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Old 12-21-11, 10:18 AM   #1
scrapser
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Upcoming 2012 Bike Tour (DC to Seattle, WA)

Last year I planned on doing the TransAm trail in May, 2011 but that got canned due to work projects I simply could not ignore. So the trip was put off until May, 2012 which is 4.5 months from now. I thought I would put my cards on the table here and get some feedback from those who have some touring experience under their belt.

I'll be 57 next May. I weigh about 208 lbs. and stand about 5'11". I would describe my riding as infrequent at this point, especially now that it's getting into the winter months and it's dark by the time I get home from work. But I plan to pick up the pace as Spring comes around and do a couple overnight trips to break myself in to bike touring. I have never toured on a bike but have plenty of camping experience.

I plan on riding my recumbent (Slipstream) towing a Quik-Pak two-wheel trailer to hold all my gear. I'm trying to keep the weight to about 50 lbs. (including the trailer). So far I think I will be able to achieve that with some variation from how much food/water I carry day to day. I will have a Hilliberg tent, Mountain Engineering sleeping bag, Thermarest pad, Trangia cook stove, rain gear, spare parts...and essentially the basics that any tour would require.

I've decided not to do the TransAm trail and instead head northwest from DC to Ohio and pick up the Northern Tier route. I've read too many bad things about Kentucky and Missouri (mainly dog attacks and morons with pickup trucks) to want to ever see those states. It's too bad because I have driven across the northern part of the country 6 times in my life and thought it would be nice to see some new country.

I will have 10 weeks (70 days) to pull this off. I have a sister in Washington where I will arrive, pack up my gear and have it trucked back home while I return by airline. I want to do a self-supported trip that will include stealth camping to take advantage of full daylight. I figure in the beginning it will be an adjustment and therefore good to have the ability to ride long hours but at a moderate to easy pace until I get my legs so to speak.

I will be doing this alone but would welcome company along the way or if there's anyone planning something similar and would like to join me on this trip. The launch date is mid-May so I can get through the Rockies in the first half of July (Road to the Sun). Safety is a big concern so I will have a 120 dB whistle, air-horn, and pepper spray. For the bike I will be using a Cerevellum Hindsight digital rear view mirror (doubles as a bike computer but no GPS) and regular mirrors plus lights, a flag, and reflectors.

Additional electronics will be my smartphone and digital camera plus a solar charging set up which I'm currently researching.

So if anyone has some advice I welcome your thoughts
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Old 12-21-11, 10:45 AM   #2
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With your plan/experience, not much advice needed. For piece of mind, pack booting material in the unlikely event of a blow out. Take enough light to do a bit of late evening riding if desired/required. If following the ACA route, they should have ND rerouted by May so as to avoid oil field traffic. If not, detour through SD. Great cycling highways.
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Old 12-21-11, 11:16 AM   #3
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Speaking up for Oregon,& the Columbia River valley,
but you did say you have family on the other end..

add a spare tire in each size, just in case.. trailer should make stowing them simple.
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Old 12-21-11, 11:31 AM   #4
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I'll be 57 next May. I weigh about 208 lbs. and stand about 5'11". I would describe my riding as infrequent at this point, especially now that it's getting into the winter months and it's dark by the time I get home from work. But I plan to pick up the pace as Spring comes around and do a couple overnight trips to break myself in to bike touring. I have never toured on a bike but have plenty of camping experience.
You will be fine. Try to ride as much as you can in advance of the trip, but even if you don't, on a trip that length you can train as you go.

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I'm trying to keep the weight to about 50 lbs. (including the trailer).
Different strokes, but that is more than I would want to carry. Others happily carry more though, so maybe you will be happy with that. Personally I would advise trying to shoot for 30 pounds and settle for no more than 40 pounds. I find that when I started sending stuff home and later leaving stuff home that I never missed anything. You really can get by fine with very little "stuff". Last trip I was down to 22 pounds of gear and was very comfortable. I still had stuff that I didn't use.

So If you go with 50 pounds:
  1. Be really careful to not let the weight creep higher.
  2. Be open to reevaluating and sending things home several times along the way.

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I've decided not to do the TransAm trail and instead head northwest from DC to Ohio and pick up the Northern Tier route. I've read too many bad things about Kentucky and Missouri (mainly dog attacks and morons with pickup trucks) to want to ever see those states. It's too bad because I have driven across the northern part of the country 6 times in my life and thought it would be nice to see some new country.
I enjoyed Kentucky and Missouri. The drivers were nice as were the people in general. Yes we were chased by quite a few dogs, but it was not all that hard to manage. Morons in pickup trucks? I don't recall any that were worse than elsewhere. If memory serves the couple really obnoxious drivers that come to mind were in Wyoming.

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I will have 10 weeks (70 days) to pull this off. I have a sister in Washington where I will arrive, pack up my gear and have it trucked back home while I return by airline. I want to do a self-supported trip that will include stealth camping to take advantage of full daylight. I figure in the beginning it will be an adjustment and therefore good to have the ability to ride long hours but at a moderate to easy pace until I get my legs so to speak.
The TA took us 73 days starting in Florence. I was your age and weight at the time. One thing that I think we did right was to start on the opposite coast from home. That way we could get air travel out of the way ahead of time and not need to plan a return flight to correspond with our completion of the route. That allowed us an open ended schedule, a huge plus. Firm deadlines on tour suck much of the joy out of the ride. Also it was really nice to have friends and family at the finish.
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Old 12-21-11, 12:51 PM   #5
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Some tidbits:

Check the official NPS site for Glacier N.P. for snow fall and road status. This year GTS didn't open until sometime in July. Abnormal, but it could happen again. Be prepared for road constructtion and possible unpaved sections. (We hit one in '09.) There is a multi-year road re-hab project going on.

You will probably have a hard time "stealth camping" in eastern and central Montana. Lots of open, fenced off ranch and farm land. But some of the towns (e.g., Wolf Point, Harlem, Chester) should have city parks that allow camping.

If you are not planning on visiting Waterton Village you might want to skip going north into Canada from Cut Bank, MT. The scenery up to McGrath, AB and west toward the road to the village isn't anyhing to write home about. Chief Mountain Highway is pretty, but I don't know if it's worth the extra effort for just that, and it's a pretty hard day. For a detour, go to Browning and then take Starr School Rd. to U.S. 89 N to St. Mary and pick up GTS there. Waterton Village itself is a nice place for a rest day. Campground right on lake with mountain views. There's a boat ride you can take to do a popular hike.

If you get to Monroeville, IN, the free indoor sleeping option there is nice.

Lake Itasca SP in MN is worth a visit. You can walk across the Mississippi River.

The descent down from Rainy Pass on the North Cascades Highway should be especially fun on a recumbent.

You probably won't have to carry that much food with you on a daily basis, although if you camp some distances from towns you may have to buy dinner fixin's and tote them along with you. Except for the portion across the Cascades, I cannot remember any long stretches without services.

Although it was a while ago, I did the entire NT and the portion east to Glacier a second time. I also did Whitefish, MT to Eureka, MT in '09. Send me a PM if you have any specific questions.
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Old 12-21-11, 01:18 PM   #6
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Originally posted by staehpj1:
The TA took us 73 days starting in Florence. I was your age and weight at the time. One thing that I think we did right was to start on the opposite coast from home. That way we could get air travel out of the way ahead of time and not need to plan a return flight to correspond with our completion of the route. That allowed us an open ended schedule, a huge plus. Firm deadlines on tour suck much of the joy out of the ride. Also it was really nice to have friends and family at the finish.
Another reason for taking this approach is packing and transporting your bike. Packing a recumbent and a trailer and getting them to the airport is going to be a challenge. Packing the bike and trailer at home where you have or can get the resources might be much easier and less hectic than doing it in at the end of the trip.
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Old 12-21-11, 01:27 PM   #7
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Your plan sounds fine, you'll probably end up sending some of that stuff home, especially the duplicate mirrors, whistles, etc. It's not about the equipment (though it might seem like it is from reading about it here!) - so don't get too stuck on any stuff you think you need.

Especially try to minimize the electronics, with all the stuff that's needed to keep them charged. Just not worth it IMO. Skip the solar charging, too, it's heavy and doesn't work that well. Try to consolidate plugs & chargers. You can charge your stuff in a campground, while you're eating lunch at a restaurant, while you are doing your laundry in a laundromat, etc.
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Old 12-21-11, 01:27 PM   #8
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Another reason for taking this approach is packing and transporting your bike. Packing a recumbent and a trailer and getting them to the airport is going to be a challenge. Packing the bike and trailer at home where you have or can get the resources might be much easier and less hectic than doing it in at the end of the trip.
You make a good point but I have a sister in Seattle. I will be sending her some fresh clothes and some of my tools so I can dismantle and pack up the bike. The trailer is actually designed to collapse down to suitcase size all on its own which earns Quik-Pak a few Brownie points in my book. She will also be arranging for my flight as I get close to knowing what day I will arrive. The bike, trailer, and gear will be shipped via UPS ground so the airport is moot.
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Old 12-21-11, 01:28 PM   #9
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Oh yeah and another thing - I personally rode away from home and really liked that - riding into the unknown rather the known. I didn't have a plan on how/when I was getting home, a little flexibility in timing and budget helps. It was a good thing I didn't have a plan, too - I met a guy who offered me a ride home from NY to CA, and I'm married to him now!
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Old 12-21-11, 02:11 PM   #10
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As long as you start slow - the first week or so - you should be fine.
You you considered the C&O / AC Trail from DC to Pittsburgh?
It can be iffy in really wet weather - but there is lots of free camping.
Plus, it has a very gradual gradient - ideal for getting your legs.
You can start at the U.S. Capitol or Washington Monument, too.

From Pittsburgh you can follow most of the Old Lincoln Highway in Ohio.
The new highway is 4-lane and takes much of the traffic off the old route.
Strip maps available - http://www.lincolnhighwayoh.com/preface.html
You meet up with the Northern Tier at Monroeville, Ind - a very bike-friendly town.

If you notice the NT route - it has a big northerly zig before heading west.
Personally, I think it is more interesting riding west and then heading north in the Rockies.
Probably from Yellowstone NP to Glacier NP - then reconnecting with the NT.
If you choose to cross in South Dakota, the Black Hills break up riding in the Great Plains.

Anyhoo - definitely doable in 70 days.
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Old 12-21-11, 02:14 PM   #11
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Your plan sounds fine, you'll probably end up sending some of that stuff home, especially the duplicate mirrors, whistles, etc. It's not about the equipment (though it might seem like it is from reading about it here!) - so don't get too stuck on any stuff you think you need.

Especially try to minimize the electronics, with all the stuff that's needed to keep them charged. Just not worth it IMO. Skip the solar charging, too, it's heavy and doesn't work that well. Try to consolidate plugs & chargers. You can charge your stuff in a campground, while you're eating lunch at a restaurant, while you are doing your laundry in a laundromat, etc.
My recumbent has underseat steering and it's impossible to look over my shoulder unless I'm an owl. I have a mirror on my left handlebar and will use a digital rear view mirror which doubles as a bike computer (Cerevellum Hindsight 35). The Hindsight is actually a tiny streaming video camera pointing rearwards so you can keep an eye on what's coming up behind you. I think these two things are critical equipment for my bike and safety.

Aside from that I will have my bike lights, Droid smartphone, and a small digital camera to power. I can get a universal charger for all these pieces of equipment so that solves the multiple plugs and adapters issue. Using a solar panel to collect electricity into a storage battery while riding all day allows me to ride without having to worry about stopping to charge. I can do that from the storage battery each night wherever I decide to stop. At least that's the plan. I'm still researching the solar panel efficiency and if it's questionable I will go to plan B which is what you suggest.

I understand what you mean about thinking the equipment is more important than it actually is in reality. Wouldn't it be great if we could start with nothing and collect only what we need as we go along? I may have more opportunity to charge in the east but not so frequently heading further west. My memory of South Dakota is driving for over a hundred miles on the interstate between gas stations. Maybe things have changed since 1978.
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Old 12-21-11, 02:14 PM   #12
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I met a guy who offered me a ride home from NY to CA, and I'm married to him now!
Ya don't say?
And I got to ride Greyhound -
Sitting next to a guy who just got out of the state pen.
Some people have all the luck!
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Old 12-21-11, 02:19 PM   #13
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As long as you start slow - the first week or so - you should be fine.
You you considered the C&O / AC Trail from DC to Pittsburgh?
It can be iffy in really wet weather - but there is lots of free camping.
Plus, it has a very gradual gradient - ideal for getting your legs.
You can start at the U.S. Capitol or Washington Monument, too.

From Pittsburgh you can follow most of the Old Lincoln Highway in Ohio.
The new highway is 4-lane and takes much of the traffic off the old route.
Strip maps available - http://www.lincolnhighwayoh.com/preface.html
You meet up with the Northern Tier at Monroeville, Ind - a very bike-friendly town.

If you notice the NT route - it has a big northerly zig before heading west.
Personally, I think it is more interesting riding west and then heading north in the Rockies.
Probably from Yellowstone NP to Glacier NP - then reconnecting with the NT.
If you choose to cross in South Dakota, the Black Hills break up riding in the Great Plains.

Anyhoo - definitely doable in 70 days.
I like your idea of continuing to head west instead of going north prior to the Dakotas. I will have to think about that. I've driven through South Dakota by car, seen Mt. Rushmore and Custer Battlefield but never through North Dakota or northern Montana which I suspect is mostly horizon.
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Old 12-21-11, 02:34 PM   #14
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Hwy 12 from Sioux City, IA to Valentine, NE is a good ride - low traffic and scenic.
You can either ride west thru Casper and the lowlands to Grand Teton NP -
or you can venture thru the Black Hills, Devils Tower, and the Bighorn Mountains.
The Bighorns are steep, but with spectacular wildflowers in late June.

In the Plains the winds are generally southerly in summer -
But they switch to southwesterly and strengthen in the High Plains.
This is true whether you are in the Oklahoma panhandle or the Montana prairie.
Also, winds pick up by the early afternoon.
Be prepared - ride early - from sunrise if possible - then quit for the day.

Are you aware of state traffic volume maps?
http://www.dor.state.ne.us/maps/Stat...c-Flow-Map.pdf
http://www.sddot.com/pe/data/Docs/tr...affic_2010.pdf
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Old 12-21-11, 03:00 PM   #15
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My recumbent has underseat steering and it's impossible to look over my shoulder unless I'm an owl. I have a mirror on my left handlebar and will use a digital rear view mirror which doubles as a bike computer (Cerevellum Hindsight 35). The Hindsight is actually a tiny streaming video camera pointing rearwards so you can keep an eye on what's coming up behind you. I think these two things are critical equipment for my bike and safety.
Did a Google for the Hindsight and came up empty for a source. You got a link for where to buy this technology?
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Old 12-21-11, 05:10 PM   #16
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Did a Google for the Hindsight and came up empty for a source. You got a link for where to buy this technology?
The company is Cerevellum and the Hindsight 35 was just put on the market. The first round of orders will be delivered in February 2012. Here's the link:

http://www.cerevellum.com

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Old 12-21-11, 08:24 PM   #17
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We may see you along the way! My son and I are doing the same trip (even have a sister in Washington too!). We won't be leaving until late May though. Would love to ride part of the way with you!
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Old 12-21-11, 09:43 PM   #18
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We may see you along the way! My son and I are doing the same trip (even have a sister in Washington too!). We won't be leaving until late May though. Would love to ride part of the way with you!
Hey that would be great. I assume you will be starting from DC, too? When the time comes we may be able to keep in touch with email on a smartphone if you will be riding with one. That way we could perhaps sync up if the distance is not too great.
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Old 12-21-11, 10:52 PM   #19
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I plan to leave from Yorktown (again) and make my way to Kooskia, ID along the TransAm Trail. From Kooskia I plan to detour to Seattle (and Vashon Island). Kooskia, ID to Clarkston, WA, to Dayton, to Pasco, to Desert Aire, to Ellensburg, to Easton, over Snowqualmie Pass to Snoqualmie, and then downtown Seattle...catching a foot ferry to the north end of Vashon Island by 20 July. After a few days I'll head south with an eventual trip completion at San Francisco. Then a long train trip home. Maybe we'll run into each other.
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Old 12-22-11, 12:38 AM   #20
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Will your recumbent work on a trainer? You may be able to build up your miles in preparation indoors during the worst part of the winter.

Remember it is supposed to be fun. Don't fret about the preparations and planning. You can send stuff home, and purchase what you are missing along the way. Not like the cyclist I met in Spain who lost 3 days and had to take a bus 80 kms to a bike shop.

Enjoy the preparation. Enjoy the dreaming, enjoy it all.
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Old 12-22-11, 08:19 AM   #21
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I would recommend bike commuting as a way to get in shape for the tour and test out your equipment. Riding to work daily gets you used to rigors of riding in all sorts of weather conditions and carrying gear.
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Old 12-22-11, 09:57 AM   #22
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skilsaw,
I think I would need to customize a trainer for my recumbent. The wheelbase is roughly 6 feet. The bike weighs 43 lbs. which is pretty heavy and why I'm not so anal about weight on the tour. I figure it's all relative anyway. I could be on a lighter bike but then encounter a really steep hill. Sooner or later you are going to huff and puff. I'll just have more resistance training to look forward to.

tarwheel,
Commuting from where I live into the center of DC is possible but not practical...especially on a long wheel base recumbent. I have a hard enough time just getting away from this area on my bike due to the high traffic volume on all the roads in the area. There are lots of bike trails in DC and that's where most people ride for exercise. Roads are pretty scary to navigate unless you're a messenger and like to toy with your life.

What I will do is ride my DF bikes and the recumbent as much as I can as winter passes into spring with more daylight hours during the week. For indoor exercise, I have a Total Gym. Not the one on TV with Chuck Norris but made by the same company and of much higher quality (think institutional grade). It's great for strength building and you can exercise pretty much every part of your body in isolation.
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Old 12-22-11, 02:01 PM   #23
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My longest tour was the west coast - from Seattle to Santa Cruz. Before that my longest tour was one week. One thing I remember vividly was thinking, "Why did I set such a lofty goal? Wouldn't from Seattle to Crescent City have been enough?" I was tired and felt I had accomplished what I wanted to. Still, I kept going, and I'm glad I did. It was a long haul, but I look back at it as the best thing I've ever done. you are setting a lofty goal too, and I'll bet there will be moments of doubt, but I'll also predict that if you finish it you'll be incredibly glad you did!

I've learned to save weight whenever possible. It makes a big difference! But I also bring some creature comforts because they enhance the experience, and damn the weight! If you haven't done a long tour before you'll probably make some choices that you have to rethink down the road. I've sent back boxes of stuff a couple of times. Don't worry about carrying too much food or water. In most places you can buy food along the road, and will have plenty of opportunities to get water. I have had some places where I had to carry two days worth of food, but it hasn't happened much.

I've ridden the Northern Tier from Anacortes to Glacier National Park. I highly recommend it.
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Old 12-22-11, 02:11 PM   #24
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Ya don't say?
And I got to ride Greyhound -
Sitting next to a guy who just got out of the state pen.
Some people have all the luck!
Yeah, I know... I've paid my dues on Greyhound, and if I ever have to take it again, *I* am going to be the nutjob with a bottle of tequila, talking to myself, instead of sitting next to that person. ;D
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Old 12-22-11, 02:14 PM   #25
scrapser
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Originally Posted by BigBlueToe View Post
My longest tour was the west coast - from Seattle to Santa Cruz. Before that my longest tour was one week. One thing I remember vividly was thinking, "Why did I set such a lofty goal? Wouldn't from Seattle to Crescent City have been enough?" I was tired and felt I had accomplished what I wanted to. Still, I kept going, and I'm glad I did. It was a long haul, but I look back at it as the best thing I've ever done. you are setting a lofty goal too, and I'll bet there will be moments of doubt, but I'll also predict that if you finish it you'll be incredibly glad you did!

I've learned to save weight whenever possible. It makes a big difference! But I also bring some creature comforts because they enhance the experience, and damn the weight! If you haven't done a long tour before you'll probably make some choices that you have to rethink down the road. I've sent back boxes of stuff a couple of times. Don't worry about carrying too much food or water. In most places you can buy food along the road, and will have plenty of opportunities to get water. I have had some places where I had to carry two days worth of food, but it hasn't happened much.

I've ridden the Northern Tier from Anacortes to Glacier National Park. I highly recommend it.
Thanks for the inspiration. I've been reading threads on touring for almost two years now and have a good idea of what "the basics" amount to. Beyond that is a conscious decision to include some creature comforts as you put it. For me, that will be mainly the bike I will be riding (Slipstream) which is heavy at 43 lbs. and the trailer at 16 lbs. This is a once in a lifetime thing for me so I say screw the weight fixation. I know I'm going to suffer but still I'm discussing it further in other threads.

I will hate the weight on the hills and when I'm tired...but then again, doesn't everyone hate that part of the tour? I think it's relative. There will always be lighter and heavier bike tourists on the road.

I personally like the story of a mountain climber being asked why he climbed Mt. Everest and nearly died. He responded he didn't go up there to die but to live. I've been in that situation and know exactly what he's talking about. It's important to consciously step out of your comfort zone from time to time.
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