Figuring out what and how to pack for 9 weeks of supported cycling, within the two 50 pound bags per person limit was a planner’s dream. Those of you who know me (Sheila) know that I LOVE to plan and I’m a total techno geek. I realize many readers will have NO interest in this page but for the few who do I’ll provide what may be useful information when you head off on such a trip. If you’ll be doing a self-supported tour your needs will vary but you still may find some useful tips here.
Packing & clothes
Because we will be shipping our coupled tandem home from the east coast at the end of the tour we decided to use our two airline legal bike cases as two of our bags. Until then, one of them houses all our bike clothes and food stuff (more on that later) and the other houses our tent, queen-sized air mattress with rechargeable battery operated pump and our ground cloth. Our other two bags are duffel bags. One holds a two person zip-apart sleeping bag, an REI Siesta and our Thermarest rolled up camping pillows (they’re great) and quick drying camping towels. The last duffel contains our street clothes, shower supplies and electronics.
We used large zip-lock bags to organize most everything. We brought 3 pairs of cycling shorts each and 6 jerseys each. We put the matching socks in the jersey pocket and pair up our jerseys. Each zip-lock bag holds a pair of matching jerseys with socks. When zipped it makes them take up less room and they’re easy to see. Then there’s one bag for each of us with our 3 pairs of shorts and another with spare gloves and headscarves.
We brought our old well-loved leather Sidi cycling shoes and our new Keen cycling sandals for riding. Barb and Randall Angell who rode their tandem from the North Pole to the Florida Keys, self-supported, highly recommended getting sandals. We do love them. The advantage is you can get air and water on your feet when it’s hot. And if it rains they dry much quicker than leather shoes.(NOTE: due to the fabric on this model they do NOT dry as fast as the all-rubber sandals.) We decided to bring both just in case we had any issues with the sandals. We determined that our Sidis provide a slightly better foot to pedal connection for the steep challenging climbs so we reserve them for those days. We could probably ship them home now that all the hard climbing is behind us.
We’ve already shipped home all our winter/fleece cold-weather gear as we hadn’t used it since crossing the Cascades in Washington. We could probably also send home our Northwest Gortex rain gear and booties though they were well used the first week.
We didn’t bring many civilian clothes. It’s so hot I tend to only wear my “schmata” (Yiddish for rag). It’s a very loose-fitting dress so nothing clings. I can sleep in it too. I’m sure folks are sick of seeing me in one of the two I brought but when it’s 90-100° putting on underwear and anything with waist is out of the question.
Meeting vegan food needs
As vegans we knew that having local community groups provide our food across the country would be challenging. The staff at Cycle America accepted our written ideas to ease the way and did a great job of educating folks and making recommendations to those providing our meals. We managed to get soy milk at nearly every breakfast and the majority of dinners were pretty good, some even excellent.
In order to be sure we had adequate protein for muscle recovery we brought Revival Soy powder with us and Blender Bottles (thanks to Steve and Denise for that suggestion) for better mixing. We started having the Revival as a recovery drink mixed with water when we got in each day and quickly shifted that to a breakfast drink with soy milk to augment the ubiquitous oatmeal and raisins. We also carry Cliff Builder Bars which have 20 g of vegan protein per bar. So one of the bike suitcases has zip-lock bags filled with Revival and Builder Bars. Revival then is shipping more to drop points as we need it along the way.
Before we left home we researched food coops and natural food stores in the area of each rest day. There were only two weeks without anything, Devils Tower and Pierre. As we hit more densely populated area it gets better. Despite the excellent job CA has done of educating the local groups feeding us, we still miss our huge daily salads and Vita-Mix concoctions. I think it will be extremely challenging to go from eating many thousands of calories a day (needed for the activity level) back to normal quantities of food. I’m NOT losing weight. But at least I’m not gaining any either.
Techno Geek Speak
Now down to the fun stuff…technology. Greg at Cycle America stressed to “keep it simple”. His advance information was that the more you bring, the more you have to keep track of and find places to charge, etc. We knew we wanted to blog and hoped to do so daily. At home we have a single cellphone between us on a TMobile contract. Greg told us Verizon would be the only coverage in many of the small towns we’d be staying in. We didn’t want to have to constantly be seeking out and competing for limited internet access. Here’s an annotated list of what we ended up bringing. You’ll see that we didn’t really keep it simple!
- Verizon mobile hotspot bought on EBay for $30 with no contract (3G is enough as most places don’t have 4G)
- Pay as you go (no contract) Verizon, $50/mo for 5 gb transfer so no looking for libraries and internet cafes.
- A 4 outlet travel power strip designed for fat plugs. This enables us to always use an outlet even if they’re all full.
- Our cell phone even though it doesn’t always have coverage. It mostly does for the phone which is great for emergencies. It usually won’t do email or internet when it’s roaming though. The camera in it has a fabulous panorama option, but has no flash.
- We decided we needed to bring our small digital camera because it’s fast and easy to take photos while riding which the phone is not. It also has a wrist strap. It’s nice to have both camera options in case one runs out of battery.
- A small netbook because we wanted to be able to use a keyboard for blogging and for photo editing in Photoshop. We get our email on it as well.
- A 7″ Android tablet. This was a last minute suggestion for reading books, which we don’t have time for. We could probably do without it. But it is nice that when one of us is using the netbook the other can surf the web. Spencer is keeping up with the Tour de France on it and also occasionally reading a book on it. If we were self supported I’d probably take only this tablet and not try to blog daily. A phone is too small to do much with on a daily basis.
- Garmin 705 bike computer/GPS. We’ve had it a long time and I love having all the data it provides. I opted out of using my heart rate monitor band within the first week. Too much data…that we didn’t need. And too hot to bother with it.
Devil’s in the details
Here are a few other things you might not think of that have been quite handy:
- All the power cords use color-coded velcro ties to keep them tidy and easy to recognize in their bag.
- I brought several toilet paper roll-ends. I keep one on the bike at all times along with a small packet of wet-wipes. I watch for them at our rest-day motels and procure more as needed.
- We didn’t pack any soap or shampoo. We just pickup what we need on each rest-day from our motel. We did pack unscented laundry soap, clothespins and a clothesline.
- We have eye masks and ear plugs since we are sleeping communally in either a school gym or outside in a tent.
- I have a “pee jar” (large yogurt container) with lid that I can use to pee in the middle of the night. I did call this page TMI! Sometimes the bathrooms are far away and they’re always so well lit that it wakes me up. So this really helps.
- Shower shoes. I have the cheap kind that has a post between the first two toes. I would recommend a slip-on kind that doesn’t have that need so you can keep your socks on. We’re required to leave off our cleated bike shoes when going to meals at the schools.
- We have a small plastic spray bottle that help cool us on the bike and in the campground.
- We keep the large bottles of sunscreen and chamois butter in the suitcase and decant just a day’s worth into a small travel dispenser from REI (where else?!) to carry in the bike trunk.
If you’re still reading you must have a trip planned in your future. We’d be happy to answer questions here or directly via email. We are enjoying this “adventure…we cannot fail”!
PS: Someone asked how we have time to blog every day. It’s teamwork. While Spencer showers I upload the images and prepare them. While I shower he writes the story. Then I put the images in. Between us it takes roughly 2 hours each day. We decided it was important to us to journal daily so it would be fresh and we wouldn’t forget things. We hope this will not only be something we look back on but that others who plan to tour will also find valuable in the future.