An Early Day

KY 5 400px days to Itasca!

Wheel full 70px I got up at Zero Dark Thirty this morning to call the Minnesota State Parks Reservation Center when it opened to make campground reservations for our stays at Itasca and Crow Wing State Parks.  There was only one site (!) left available at Itasca for the 25th as of last night, so I wanted to nab it.  I attempted to do this online yesterday, but my profile came up “already in use” when I tried to set it up n the Reservation Center’s website and I thus couldn’t proceed on to make the reservation.  A call to the nice lady who assisted me this morning cleared that up- my wife Heather and I stayed at Itasca five years ago before Minnesota adopted a state park campground reservation system and our old landline home phone number, collected at the time, was somehow creating a glitch in the system.

Wheel full 70px So Gary and I are now paid guests of the State of Minnesota at Itasca SP on the 25th and Crow Wing SP on the 30th.  A ten dollar call center reservation was added to each night, so I start the day a sawbuck poorer but relieved that this task is taken care of.  I hope Minnesota puts the money to good use.  It is fortunate that friends are hosting up over Labor day weekend- I never thought about that until yesterday.

Wheel full 70px Three nights and a wakeup until I fly out of Anchorage!


Working, working…

MO 6 400px days to go!

Wheel full 70px Crazy busy today, so this is short.  I’ve been alternating getting back to close to 30 different overnight hosts, getting the last unconfirmed lodging nailed down, making state park reservations and getting my gear looked over, organized, inventoried and packed.  A couple of things fell into place- more about that over the next few days.

Wheel full 70px You folks down south- enjoy the eclipse!  We’ll have not near the show up here in Alaska, but that’s the luck of the draw.


Single Digits!

WI 9 400px days to Lake Itasca!

Wheel full 70pxWhen I was in the army back during the bad old Vietnam-era days, they used to call folks who were just a few days from ending their service on their ETS date “Single Digit Midgets.”  If that term still holds true today then Gary and I are getting very, very small.  I’ll be flying to Minnesota from Anchorage a week from today and Gary is already on the road driving there.  So this is definitely happening, and soon.

Wheel full 70px I have noted in connection with last year’s ride down the Atlantic coast that I do the route planning for these long trips on a web-based program called RidewithGPS [link].  There’s a free version and two-tiered paid version- for most cyclists I think the free version would work just fine- it’s what I used for several years before subscribing to the “Premium” tier of the paid version.  Here’s a comparison chart.

RidewithGPS Teaser Comparison Chart

A couple of years ago I planned a “Southern Tier” transcontinental ride with the free version.  It was fully detailed and I still refer to it when answering questions from other riders.  What the premium version gets me that I find worthwhile are the advanced route planning tools, the turn by turn notification and downloadable maps for the iPhone app and for ride clean-up.  I also get the satisfaction of supporting a company that I find to be really proactive and user-friendly.  The program and accompanying app have been frequently updated to add or refine features.  I have talked with a real person at tech support twice to help with issues I’ve had twice and each time it was clear to me that the assistance I was given was complete and comprehensive.  My guess is that everyone at the Portland, Oregon-based developer rides bikes to work.

Wheel full 70px Strava [link] is similar, and I have it installed on both my PC and my iPhone.  I find it less richly detailed and really prefer working with Ride with GPS.  The only advantage to Strava, IMHO, is that rides, once completed, automatically upload to Relive [link] which emails you a couple of hours later a flyover animation of the ride.  Very, very cool.

Wheel full 70px So I’ve been working on my Mississippi River b2b route for about six months.  Most of it was in place by April of this year, but I’ve worked mile-by-mile to refine it since then.  I’ve located every shoreline bike path I can find, every paved minor road that runs closer to the river than the easily spotted route and the best low traffic streets through busy neighborhoods.  I annotated the route with nearby points of interest, bike shops, pharmacies, Target stores, lodging and campground location, mileage data, and other helpful information.

RidewithGPS Teaser

Wheel full 70px And, as soon as I hit the save button all this info is available on my iPhone.

RidewithGPS App

Wheel full 70px Here is the link to the current Ride with GPS b2b route.  It is a work in process and likely will be replaced by an updated version two or three more times before we take off from Lake Itasca on the 26th. [link]

Wheel full 70px I’ll keep you posted.


Fun Facts #2

LA 11 400px days until the start!

Wheel full 70pxGary and I will ride our bicycles through 10 states on the way down the river.  Without looking at a map or otherwise using the Internet, can you list which side of the Mississippi each is on?  There are three possible answers: East, West or Both.  Post your answers in the comments below.  The winner will receive one gasp of awe and three “We are not worthy’s” from each of us.

Wheel full 70pxWe will stay a total of 53 overnights on the trip counting Lake Itasca on Day Zero and Venice, Louisiana on Day 52.  Twelve of those will be in Minnesota, followed by 10 in Illinois, eight each in Mississippi and Louisiana, five in Missouri, four in Wisconsin, two each in Iowa and Tennessee, and last but not least one night apiece in Kentucky and Arkansas.

Wheel full 70pxThe response to our Warmshowers’ requests and inquiries made to overnight locations where we couldn’t find a Warmshowers host and there was no nearby campground, along with kind offers of lodging/camping from out of nowhere, mainly on facebook, has been simply overwhelming.  We have gone from upwards of 35 “open” nights to five in a matter of a few days.  In several instances we have multiple offers of hosting from the same city or town.  Wow- you folks are incredible!!  If you have offered to host us for an overnight the plan is to contact you back confirming our stay or to thank you for doing that if we are going to wind up staying nearby in another location by no later than the evening of Thursday, the 17th.  Please let us know if you check your email of Friday and have not heard from us.

Wheel full 70pxThe five locations where we are still looking for a host are

  • Caruthersville, MO on Wednesday, September 27th or Thursday, the 28th
  • Tunica, MS on Sunday, October 1st or Monday, the 2nd
  • Scott, MS on Tuesday, October 3rd or Wednesday, the 4th
  • Natchez, MS on either Saturday, October 7th or Sunday, October 8th and the next day after the day of arrival (Rest Day)
  • Phoenix, LA on Sunday, October 15th

Wheel full 70pxOh, and my bike shipped from the Trek Bicycle Store in Anchorage [link] today.

BikeFlights Airbill

Wheel full 70pxBikeFlights [link] is really a class act.  I used the company for shipping my bike last year twice and they provided service that was both flawless and attentive.  Highly recommended!



Spending the Night

Ilinois Master 400pxdays left.

Wheel full 70pxLast year during my 80+ days of riding down the Atlantic coast from Halifax, Nova Scotia and Key West, Florida, I spent close to $5,000 on lodging, averaging a little more than $60 per night.  My stays were pretty much divided between campgrounds and mom and pop/”budget” motels, but nowhere was cheap.  When a Motel 6 is, at $85 a night plus another $5-10 in tax, the least expensive thing going in an area where there are no campgrounds available, what can you do?  I paid these prices because I had been lulled into a false sense of security during my long rides in the 1990s- “Hiker-Biker” campsites in California State Parks were only six bucks and you could find clean older motels that were still around $25.  No more.

Continue reading

Closer, closer…

  days left to go!

Wheel full 70pxWe’ve updated our itinerary, probably for the last time except for last minute adjustments.  Here’s what it looks like.

Friday, August 25 – Day 00 – Lake Itasca State Park, MN (0) – Camp
Saturday, August 26 – Day 01 – Lake Itasca State Park, MN to Cass Lake, MN (55.2) – Stony Point Resort (Camp)
Sunday, August 27 – Day 02 – Cass Lake, MN to Deer River, MN (106.4) – No nearby campground or Warmshowers host (Camp)
Monday, August 28 – Day 03 – Deer River, MN to Jacobsen Campground, MN (152.2) – Jacobsen Campground (Camp)
Tuesday, August 29 – Day 04 – Jacobsen Campground, MN to Aitkin, MN (200.3) – Aitken Campground (Camp)
Wednesday, August 30 – Day 05 – Aitkin, MN to Crow Wing State Park, MN (255.3) – Crow Wing SP Campground (Camp)
Thursday, August 31 – Day 06 – Crow Wing State Park, MN to Sauk Rapids, MN (317.3) – Residence

Friday, September 1 – Day 07 – REST DAY (Sauk Rapids, MN) – Residence Continue reading

See, I Told You I’d Be Here Today

WI Master 400px days to go!

Wheel full 70pxMy itinerary has me leaving Anchorage the morning of the 24th, arriving in Minneapolis late that evening and meeting up with a long-time family friend.  We will overnight near St. Cloud at one of her children’s residence, then leave on the 25th and drive the 150 miles/240 kilometers to Bemidji, Minnesota, the closest town of any size to Lake Itasca.  There, I will go to the Northern Cycle bicycle shop [link], where the good folks there will have assembled and checked out my beloved Surly Disc Trucker.


Continue reading