Sunday, August 06, 2006

A day in the life

In that spirit, here’s what a normal day would be like. I’d usually start by heating up some oatmeal. The stove would be out from the night before, so I’d get the food bag and start the water going right away. Usually, it was cold in the mornings – sometimes below freezing – so I would have most of my layers on.

Then I’d pack up everything inside the tent – sleeping bag, mattress pad, and whatever I dragged in there the night before. Usually, the water would be good by then, so I’d pour it in the packets and eat right out of the packets. Oatmeal isn’t great for calories, but it warms you up and has at least some energy for the first part of the morning. From there I’d pack up the tent, tent poles, and the works.
I had a rack and pannier system with four bags plus a handlebar bag and a tent bag on the rear rack. The tent poles and my air mattress went in the tent bag. One front bag had my sleeping bag (an REI down bag that compressed down to the size of two softballs) and my rain gear. One back bag had my stove and all my food (easier to bear bag) and the other had bike repair gear and my clothes (layers and gym shorts and a t-shirt for in town).

I always tried to get some hours of cool riding in during the morning. In WY and NM (especially southern NM) I took this to extremes – packing up in the dark and rolling out before the sun was out. Other places it was more of a preference thing – I just like riding when it’s about 60 out – but it never got hot enough that riding in the middle of the day instead of in the morning was a terrible idea.
After a couple of hours it was time for food. Early in the trip I just ate granola bars and tortillas with peanut butter in them. By the end it was tortillas with PBJ and energy bars (usually Hammer bars or Clif bars, but PowerBars would do in a pinch). As the trip went on, I relied more and more on the energy bars, especially Clif bars, and ate them pretty much exclusively throughout the day (often 6-7 per day), with big meals at the end of the day and in any towns I ran into during the day.

For water I had a 64 oz Gatorade bottle strapped to my front rack (Tim and I both had one of these – his in his BOB – and we called them the gas tanks). Along with that I had six regular waterbottles, two in my panniers, two behind my seat, and two in the normal spots. In the desert, I carried additional bottles in my rear panniers that allowed me to carry even more.

In NM water required a lot of planning. We weren’t going very far every day, so a 40 mile stretch without water – which would have been half a day in MT – required a full day’s hydration, maybe plus water for cooking. But we didn’t want to carry extra, so it became a matter of estimating how much we needed at each water source.
In CO water became more plentiful. My general strategy as water got more plentiful was just to fill up four or five bottles and go until they got low, then refill at the next source. The main issue with water was the time it took to filter, not the amount of water around.

At night, I would try to be off the bike by 6. This allowed me to find a good place to camp – I could pedal another hour or two if nothing was around. I also could cook and set up camp while it was still light. This left time for good bear practices and allowed the food to settle a bit while before bed. If I didn’t stop anywhere for a meal during the day I would sometimes eat two dinners a couple of hours apart.

Dinner usually was some noodles (Lipton dinners) with a package of that vacuum-packed tuna thrown in. If I got in early, I would start with maybe 3 packets of that big bowl easy mac, set up camp, then put the noodles on before bed. I got very sick of Lipton dinners by the end, but never found any good substitute.

After dinner, I would pack up all the food and attractants, put them in a garbage bag, and stash them away from the tent downwind. Supposedly the rule is 100 yards away; usually I only went 50 yards or so (sometimes this was just laziness; other times the layout of the campsite meant that it would take serious bushwhacking to get any further). There was rarely anywhere to hang the food up, and I eventually sent my bear rope back for weight reasons. My position eventually became that they can have the food if they find it, just stay away from me and my gear. I never had any problems – partly from good luck and maybe partly because the trash bag did a good job of keeping the smells from going too far.

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