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Anyone every use a "bounce box"?

Old 04-14-14, 10:02 PM
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gif4445
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Anyone every use a "bounce box"?

Contemplating going a little lighter on the next tour. My son-in-law suggested using a "bounce box". Just a box with tape and a marker inside that you would send items to a PO ahead of you on your route. Like cold weather clothing that wouldn't be needed until you start climbing a pass. I don't know how much weight I would really save, but I do know last year, I carried some stuff for several hundred miles before I needed it. Your thoughts?
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Old 04-14-14, 10:44 PM
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My wife and I did this several times in both directions riding across the U.S. We used USPS Flat Rate Box which had fresh journals, maps, goodies, and clothes we would not need until later. We were following Highway 20 across the country, so we knew pretty much where we would be in 3-4 week intervals. Items no longer needed were shipped home: full journals, photo backups, maps, clothes, etc.

We would mail them ahead General Delivery, usually to small towns. In one small town we met 10% of the population when we met the Postmistress. Four times worked pretty well for the length of the trip.

P.S. We really enjoyed our ride across northern NE.

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Old 04-15-14, 07:41 AM
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Just make sure you have reasonable predictability on your location and arrival.

I did something like this when cycling across Canada. However, in this case I was forwarding some key pieces of mail that I needed. However, mis-calculated slightly on how long they would take to cross the US/Canada border. In hindsight it would have been better to pick up just on US side of some of these border towns rather than the Canadian side.

I've also done this in more extra-ordinary situations, e.g. having someone at home send forward some key bike parts that I hadn't expected to fail. For example, after going through two tires fairly quickly on my first cross-US trip, I had my parents send along a spare tire to Miles City MT where I picked it up.
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Old 04-15-14, 08:01 AM
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I have done this with bulky maps for later in my trip. But, be sure that you will be in the PO's city when it is open. So, call and find out its hours and days and be sure to avoid Federal holidays!

Also, if a city or town has more than one PO, you need to know which one the General Delivery packages goes to. This isn't always obvious and take some digging to find out.
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Old 04-15-14, 08:11 AM
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This works great if used sparingly. Rural post offices have odd hours and you might find yourself hanging out for quite a while until somebody shows up. Also, the package might not be there, then what?

I have found that barring an emergency, I'd rather just carry everything I might need for my trip and focus instead on my ride rather than chasing down packages.
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Old 04-15-14, 08:44 AM
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Originally Posted by Cyclesafe View Post
This works great if used sparingly. Rural post offices have odd hours and you might find yourself hanging out for quite a while until somebody shows up. Also, the package might not be there, then what?

I have found that barring an emergency, I'd rather just carry everything I might need for my trip and focus instead on my ride rather than chasing down packages.
+1.

Also, if you ship via USPS to larger towns/cities with more than one post office, you have to make sure you know which post office accepts and holds general delivery mail.

And just because you haven't yet needed something like cold weather gear until you hit the mountains is no guarantee that you won't need it in other situations. Heading west to east on the Northern Tier, we had at least two cold, wet days east of the rockies in MT and MN. The day in MN was in the mid-40s and wet the entire day. The few days before had been warm and humid. I can also remember at least one similar day in NY before the mountains in the east. I was glad I had not mailed ahead things like my cold weather gloves.
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Old 04-15-14, 08:45 AM
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I've staged things at home that I thought I might want and asked my sister/husband to send them to me. I wouldn't want to do the bounce thing unless I couldn't find a helper at home... too much constraint to be at a certain place on a certain date.
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Old 04-15-14, 09:17 AM
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Originally Posted by valygrl View Post
I wouldn't want to do the bounce thing unless I couldn't find a helper at home... too much constraint to be at a certain place on a certain date.
I'd worry more about the P.O. hours than how soon I'd arrive. General Delivery mail is held for 30 days before it bounces, more if you have a nice postmaster and put an appropriate note on the box. Mr. Grindstaff used to have boxes lined up around the back of the Damascus post office for A.T. hikers.
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Old 04-15-14, 09:25 AM
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I've reduced my gear list to things that I actually use. The only thing I would adjust, during a longer tour, is a couple of layers of warmer clothing, which for me, amounts to 2-3 lbs. I agree with the others that the logistical hassle is not worth it. I prefer the "free-bird" feeling: I've got what I need, and can head wherever I want, at any time.
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Old 04-15-14, 11:15 AM
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If you have someone at home who is willing to help, I like using general delivery better than a bounce box. I have tried both. Most often I don't bother with either though. I do mail stuff home more often than I have things sent from home. Also I buy things on the road sometimes rather than having them shipped.

Lately I have been had a very dialed in list that is VERY light and works for a wide range of conditions. As a result I have done way less shipping either direction or buying of items on the road. These days the odds are I'll start and finish any given tour with the same 10-15 pounds of bags, camping and cooking gear, and clothing.
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Old 04-15-14, 11:31 AM
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Originally Posted by valygrl View Post
I've staged things at home that I thought I might want and asked my sister/husband to send them to me. I wouldn't want to do the bounce thing unless I couldn't find a helper at home... too much constraint to be at a certain place on a certain date.
I mostly agree, but... The pressure to be a certain place at a certain time isn't that bad. If it is sent general delivery, you can stop at any post office and arrange for to be forwarded to a different place (at no extra cost).

Still I prefer to just streamline my packing and skip the shipping.

Originally Posted by BigAura View Post
I've reduced my gear list to things that I actually use. The only thing I would adjust, during a longer tour, is a couple of layers of warmer clothing, which for me, amounts to 2-3 lbs.
Yep...
I find that I manage to get by without all that much clothing even when it gets fairly cold. On the Southern Tier I had 14 pounds of gear and clothing including clothes, bags, and camping and cooking stuff. I was fine down into the teens for overnight low and there really wasn't anything I leave out for a shorter trip. Bottom line unless we are talking real winter camping with overnight low temps approaching zero F and I personally don't generally bike tour in temperatures that cold.
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Old 04-15-14, 12:01 PM
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Mailing ahead was never a problem. We knew within a 2 week window when we would reach a town. It was fun talking to the post office folks in those small communities. Between them and UPS drivers you can find out where anything is located.

We were such a novelty in one small community that the postal person called the local newspaper. The paper sent out a person to take pictures, and interview us. I'm not sure if it was because we plan our own routes and stay away from ACA or other popular routes; or the fact that such an old guy could even get astride and pedal a loaded bike, much less be accompanied by such a good looking woman.
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Old 04-15-14, 05:41 PM
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Last time I did that I arrived in town a few minutes after five pm the Friday before a three day weekend. Once before that, the package arrived a few weeks late--yes, weeks! It's very rare, but things do get lost in the mail. Both of those times, I somehow managed to make do with scrounged equipment and maps and food and I learned a lesson. So now I really try to avoid using the USPS for resupply or "bouncing." If you must, try mailing to a business like a bike shop or place of lodging with weekend hours and get tracking service.
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Old 04-16-14, 12:17 AM
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A few years ago I had plans to send a few things back when I arrived at this small town post office/general store/bait shop and felt like I had stepped back in time. I think the postmaster was in the back taking a nap but I was amused at the locals coming in and picking up their mail out of their cubbies, grabbing some stamps and throwing some coins in a cup. Maybe someone can enlighten me what that one machine with the pull down handle is, but I'm guessing it hasn't seen much use in the last decade (or two) Ha

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Old 04-16-14, 05:34 AM
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Originally Posted by andrewclaus View Post
Last time I did that I arrived in town a few minutes after five pm the Friday before a three day weekend. Once before that, the package arrived a few weeks late--yes, weeks! It's very rare, but things do get lost in the mail. Both of those times, I somehow managed to make do with scrounged equipment and maps and food and I learned a lesson. So now I really try to avoid using the USPS for resupply or "bouncing." If you must, try mailing to a business like a bike shop or place of lodging with weekend hours and get tracking service.
I have done both and much prefer using the post office to mailing to a business. The reason is that if something goes wrong like the package is late, they are closed when I am in that town, or I just decide I am not ready for the package. With a business it is an issue to get it sent ahead to another location. With the post office you can stop at a different post office and arrange for your box to be forwarded to a different town. That has never failed me.

On the other hand when we had my daughter's prescription sent to a business, we misjudged out pace and arrived ahead of the package. At that point we either had to hang around and wait for the package or impose on the store owner to forward it. Fortunately he was very nice and was willing to forward it for us. We bought supplies from his store and paid him for the postage and his trouble, but it would have been easier to cope if it was sent to us via general delivery.
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Old 04-16-14, 06:06 AM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
I have done both and much prefer using the post office to mailing to a business...it would have been easier to cope if it was sent to us via general delivery.
Good point--I haven't run into that scenario.

It's very interesting, and telling, how people with lots of experience end up with different methods of travel! The lesson is, there is no "right" way, just the way that you make work best for you under a given set of circumstances and constraints. And there's almost always a way to get it done even when things go wrong.

Another lesson is that mailing supplies to oneself can be fraught with difficulties, no matter how it's done. If at all possible, carry stuff with you that's usable in most of the conditions you'll see on your trip. And for stuff like meds, have a Plan B ready for when Murphy is drafting behind you.
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Old 04-16-14, 06:23 AM
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Originally Posted by robow View Post
Maybe someone can enlighten me what that one machine with the pull down handle is, but I'm guessing it hasn't seen much use in the last decade (or two) Ha

I think it's a Paymaster check writing machine.
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Old 04-16-14, 06:44 AM
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Originally Posted by andrewclaus View Post
Another lesson is that mailing supplies to oneself can be fraught with difficulties, no matter how it's done. If at all possible, carry stuff with you that's usable in most of the conditions you'll see on your trip. And for stuff like meds, have a Plan B ready for when Murphy is drafting behind you.
Yes I agree.

A few more thoughts on this...
For reducing the load, I find that streamlining my packing list can go a lot further than using a drop box. I actually find that I want all of the items I use for just about any trip all the time any way since each item individually has a purpose and as it gets colder I use more of them at a time. So for example I managed to cope with 18 F overnight lows with the same 14 pounds of gear that I'd use if it was a summer trip. It did take going over my list hundreds or maybe thousands of times over the course of a number of years and quite a few trips to get the list really fully dialed in to the minimal load, but I could now do OK camping and cooking with 7 pounds of gear. I am more likely to take 10-15 pounds though.

Most of the times I have had something mailed to me they were usually things that I wanted but didn't need immediately. For example I found that a particular jersey was getting really worn and stained and I wanted a different one so I had my wife mail me a different one. Another similar issue could be if I took my regular bivy and then wished I had taken my bug bivy. I could get along fine until I got the other item and then I'd mail the one I wasn't using home.

Needing parts because of a break down would be a different matter, but fortunately I have not had to deal with shipping for that.

Where mailing stuff to yourself might really be helpful would be on a bike packing tour where you might want food for more than a couple days for a back country section of your ride. I have not done this on a bike tour, but it has worked great for me when backpacking. I just might do that on the Idaho Hot Springs Route this year. Then again I may do the main dirt road loop first and drive to the single track options after doing the main loop if I decide I want to do them. That way I could shop while I have the car.
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Old 04-16-14, 07:15 AM
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When my parents were 'homeless', (aka full-time RVers), we did the General Delivery package thing - mostly vehicle registrations, tax forms, and so forth.

Another option would be to mail stuff to the campground you intend to use when staying in the area. That way you don't have to worry about the PO being closed for lunch, for the weekend, or holiday. We did that with the folks a couple of times as well. Of course that only works in a staffed campground... Many of the USFS campgrounds have no on-site office or staff.
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Old 04-16-14, 08:10 AM
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Originally Posted by BigAura View Post
I think it's a Paymaster check writing machine.
yup pretty sure I've seen them used for postal money orders
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Old 04-16-14, 08:26 AM
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Thanks for the helpful responses. Looks like a bounce box would be another tool to use in the right situation. I do like the security of having most everything I would need with me. Didn't use to be a weight weenie, but a recent purchase of a CF bike has made my mind wander a bit. Like what if I need to do a faster tour and crank the miles out? Not my first choice, but at times a reality until retirement I guess. Maybe I will tinker with it on this years late summer tour.
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