I have been in Yucca Valley, just North of Joshua Tree National Park for several days now. I participated in Thanksgiving Day feeds here because I did not want to spend the holiday alone. The locals were extremely generous in making sure everybody got a turkey dinner. Wonderful.
Meanwhile, I have been using the library here extensively, researching the Southern Tier Bike Route. It seems people pedal it via several different combinations of road. Some using a lot of freeway. That sure is a departure from my backpacking days in the Wilderness.
The Adventure Cycling Association has a set of maps depicting their version of the route, which is supposed to be bike friendly and safer than other routes, but longer. I think I am going to purchase their digital download for my phone. I have a set of AAA maps with the route highlighted. From surfing previous cyclists journal sites I am amazed at how many miles that people ride per day. Some doing regular 90 mile days. I think if I can hit forty miles a day it will be a challenge, particularly because the winter days are getting so short.
When in Lone Pine, California I rummaged repeatedly through my gear, thinking I have way too much. Indeed, one of my rear dry box panniers is nothing but dry food, and one of my front duffel bag panniers cold weather clothing that I have not had to use yet. Well, I will eat the food down and the clothes will no double get used in the coming winter months.
I was thinking my load was heavy when I see Mike pull up to the fast food restaurant next to the park where I was hanging out. He had the biggest Arkel Panniers made, and on top more stuff piled. I was astonished that he said he thought he was carrying about 125 lbs. of gear. He has been touring like this for 14 years and knows what he is doing. He does short days however, not concerned with schedules at all. My gear comes to about 30 pounds, without the food. I feel that is heavy. The food weighs about 15 lbs., but that is a diminishing load.
As I get more accustomed to knowing what distances I can pedal, I will start carrying only a couple of days or less of food between towns. Crossing the Mojave, one has to carry a lot of water. It is cooling off now, so that will be less of a concern. Thus far I was doing relatively short days, with a dry camp between towns, so I had to carry water for a dry overnight camp and to continue on the next morn. There is going to be more of this in Arizona and New Mexico.
I have been constantly tinkering with the bike trying to get a comfortable seating position. The old school flat bars are way to low. I have adjusted the stem up as high as possible. I am having some nerve damage at my finger tips due to the pressure of my hands on the bars. I need some different bars. I have had one flat so far. The Mojave Desert is trashed these days and covered with invasive weed plants making for nasty burrs and prickly’s.
One of my main concerns has been what the availability of camping sites will be. Particularly from Louisiana to the East. I am used to the wide open West with millions of acres of public lands where one can stealth camp with relative ease and no fees. The farther East on the route the public lands give way to private property. I cannot afford to get motels, and even RV parks can be rather expensive. I guess that is part of the Adventure – to make it up as we go along.
I have signed up to the Warm Showers and the Couch Surfing hosting networks and downloaded their apps onto my phone. These are organizations that hook bike travelers up with hosts who are willing to share services like a bed or camping, a shower, maybe a meal. I have heard of some bike tourers using these services nearly exclusively.
Indeed, Curtis Bunton of Darby, is a Warm Showers host, who helped me while on the CDT last fall. He has been mentoring me with texts over the past days helping me to figure things out. (Look at a previous post, as we sample Meade at his house).
My next move is a bit of a quandary. I need to plot a route to get to Arizona, to the South and the East of Joshua Tree, to connect with the Southern Tier route.