Trains, Planes, and Automobiles
The original plan to plan did not go according to plan. I thought it was going to be simple and by starting after Labor Day we could just start riding down the coast and make reservations a day or so in advance depending on how we were progressing. This changed when I heard in early June from a friend in California who had a VRBO who told me things were already booked up in October. I started looking at options and immediately learned the harsh reality of traveling in 2021 which was heavier than normal.
We had decided that we would start the trip by driving to San Diego and then taking a train to Vancouver. Afterall, we weren’t in a hurry and we could get a private sleeper car for not much more than plane tickets. However, I found that while I could get tickets on the train in September, all the bike spots were already taken. I then looked at other dates and found one that I could get seats and bike storage for the 36-hour trip.
I then decided I had better check on a few key locations that I heard might be a problem, like Big Sur which is a popular wedding destination in the Fall. When I checked on the dates that I had estimated we would be there, everything was booked. This was a significant problem because there are no alternatives around Big Sur so it would have left us with having to ride 110 miles with 7,000 feet of climbing. I looked at other dates and found that if I modified the schedule, I could get the last room at the Big Sur Lodge and I booked it. The new schedule required that I take Vancouver off the itinerary, which ended up being fortuitous as the border is still closed.
I then panicked and decided to book the entire 40+ day trip. Using a guidebook and other articles, I laid out a plan with dates and locations and then booked hotels. In some places, I found no rooms available and had to schedule for a longer or shorter day to try to find something in an adjacent town. After about a week of a lot of computer time on slow satellite-based internet at our Colorado ranch, I was able to complete my Excel spreadsheet for the trip.
The next set of decisions involved deciding what we needed to bring with us. The guidebooks gave us a good start, and then we customized it for ourselves. The surprising thing was how electronically connected we were. In fact, the spreadsheet needed a separate column for electronics:
- 2 iPhone and chargers
- 2 iPads and chargers
- 2 Apple watches and chargers
- hearing aids and chargers
- charger for electronic shifters
- 4 bicycle lights with chargers
- 2 cyclometers with chargers
- 2 sets ear buds
We decided to make a practice run by making a 60 mile overnight trip from Paonia, CO to Carbondale CO over McClure pass with the panniers loaded with what we thought we were going to take. Everything went well until I hit the 8% grade at the top of the pass and the extra weight felt like an anchor. When, I got to the hotel in Carbondale, I emptied out both panniers on the bed and divided it into a pile that was going on the trip and one that was staying home. Since this is not a NASA mission, I decided against redundancy.
Rather than list what we are bringing (hint: you will see from the pictures that there will not be many costume changes), I thought I would list things that didn’t make the cut:
- MacBook Air Laptop (not really light as air)
- 20 lb dumbbells (probably get enough exercise)
- Satellite internet antenna (horrible aerodynamics and CA rules against streaming and cycling)
- Portable generator (we’ll get one from FEMA if necessary)
- Camping gear (I have a card that is small enough to fit in a wallet yet can transform into food, shelter, and even a shower).
- Inflatable kayaks (we decided to take the ferries instead).
- Knee braces, elbow braces (duct tape is lighter)
- Shoulder braces (new titanium joints are light and strong)
Even though we thought we were packing minimalist, what we brought on the plane looks intimidating knowing it all has to end up on the bikes.
We had one final scramble before we got started when Amtrak cancelled the train with the sleeping car, but offered us a 34 hour ride on a train in coach with mandatory masking. As much fun as that sounded, we decided it was not the best way to prepare for a long bike ride. So the new plan was to drive to San Diego, leave the car with a friend, fly to Seattle, Uber to Bellingham, then ride to the border. The only final issue was how to get the bikes there without putting them on a plane. We found that the bike shop in Tucson could disassemble the bike and box it up and then ship it to a bike shop in Bellingham who would unbox it and get it ready to ride. A lot of potential for things to go wrong.
Well we got to ooutand have everything but one bike and one part being shipped here. Jan should be able to pick her bike up in the morning to start our ride. The part we need looks like it’s going to get here late the day we leave Bellingham, so we’ll have it forwarded down the coast. That’s why we brought duct tape