Getting ready for the Southern Swing 2013

Now that I am on the road and actually doing this, let’s discuss what I did to get ready.

But first a trip update: This week I have been visiting my cousins in Georgetown, Texas. I am using the desk that my cousin uses when she is not commuting to her office in Round Rock. I have been working on a book that turned out to have 40% more material to translate than the publisher contracted for. Without the riding every day, I can put in extra hours and catch up, so that by next week when I leave, the book will be delivered. Had I been on the road, I would have been forced to stop for a while to put in these hours. My budget includes staying in a hotel room when this sort of crisis happens, but being able to fix a meal in the kitchen and do my laundry in a washing machine while I am working is much better.

As for getting ready for the Southern Swing, I had two major areas of preparation:

  1. Preparing myself and the bicycle.
  2. Organizing the office and its support systems.

Preparing myself and the bike.

Much of this is described in the preparations for the Climate Ride and the Giro della Nuova Inghilterra (GNI), (http://www.scriptorservices.com/climateride2012 and http://www.scriptorservices.com/tradux/GNINarrative).

Here are some of the new things I did for the Freewheeling Freelancer:

  1. Riding in any weather any time that I did not need to carry passengers (e.g., when car-pooling to church). I drew the line on riding on wet leaves in the rain. They are actually more dangerous in a curvy, hilly place like Charlottesville than snow or traffic. But even then, I took the bus rather than my car, and I often brought the bike with me, so I could ride it where there were no leaves.
  2. I bought a bike bag that was smaller than the maximum dimensions for carry-on luggage for Amtrak and practiced “field-stripping” the bicycle, stowing it and breaking it out. I took several trips to Northern Virginia as much for the packing practice on both Greyhound and Amtrak as for the destination. I can be ready to stow the bike on the bus or train in 25 minutes, but I allow 45 when planning my arrival at the station.

    The bike in its bag, ready for train or bus.

    The bike in its bag, ready for train or bus.

  3. I got my daily average distance up to 30km/day, regardless of destinations. Sometimes, this meant doing a mindless loop “around the block (12 km)” or circling a shopping mall at night on my last trip home, just to make up the missing distance. Organized weekend rides with my friends from Church helped, because it got me out with a destination (the start of the ride), which I need for motivation. Those days were typically 60-70 km, which helped the average. I took Sundays off for rest and recovery.
  4. I used my bicycle panniers as my luggage, even when travelling by car and staying in hotels. This helped me develop a habit of packing lightly. I have a three-suit hanging bag that folds over the rear rack for commuting, which I used for business trips whether by bike or not.
  5. I put on my bicycling clothes in the morning, whether I had a specific trip planned or not. I knew that I was going to ride each day, so I started the day with the ride on my mind. What changed each day was whether there were meetings or appointments, whether I took my office with me, and what stops I had to make while I was out. My friends got used to my showing up in bicycling clothes, because they knew that I had not driven to the meeting.

Organizing office support.

The easy part was actually working outside my home. What was more challenging was carefully noticing all the support systems that I took for granted, living in and riding around Charlottesville.

  1. Printing. I was used to using the printers at home, so I had to make sure that alternatives would be available everywhere I went, for those times I need to produce paper.
  2. Fax services. We gave up the fax machine, and replaced it with a toll-free fax number from faxbetter.com.
  3. IT support. I was used to calling on a local computer service, but now I needed two things:
    1. A final checkup to ensure that my laptop would last indefinitely, especially after the dusty conditions of the house renovation.
    2. Rearranging the hardware and the software at home to support the home office of my son, the guest quarters (my old flat), and the terabyte hard drive. For client confidentiality reasons, I did not want to rely on the cloud for offline, backup storage, so I purchased a small terabyte hard-drive, which I keep in the pannier opposite the one with my computer.
  4. Admin services. I retained the services of another independent contractor, who does bookkeeping and clerical work for small businesses around Charlottesville. I pay her by the hour. She filled in the rest of the holes:
  • Mail. Checking the PO Box. Discarding the junk mail and putting the rest in a Flat Rate Priority envelope each week. I would send her a PDF of the USPS Clik-n-Ship® mailing label to the next place I expect to get my mail. This week, she began taking the mail to our house, so my son can put it in his Flat Rate Priority envelope with the personal mail. Saves one USPS label. (For more information on Clik-n-Ship®: https://cns.usps.com/go).
  • Depositing checks. Until I set up a new business account that allowed me to make deposits with my smart phone, she would send me photos of checks that came in, then deposit them for me in the credit union night deposit box. Now I do that by smartphone when there are checks in the mail.
  • Local errands. She will renew the PO Box if necessary, and does other things needed that may come up. I pay her mileage and reimburse any expenses.
  • Order fulfillment. Whenever we get an order for one of my booklets, she puts the address on it and puts it in the mail. There are peaks in this activity after I do one of my presentations at a conference, so I left home with dozens of the booklets already in envelopes ready to mail.

For office supplies and business services on the road, I use the national chains. I have rewards memberships at Best Buy, Staples and Office Depot, and company accounts with Fedex and UPS.

That is about it. With no paper to file, documents to shred, or phones to answer, the administrative support needs of the company are much smaller than they used to be. I can handle everything else on the road.

Next week: the bounce box, or how to fit 15 kg of stuff in a 5-kg bag. Thank you for your comments, suggestions and questions. Please keep them coming!

Smooth roads and tailwinds, Jonathan.

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