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  1. #1
    Newbie Holy Roller's Avatar
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    The Life's Too Short Tour

    Fellow Tourers:
    This is my first post on this forum. I am a 43-year-old guy in NYC who is about to embark on a solo transcontinental bicycle trek. The tour begins in about 5 or 6 weeks, going from NYC to Santa Cruz, Cali.

    I have dreamed about such a trek all my life, but always put if off, waiting for the "best time." Thing is, that best time never came and the dream stayed on the back burner all these years.

    But all that changed this week when my cousin died suddenly. He was 44, we were close, and so it has been a very sorrowful experience. I spent all this week in the funeral activities with the family, and wrote and delivered the eulogy. His sudden passing has caused me to question the very foundations of my life. Why was I always too busy to visit him? Was anything I ever did worth not seeing him? The answer came to me like an epiphany, and like Marlon Brando said in Apocalypse Now, the realization hit me "like a diamond bullet right through my forehead" that I have been living too mired in my own pursuits of career and money, and that it has been an utter waste of time, because life is simply to short. It's time to quit worrying about the small stuff, living in fear really, and get living, today.

    Hence the Life's Too Short Tour. Whenever anyone asks why I'm biking across the country I will say "because life's too short." I am hoping this journey will give me the time I need to get my head straight after this great loss.

    I bought an old Trek 520 for the journey. It is a 1984, a real old bike, but it rides like a Cadillac. It has old school shifters on the frame, old school toe clips, and old school 27-inch wheels. I made some upgrades: new brake levers, new saddle, raised handle bars. Front and back racks are being installed today. Next I will buy waterproof panniers. I am upgrading to fatter tires, perhaps 30s or 32s from the 28s which are on it now.

    I am in halfway decent shape, but I know I will struggle the first weeks. Then again I am in no hurry, and will gladly accept 30 to 50-mile days at first. I will stay in both motels and camping out with a tent and sleeping bag with a camp stove. I will bring my laptop so that I can continue my work (freelance writer) and maintain a blog about the trek.

    Any advice?
    About the route?
    About which tires to get? (my local shop recommended Continental Gator Skin kevlar-lined tires).
    Anything you can offer in advice is much-welcomed.

    Thanks,
    Thomas

  2. #2
    Senior Member cyclezealot's Avatar
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    sorry for your loss...Sometimes our neglect of those close to us are for reasons more trivial than just career. Sometimes, just totally careless and self-absorption.. We tend to be overly critical and maybe your cousin knew how important he was to you..
    Don't think your hardly alone in this area. Many of us never know.. And many live a life of deserved regret.
    .. You are going from East to West. Most go in the opposite direction.. Which route are you taking the Colorado route or Southern one. The Colorado route will require you be super fit....
    ... . Are you considering climate. It's likely already too late for the southern route. Don't think eastern Oregon, northern Nevada can't be a hot box much after May...
    Congratulations and hope you find yourself on your journey.. Many of us never do. I know I have some concerns about my regrets over my Dad's death.. The lesson will be in always remembering. Live life like there's no tomorrow. And congratulations.. I think your choice of a bike tour after a big loss is exactly what the shrink would have ordered - for many of us...
    Last edited by cyclezealot; 04-19-09 at 12:47 PM.
    Pray for the Dead and Fight like Hell for the Living






    ^ Since January 1, 2012

  3. #3
    Newbie Holy Roller's Avatar
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    Thanks cyclezealot. Thanks for your good and insightful words.
    I do not know which route to take. I am just now fleshing that out. It's likely that the Colorado route is the one I'll take, not too far south or north. I had not considered climate and weather and such, this is the kind of advice I'm hoping to generate. So thanks, because now I know that I need to research the route and figure this out.

  4. #4
    Senior Member cyclezealot's Avatar
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    Holly Roller. As to routing, check out Adventure Cycling they publish maps for cyclists.. I'd love to join someone/sometime, in such a tour.. Sometime/somewhere I want to cross a continent on a bike..
    Colorado requires super fitness, as you likley know. By the time you get there, you'll be ok.. Besides the heat. Should you be going alone, remember ; out west there are vast distances with no services.. Guess that's what they make cell phones for. Some undeveloped areas can be more than a days ride between civilization.
    A book I recommend.. "The Complete Book of Long Distance Cycling."by Edmund Burke and Ed Pavelka.. I am sure you know this is just not something , someone does without preparation. Best of luck, you're cousin would be proud.
    Last edited by cyclezealot; 04-19-09 at 01:04 PM.
    Pray for the Dead and Fight like Hell for the Living






    ^ Since January 1, 2012

  5. #5
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    Condolences, Holy Roller. With a journey like this, you'll have a lot of time to think, and I hope it takes you to a higher level.

    You'll find a cross-country cycling trip is about the people -- the ones you meet, the ones who approach you out of interest and curiosity, the ones you join on the road. I think if you are open to why you're doing this trip, you'll find that most people go through an identical catharsis, some younger, some older. We generally don't talk about these turns in our lives... You'll have the opportunity to share their stories.

    5 or 6 weeks -- that's just about enough time to dig deep into the journals on crazyguyonabike (CGOAB). Most of the questions (fitness, gear, routes, etc.) are answered in there, but the stories will rope you in. On that site, search for "TransAm" or "Western Express".

    The logical first choice for your trip is the Adventure Cycling (ACA) TransAmerica and Western Express routes. The comment above about "most people going W-E" isn't accurate, it's about half-half. If you start in mid-May (even a little earlier if possible), it's ideal for going E-W. The thing to watch out for is -- if you take the Western Express route across Utah/Nevada -- try to plan on that before mid-July. Any year can present different weather conditions, but that will give you a good chance of not expiring in the desert heat...

    Another choice is to take the TransAm to Oregon and ride down the coast -- obviously more miles and time. But you'd avoid the long desert stretches.

    The benefits of going E-W with a start in April or May is to escape the east coast heat and humidity of mid-summer. For a complete TransAm, generally aim to cross the Rockies (Colorado-Wyoming-Montana) in mid-July, no matter which direction you're going. Your plan fits in to this (starting on the west coast, you're looking at mid-June). Nevertheless, everybody has schedules and reasons for deviating a bit.

    Look over the ACA and CGOAB sites. And this one. Lots of good info to get you started.

    -- Mark

  6. #6
    Senior Member Speedo's Avatar
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    Holy Roller,

    My sympathy for your loss, my best wishes for a successful tour.

    I second the idea of using the Adventure Cycling Routes. You can stitch together much of your ride from AC routes. The AC routes don't just represent a set of directions. The maps have lots of local information that should prove useful on your journey.

    You'll need to figure out what equipment to bring. Searching here on Bike Forums you can find other people's equipment lists. Another useful site is crazyguyonabike. They have a link that will lead you to other people's equipment lists, and reading some of the tour journals will give you an idea of what to expect, and probably some inspiration as well.

    Good luck!
    Speedo

  7. #7
    Senior Member RepWI's Avatar
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    Holy Roller

    I also want to express my condolences to you. Also, I want to thank you for writing about life and how we tend to muddle through it.
    1974 Mizutani Super Seraph Road Bike
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  8. #8
    Wanderlust burtonridr's Avatar
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    I'm sorry to hear about the loss of your close friend/relative. Its a difficult thing to deal with and life is such a fragile balance.

    I wish you the best of luck on your trip, I'm very jealous

    For your route, if you choose to head diagonally down so your route takes you kinda through the south tip of colorado. I would highly recommend visiting Moab Utah, the grand canyon, zion national park utah, the hoover dam, Las vegas, etc.

    If you choose to ride along the north through the dakotas, etc. Check out yellowston national park, sunvalley idaho, bend oregon, the owyhee canyon idaho, hells canyon idaho, then the whole highway 101 from oregon south to mexico is gorgeous and filled with lots of cozy little sea side towns.

    If you choose to come this way through the PNW send me a PM and I can help you with the route and I would be more than happy to provide a place to stay for a night or two.
    Last edited by burtonridr; 04-19-09 at 07:34 PM.
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  9. #9
    Twincities MN kuan's Avatar
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    Sorry to hear about your cousin. Life is, indeed, too short.

    I too came to that realization somewhere in 2004-2005 when two young friends died of cancer and one survived.

  10. #10
    mev
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    Quote Originally Posted by Holy Roller View Post
    I am in halfway decent shape, but I know I will struggle the first weeks. Then again I am in no hurry, and will gladly accept 30 to 50-mile days at first. I will stay in both motels and camping out with a tent and sleeping bag with a camp stove. I will bring my laptop so that I can continue my work (freelance writer) and maintain a blog about the trek.

    Any advice?
    I think a good portion of cycle touring is mental and sounds like you have both some motivation and a reasonable attitude towards the trip. As far as advice goes, a good mental attitude and some problem solving ability can get you through a lot of different things. So my advice would be more to think through a few things that if they happened would make it pretty tough and take some extra steps to avoid. For example:
    -- Climate; most parts of the US will be fine this summer. I wouldn't swing too far south in the extreme deserts, though US 50 across Nevada is tolerable (I rode it once 4th of July week: http://www.mvermeulen.com/nevada/index.htm, and it got hot in the afternoons but was still ok in mornings).
    -- Crash or bicycle stolen; No need to be paranoid, but have some reasonable road riding skills and avoid doing stupid stuff like riding at night without lights. Have awareness of your surroundings to avoid theft (probably less likely in the small towns than bigger urban areas)
    -- Strained knees/physical; have your bike well fitted, avoid getting caught in the "must meet schedule"

  11. #11
    Recovering mentalist Randochap's Avatar
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    Condolences. If there is any "gift" out of such events it is the one you have arrived at -- the realization that our materialistic society gives no rewards or accolades for inner growth.

    I've been lucky to have discovered the joy of long-distance cycling from a very early age ... and the lessons one can absorb on the road. I chose to ride alone as well, finding it leaves one open more to serendipity and people/events one meets along the way.

    May I suggest you might find some info and inspiration at the stories and touring section of VeloWeb? I'll soon be expanding the touring section.
    VeloWeb | VeloWebLog

    "The bicycle is the noblest invention of mankind." ~William Saroyan

  12. #12
    Slow Rider bwgride's Avatar
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    Once your bike is ready to ride and you have some gear, I recommend you travel somewhere near NYC with hills and camping opportunities because early in your trip you will face the Appalachians and grades there can be challenging (10% to 20%). I don't know NY well, but from the map it looks like Harriman State Park or South Mountain Reservation may be good candidates for loaded (panniers and gear) training rides with good, steep hills to work your lungs, e.g.,

    http://www.mapmyride.com/find-ride/u...es/ny/harriman

    http://www.bikely.com/maps/bike-path...in-Reservation

    Also, if camping is possible at those locations, try that too for the experience. It will help you identify what is needed and what isn't.

  13. #13
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    Training and techniques will make you suffer slightly faster up hills, not suffer any less.
    Guy Wilson-Roberts

    I am here to kick this hill in the nuts!
    me

  14. #14
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    i feel for your loss, life is too short!

    much luck on your Journey, hope you discover clues in your quest!

    i am in simular shoes, but humanly unique! i am planning my 2nd x-USA, this time west to east, am exploring bikecentennial-Adv/Cycling's souther tier, Fall 2010, post masters degree. first x-USA was in 1982 (age 22, e-w).

    i have toured with groups, but now mostly self-contained. i encourage you to explore options of group inclusion for first trip. there are lots of details and techniques about touring to learn and the
    group will (should) assist!

    kevlar works!

    welcome to BF! check out crazyguyonabike.org (or .com) for more ideas and have a great tour!!

    pm for more specifics.

    tomg

  15. #15
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    Sorry for your sorrows. I appreciate and understand your enlightened take on life. I've been talking about the same trip since '76. I should be on the road the same time you'll be.
    If I took the advice of " fully load your bike and do a trial run'', I probably never would have done my last loaded trip of only three hundred miles. The first six miles were killer, thought I'd die,didn't have a triple, but eventually found a rhythm and made my destination in time for a wedding. Load and go. May the wind be at your back. ;-))

  16. #16
    dangerous with tools halfbiked's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Holy Roller View Post
    I am hoping this journey will give me the time I need to get my head straight after this great loss.
    Sounds like you're already on your way. Enjoy the ride.

  17. #17
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    I'm very sorry for your loss.

    Yes, life is too short to waste a minute of it. I had some losses that motivated me to make big changes too. Treat yourself gently for a while, it's a confusing time. Big permanent decisions might be better left unmade for a while.

    Putting the lowest gears you can get on the bike within your budget would be the best upgrade I could recommend.

    Tailwinds to you.
    ...

  18. #18
    Senior Member wheel's Avatar
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    Keep the passion alive!




    You won't regret it. I myself allow a spectrum of time rather than miles. Where I end up who firkin cares. I use libraries as I go. Plotting and finding things along my way.

    Shorter 3 day trips of course a destination is in order.


    as recommended use and abuse your stuff before hand. Knowing what you need and what you want is paramount.

  19. #19
    'roid monkey wannabe AnnaMossity's Avatar
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    To the OP: Kudos for finally living your dream. What good is life if you just mire yourself in the rat race. I will take your courage to take that leap and use it when I hand in my letter of resignation at work. You rock. With adversity comes opportunity. Bon voyage mon frere.

  20. #20
    Neil_B
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    My condolences for your loss. And good skill on your tour!

  21. #21
    rhm
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    I, too, will add my condolences.

    And my congratulations, for getting out and doing your ride!

    I think you'll find the best thing about touring is meeting people. If you go a day without meeting cool people, you're doing something wrong.

    Motels are great, camping out is great, and so on. But check this out: www.warmshowers.org.

    When are you leaving?

  22. #22
    eternalvoyage
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    Suggestions: Spend some extra time seeing California. It's a beautiful state.

    It's great to get off the treadmill of hurrying.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Holyroller.. View Post
    Thank you all for your wonderful responses. Angels, every one of you.

    I am on a different name and account (my third one) now because I could not sign into my original account, I tried everything. So I created another, and the same thing happened to the second account, after I can sign in once, but then it just keeps saying "wrong password" when it isn't. So I created a third account (this one) just to come back and say thanks to you all. But I won't be back because this account will likely do the same as the other two and won't let me sign in after the first time. I have no idea why.
    Follow my journey on www.lifestooshorttour.net
    The tour begins in mid-May.
    The site isn't up and running yet, but will be shortly.
    Contact me here.

    I know now that I'll be taking the ACA's Transamerica route, and then the ACA's Western Express.
    Hey, we'd love to have you around here - why don't you try contacting an admin or mod and seeing if they can help you sort out what happened. It might be a browser setting, a cookie, caps-lock, spaces in the name... if you can log back in, before you click the login button, check the "stay logged in" checkbox (or whatever it is called) - maybe that will help?

    good luck with your tour and everything.
    ...

  24. #24
    Senior Member neilfein's Avatar
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    Sorry to hear about your loss. It sounds like you have a good bike, no worries with a 520. Next up is racks, luggage, and camping gear (if you're going to camp).

    If you can afford it, Ortlieb is the way to go - I have four roller panniers and fully expect them to outlive me. Whartever your budget, don't buy cheap luggage or racks (expecially racks).

    Browsing the forum here is an excellent way to get your bearings, as is Crazy Guy on a Bike - I suggest you browse the journals there. There are also a lot of worthwhile cycle touring blogs out there. (Keep an eye on people's sigs, you'll pick up a few links that way ontop of what you can google.) Feel free to browse my touring bookmarks as well.

    Machka started a thread about positive experiences with vendors you might find useful.

    Emkbarking on a life-changing experience like this is a very healthy response to a loss. Touring can be a wonderful and, at times, transcendent experience; I wish you the best of luck.
    Tour Journals, Blog, ride pix

    I'm in the celtic folk fusion band Baroque and Hungry. "Mended", our new full-length studio album, is now available for download.

  25. #25
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by neilfein View Post
    If you can afford it, Ortlieb is the way to go - I have four roller panniers and fully expect them to outlive me. Whartever your budget, don't buy cheap luggage or racks (expecially racks).
    I will give a dissenting opinion here. If you are well funded and want the best, knock yourself out with Tubus racks and Ortleib panniers, but... It is far from a necessity.
    1. You can get a very adequate Blackburn EX-1 rear rack under $40 and maybe under $30 if you watch the sales and/or use a 10-20% discount code from the coupon code forum. I don't think I gave up anything by using this rack. http://www.nashbar.com/bikes/Product...ategory=200280
    2. A Nashbar or Performance version of the Blackburn lowrider is a nice rack for a low price. They are on sale right now for $19.99 and you can probably get an additional 10% off. Ours were fine on our TransAmerica on all three bikes. No complaints at all. http://www.nashbar.com/bikes/Product...3_10000_201354
    3. I like the waterproof panniers from Nashbar or Performance.
      http://www.performancebike.com/shop/...slisearch=true
      http://www.performancebike.com/shop/...slisearch=true
      http://www.nashbar.com/bikes/Product...00_10000_16502
      http://www.nashbar.com/bikes/Product...248_-1___14003
    4. I also like these which, I used on the rear of my bike:
      http://www.performancebike.com/shop/...slisearch=true
    5. Check for coupon codes for either place at:
      http://www.bikeforums.net/forumdispl...ysprune=&f=228
      for additional 10-20% off most of the time.

    We outfitted three bikes for the TransAmerica with this stuff and I found it more than adequate. It is generally still like new after 4244 miles of the TA and two years of commuting on one of the bikes. I expect it to all last many more long tours. I can afford to buy more expensive stuff, but do not see the need.

    Check out our journal's "What worked and what didn't" section for more details.
    http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/staehling2007
    Last edited by staehpj1; 04-21-09 at 08:34 AM.

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