Month: April 2014

Shakedown Cruise

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We were running out of weekends to take a bike trip to see how this whole self supported bike thing is going to work out.  It’s been a cold spring in Michigan, the last free weekend we had it got to 19 degrees over night – so no cruise that weekend.  We knew this weekend was a little warmer, but not that much warmer – certainly no summer heat wave.  We sat on the couch Saturday AM and thought instead of being cold on a bike camping trip, lets just load up the bike and ride 15 miles and call it good.  We both talked our selves into the short ride, but then a little later it hit us, “are we men or mice?” we need to do this camping thing!  So we packed for the trip, with lots of extra summer clothes, because thats what we’ll have on the trip…BUT,  it was not summer, and we needed to pack for an April trip, not a Mid May or June trip – We were cold at the campsite!  We did survive and were certainly toasty warm in our tent, but man it was cold outside!!

 

Here we are before we left:

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Here’s our camp – starting a fire was the first thing we did!!

 

 

 

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So what did we learn?

 

1) The bike fully loaded is really heavy!  It’s tough to man handle when we are off the bike and hard to find a resting place that will support the back and a heavily loaded front wheel.  And we can’t hide it, the biking is very hard with that much weight.  We both decided that gravity will be our best friend and worst enemy this summer.  We tackled some very tough hills out by Ada, and we made it.  But we will be slow on the climbs.  When we are unloaded we rarely use our granny gear, but loaded up, it has become a new found best friend.  Shawn reminded us today that we should not be afraid to use the granny gear because she’ll be a Granny in a few months! So she’s got the license to  play that card!!  NICE!

2) (Ref. #1) We need to review our gear list and make some exclusions to lighten our load.  We won’t make a huge impact, but “ounces countses” so we will be making some sacrifices.  The first to go will be my Muka Coffee maker, it’s not cast iron or anything, but it is a pretty extravagant item.  When we camp we will just have to have instant coffee.  Oh the sacrifices we make!

3) We mistakenly bought one long sleeping pad and one shorter sleeping pad – I thought we could just take turns with the short one – Nope.  The longer was much nicer – and in the cold weather, it was dang cold to have your feet (nearly) on the ground!  We’re going to buy a long pad before we go.

4)  (Ref. #1)We have to have a little extra care when we are starting from a stand still on the bike.  At least until I am used to the load – We took a tumble at an intersection while we were on the bike path.  We weren’t moving, so it was way more embarrassing than painful.  Tore up some handlebar tape, but such is life.

5)  (Ref #1)Our legs are not in condition to do 50 miles on our first days…We’re going to dial down our expectations for the first few weeks and consider 30 to 40 miles a successful day.

6)  We don’t want to be caught in the cold again – and it can be cold in mid May, so we will pack more wool shirts.

7)  We froze, we poked along at 3 miles an hour and tonight we’re tired and sore, but we still had fun!  We learned this weekend that this won’t be a walk in the park.  To quote my dad, “If it was easy, everyone would do it!”.  We are still convinced it’s going to be great ride!!  We are almost giddy that in two weeks we will be on our adventure!

 

It was good to get some shooling this weekend.  We’ll be better off for it in the long run…We certainly learned more than if we had slept in our warm bed last night!!

Send-Off Party

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For those of you who live nearby, we’re having a send-off party at Founders Brewing (downtown Grand Rapids) on Friday, May 2!  Its our last day of work and our last weekend in Michigan before departing for Maine.  We’ll be there from 4:30 until whenever (actually our cut-off is when Bus 6 stops running for the night).  Come on out and join us to toast the trip and to toast being unemployed!  All are welcome!

Well Baby Check

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Yesterday I <Jim> took Mango Tango (our Tandem) to our favorite Mechanic, Brent from Velocity Cycles in Holland, Michigan.  We call Brent the Tandem Whisperer.  He has been our savior on many bike repairs and always puts Mango Tango in great running condition.  I can do some basic repairs and tweaking, but we always get such a great sense of security after Brent tunes up our bike.

I had to take the bike to Brent for this check-up, I don’t know how many times I have told him, “this is the year we might take our trip, lets do this or that to the bike to get it ready…”.  This time my visit to Brent was different – WE ARE taking the trip this year!  Next month even!

I talked to Brent about repair parts to carry with us, and he said something that will stick with me: “Well”, he said, “you don’t want to over Boy Scout this trip”  and he’s right.  We can overcome quite a bit with just our smarts, we have lots of time, we have a few ace in the hole options (like a complete, new back wheel ready to be shipped at a moments notice), so we’ll be just fine.  Adversity will just add flavor to the experience and the stories we will tell! (Shawn will love that line).   Guess I’ll leave my gigantic roll of duct tape at home!!

We get our Baby back in a few short days, and our confidence level will soar!

Cards? Check!

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Picked up the cards today!  Lots of people have told us we need to keep a blog.  Our response: we have one!  Now we can just hand them a card!  If you see us and want one, just ask!

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Feeling the love!

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Wow, we’re sure feeling the love!  We have so many wonderful friends in our life!  It has been a bittersweet week as we make our plans known at work and then more publicly on Facebook.  It has been surprising and overwhelming to see so many encouraging words from dear friends!  We’re blessed to have such a great circle of friends – we love you all and thank you for your support and encouragement!

So, nothing like telling everyone what your plans are!  No backing out now!  I want to remind everyone that we don’t know if we can do this thing!  It has been a lifelong dream, but gosh, I hope we can do this!  Even if we aren’t able to finish, please pray for a safe trip.  Thank you.

For those of you who don’t know us, we have some experience with bicycle touring.  We have done DALMAC (Dick Allen Lansing to Mackinaw – a wonderful tour of Michigan) every summer for the past 14 years.  This will be the first one I’ve (Shawn) missed since we started doing it and Jim has only missed one.  Last summer, we experienced RAGBRAI (the Register’s Annual Bicycle Ride Across Iowa) and had a riot!  Iowa is definitely not flat, by the way!!!  And we’ve done an unsupported ride across the upper peninsula of Michigan, also known as  “God’s Country”.  Oh and 2 years ago, I rode my “half-bike” from Grand Rapids, Michigan to Bemidji, Minnesota.  So, we’ve done some bicycle touring, but no experience at all with mountains and that is what terrifies me most about this ride.  Michigan is pretty darn flat compared with most of the rest of this continent.  Hopefully this old body holds out (Jim is a warrior – I’m sure he’ll be fine!) and we can get me over the Rockies and the Cascades – and over the “hills” of Vermont and New Hampshire too!

Thanks again for all your kind sentiments!

Branding the Ride

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<Jim> We’ve spent the last few days searching, formatting sizing, cutting, pasting and drawing to get a blog background and business card layout for the ride. ( We now have new respect for marketers 😀 ). Our daughter gets into this stuff, so she was a huge help. She took our ideas and ran with it. The cards are complete – QR code and all! (I’m still amazed by those things!) and they will be printed soon.

image“We may be slow, but we got a great brand!”

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Jumping in the volcano

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<Jim> It’s 2:52 in the morning on the day I will give notice at work – 6 weeks ago I asked for a leave of absence but was rejected.  My plan is to work one more month, to May 2nd. I never thought this part would be so hard. I like my job, I’ve had some awesome opportunities, I’m on a great project right now, great people, so many reasons NOT to leave, but, today is the day I metaphorically jump into a volcano.

Maybe that is a bit dramatic for this, but my daughter used that phrase when she left Michigan in her tiny car for her job in Alaska. It’s a referenced to the Movie Joe Vs. The Volcano. If you haven’t watched the movie, I highly recommend it. I even have a tattoo of the Joe v. Volcano logo to remind me that this day was going to happen.

We’ve been preparing for this trip for many years, Shawn and I have good careers and will be able to get new jobs, our kids have grown and are on their own, our bills are few, responsibilities are low, our dreams are many, we are hippies at heart!!! So this should be easy, right??   But I can’t sleep . . . Change, no matter how fun, is hard for me. I’m sure I’m making too much of this. People have told me this is brave thing to do. I’m not feeling so Brave right now!

I could keep babbling, but the best thing will to get some sleep and report back in the morning! .

 

and then…

So today I gave my notice and all went well, I told a dozen or so coworkers and all are very excited for me. All is well, I work (worked?) with a great group of people.

Maybe it was fate, but an old neighbor – who happens to be a road biker – passed us when Shawn and I were on the Tandem pedaling home. He said hello and Shawn told him that I quit my job today. “Well” he said, “that was pretty ballsy!” …that seemed to sum it up pretty well! What’s done is done, in a months time I will be unemployed. It gonna be a hell of a ride!