people I met for the first time, friends, and family.
Some recurring images and notions
- wind—spirit (both these words are used to translate one word in Hebrew and in Greek);
- mountain chains—not the groups of mountains but chains placed over the mountains as bike chains placed over gears (what force drives these chains and how does it interact with the global spin?);
- the pilgrim’s way, rather than the pilgrim’s final destination, as shrine;
- westering: “When we saw the mountains at last, we cried—all of us. But it wasn’t getting here that mattered, it was movement and westering… The westering was as big as God, and the slow steps that made the movement piled up and piled up until the continent was crossed.” Red Pony by John Steinbeck.
- the westering magi
- Albion (William Blake)
- sea – chaos, as in biblical Hebrew texts: at the beginning and end of our journey (?), the white plastic bag in sage brush, the ear-numbing motorcycle muffler, the hoot of a teenager, the “get off the road” yell from a red pickup, the middle finger, the crash, the long blast of a horn in a Yellowstone parking lot, the thug, the flood…
- the-thing-in-itself: the buttercup, the clump of pine needles, the exhausted hitchhiker, the snow, the generous ranchhand, the mountain, the beautiful bride, the orchard, the smiling groom, the cliff, the flat tire, the tack, the peak, the living water…
“Lord, have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.”“A great good is coming--is coming--is coming to thee, Anodos."
“Brothers and sisters, I love you all.”