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The Final Days Before the Trip Begins

By Jackson Parr | July 30, 2012, 12 a.m. (ET)

jacksonThe Route
The planning of my route began as simply as it could with me typing “walking directions from Milwaukee, WI to Burlington, VT” in Google Maps. Seeing that the resulting path took me through Niagara Falls, I thought that was exciting and the route has remained relatively unchanged. Simple. Yet if bicycle touring has taught me anything, it is that actual distance always exceeds planned distance and no matter how much you plan, your route is decided as you roll up to an intersection, not days before with a map. Yet I have planned destinations in which I will set the guidelines for my directions, either ending on a recommended campground or with a friendly Couchsurfing host.

The few days where weather drives me back or tailwinds push me further than expected are where my overnight stays will become less conventional, such as the backyard of a church, inside of an airport or cluster of trees on the side of the road hoping to be up and out before a particularly irksome landowner notices my tent and tights (I have read stories of all three scenarios). My days will range anywhere between 40 and 80 miles, with the average falling around 60. In my few final days of the tour through the Adirondack Mountain Range, the daily distances will decrease as I recognize that I will be climbing larger mountains than I am used to as well as entering the final days before a big race.

The Training
A pie chart of my training in these few weeks would leave running and swimming quite upset with their slice. For the distances planned, I will be spending 5-7 hours in the saddle each day of riding. Most campsites I have found provide a body of water in which to swim but I am also not opposed to stopping in the middle of my day at an unexpected but pristine lake, perhaps to cool off after hours in the August heat. It is not entirely coincidence that my stops include Lake Placid and the shores of Lake Ontario.

Any running will be decided in the moment while gauging how burnt my legs are relative to the difficulty of the coming day. My lightweight Vibram FiveFinger shoes will be my running tools and I can only hope that the draw of fresh roads and new trails will beckon me to a brick run off the bike.

The Gear
My gear is separated into categorical dry sacks such as toiletries, bike repair and clothes. The weight is sitting right around 50 pounds but is sure to change as I shed unwanted items and pick up other necessities along the way. I am allowing myself a few items that must be considered luxuries when packing so conservatively such as an extra pair of socks (never underestimate the peace of mind provided by fresh socks), a harmonica for lonely nights in the campsite and a pillow to help sleep (a triathletes greatest recovery).

jacksonMost meals will consist of Ramen noodles and PB&J sandwiches, not too different from most college diets. I will be representing my University of Iowa Cycling Club with my cycling kits as well as keeping my pink Castelli cycling cap and Blu-blocker sunglasses for staying stylish off the bike. Yet, as with anything else in bicycle touring, preparation only goes so far. It takes a trial by fire to ensure everything is packed.

My last week consisted of a 30-mile fully-loaded ride to a nearby state park, a night with the camping gear and the return trip the following day. As a triathlete, it’s hard to watch the speedometer sit at 12 mph for hours but it’s the price to pay for a loaded bike. Everything went smoothly, and I learned a few new tips and tricks to think about before setting off east. A pocketknife does not spread peanut butter well. Clothespins don’t work well on tree branches. Don’t forget a change of clothes when heading to the campground showers.

Overall, the trial was successful and I was able to put a nice deposit in the confidence bank that I’m sure I’ll need to withdraw later. In the few days leading up to embarking, I’ll reload my gear, contact my homestays, and grab a few plates of pasta before shaving my cycling legs one last time and rolling out. My next post will be from somewhere in central Michigan but follow my daily quest on twitter @YacksonParr and watch as I creep my way to the start line of Age Group Nationals in Burlington, Vermont.