Friday, May 28, 2010

Questions answered.

Here are answers to a few of the most common questions we get asked about our trip:

How will you carry all of your stuff?

Our bike will be outfitted with four Ortlieb panniers which can carry quite a bit. One pannier holds a little over 5 gallons. We will also have a dry sack that will be mounted on the top of the back rack on the bike. We hope to be able to fit all of our gear on the bike without a problem. If we need to carry something extra, we have a few bungees just in case!

Where will you spend the nights?

We plan to do a mix of camping, staying with friends, and staying with "strangers" (couchsurfers and warmshower people). If we're in a bind, we'll ask people who look friendly if we can camp a night in their yard. We've met some really fun and kind people on past trips this way. In our experience, strangers are usually overly kind and helpful. As the saying goes, there are no such things as strangers, only friends you haven't met yet.

Can you pedal at different speeds on your tandem?

Nope. But each of us can push harder or lighter on the pedals depending on how we feel. This enables us to exert ourselves more or less, even though we pedal at the same speed. The rest is left to good communication.

Does Jenny (sitting in back) give Brett lots of shoulder massages?

Yes, she does! Brett loves it. Maybe someday we'll switch seats and Brett will return the favor.

What will you eat?

Food. More specifically we often get asked if we'll cook. Yes, we'll be bringing a tiny stove (called a Pocket Rocket) that is easy to operate and we'll bring small pans to cook in. We've been doing this for years on bike trips and hiking/camping trips. There's nothing like eating a potful of warm food cooked by ourselves after a long day of biking. Even simple meals taste SO GOOD when you are traveling.

What about the Rocky Mountains?

We get this question a lot. We know we will have to cross the Rockies at some point. There is no going around them! We've heard that the Rockies are actually easier to cross than mountains in the East because the roads through them were built with more gradual climbs and descents.
We are willing to bet they'll still be difficult, though. Or, mostly we'll climb them really slowly and ZOOM down the other side smiling the whole way!

What routes are you taking?

First of all, we plan to stay in the northern states: MA, NY, (Ontario), MI, WI, MN, the Dakotas, MT, ID, OR. Then we'll head south along the Pacific Coast into California to see the redwood trees. After that, we'll see how much time we have left and what our plan is for getting home (see below for our current ideas). We'll ride mostly on small, numbered state highways and back roads. We'll have maps with us (and a cute little compass), including Adventure Cycling route maps for some parts of the trip.

How will you get home?

We're really not sure yet, but we're sure we'll figure it out. The most likely scenario is finding someone who is moving from the West Coast to the East Coast through CraigsList and has room for a bike and two passengers. Another possibility is flying home and shipping our bike. Yet another thought is doing a driveaway (driving a car for a car-moving company). If you have suggestions, please comment!

How can we stay in contact with you while you're on your trip?

We will have our phones with us, as well as our little netbook computer. We plan to keep one of our phones on most of the time, so if you try to call and don't get one of us, try the other. We will probably not answer the phone while we're biking, but we will check messages and call you back. We also plan to update this blog regularly, when Internet access is available, and check our email. So, stay in contact! We love getting messages and email and it makes us happy to hear from you.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Big Hills and Heavy Rocks

Well, we finally pedaled up some real hills yesterday!

We were bicycling with Hannah and Spartan, and we were heading west on Route 66 toward Westhampton. We visited an old lead mine in search of cool rocks/minerals/metals/crystals on our way to Spartan's parents' house for dinner. The hills on Rt. 66 are not to be trifled with, however, and it took us a good long while to climb them, significantly longer than our friends on single bikes. It wasn't hard for us to pedal up the hills because of the gearing on the Screamer, but we weren't able to go fast. As we keep reminding ourselves, though, we didn't buy this bike for speed, but for comfort so that we can keep going all the way across the continent.

Our bikes waited by the trailhead as we hiked down to the river to collect rocks.

Hannah enjoyed some serene reading time while we searched for treasures on the other side of the stream.

We don't have a picture of it, but Jenny found a very large specimen of pyromorphite that she didn't want to part with. It was heavy.

On the way home, not just because it was a lot of downhill, we enjoyed the ride more. Brett seemed to have figured out the gearing and we were using our momentum more effectively at the bottom of hills (coming off one and getting ready to climb the next). Jenny especially enjoyed ringing the bell as we zoomed past our friends on the downhills. We sure do rocket down the hills! It seems that every time we get out on the bike we learn a little more about riding it efficiently. By the end of our trip we will be pros!

Earlier in the day, Brett and his mom went belated Christmas shopping and gathered a few more supplies for our trip! Now we have sleeping pads and a nifty little compass/thermometer. Brett also decided on some Keen sandals that might become his new favorite footwear and will probably come along on the trip. Thanks, Mom!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Our gear list.

Here is our semi-complete packing list for the trip! The items in green are the things we already have, and the things in black we still need to get before we go. Soon everything on this list will be green! Things are coming together.

Our Bike
Rans Screamer
4 Ortlieb panniers in blue (back roller classic)
mirror for jenny
bike computer
mirror for brett

Tools & Spare parts
extra tubes
bike lube
extra spokes
chain tool
small pliers

For Brett:
long pants
rain jacket

For Jenny:
sports bras
long pants
rain jacket

lara bars
nuts, fruit and chocolate

stove (pocket rocket)
cooking fuel
cook pot
2 forks/spoons
pocket knife
small bottles for oil and spices

sleeping bag
sleeping pads (Big Agnes)

nail clippers
tooth brushes
tooth paste
hair brush
toilet paper
antibiotic cream

playing cards
camera & charger
phones & charger
laptop, charger & case
solar powered charger
bike lock
duct tape
zip lock bags
safety pins
sewing kit
water bottles
dry sack for tent
dry bag for map

Sunday, May 16, 2010

More Prep Progress!

Today, on our 1-year anniversary, we took a beautiful ride on a beautiful day. We explored our local trail network, and even the paths beyond the current trail that hopefully will someday be trail, too. Then we retraced our tire tracks back from the path and took an existing trail to downtown Northampton where we enjoyed a delicious lunch at our favorite restaurant (Paul & Elizabeth's).

In the morning, we ate wedding cake for breakfast. Om nom nom! Thanks so much to Brett's Mom for saving it in the freezer for us. And thanks to Guy for bringing it down from Leyden yesterday. It was such a treat.

After a quick peek into Deals & Steals, we pedaled over to Northampton Bicycle where we started to gather stuff for the trip! We purchased a fancy odometer. We're not exactly sure why we splurged on the wireless one, but at least we know that the system won't break down in the middle of the continent when we accidentally break the wire. But, it looks cool, and it'll look even better when it's on the bike.

A quick photo break on the bike path heading out to Haydenville.

Our last stop of the day was at our friends' place for maintenance advice and tutorials. Alex lent us maps, Ruthy taught us how to break and fix a chain, we talked about brakes, they offered suggestions for tools to carry, and then they took a quick spin around the block. Thanks, you two!

On our way home, we stopped by the side of the road for some free tomato plants! We also got to meet Tom, the grower of the plants (he started too many!) and talked to him about our bike and our trip. It's always fun to meet friendly people in our neighborhood. Thanks for the plants, Tom!

Back home happy, at the end of our anniversary day ride!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

That's more like it!

We finally got in another long ride! What started out as a quick trip to to town to go to the bank and do a few other little errands, ended with us taking "the long way" back home.

We ended up biking 21 wonderfully carefree miles, exploring roads we'd never been down, picking up free stuff and making a big loop North, West, South and East of our house before coming home for a late lunch. We saw another tandem out riding, too, and we passed them heading uphill on the bike path home.

We got a great coat hook/shelf from a pile of free tag sale leftovers! It is exactly what I've been looking for to replace the one that we had that broke. AND it fit in the pannier with no problem. I was so delighted. Free stuff is so great. We also stopped at Deals and Steals on our way through Northampton and filled up the other pannier with food. The only thing missing from the ride was a swim after.