Friday, June 24, 2011

Trip Journal - Layoff Day

[a two-stage bottle rocket, suitable for attacking targets in Asia]
How to make a bottle rocket:

After one easy, and one moderate day of bicycling, I have taken a day off to rest. I was even more out of shape than I thought. Last night I had muscle spasms in my left leg which was no fun at all. One always gets them with insufficient stretching, but it is unusual to get them this soon in the trip.

I was making a pleasure out of a necessity this morning by watching early rounds play at Wimbledon on the motel room television, and found that I kept dozing off. I missed whole sets. Dozing in the morning after a full night's sleep is a sign that I was more tired than I thought. Last night I even dozed off while sitting on the pot.

Plus, as usual, I have badly overloaded the bike at the outset. Why can't I learn the basic lesson to bring only what one will need and not what one might need? Every bicycle trip for as long as I can remember begins with an overloaded bicycle and sending a box of seemed-necessary-at-the-time stuff home.

The bicycle as it stands when loaded is painfully heavy. I am going to go through my luggage and send home as much as possible. Even cherished right values will have to be foregone. I brought a notably large and heavy digital SLR camera and a second lens for it in addition to a small pocket camera. The theory was that a long bike tour alone would be the perfect time to really learn photography. That is a laudable, correct thing to do. But not necessary. It would be good to teach myself Spanish on this trip too, but I am not going to carry a Spanish textbook. The DSLR and the extra lens for it go home.

I am carrying too much food as well. The whole point of going on the easier Alaska Highway instead of the all-but-unpopulated Cassiar Highway of 2008 is to be within a day or two of services, to carry credit cards instead of luggage. I do not need two weeks supply of granola with me. That is just crazy.

I do not need a spare bicycle chain. I have never broken a chain in all my years of bicycling. It goes home. I do not need five extra notebooks to write in. I do not need any. I can write as well on this computer as in a notebook, even if it isn't as sexy. I will transcribe the work I did in Le Taha'a and send home even the partially-filled one. I can save whatever I have written to Google documents. It will be a lot safer on their servers in Cupertino than on my bicycle.

I don't need the nifty nylon briefcase-style computer carrying case. It is for carrying the computer on airplanes, in cars and such. I am not even using it. It goes home.

I have a box of stationery and no envelopes. After I write a few letters today, it goes home. I have a two fountain pens and two ballpoints. I even have an extra plastic bottle of ink. Half of all that will go home. I have two pairs of bicycle shorts. One, though brand-new, are useless because they constantly hang on my legs and make it all but impossible to swing my leg up to mount the seat. The other, though badly worn and still too small, will stay. If the seam in the butt gives way as I fear it may, I can sew it up by hand.

I have four quart bottles of rubbing alcohol for spraying black flies and mosquitoes. This is post-trauma over-compensation. They made me so miserable back in 2008 that I have over-prepared for them. Two bottles will surely get me to Tok and more bottles if need be. Two can stay here. So far there have not been many bugs, but I am still near towns with their mosquito abatement districts. Further out, there may be more. Or it may yet be too early in the season for them.

Conversely, I do not have enough water with me. I ran out of water well before reaching Palmer and was quite thirsty when I got here. As soon as I got to the hotel-cafe-liquor store here and got a room, I bought and downed three small orange juices and one large Budweiser. Enjoyable as that ending was, it would have been better to have had sufficient water with me. Maybe I can empty and wash out the rubbing alcohol bottles and fill them with water.

For future reference for my fans: When traveling light, a two liter soda-pop bottle from a food market or convenience store makes an excellent canteen. It is cheap, light, readily available, well-made, good-sized, has a well-designed and reliable screw-on plastic cap. It is designed to withstand interior pressure from carbonation, so it will not readily leak from the cap nor will the container crack or puncture. One can pour out or drink the soda-pop sold with it as one prefers. What it lacks in class it makes up in utility.

Only two paragraphs after speculating that it is too early in the season for flying pests, a mosquito has found its way through the window screen and onto my arm to bite me. Whereupon I returned the kindness by squishing her into a digusting small black mass of bug guts.

Conversely to everything I ought to get rid of, I really do need to get sunscreen and insect repellent before leaving Palmer.



  1. When you said you were carrying sixty extra pounds on the trip I didn't know you were talking about bike chains and spare parts. But I understand Palmer, Alaska, often called the Paris of the North, is lovely this time of year.

  2. marlene bowers11:20 AM

    I was in Alaska in Anchorage area and did it the easy way. a friend had a plane and flew us around to see the sights. The 4 of July is about the best time of year in Alaska

  3. H-
    That is a different 60 pounds....