Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Bike America: The Many Logistics

It's the third week of my Bike America series and that means I'm here to tell you about planning the logistics of our ride. The problem is that there are far more logistics than I could ever fit into one blog post so we're going to stick to the basics. I will likely elaborate on some of these areas in future posts.

Car vs. No Car

If I haven't told you this yet, let me make it clear: we will have a car with us on our ride. All the logistical planning for this trip is based on that fact and is allowing us to do much more than we otherwise would.

Bike Preparation 

It is easy to get caught up in the daydreaming and planning of the actual ride but a very important part of this adventure is getting your bike completely ready for the journey. Luckily, I have a beauty of a bike that is young and fresh so she doesn't need too much work. Still, before we leave, I'll be putting wider tires on her, replacing the handlebar tape and testing out several different seats to find the best fit. 

I also took a very effective lesson at the bike clinic in DC. One weakness I have with bikes is that I don't know enough about repairing them. Before, I could change the handlebar tape, change the tires, adjust and change the seat but now I can true the wheels, tighten spokes, check for and adjust brake cables and pads, and clean the chain. I know there is much more to learn in life but this clinic made me feel much more confident going into the ride.

Equipment and Gear

We will talk more about this in a post all about gear. But there are some pieces that require some logistical planning. Like the car-top carrier my mom bought for all of our bags, the paniers I bought to carry our things when we ditch the car in Pittsburgh and ride in together the last week, the tents, sleeping bags, camping dishware, camping water heater, etc. I am saving the post on gear until the end because I expect us to think of more and more things we need as the ride gets closer.


The idea of staying in a different campsite or motel every single night for two months, and then planning which ones to stay in, scares me a lot. This is where my mom's planning brain came in super handy. As with figuring out our route, most of the planning of accommodations was inspired by reading blogs. The first group rode about 60 miles per day and they had camping and motel info in their posts so we could copy many of their overnight plans. The second group, riding through the end of Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota, were riding much longer days so she researched motels and campsites at approximately 60-70 mile intervals along the route. Then, after Ragbrai, she was able to use info from the first group of bloggers again. And from Pittsburgh to DC, we'll be staying in campsites along the C&O Canal which can all be found online.


This is the kind of planning that will vary completely depending on the person, their group, and their specific trip. But planning the travel was a complicated thing for us. Especially since we have a lot of little hiccups and side-trips along the way. Here's how we're doing it: 
  • My parents are driving west across the country four days before we start riding
  • They pick up Joyce in Colorado on their way and haul her with them to Washington
  • I fly to Seattle the day before we start riding
  • My dad flies out a week in to a convention in Arizona that he's been committed to for years
  • The same day, Josh flies into the same airport to join the ride for 10 days
  • My dad flies back a week later. Josh flies home three days after that.
  • Three weeks in, we ditch our bikes at a stranger's house in South Dakota and drive 14 hours to Chicago for my uncle's wedding. Then we drive back to SD two days later.
  • We drop Joyce at an airport somewhere in mid-July to send her back to Boulder (this piece we still haven't finalized because her summer work schedule is up in the air)
  • After another three weeks of riding, my friends Josh, Ben and Nathaniel meet us on the west side of Iowa to join us on Ragbrai. Most of the logistics of their travel to Iowa are up to them.
  • One week after Ragbrai ends, I fly from Chicago to Charleston, SC for my friend Sarah's wedding. I fly back to Chicago two days later.
  • Then we just ride and ride and ride until we hit home :)
All of these details seem frivolous: the fact that we have a car so we don't have to carry our things, taking three days off twice to go to weddings, and the many trips to the airport and back to shuttle our various riders around the country. 

It might not be the most minimal, purist of bike rides across the country. But we realized that life is always going to get in the way. Things came up this summer that we had to (and wanted to) commit ourselves to and, at one point, we did almost let these things encourage us to push the trip back a year. But we realized things could be just as complicated every summer for the rest of our lives. So we're making it all work the best we can. And, on the few occasions that I have to ditch my bike seat and ride in a car, I will most certainly go right back to where I stopped riding and start up again. I may take a few frivolous breaks but I absolutely plan to ride my bike in a line from coast to coast, without missing an inch.

Any questions??


  1. Wow, Carrie! I can't even imagine all the logistics. I am enjoying these posts and am getting excited for you guys! :)

  2. Nice copyright infringement with the photo... :P