Trip update: While I was in Keller, I was able to confirm that the mail forwarding system works. Both my business mail from Tracy and the personal mail from Daniel arrived in two days, plenty of time for me to deal with it before leaving.
The first mail forwarding also taught me that I should have left a better list of disposal instructions. Fortunately, both Daniel and Tracy emailed me to ask about some of the catalogs and magazines before sending them to me. I replied with a list of those catalogs, magazines and other heavy mail that I expected, and what to do with each. Most of my subscriptions are backed up with digital subscriptions now, so I really do not need most of the media mail that comes in.
I left my high-quality microphone/headset behind because it was too bulky. Regretting that when the book translation came in, I ordered a slim Koss USB microphone, which arrived yesterday. Now that I am dictating my translations, the productivity has soared again.
The large monitor back in Charlottesville spoiled me. I stopped by Radio Shack the other day and bought a short (1 meter) HDMI cable for my office. Now I can plug into the TV in the hotel rooms, or borrow my cousin’s large monitor when I need to look at my work on a bigger screen. Most of the time, the 13-in laptop screen is fine, but there are those times…
This week I am on my way to Central Texas, stopping in Alvarado and other towns on the way to Austin and San Antonio. I would like to continue with the lessons learned from the second ride I did last year.
The Giro della Nuova Inghilterra (GNI), or Tour of New England, was my first deliberate test of the format that I am using now on the Southern Swing 2013. Enjoy the story at
Here are some of the lessons I brought away:
- You can plan as you go. I am a hopeless planner, so I get nervous riding out without arrangements made and a Plan B in place. I left on this ride without all my accommodations lined up, reservations made, or tickets purchased. Thanks to the phone and the internet, I could satisfy my need to make advance arrangements, without holding up the trip to do so.
- Use your friends and family. Touring on a bicycle, I am not likely to stop by often, and my friends and family were genuinely glad to see me. Some had not seen me in four decades; others knew that they would never see me again, as our lives move away. I would go shopping, do the dishes, fix things, and generally try to “leave no footprints.” A small, but wonderful, benefit of homestays is doing your laundry, which is something you just can’t plan for, but has to be done every week on the road.
- Check your nuts and bolts. I used to wait until things would rattle to worry about loose fasteners on my bicycle. I rode the entire GNI with a slightly loose headset, thinking that the wobbling at high speed was caused by my panniers. The bicycling books and magazines are right: check all your nuts and bolts with a wrench before every trip.
- Ferries. One of the most overlooked forms of transportation, ferries often take bicycles without disassembly, and they usually allow the cyclist to avoid hundreds of kilometers of traffic around waterways. I found that most of the ferry companies have websites, so finding and using a ferry is easy. However, local travel information often does not tell you how to get to the ferry landing or if there are any particulars about boarding. For this reason, it is a good idea to check out the ferry landing the day before and see if there is something you can do to make your boarding easier the next day. If you cannot do that, a phone call to talk to a human being is not a bad idea.
- The GPS is often wrong. It is a weakness of the major GPS companies (Tom-Tom, Garmin, and Google Maps) that they really do not understand bicycle travel. Each company has a different set of assumptions about where they think a “bicyclist” wants to ride. None of the companies offers sufficient customization to allow a bicyclist who rides in traffic to exclude only interstates and motorways or even to exclude unpaved bike trails. I learned not to use the navigation features of Google Maps. Instead, I use the GPS marker to make sure that I am still tracking across the map the way that I intended to. This is the 21st century version of having a map in a window on my handlebar bag.
- Local bus lines rock. From the convenience of the front-loading racks on city and regional buses, to the relative simplicity of wheeling a bicycle into the luggage compartment, buses have it all over trains, airplanes, and even some cars when it comes to intermodal transportation. The longer-haul bus lines like Concord Coastal were very comfortable, with WiFi, restrooms, and 120 V plug-ins for your computer. The municipal buses are usually air-conditioned, and very inexpensive. In some places, the municipal and regional buses will take a bicyclist one or two days down the road.