Something I’m Thinking About: NE Bike Tour

I’m thinking about doing a bike tour loop up to Montreal and over to Detroit and Chicago.  I really want to see Detroit.  See how wild it is.  Packs of dogs roaming the streets.  Post-apocalyptic landscape.  Click on the image to see the Google Map.

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Downsizing to a New Setup

Before Eleanor came to visit, I was realizing I didn’t need my two front panniers. Everything I had packed in there was light, and it could all fit into my two rear bags. I didn’t like how easy it was to detach the front panniers. The rear ones, on the other hand, are strapped down underneath my tent and sleeping bag. Getting rid of the front panniers would give me a couple less things to worry about. I could also get rid of my front rack, which is probably about 5 lbs.

Surly_No_Front_Rack

And I wrapped a green strap around my seat tube.

Inspired by the possibilities of downsizing, I took a hard look at everything else I was carrying. Did I really need it? Was I realistically going to use it? The other major item I decided against was my pot and homemade stove. With food so cheap and so good and so easily available, I couldn’t see myself cooking up some pasta while passing up a much tastier meal for $2. Plus, then I wouldn’t need to carry food or fuel for the stove. It was a pretty easy decision.

The downside to losing my front panniers is that all the weight is in the rear. The handling of the bike is less stable, and I feel bad for the rear tire because the weight from my butt is on it too.

And although I’ve lost some weight and bulk, I’ve upgraded on water carrying capacity, and water is heavy, so it’s hard to tell if I’m actually lighter.

I’m thinking about some way to carry my extra 1.5 L water bottles in the front. I was thinking about attaching two hose clamps at two points on the fork, on each side, but that would mean I would have to screw and unscrew them each time I wanted to fill up. Getting a cheap rack here would also be an option, and I might be able to strap my sleeping bag onto the top of it too, so I can spread the weight more evenly across the bike.

Eoin’s Bike

I’m riding the Surly Long Haul Trucker.  Peter put it together for me at Trophy Bikes in Philadelphia, and added a Brooks B-17 leather saddle, Surly racks, SKS fenders, and upgraded to Schwalbe Marathon 700x32c tires.  I also got grey Ortlieb Back roller and Front roller classics through Trophy.  Thanks Peter!

eoin_surly_bike_setup

I got a TransIt handlebar bag from Performance, and added my TransIt seat bag that I already had on my other bike.  Eleanor let me borrow her JLord fish frame pad, and then I found another JLord pad, a white one, at my old place in Atlanta, and I put that on my down tube.  Cool!

Atlanta: Ready to Leave

Today was a slow day. Raining the whole time. I checked my packing a few times, and walked down to Kroger and got bagels, mac and cheese, peanut butter, and powdered drink mix packets for electrolytes. Slow day, time to leave Atlanta.

In the evening, I went to the Dekalb Farmer’s Market for a CouchSurfing dinner. I met up with my old carpool friend, John and his wife, Marilyn, Will Clarke, and Rodney. It was good catching up, and feeding off their enthusiasm for my trip.

Then we all went to The Porter in Little 5 Points and had some beers. Simon, Courtney, Kenny, Celia, and Andrew joined us too. I realized I won’t be enjoying a time like this for a long while. I’ll look back on it in a few weeks when I’m sweaty and huddled under a tent and it’ll seem like years ago.

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Andrew, who gave me a ride from Knoxville to Atlanta, was really generous. He gave me three dehydrated meals and a pack of Wet Ones to take with me. Awesome guy. All I had to offer was a DVD copy of Apocalypse Briggs. Hey, it’s art. Art riddled with mistakes and corny jokes.

My luck from the Philly to Knoxville to Atlanta trip continued into Atlanta. One of Simon’s roommates was out of town for a long time, so I had a bed and free run of the place, just like old times. It was pretty cool being able to stay in my old apartment, although there were a lot of minor changes that threw me off. As they say, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Whatever.

Playing “Down in the Valley” on harmonica for Simon.  … And remember our prom.

atlanta_eoin_simon_harmonicaatlanta_simon_eoin_prom

Courtney and Simon organized a potluck dinner for our trip.  It was great having everyone over.  We played a charades/taboo game, which featured “Slam Dunk,” “Keep on Skankin’,” “Eoin’s Conehead,” and “Big Throbbing Cock.”

Ride to Vinings

I rode up to Vinings to have lunch with some of my old co-workers from Home Depot.  I took the most direct route on Marietta/Atlanta Rd, but it’s really industrial.  Semis and dump trucks were whizzing past me at 60 mph as I was weaving to avoid potholes.  It would only take one set of potholes timed perfectly with a truck passing me too closely to crush me completely.  This was the same road that I took a couple of years earlier when I experimented riding to work.  I road on the shoulder and got a flat riding through the rubble, stranded 10 miles from the city.  Lots of bad experiences on this stretch.

vinings_training_ride

I didn’t want to be that guy who comes back to his old high school hoping teachers will remember him.  I saw that happen when I was in high school, and I thought it was sad.  Would my return to work friends be similar?  Since they’re my friends, and I wasn’t visiting the office, I figured it would be okay.  And it was.

I made it to Los Bravos, my favorite Mexican restaurant in the area.  Travis, Dima, and Silvia, my friends from my Delivery days, came for lunch.  They all had big changes in their lives.  New houses, engagement, pregnancy.  And I’m a gypsy.

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They were enthusiastic about my bike trip.  I really like that.  I get motivated when other people are supportive like that, thinking the trip will be a great experience.  They also chimed in with warnings about Mexico.  I keep hearing about it.  It’s getting tiring and irritating.  I know people say it trying to look out for me.  I’m just sick of it.

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I asked Travis for a recommendation on a route back.  He told me going down Paces Ferry to West Paces Ferry to Peachtree would be safer than Marietta.  It was way better.  Less direct, but scenic, and mostly downhill, which was nice.  34 miles roundtrip.  That’s two 30-mile days back to back.  And I still had enough energy to play basketball with Simon and Dane later in the afternoon.   But then I was exhausted, and then I had a potluck dinner for me and Ryan’s trip.

Conyers to Atlanta Ride

Ryan and I rode 27 miles from his house in Conyers to Atlanta to meet up with Kevin Hicks.

I got Ryan to lead and set the pace since he hadn’t done any longer rides yet.  He wasn’t wearing padded shorts, his seat was too low, and his drive train was clicking and out of tune, so it was a challenging ride for him.

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There were some pretty steep hills.  We both teared up after descending one of them at about 35 mph.  Tears trickling down our cheeks.  Crying about leaving Conyers.

conyers_training_ride

The only adversity we faced was a truck with a trailer passing really close by us, and then later when we caught up to them, one of the passengers yelled, “Get your ass on the sidewalk.”  Ryan was up ahead, so I signalled him to get off the road to let them pass.  It’s better to avoid those drivers.

It felt good coming into Atlanta.  Familiar territory.  We met up with Kevin, and had lunch at Rocky Mountain pizza.  A couple of Ryan’s old co-workers, Trish and Ryan, joined us.

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After lunch, Ryan, Kevin, and I walked down to Georgia Tech’s Burger Bowl.  We fantasized about telling passing students that we were alum: “Hey, you know, we used to go to Georgia Tech.”  Pathetic graduates coming back to relive sad days.  No one cares.

Since I had my camcorder, we reshot some Hidden Creamery videos.  And we did it in that style: really quick and really shitty.

Great Smoky Mountains Ride

Being in Knoxville, TN with a bike, I felt the urge to ride out to the Smoky Mountains. When would I have that opportunity again.

I got up at 7am and left at 8. I brought three water bottles, my handlebar bag, and a backpack with granola and some fruit strapped to the rear rack. It was really nice out. A cool Saturday morning without much traffic.

I took the google map walking directions route. 90 miles round trip. The most I’d done before was 50, and that was on mostly flat ground. I was expecting the worst since Knoxville is in the foothills of the Smokies. I figured a lot of uphill.

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It turned out to be not so bad most of the way. There was a lot of up and down through really scenic countryside. The last 20 miles was a well-traveled bike route, and I saw a lot of cyclists setting up to start a ride. I had already done 25 miles, and I cursed the situation as a few easily overtook me. “You assholes. I’ve been riding 2 hours already!”

I felt great when I came to the entrance to the park. It said 7 miles Cades Cove. I thought that meant a 7 mile loop. Instead, it was a steady climb for 7 miles, with a 2 or 3 mile stretch of straight ascent. It sucked. Then, I got to the entrance to Cades Cove. 11 mile loop! I considered just turning around since I was worn out from the climb, but I came all this way to see this place, so I did it.

Cades Cove was really scenic and it was a great day. The path was only wide enough for one car, and there was a lot of hills, so I held up traffic as I climbed in my granny gear. Screw you guys!

The road I was going to take out of the park was all gravel, so I decided to backtrack. I flew down it at like 30 miles per hour. Pay back for climbing it.

I was already up to 70 miles as I left the park. Way more than expected. I took a delirious lunch at Subway – meatball marinara, $5 foot long. The muscles around my throat were inflamed and I felt a sore emptiness at my sternum. My voice sounded weird and nasal too. I was breaking down.

I kept riding, thinking about it getting dark. I had about 40 miles to do in 3 hours, and with exhausted legs, sore left knee, sore hands, and weird voice.

I came to the area where I had seen cyclists starting out in the morning, and I saw one guy packing up his bike in his truck. I stopped and asked if he was going to Knoxville. Yeah. Could you give me a ride? Yeah sure.

Kurt saved my ass. And he didn’t even live in Knoxville. He just happened to be going there that day to see an expo. Lucky. This trip has been really lucky.

He dropped me off at “The Strip,” and I made it back to my CouchSurfing hosts Zach and Shiloh. 8 hours, 83 miles, feeling sick from exhaustion.

I smelled my shorts. Nasty. Worst smell. I showered, then took a 2 hour nap. Then I hobbled around, watched a little “Space Buddies” with Zach and Shiloh, and went to bed at around 11pm.

I felt a lot better in the morning, packed my things, and rode to UT’s campus to meet up with Andrew who would take me in his minivan to Atlanta. All compliments of CouchSurfing and FATE!