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Old 03-10-07, 04:15 AM   #1
PhattTyre
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Portland to Portland, the odds of riding alone?

So I'm looking to ride from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine this summer. I might have a riding partner, I might not and I'd ride the northern route. My question is, what are the odds of someone with no touring experience, but plenty of riding and camping experience, making the trip across the country alone? I'm a competent cyclist and I backpaked in my youth. I'll have about an $800 month budget, and I can handle long stretches, without companionship, with no trouble. I'd leave around early August and I would bring a tent, hamock, or bivvy sack (trying to keep it light, open to suggestions), sleeping bag, 2 days of riding clothes, and one day of normal clothes, give or take. I'm hoping to stealth camp more often than not. I'm a bike mechanic by trade and would bring enough tools/parts for basic repair and maintainence. I'd plan to have food for each day and would expect to hit a grocery store every 150-200 miles, but i probably wouldn't have a stove (should I bring a stove?, I love coffee). I'm already training for a 100 mile off-road ride in July (12 hour ride time), so my fitness would be great... I'm already riding 200+ miles a week and it'll only increase as summer approaches. What are my odds? Keep in mind I'm talking of odds of survival, not comfort, I can handle 24 hours without food, assuming I have water... would I make it to Maine alive? without some psycho nut job messing with me?

Which brings me to my next question. while I'm not a gun person at all, I understand their effectiveness in protection and I have plenty of gun happy friends to show me the ropes., if I went for 2 months, or so, across the country alone, would it be in my best interest to get a gun and learn how to use it? Is it that dangerous to ride alone without some sort of protection? I'm looking for the real odds that I'd make alive, not just odds that I would be comfortable and not messed with in a non life threatening kind of way.
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Old 03-10-07, 08:12 AM   #2
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I honestly think the idea of carrying a gun comes from genuinely paranoid people. I'm not saying that there aren't crazy people out there, but if you have some common sense about who to trust and talk to, you should be fine. On my tour from Kentucky to Wyoming I was fine, the worst thing that happened to me was having a handful of change thrown at me. Honestly, I think it's beyond overkill to take a gun with you.

As far as being able to ride across the country, it sounds like you can do it. I'm 24 right now and was 22 on my last tour and after about one and a half weeks, I was in the best shape of my life. Sadly I hardly trained for the tour, but I was young and I got in shape quick.

I'd say take a camping stove, especially if you want to spend less money. Being able to cook some rice and summer sausage or chicken at night and some oatmeal in the morning helps to keep you out of restaurants. Though, I did that and lost 18 pounds in two weeks. Make sure you eat a ton. I met Wojtek, who runs http://www.64days.com put some numbers together and came up with an interesting conclusion about how much to eat per day, etc. here: http://64days.com/facts.html

If you can find a cheaper 1 person tent, I'd go with that. If the weather's fine you can choose to not set it up, but you'll like having the tent when it's raining. I use the REI Roadster UL tent. It is perfect for bike touring. I used an REI (I sound like I'm advertising for them almost) 55 degree+ sleeping bag on that last tour, and it served me well. I was a little cold in Colorado, but putting on some extra clothes helped.

I hope I answered your questions. I think you'll honestly be fine. Just keep in mind when you're in places that might not be as bike friendly as Portland.
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Old 03-10-07, 09:08 AM   #3
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I'm a gun owner and a tourer, and used to do a ton of hiking and backpacking before that much like yourself. I've considered the issue and tried to see both sides as well. I guess where I am at in my thinking is that for me I would probably lean towards not taking a gun on a cross country tour. I say this for me and not for you. You need to decide for yourself. I feel like I can keep myself out of trouble and troubling situations fairly well. Also for me, owning a gun is more about protecting my family from psycho people than for protecting myself. If you do bring a gun there are things you would have to consider:

1)the added weight--at least a pound, probably closer to two.
2)where do you carry it? Even if you have a Concealed carry permit (which it doesn't sound like you do), CWP's don't automatically transfer from state to state. Here in Oregon with a CWP, my permit does not allow me to conceal if I cross the border into California--they don't recognize Oregon's CWP. So therefore you would have to have it visibly out (not concealed)--which in some areas of the country may get you into more pickles than being without a gun altogether.--Or I suppose you could just break the law and conceal it and assume you'll never get searched. However this may be a felony in some parts of the country.
3)If you are planning to fly back to your start or some other destination at the end, what do you do with the gun?

For these reasons, I would say probably not. I can understand your trepidation. Imagine stealth camping somewhere, its 3am and you hear some psycho drunk guy thrashing around outside your tent miles from a town. You have to hope that he is just a harmless malcontent.

If you feel like you might want something other than a gun for a little bit of security, I bought my wife a little stun gun. It was about $40, weighs just ounces, it is the size of a mini mag-lite and actually functions as a flashlight. It will work on a nuisance dog without hurting it permanently, and (allegedly--we haven't tried) will take a full grown man down in seconds--again no permanent damage. Time enough for you to get the hell out of there. They can be legally concealed anywhere and they are legal in every state I believe (you might check--there might be one or two exceptions here) That is just an idea. Good luck

P.S. I don't think you are paranoid for wanting to be safe--I just think that you have to weigh the pro's and cons.

Good luck.
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Old 03-10-07, 09:27 AM   #4
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I don't think he's paranoid, I just tend to think that people think that a gun is goin to solve problems, and don't realize it's one thing to carry a gun and another thing to be willing to point it at another human and fire it. I guess I think it's overkill but hey, yo each his own.
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Old 03-10-07, 10:12 AM   #5
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if you're not a 'gun person' now, why become one on vacation?

I'd be more concerned with the right camping gear than a gun.

you'll do fine. go on some weekend-week long tours first, see if you enjoy stealth camping in ditches and the what not.
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Old 03-10-07, 10:28 AM   #6
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Sure if you want to make it you will make it. Leave the gun at home but bring a stove. You will find stores more often then every 200 miles. Have a good trip.
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Old 03-10-07, 11:16 AM   #7
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I was raised with guns, and have never accepted the anti-gun hysteria. I'm thankful for the gun owners out there because the bad guys and trouble makers have to think, if they are thinking, that I might have one too. However, I don't own a gun. I may someday, but I don't enjoy hunting, and I believe that in a dangerous confrontation, having a gun to reach for can, in a red-alert situation, present you with options that are too easy, and become decisions you regret.

You should NEVER fire a gun at someone unless you intend to kill them.

There is no such thing as an unloaded gun. Unloaded guns are the ones that cause most of the accidental fatalities (if I remember my statistics).

A gun can easily be taken and fired at you, and the statistics I looked into showed that more gun owners are harmed by their own guns than are protected by them.

Once you pull a trigger, you can NEVER get that bullet back.

The best way to avoid child fatalities is by educating them and satisfying their curiosity in a safe envirnoment. But for adults—this is just an opinion—but I think guns can carry a bad vibe, for lack of a better word. They have a way of finding trouble, not avoiding it.

Most gun owners are extremely responsible, often very good-natured, and usually are the best people in the world to camp next to. Guns have provided me with a lot of fun, and may again someday.

Whatever you decide, best wishes for a great trip.

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Old 03-10-07, 11:20 AM   #8
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No problem. You should be fine--I'm a solo female tourer and won't carry a gun. Pepper spray, yes. trusting my instincts, yes. good preparation, yes. I'd recommend doing a couple of weekend trips to see how you like touring. I just had a couple of short weekend trips and one 4 day tour under my belt before I took off cross-country. Eat, sleep, bike. It's not that hard!
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Old 03-10-07, 11:36 AM   #9
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No problem. You should be fine--I'm a solo female tourer and won't carry a gun. Pepper spray, yes. trusting my instincts, yes. good preparation, yes. I'd recommend doing a couple of weekend trips to see how you like touring. I just had a couple of short weekend trips and one 4 day tour under my belt before I took off cross-country. Eat, sleep, bike. It's not that hard!
She probably carries a foille, or, a foil, a type of lethal renaissance sword, judging from her nom de guerre.

I'm a gun nut. But, I also feel like my gabooza is hanging out when I carry. So, I don't. Having a gun in public presents all kinds of problems with actually securing the gun itself, along with all the aforementioned issues. The interstate travel is greatly complicated because of differing laws. I think a shotgun is about the only firearm that generally enjoys an almost universal exception in this regard, although my recollection is very dated on that.

Too much hassle. Carry pepper spray on your handle bars and have a holster for it or carry it on you when you're at camp. Be sure to kick the living S##T out of 'em while you can. Leave a nothing but a twitching, urinating mass or they'll come back.
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Old 03-10-07, 11:59 AM   #10
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I'd sure think about a stove and a french press coffee maker (they have cup size models now) if you really like coffee that much.

As a practical matter, you can't bring a gun. Different states have different laws and a number prohibit concealed carry of a firearm by civilians. Some states have reciprocity with others, but it's by no means universal. www.packing.org tries to catalog the various state laws. There is a Federal "safe passage" law but securing a firearm on a bike would be difficult. It's another 2-3 lbs and several hundred dollars, plus extensive training.

Pepper spray and a cell phone are more flexible choices. I'd think about a small gps like the Garmin eTrex series, with the appropriate maps loaded. If you spend a little more you can get one that will auto-route and you can specify you're on a bike - I have the Garmin eTrex Vista CX, which also has an altimeter.

You can buy all three for less than the cost of most firearms. My brother-in-law rode the country East-West and had no security problems. Not runnig out of water will be a bigger challenge than getting robbed.
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Old 03-10-07, 12:09 PM   #11
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I'd sure think about a stove and a french press coffee maker (they have cup size models now) if you really like coffee that much.

As a practical matter, you can't bring a gun. Different states have different laws and a number prohibit concealed carry of a firearm by civilians. Some states have reciprocity with others, but it's by no means universal. www.packing.org tries to catalog the various state laws. There is a Federal "safe passage" law but securing a firearm on a bike would be difficult. It's another 2-3 lbs and several hundred dollars, plus extensive training.

Pepper spray and a cell phone are more flexible choices. I'd think about a small gps like the Garmin eTrex series, with the appropriate maps loaded. If you spend a little more you can get one that will auto-route and you can specify you're on a bike - I have the Garmin eTrex Vista CX, which also has an altimeter.

You can buy all three for less than the cost of most firearms. My brother-in-law rode the country East-West and had no security problems. Not runnig out of water will be a bigger challenge than getting robbed.
Ah ha! And by your nom de guerre, you probably have one those fabulous M-1's. A bit heavy to strap on a bike, I'd say. Your comments are spot-on, probably just like a Garand.
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Old 03-10-07, 12:18 PM   #12
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I did a Chicago to Portland *drive* and that was enough for me. S Dakota was generally triple digit temperatures (August) with every other car being a big rig. Careful out there...
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Old 03-10-07, 12:18 PM   #13
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in the in the late 70s and early 80s i carried a firearm while touring,
not sure why i did. at the time it seemed like a reasonable thing to do.
i never used it in any defensive fashion, after a while it became more of
a hassle than any benefit.
if you really need some sort of protective device- get a small dry chemical
fire extinguisher. that powder sprayed in someone's face will temporarily
blind them- you can escape the situation and have done no permanent damage.
plus if your stove tips over and starts a small fire somewhere- you can quickly
put it out.
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Old 03-10-07, 12:21 PM   #14
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Is this a bike ride?... or a hunting trip?
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Old 03-10-07, 12:38 PM   #15
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Travelling alone is, imho, the much superior way to go. Set your own pace, make your own decisions, enjoy your own delightful company. I am a gun owner (Walther PPK) and sincerely want to defend myself in a tight spot but I would never consider bringing a gun on a bicycle trip. If you are traveling alone, I really can't imagine anyone bothering you during the day. In fact, it is a peculiar excelllence of bicycling that people of all sorts and places are not "threatened," psychologically speaking, by bicylists. The only people who envy bicyclists are other bicyclists. And, we look harmless. Come nighttime, if you are camplng in a State Park (YUUCCCKKKK!) or a private campground, you will, of course be safe. If, however, you are camping "in the rough," then you are really on your own . You will want to chose your camping spot carefully, where no one will come upon you, chose it just as it is getting dark, make no fires or light and do whatever else you can to become invisible. I find this an exciting and enjoyable way to spend the night (my previous selves jump up and yell, "It's the Best, the Best, the Best" but what do they know?). Usually, it is more beautiful than a campground, flowers are discovered all around come morning, and there is a kind of bond between oneself and this "spot" that has been a safe harbor through the night. Lastly, I will never again bring on any hiking or bicycling trip the various requirements to heat food and drink. I regret that I ever did so. What a bloody waste! The craving for a hot cup of something in the morning has everything to do with caffine addiction. Not that it isn't nice but, really, a nice breakkast is waiting for you just down the road.

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Old 03-10-07, 01:22 PM   #16
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The main disapointment of carrying a gun on your route will be finding anyone to shoot at. Once you reach Wyoming you'll want someone to rob you, as long as they stop to talk awhile first. Don't discourage them by packing heat.

The second reason is that crazies are crazy, not necessarily stupid. I mean, there you are, riding across the plains, maybe wearing a blaze jersey, the tallest object in a hundred miles, visible for about 500 miles to someone with a decent elk scope, and you think that crazy hunter is going to let you get close enough to get off the first shot with your girlie-man pistol? You're better off in flak jacket and helmet.

The third reason is maybe you're crazy, and you won't find it out until you've put in some big miles under a hot sun. I mean, bike touring is already one mark against your sanity.

The people who pack are invariably a)men and b) young (I'm not accusing you of being either one, just saying). Exactly the people who you might think would be the most likely to be able to care for themselves in a scrape. Grandma and Grandpa rarely pack, and there's lots of grey tourers.

Oh, and c) American. Europeans are raised on a steady media diet of American violence but they somehow manage to keep the danger in perspective when they tour the states.

The weapon you should fear on the road is the motorized vehicle. Hard to stop them with a bullet.

That said, I have fired a few imaginary bullets at logging trucks with my thumb and index finger. It's about .45 caliber.

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Old 03-10-07, 01:37 PM   #17
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The third reason is maybe you're crazy, and you won't find it out until you've put in some big miles under a hot sun. I mean, bike touring is already one mark against your sanity.

Testify brother.
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Old 03-10-07, 01:38 PM   #18
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Hey PhattTyre,

First off, relax. People do this ride solo all the time. Don't mess with a gun.

Second, I'd take a good tent...not a cheap one-- a 2 person one so you and your gear will fit in it. I'd take a light weight sleeping bag. I personally wouldn't take a stove-- I just like to take less gear, but you can do it either way.
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Old 03-10-07, 03:32 PM   #19
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Thanks for all the helpful info and encouragement. The gun doesn't sound like it's for me. Truth be told, I was a little drunk when I posted last night and it seemed like a much better idea then. When it came down to it I don't think I could actually fire it at someone.

The stove I'll have to think about. I do really enjoy coffee in the morning, but I can skip it without getting headaches or feeling grumpy. I don't really cook that much at home, so I don't know why I'd start on vacation? I think I can get pretty far on pbj and cold-cut sandwiches and just hit up local resturants for some thing warm.

What about the timing? Is August that bad a time to start? Would I be better off waiting until Spetember?
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Old 03-10-07, 05:08 PM   #20
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Someone in one of the magazines I read just did the exact trip you are thinking about. He did in about 72 days and it was an interesting article. He had some health issues along the way but after surgery continued on. I have to think abut which mag it was and see if I can post it to this thread later. I don't think you can leave in August and ex pect to avoid some really cold weather.On the firearem thing ,NYC is 3 years in jail no excuses. Not that you would come down this far but just an example of what you could run into as you passed from state to state.
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Old 03-10-07, 05:23 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by PhattTyre
My question is, what are the odds of someone with no touring experience, but plenty of riding and camping experience, making the trip across the country alone?
The odds are determined greatly by you. Your behavior, your choices, your actions, your perceptions and understandings.

It helps to have good judgment, and not to be paranoid. Fearlessness, relaxation, and clear-sightedness are things to have on your side.

The fact that you are asking these questions shows that you are open to learning, and to honing your judgments -- both very good things.

Avoid dangerous situations.

If you keep this attitude of a learner, I think you'll do well.

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Originally Posted by PhattTyre
should I bring a stove?, I love coffee
Too many variables here. I can't answer it for you.

I can speak for myself: I appreciate the simplicity of not having to cook meals. However, I do occasionally like to cook something. So I end up cooking occasionally, and I carry minimal, very light weight cooking gear. Some of the isobutane stoves are very convenient and quick. Some people really like the Jetboil systems. Others like the Brasslite alcohol stoves. Or one of the Trangias, or some variation on the supercat and Pepsi stoves. It's mainly a matter of individual preference. [The Jetboil is probably the quickest and easiest to set up, light, and boil.]

My suggestion: Learn to find no-cook meals that you enjoy. It will free up a lot of time. There are many things you can eat that do not need cooking, that also taste great, and are nutritious and reasonably priced. The bins at large natural food stores are full of good possibilities. And you can make up your own mixtures. There are a lot of GORP recipes on backpacking sites. Some of them are great. Apples, bananas, oranges, and other produce are quick, easy, and nutritious to eat, and require no cooking or preparation.

And then you could also carry a very light, compact stove system, for when you want to use it.

That way you aren't forced to do either -- you don't have to cook when you don't want to; but you can if you choose to. And there is very little weight penalty.

Or just go stove-free.

I tend to cook less and less. I feel much freer that way.

[coffee just seems like a bad habit to me; but that's me -- maybe you need it for a while, or maybe you'll drop it; it's your call...]
[it sounds like you might be interested in quitting the habit? if so, going stove-free might be a good step.]

Quote:
Originally Posted by PhattTyre
What are my odds? Keep in mind I'm talking of odds of survival, not comfort
This indicates that there is something you have in mind that you are worried about.

And it seems to be this,

Quote:
Originally Posted by PhattTyre
would I make it to Maine alive? without some psycho nut job messing with me?
It depends on the judgment calls or the decisions you make. If you camp in a small park in the wrong part of a bad city, I'd say your chances of being messed with are very high.

If you camp only in safe areas (which include just about anywhere, assuming reasonable judgment, in large National Forests in the West), then I would say your chances of being messed with are very, very low. Lower than where you are now. Lower than most of the places you spend time in.

If you look at crime statistics (there are websites for this), and you look at the leading causes of death (there are websites for this too), you can see that there are many other things that can happen in life.

Unless you go around courting lightning strikes, it is extremely unlikely that you will have trouble. Statistically speaking, you're pretty safe. If you put yourself in the wrong places, though, you can almost guarantee that you will be hit.

You can further improve your already excellent chances by educating yourself and developing your judgment. You are doing this to some extent here. In itself, it shows some good judgment. Keep developing it further, and honing it, and you'll be fine.

There are no absolute guarantees of safety; but that is the nature of life on this planet. It is best to relax with this fact. It is good to minimize unnecessary risks; but a certain level of risk is absolutely inevitable.

I cannot solve the problem of the possibility of (bodily) death right here right now. Each of us has to come to terms with that, or not. It can happen anywhere anytime. It might help to realize that you may not just be a body and a brain, but something else too. Meeting everything as it comes, directly and fearlessly, may be a form of endless life. But this is veering off into philosophy.

I do not think that a well conducted and reasonably safely conducted bike tour, of the sort you are describing, is particularly dangerous.

Avoid the places where criminals and psychos tend to be. Spending a lot of time in the worst parts of certain cities is a recipe for problems.

Avoid other dangerous situations, including, but not limited to: bad traffic; night riding, especially when there might be drunks on the road; riding while intoxicated or impaired; ignoring your intuition when it warns you about something; heavily travelled roads with no shoulder; and other situations, many of which you can evaluate with your own good judgment.

Last edited by Niles H.; 03-10-07 at 05:28 PM.
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Old 03-10-07, 06:51 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by PhattTyre
My question is, what are the odds of someone with no touring experience, but plenty of riding and camping experience, making the trip across the country alone?
The odds of you completing this tour have little to do with your experience, conditioning, equipment, or money. It all depends on your mental attitude, touring is 90 percent mental.

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Which brings me to my next question. while I'm not a gun person at all, I understand their effectiveness in protection and I have plenty of gun happy friends to show me the ropes.,
It is not needed but will land you in oodles of trouble if your gun is discovered. The odds are very low that you will be assaulted. The odds will be very low that you will die touring the tour. I hope you become less paranoid if you decide to do this tour or you will won't have a good time.
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Old 03-10-07, 07:34 PM   #23
Niles H.
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Originally Posted by gpsblake
I hope you become less paranoid if you decide to do this tour or you won't have a good time.
I agree with this.

One way or another, you should be able to get past it. For me, actual experiences and travel helped a lot. Otherwise, you can end up spinning all sorts of stories and possibilities in your head. Real-world, empirical experience seems to help quell it -- at least it did for me. You might find yourself growing out of it more and more as you tour. Faith or trust in life, inside yourself and outside, seems to help too.
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Old 03-10-07, 08:09 PM   #24
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I think PhattTyre and anyone else who has never toured before should do a mini 3 day tour to get a feel on how it is like to tour. That is the best way to get used to your equipment, get over fears, and find out if it is really for you or not.
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Old 03-11-07, 07:08 AM   #25
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gpsblake wrote:
"I think PhattTyre and anyone else who has never toured before should do a mini 3 day tour to get a feel on how it is like to tour. That is the best way to get used to your equipment, get over fears, and find out if it is really for you or not."

This is good advice. Actually, to just do several little trips will help get a person's kit refined. Therafter, one can set off on a major tour with suprisingly little preparation.
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