On May 31st, our rest day before our 2-day train ride home, we took the day to visit parts of downtown Chicago. Visiting the Lincoln Park Conservatory, the Lincoln Park Zoo, Millennium Park and Oz Park. We rode Chicago’s “L” train for the first time and did a lot of walking.
(At the entrance to the Conservatory. It hosted large varieties of flora and fauna.)
(Inside and outside of the Cloud Sphere, a.k.a. the “Bean” in Millennium Park.)
(The Jay Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park. There was to be a gospel choral performance that evening.)
(Wizard of OZ statues in Oz Park, couldn’t find the one of the Cowardly Lion.)
(Part of the Chicago skyline in the afternoon.)
On June 1st, we were lucky to get home as a portion of track in Iowa was flooded in about 6″ of water by the Mississippi River!! Previous and subsequent day’s Chicago-to-Emeryville trains were cancelled because of track flooding!!
(The flooding outside of our train’s window!!)
(Arriving in Sacramento after our 51-hour train ride from Chicago ready to ride home.)
(Peggy and Jerry met us at the train station!! So great to see them again!!)
We’ve been home for a few days now and have had a chance to reflect upon what we had just completed. In the beginning, this felt like a very daunting adventure. Our unfortunately short-lived traveling companions, Peggy and Jerry, shared a lot of valuable information about their past self-supported rides and we drew upon their vast experience. As we had never done a ride like this before, we had a laundry list of things that needed to get done:
- The very first thing, get Fay a new touring bike! In October, she got a new Trek 520. This new model came with both front and rear racks as well as STI shifters! So, this was perfect for her!
- Acquiring our panniers! We wound up buying all of them on either eBay (most of the bags) or Craigslist: Rob’s Ortlieb front panniers (Craigslist)/Arkel back panniers (eBay); Fay’s Arkel Front panniers/Ortlieb back panniers (both on eBay)
- Acquiring lighter weight items: new Therma-Rest Neo Air sleeping pads (also on eBay), a 3-person backpacking tent (Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL3), and, multi-use sandals
- Purchasing a new Jet Boil which had a regulator
- Getting freeze-dried food for those possible camping dinners
- Getting rain jackets,
- Larger-sized dry bags,
- A solar charger and battery packs
We had purchased the Adventure Cycling Association Route 66 map set earlier and Rob took the opportunity to plot out the entire USBR (US Bicycle Route) 66 route on the Ride with GPS app to help in researching on-route and/or near-route eating/shopping places and lodging options. Fay had found on the website, CrazyGuyOnABike.com, blogs from others who had previously ridden Route 66. He used these blogs for reference in doing some initial planning of daily routes. Plotting out the entire route and using those blogs provided some useful information for at least the initial 3 weeks or so of our trip.
Then came the practice run carrying our gear:
We’re not going to lie, but Fay remembered the first time we did a practice run with the panniers on her new bike. When she rolled it down the driveway, she was surprised at how heavy and hard to maneuver it was! Her first thought was “how the hell am I ever going to ride this thing with all this weight on?” Let alone trying to balance and not fall over. She remembered last year when she thought that she would probably never ever do a self-supported ride in her lifetime. She thought her knees would never be able to handle that combined weight, especially climbing hills, of bike and gear. Also, back in December, she reinjured her right knee, so, she was very concerned that it might not hold up on the trip. She did everything she could to strengthen it and ice it down after a workout. But, the knee did fine! Sometimes after a long hilly day, it would hurt, but it all turned out well. After a while your body got used to riding with the extra weight.
Our thoughts about this trip:
Now that we’ve completed our first self-supported ride, a number of our friends have asked us about which type of touring we like better, supported or self-supported? Our overwhelming answer is SELF-SUPPORTED. And here’s why:
Having the flexibility of planning out ride our days:
This was the biggest reason for us answering this way. Being able to plan our daily routes ourselves and not having to follow a scheduled timeline. On our past, long, supported rides, all the stops and overnight locations were all planned out for us. Even though we were carrying our own gear this time, being on our own gave us a lot of flexibility to push farther if there were tailwinds or cut back on our miles knowing if there was going to be headwinds and/or a lot of climbing. It also allowed us to make any stopovers to visit family and friends along the way. If it was going to be an awfully rainy day, we didn’t have to ride and take that day off. Whereas in the past, we had to ride in whatever the weather was that day.
The idea of traveling with no support:
On this trip, a lot of people would be curious as to where we were going, from where we started and why we were doing it. When we answered from Santa Monica to Chicago, they were also amazed at how far we were riding! And doing this ride just to do it!!
They’d also ask where was our support vehicle? When we told them that we were on our own, they were very surprised! We explained that we had done 3 supported, multi-week tours in the past, and with that support, felt very secure and confident that if anything happened, we would have the help of our route leaders. But, now that we were on our own, it was initially kind of intimidating. But with each passing day, we felt more and more confident being on our own and in our abilities to figure things out.
Ultimately, everyone we encountered wished us a safe journey.
We also utilized a lodging search tool which was new for us: Warm Showers. This is an app where cyclists sign up to be a host for other touring cyclists (complete strangers, mind you!!) or ask to be hosted. We had signed up previously as a host and this app proved to be a very useful lodging search option a number of times for us on this trip (see below).
Some statistics and fun facts:
Total miles ridden: 2,633 miles
Total elevation (entire trip): 85,700+ feet
Total ride days: 50
Total rest days: 8 (one of which was forced by weather)
Most consecutive ride days: 8
Longest ride day: May 17th, 77.5 miles, to Springfield, MO
Shortest ride day: April 12th, 12.4 miles, to Kingman, AZ
Coldest day: April 25th, El Morro RV Park around 30 degrees in a.m.
Hottest day: April 8th, Amboy to Fenner don’t know how hot, but it was hot
Most climbing in a day: April 11th, Needles to almost Kingman, 4,591 feet
Days rained upon: 1
Days hailed upon: 1
Days hearing tornado warning sirens: 1
Total times camping: 18
Number of Warm Showers hosts: 8
Nights staying with a Warm Showers host: 10 (an additional rest day w/2 separate hosts)
Nights staying with family/friends: 3
Sets of bike tires used (each): 1
Bike parts replaced: 1 – Rob’s rear wheel
Flats: Fay – 0, Rob – 2 (both on day 2)
Number of touring cyclists encountered: 4
Number of Buddhist monks encountered: 1
We had a great time doing this ride. But, there was also, to paraphrase the Clint Eastwood movie, “the good, the bad, the ugly” and the sad.
The good: all of the wonderful people we encountered: from our Warm Showers hosts to just random people curious about us on our many daily stops. Also when our route brought onto an interstate, the truckers would move to the fast lane to lessen the impact of their passing us at high speeds (sometimes 70+ mph)!
The bad: some of the impatient drivers trying to pass us on hills and blind curves on 2-lane roads!!
The ugly: In one state (OK), where roadsides were just littered with all kinds of trash.
And the sad: The negative impact of former businesses on Route 66 which were now abandoned and dilapidated because of the building of the interstates, in particular I-40, bypassing them.
We’d like to thank all of you who followed our blog on this first-of-a-kind cycling tour for us. We hoped you enjoyed reading about our experiences along the “Mother Road”. Like with our 3 previous supported rides, we’ll always treasure these memories.
We very much enjoyed reading all of your comments (even though it sometimes took us a few days to reply to them) and greatly appreciated you taking the time to write them! They’re what helped to keep us going. So, thank you for those!!
Until our next “epic adventure”.