Thoughts on a train.
Riding the train home is a good way to transition from an adventure to reality, it gives you time to reflect and compile the memories. This may have been a more ambitious trip to tackle as a first retirement bucket list item, but the timing was fortuitous and I’m not second guessing anything.
Glacier photo op.
It’s funny how the longest trip of my life seems short so close to the end. I’m having a hard time getting used to the fact that summer is half over. It is like I lost a month, Rip Vanwinkle style. But, on the other hand, it feels like I’ve had a full year of experiences. That is a great feeling.
Here are a few thoughts on the trip.
Despite the flat tire troubles, I’m really happy with the bike. It feels rock solid, the shifters and bars were practical and comfortable. The saddle broke in and actually got worse, causing some disturbing numbness. I tweaked the angle and position asking the way and it became acceptable. I’d change the small chainring to give me a gear or two more for those 10 to 12% grades. That said, if I was seriously considering another long tour, I’d be looking at a higher end, possibly custom, touring bike.
The panniers held up fine, though it is a testament to their quality that every serious tourer had Ortleib bags. I’d probably reconsider using front panniers (I left them home) to even out the weight distribution. I didn’t need the fenders, but I’m still a fan of having them. The Banjo Brothers bags (top tube, frame and handlebar) were great. No complaints other than the closure of the handlebar bag, it should be easier to latch while riding.
I’d bring a bigger capacity battery to keep the electronics charged between access to electricity (with dual USB outlets).
The tent, bag and pad were faultless. I carried a stove for light cooking, I like having that option, especially for my morning oatmeal. Along that line, my preference is to be more self-contained and not dependent upon restaurants, even though it means carrying more weight. The lower gearing can overcome that. We saw tons of cyclists with much more gear, they just covered the ground at a slower pace.
The Garmin Edge Touring Plus computer was a mixed bag. I like a lot of the features but the Garmin mapping and routing are awful compared to Google bike routing.
I’d also bring along a warmer vest. I had a wind vest but I alternated between freezing and overheating. I think one of my XC vests would have been a blessing.
I used my spin class shoes as they were comfortable and ventilated. Probably a good choice, but definitely not as efficient as there is considerable play in the lacing. I’d probably choose them again.
Thoughts on the ride itself:
Some things you have control over, some you don’t. Riding with 26 YO’s is probably not advisable for a 62 YO. Overall that was a great choice but two things in that I’d change. First, I really needed a few rest and recovery days, probably every 7 to 10 days. My preference in a tour would be to incorporate those into seeing sights, hiking, etc. Second, the riding styles and capabilities are different between 26 and 62, I can’t charge up hills without exceeding my lactate threshold and burning muscle
(again, lower gearing).
Another thing that wasn’t a choice was riding direction. Every guidebook, every internet suggestion, every rider and non-rider we met told us we were riding the wrong direction. The main reason being the prevailing winds. We definitely fought the winds more than we were helped by them but I think the consensus of our group was that the cautions are overblown. However, there are other advantages of going north to south. First, 90% of the riders are going that direction and it would add to the experience to join up with riders you felt a kinship with and ride a day or two together. Second, that direction puts you on the seaboard side, cars expect to see riders there, sightlines are better (no blind corners). Third, ending on the southern California beaches would be a sweet treat.
I have a lot of things on my retirement list, I’ll spend some time thinking about this type of adventure and weighing options before taking another plunge, but I wouldn’t rule it out…
If I have more gems to share I’ll do another post, but this may be the last until the next adventure, stay tuned.