Day #2

Wheel full 70px Well, made it through the first day.  Wound up doing just a little over 20 miles/32 kilometers and spent the night at a Mom ‘n Pop motel in Baldwin, Florida at the end of the Jacksonville-Baldwin bike trail.

image

Wheel full 70px The room was not much to speak of, but it was clean, had a bed and the air conditioner worked.

image

Wheel full 70px Couldn’t ask for more.

Wheel full 70px As far as the bike goes, I had three issues yesterday.  The seat came a little loose, which I tightened this morning.

image

Wheel full 70px I kept kicking the front fender when I mounted the bike and once managed to push it out of adjustment so that it rubbed the tire.

Wheel full 70px I fixed that on the road yesterday but am going to have to be conscious of avoiding that mistake in the future.  The third issue was not a bike problem.  Both RidewithGPS  and Strava crapped out on me.  RidewithGPS reported the entire ride, but the mileage was wrong and Strava just stopped along the way.  I was disappointed, but what can you do?

Wheel full 70px I didn’t take many pictures yesterday- I was too focused on what was going on with the bike.  I hope to do better today.

Wheel full 70px Yesterday was also a very short day at 20.2 miles/32 km.  Urban riding accounted for much of that, and I just felt tired.  I could have pressed on and made it to Mcclenny, about 10 miles/16 km down the road, but it is a busy two lane, dusk was approaching, and there was a big thunderstorm off to the south that didn’t look good (it ultimately never rained here, but there was a lot of thunder).

Wheel full 70px Today I plan to ride to Booker, FL, just a little over 40 miles away.  I have an earlier start and won’t have spent five hours sorting and packing panniers.

image

Wheel full 70px Today’s weather is expected to be in the low 90s with intermittent rain this afternoon.  It rained for about half an hour yesterday while I was riding- like being in a warm shower.

Wheel full 70px Let’s go!

 

 

So let’s get this show on the road

Wheel full 70px Today really didn’t go as planned.  The Topeak cadence/speed sensor we were waiting on didn’t exactly work with my bike.   I’ll be getting in touch with the company, because a phone call to them from owner Garf Cooper at the ZenCog bike shop indicated that I might have gotten an older unit. Shame on someone.

image

Garf giving the malfunctioning sensor the evil eye

Wheel full 70px So I spent much of the afternoon hanging around ZenCog  instead of getting going. My schedule is set up to accommodate things like this happening, but it’s sort of disappointing to blow the first day of the ride.   Garf and his crew are great folks to hang around with though, and I’d highly recommend ZenCog to anyone who has need of a bicycle shop in Jacksonville, Florida.  It’s a real bike shop and I could tell over the several days I hung around there that Garf does right by his customers.

image

Abandon hope all ye who enter here

Wheel full 70px Here then is what I’m  doing tomorrow.  I’ll be up early to sort out the last packing of the panniers and loading of the bike.  Sometime around nine I’ll head out and ride west through the environs of Jacksonville, pass under the I-295 beltway,  and then pick up the Jacksonville – Baldwin rail trail.   Past Baldwin, the trail ends and I’ll pick up US 90, the old two-lane main route west that was replaced by Interstate 10.  I plan to stop for the day in Macclenny after cycling a bit more than 30 miles/50 km  and stay for the night at an inexpensive motel at the freeway interchange south of town. That will give me a good chance to check over and adjust as needed my gear and the bike before I set out on a longer riding day on Wednesday.

image

Wheel full 70px As you can see, these miles are as flat is the proverbial parking lot.  They should go by pretty quickly, but I’m still a little nervous about the impact of four fully loaded panniers.   We’ll see.

Wheel full 70px I’m estimating four hours riding time making seven and a half miles an hour with a 15 minute break each hour.  That should hopefully put me in Macclenny before the day really heats up.

image

Wheel full 70px This first week of the trip will get me by next weekend to Spring Hill, Florida where my sister Sue and her family live.

image

Wheel full 70px I’ll visit with them ’til early next week then head off for Key West.  Back with you tomorrow.

 

 

The Final Route

Wheel full 70pxI’ve finalized the b2b route on Ride with GPS.  You can look at it on that site here [linkie].  This means I now have an official length: 4,129.7 miles/6,646.1 kilometers and fixed mileposts.  So, when you drill down far enough into the Ride with GPS map, the mileposts will show up.

RwGPS Milepost Example 800px

During the ride, then, when I say I’m at Milepost so-and-so, you’ll be able to spot exactly where I am.

Wheel full 70pxBear in mind that the finalized route is only based on the best information I have at hand right now.  Roads or bridges may be closed during the actual ride due to construction or for other reasons.  A levee top in Louisiana might be newly graveled and not reasonably rideable.  Or Google and the other mapping engines might just have a road or a biketrail wrong, and I’ll have to find an alternate.  But I will plan to stick as close to the route I have mapped as possible and will base my official progress on its mileposts.  I am guessing by the time this is all over I will have ridden between five and ten percent more than the 4129.7 miles, even if there are no necessary diversions.  Campsites and motels may be off the planned route.  I may have to go out of my way to stop at a bicycle shop for repairs.  I’ll make sure I keep you posted on those things, though.

Wheel full 70pxFinalizing the route allows me to develop some map products that I will be using on the blog to illustrate different things.  For example, a while back I divided the route into four 1,000 mile/1,600 kilometer stages and a fifth short remainder stage [linkie].  This was nice and uniform, but the stages were hard to grasp because by and large they began and ended nowhere in particular.

vxsge5

Wheel full 70pxSo I’m taking a different approach now.  I’ll still divide the route into stages, but there will be four of them of varying length and they are based upon the dominating characteristic of that portion of the ride.  Hence

Unfortunately, the Ride with GPS screen is a bit confusing because I am riding across the map from right (East) to left (West) and the elevation profile reads from left (start) to right (finish).  Oh well.

Wheel full 70pxThe four stages are, then:

Stage 1: The Long Warm-Up – Atlantic Beach, FL (mile 0) to Little Rock, AR (mile 1,380)

Stage 2: The Fifteen-Hundred Mile Hill – Little Rock, AR (mile 1,380) to Togwotee Pass, WY (mile 2,922)

Stage 3: Down the Roller Coaster – Togwotee Pass, WY (mile 2,9220 to the Columbia River, WA (mile 3,714)

Stage 4: The Road to the Sea – the Columbia River, WA (mile 3,714) to Pacific Beach, WA (mile 4,129.7)

The name of each stage is pretty self-explanatory.  I only gain 250 feet/76 meters in elevation above sea level-the aggregate climb is 19,500 feet/5,945 meters or so- in the first third of the ride.  No hill is over 150 feet by itself and grades are relatively gentle in The Long Warm-Up.  The second stage immediately becomes more challenging on leaving Little Rock, Arkansas.  The Fifteen-Hundred Mile Hill is pretty much just that- a long, long climb over the Great Plains of North America up to the spine of the Rocky Mountains at the Continental Divide at 9,659 foot/2,944 meter high Togwotee Pass, Wyoming.  This is a gain of just under 9,400 feet/2,865 meters, with an aggregate climb is about 45,000 feet/13,716 meters, a little over half again the elevation of Mt. Everest.  The Down the Roller Coaster stage is exactly what it sounds like- five progressively lower in elevation summits and a final bump between Togwotee Pass and the Columbia River in Washington state as I lose almost all the elevation I gained- 9,225 feet/2,810 meters- in the second stage.  The grades are sometimes steep in this third stage and the aggregate climb is 22,960 feet/7,000 meters, but there are full days that I can just put the bike on autopilot and coast downhill.  The Road to the Sea, the fourth and last stage, is no day at the beach (I have to wait for the end of the ride for that) even though it is the shortest part of the ride by far.  I will lose the last 375 feet/115 meters of elevation between the Columbia River and my destination at Pacific Beach on the coast, but that’s not near the whole story.  Numerous hills on this final stretch, some approaching 400 feet/120 meters in elevation, add up to an aggregate climb of 15,900 feet/4,845 meters.

We’ll look at the elevation profiles and some other information about each of these stages in a post coming soon.

David Edgren

 

 

 

A Routing Probl… err, Challenge

Wheel full 70pxMy great friend and true Southern gentleman Kevin Slark commented on my latest routing post [linkie] over on my facebook page [linkie] to let me know that crossing the Mississippi River from Louisiana to Mississippi at Vicksburg might not be an option.

KS Facebook comment 01

Wheel full 70pxReal Life, as it tends to, intervened and I really didn’t have a chance to get back to this issue until today.

Wheel full 70pxHere’s what Kevin is talking about.  The 86 year old bridge that carried US highway 80 across the Mississippi River just west of Vicksburg

Old US 80 Bridge at Vicksburg 800px

Image credit: Wikipedia

is currently closed to all traffic, vehicular, bicycle and pedestrian, except for a couple of days of the year when it is opened for special events, such as a community bike ride this year on October 1st [linkie].  The bridge carries a rail line and has very narrow vehicle lanes

Old US 80 Bridge Deck 800px

Image credit: Vicksburg Post

and the railroad operating the line has repeatedly objected to reopening the bridge to regular bicycle and pedestrian use despite efforts by cycling and walking enthusiasts and advocates to have this done [linkie].  Unless I can get my crossing declared a special event, it does not look good for me to be able to use the bridge towards the end of August in the fourth week of my ride.

Wheel full 70pxThe old US 80 bridge was replaced as the primary Vicksburg area Mississippi River crossing in 1973 by the Interstate 20 bridge

I-20 Bridge at Vicksburg 800px

Image credit: Wikimedia

which is now, interestingly enough, exactly half the age of the other structure.  The two run parallel to each other,

Mississippi River Bridges at Vicksburg 800px

Image credit: Vicksburg Post

and the pier spacing is exactly the same to facilitate the passage of barge traffic up and down the Mississippi.

Wheel full 70pxBut the bottom line is that the State of Mississippi does not allow bicycle traffic on any of its Interstate Highways, period, and my use of the I-20 bridge is thus not possible.  I called the Mississippi State Bicycle (& Pedestrian) Coordinator [linkie] today and confirmed that there was no exception for this particular crossing.  She said that there was not, but encouraged me to contact various groups concerning my desire to use the old US 80 bridge.  I will follow up on that tomorrow but, as noted, I am not hopeful.

US 80 300px

Wheel full 70pxKevin apparently anticipated this result, as he recommended an alternative crossing.

KS Facebook comment 02

Crossing at Natchez would not involve a huge modification to the route I have planned.  It replaces a 94 mile/151 kilometer stretch from MP 997 to MP 1091 with an 85.4 mile/~137 kilometer alternate.  The red line is the current route and blue is the alternate.

Current Route Natchez-Vicksburg

The alternate is surprisingly (to me, anyway) about ten percent shorter, even though it doesn’t look it.  Here’s the above map reversed, with the alternate in red and the current route in blue.

Alternate Route Natchez-Vicksburg

Most of the alternate route’s mileage is on the Natchez Trace [linkie], which is an amazing low speed (45 miles/~70 kilometers per hour) scenic national parkway in a beautiful right-of-way.  Heather and I have biked this stretch in the late 1990s on our Burley Rock’n’Roll tandem [linkie].  I seriously considered incorporating it into the original route for this trip.

Wheel full 70pxThe reason I ultimately didn’t can be seen on the above map.  Note that the terrain on the Louisiana (left) side of the Mississippi is smooth.  East of the river, though, the landform changes pretty radically into low but steep hills cross-cut by deeply incised streams.  Here’s an elevation chart of the current stretch

Current Route Elevations Natchez-Vicksburg

and of the alternate done at the same vertical scale.

Alternate Route Elevations Natchez-Vicksburg

Here’s the two superimposed.  Click on any of the three charts to embiggen.

Comparison Elevations Current Alternate Natchez-Vicksburg 800px

Wheel full 70pxSo that’s a little sooner than I’d planned to start doing hills.  But I’ll have just about 1,000 miles under my belt before I get to them, so they shouldn’t be too bad.  Hey- maybe I can still become an event and cross the old US 80 bridge.  But if not, well… I have a plan!

David Edgren

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Second Check-out Ride

Coweeman River Bike Path 800px

Wheel full 70pxYesterday I took the bike out for a second check-out ride before I return it tonight to Bike Gallery in Portland for disassembly and shipment to the ZenCog bike shop [linkie] in Jacksonville, Florida.  I won’t see it again for a little bit more than another month.  This is unfortunate, but bringing the bike back to Alaska for the next four weeks would cost me about $400 that isn’t in the budget.  I’ll have to make do with the stationary bike and possibly a rental from a local bike shop for my continued prep rides before I head for Jacksonville around the 19th of July.  I’ll keep you posted.

Wheel full 70pxEverything went great on the ride, which was a shade under eight miles/15 kilometers in just over 50 minutes on a gravel path.  I’d estimate that the loose surface on the path slowed my pace by about 20%.  The loose gravel gave me the jitters in a few places, too.

Wheel full 70pxThe path was on top of a flood control dike along the Coweeman River, a minor stream that drains into the Columbia just south of where I started.  If I looked to my left for the first several miles, I had down-at-the-heels industrial scenery.  To my right I had the river, which is mostly a high-banked ditch, and Interstate 5.  The last mile or so of the ride before the turn-around point was prettier- through a park on the left and with the river much more natural looking in the other direction.  It rained big drops for a few minutes, but I dried pretty quickly.  Each of my days the first week will be on average five times this distance on pavement.  I’ll need to get up super early, as the July summer in north Florida will be brutal if I’m not done (or most of the way with a short evening ride remaining) by mid-morning.  I figure if I’m sustaining 12 miles/20 kilometers per hour by the day I start the ride I’ll be in good shape.

Wheel full 70pxI can do this.

David Edgren

Mapping the Revised Route

Wheel full 70pxI’ve spent some time working with Ride with GPS [linkie] in revising my cross-the-country route and working out final maps.  Here is the latest all-in-one map

ypydz3

and each of the five stages.

7nwkqz

vxsge5

mcd8zz

e9kyzc

sy8wo6

Wheel full 70pxStage I through IV is each 1,000 miles/1,600 kilometers,  Stage V is about 139 miles/75 kilometers.  Click on any of the map images to see a full size map.  The full size stage maps are all of equal scale to the others.  Here are links to the maps on Ride with GPS, which you can enlarge to street level detail.  You can navigate between stages directly using the linkie on the right side of the map.

David Edgren

The Method to My Madness

Wheel full 70pxFor those of you who have looked at my route on Ride with GPS [linkie] and wondered

img_2485

let me see if this helps.

Wheel full 70pxI know my route is certainly not the most direct way to get across the country.

Boundary Map not Annotated - 800px

It stays way south for a long time, makes a right-hand turn up the lower Mississippi Valley, then finally starts heading northwest in Arkansas.  Relentlessly northwest, almost to the Canadian border.  Then I’ll head west again, dipping down into Oregon before the last northwest dash to the Pacific Coast.  The distance between the two places is only about 2,500 miles/4,000 km as the crow flies [linkie].

AstheCrowFlies

Wheel full 70pxBut I’m not a crow.  I’m a 63 year old fat guy with, as my grandpa used to say, “arthur-itis.”  I haven’t really pushed myself in years.  I found out in 2014 when I tried to walk the Cotswold Way in England [linkie] that my knees just won’t let me walk any meaningful distance>  But I can cycle all day long at 10 miles/16 km per hour.  I mean, does that make any sense?

Wheel full 70pxSo I’m setting some goals at the outset.  I base my planned mileage (kilometerage?) on riding six of seven days each week.  I won’t necessarily need to take advantage of that day, but it’s there if I need it.  So the ride goes like this.

  • Week one: 40 (and a bit extra) miles/65 km each day for 250 miles/400 km total.
  • Week two:  50 miles/80 km each day for 300 miles/480 km total.
  • Week three:  66 (and a bit extra) miles/100 km each day for 400 miles/640 km total.
  • Week four on:  75 miles/100 km each day for 450 miles/720 km total.

On my Baja and other Pacific Coast rides, I was doing 75 miles/120 km a day by day four.  So I think I’ve built in a reasonable cushion, given that those rides were 20 years ago.  So I planned my route with, so to speak, an ace in the hole…

 

Annotated elevation chartClick to embiggen

The first four weeks of the ride are essentially flat.

Wheel full 70pxOh yeah, there’s some up and down terrain, especially in week four as the route starts up the valley of the Arkansas River.  But not much.  And I think I can (or will be able to by that point) deal with it.

David Edgren

Some Progress…

Wheel full 70pxWell, OK. It’s been almost a full month since my first post in this blog, and everyone who has seen it is probably wondering what I’ve been up to. I’m pleased to be able to tell you that things have been moving forward, although not as quickly or as smoothly as I would have liked. Time has been spent on a couple of false starts identifying a bike to ride for the trip but, as l’ll describe in further detail below, I think we are finally on top of that critical piece. I have also spent a lot of time refining the planned route on Ride with GPS, mainly in getting it into a form where I can talk specifics with local bike clubs and knowledgeable people in advance of setting out. So here’s where we’re at as of today.

Wheel full 70pxAfter doing quite a bit of research on the web and as a result of being in touch with a couple of bike builders, I have decided that the best bike available for this trip is a Surly Long Haul Trucker outfitted with disc brakes and a number of other components intended to bulletproof it as much as possible. Just about everyone I have talked with has recommended the Surly after I have described the trip as a bike that can be worked on almost anywhere and which has the quality and durability that I will need.

Wheel full 70pxSo on Friday of last week I made the hour drive to Portland to the “Bike Gallery” bicycle shop location on Sandy Boulevard.


I spoke with a very helpful and knowledgeable sales person named Darrin for about an hour concerning my plans for the trip and the way that I thought I needed the bike built and outfitted. Darrin is certainly far more knowledgeable about the current state of the art of bicycle components and gear than I am since my last long-distance ride was in the mid 90s and, as a result, he made several very helpful recommendations. I was surprised to find though, that I was still able to speak in “bike talk” and not feel like a complete fool. I am watching for a detailed part/component list and estimate that he was going to try to get to me today. Once I have it, I will post it for your comments. My hope is that I will be able to place a deposit on ordering the bike later this week. I am also hoping that we can keep the cost to under three grand, which would allow me to eat something other than roadkill along the ride.

Wheel full 70pxAs for route planning, I now have the entire route broken down into 50 mile/80 km segments.  There are 81 of these, with the entire route now coming in at just under 4,068 miles.  I stress that this is an “almost final” route, as I am hoping that there will be feedback that will allow me to further refine it as close as possible to perfection.  If you see a change that you think would be a good one, please don’t hesitate to recommend it.  Don’t be disappointed if you do propose a change and it takes me a while to get to it, as I plan to accumulate them and then relook the route all at once, probably some time in June.

Wheel full 70pxIt has at times seemed like I have been spending days (on a slow Internet connection… the horror, the horror) using Google’s satellite view to look for paved minor roads in states like Kansas and Idaho. Now that the segments are created, I can begin to detail them in Ride with GPS with information that will take my cue sheets beyond “straight ahead” or “slight left onto US 95.”  I figure that this will take me a couple of more weeks to complete.

Wheel full 70pxI’ll be writing much, much more about route planning in the near future.

Wheel full 70pxI’ve also begun a comprehensive list of “to-do’s.” This post has already run longer than I planned, so that will be the subject for the next one, coming up shortly.

David Edgren

Hello there…

Wheel full 70px…and welcome to the blog I have started to document the planning for and undertaking of my solo unsupported transcontinental bicycle ride from Atlantic Beach, Florida to Pacific Beach, Washington.  I’m calling it the Beach 2 Beach Trans-Con, or b2b for short.

Relief Map Annotated - 800px

Here’s the Ride With GPS route I have created for it [linkie]I am in the process of fine tuning the route and breaking it into 50 mile segments, which I will make available in future posts on this blogAs of May 9th, the initial “tuning” is done and the 50 mile segments of the route are posted on Ride with GPS.

Wheel full 70pxMy current plan, subject to change, is to start the ride the last week of May following attending my daughter’s wedding in Rhode Island .  Based on that start date I would reach the left coast sometime in the second week of August, around 60-65 riding days later. The start date now is likely to fall somewhere in the last 10 days of July.  The reasoning behind this will be addressed in an upcoming post.  The “About Me” post here [linkie] will give you some idea of the considerations that have gone into making the trip.

Wheel full 70pxI’ll be starting on the Atlantic Coast east of Jacksonville, cross the State of Florida, then bike along the Gulf Coast until I reach New Orleans.  From there I’ll pick up the Mississippi River and turn north, riding mainly on levee tops to the mouth of the Arkansas River.  This first 1,000 miles of the ride is almost flat, and will be a great period during which to recondition long disused muscles.  Once at the Arkansas, I’ll turn northwest and follow the Arkansas River into central Kansas, where I’ll then make a jump over to the Platte River Valley in Nebraska.  I’ll ride along the North Platte into central Wyoming, then up over the Continental Divide and into Idaho through Jackson and the Grand Tetons.  I’ll miss entering Yellowstone National Park by that much, but you can’t do everything.  Once in Idaho the road will turn north and I’ll be in Montana for a short time before finally turning west and heading for the Columbia River Valley.  On reaching the Columbia, I’ll dip down into Oregon for a few miles then return to my final destination state: Washington, for a long (mostly) downhill run along the north bank of the Columbia River  to Vancouver.  The last two days of the ride will be spent reaching the Pacific Coast and the hamlet of Pacific Beach, where I’ll dip my tires in salt water for the second time of the trip.

Boundary Map not Annotated - 800px

Wheel full 70pxThe next couple of blog posts will deal with the issue of finding a bike to make the ride on.  I hope you will find what I write here informative and interesting, and welcome you in advance to comment as you would see fit.  Please speak up in particular if you think I could be doing something better in planning and preparing.  Your opinions are absolutely appreciated, whether I wind up agreeing with them or not.  Please speak up sooner rather than later, too.  I’m on a really tight time frame, and decisions about things- in particular equipment and accessories- will be getting made on almost a daily basis starting very soon.  I would also appreciate input as to location-specific routing, as well.  I will be writing various cycling clubs and bike shops asking for comments about the route I have come up with, but there’s nothing like hearing from someone who has detailed info about a better/more scenic/more bike friendly routing.

Wheel full 70pxThanks for coming along for the ride.

David Edgren