What I left behind

Trip update. Well, I didn’t really get down to a bicycle and a bounce box. Last Monday in a chilling rain, I shipped two boxes UPS to Charlottesville, Virginia. Actually, one of them would not have been there, had I shipped the ATA Conference stuff from San Antonio, but it made sense to send it to Houston, where I was not paying for a hotel, then take my time trying to organize the boxes.

Monday night, I boarded a bus for Charlottesville, Virginia. This represents something of an interruption in the Southern Swing, but it makes sense:

  1. I have two vouchers from Greyhound to redeem by 12 December, and each one goes a long way. No change back. I will use the second voucher to return to where I would have been had I kept pedaling from Houston.
  2. The home renovation project, which delayed the trip for two months, is almost finished after seven months. Daniel needs help moving back into the house, and there is a surprising amount of my stuff in storage. I thought I had packed it all.
  3. It’s Thanksgiving weekend, and Daniel has a fantastic new kitchen. That’s worth a detour, just to watch him work in it.

    Thanksgiving dinner break.

    Daniel’s Thanksgiving dinner in his renovated kitchen was worth a detour.

  4. Finally, I have to admit that in my haste to pack in September, I did not do a good job in several ways:
    1. Too many summer bicycle clothes.
    2. I was not ready for the change of seasons, even in the deep South.
    3. I left some important items, large and small, behind.

This week, let’s consider the “Aw, shucks!” list: what I wish that I had not left behind. I may also mention some things that from experience I left behind on purpose.

First, the things that I left behind on purpose. Consider that I need to travel light, and use services available on the road as much as possible. So almost all office peripherals stayed behind. So did office supplies, staplers, paper (except for a small notebook), and all printed references and resources. I am relying on the internet exclusively now. If it is only in print, I have to find it locally (library, bookstore, friend’s house). Networking using social media or just my Outlook contacts database can help greatly with something like that.

The other major group of things left behind were normal and large size of anything I could pack in a smaller size: toothpaste, shaving cream, dental floss, shoe polish, coffee, deodorant, aftershave lotion, detergent, etc. I use trial sizes of everything or I decant the product into a small container, and leave the big one behind.

I also left all “street clothes” behind, with some qualification. Consider that I am living on a bicycle. My normal attire is a bicycle kit (jersey, bib shorts, sock, shoes with cleats). By carrying Teva® water shoes and long-legged pants, I can go almost anywhere in the USA dressed like that, because casual dress is expected. I may get some stares, but no one refuses me service. So for the trip, I carried only a pair of denim shorts, a web belt and a polo shirt. I wore them once in the first two months, and I probably did not need to.

I overdid it by mistake. I knew I would need suits, ties, dress shirts and slacks for the ATA Conference, so I packed those street clothes into a box and sent it to San Antonio. I did not realize that I had not put a pair of slacks or a polo shirt in the box. When I got to the conference, I had to run to Macy’s next door and buy a pair of Docker’s® khakis.

I was doing fine until San Antonio. Then the weather changed, which leads me to the “Aw, shucks!” list.

I remembered a nail clipper, but I thought that it would also handle my toenails. Wrong! I had to buy a toenail clipper. I am also going to swap out the fingernail clipper for a better model that I left behind. Living outdoors makes my nails tougher than usual.

I forgot to bring something to brew coffee, tea, etc. I got by in motels by slitting the paper pouches that come with the coffee maker in the room, and filling them with my Teecino® herbal coffee, but I finally had to buy a small Melitta® funnel and some No. 2 paper filters. Annoying, because I prefer gold mesh filters and I left three personal-sized coffee kits behind.

Just as personal as a kit for making coffee was my favorite kitchen knife. I have been staying with friends and family most of the time, and everywhere I have been taken in as family, not a guest. That meant helping in the kitchen, and I really missed the Wursthof® paring knife that I bought for myself and used for everything in the kitchen. It was razor-sharp and it fit my hand as if born to my fist. It has its own safety sheath, and takes up no room, so it will accompany me from now on. I also want it for those times that I am staying in a hotel with cooking facilities, which in Texas was more often than I expected.

After a while, I got tired of wearing my bicycle shoes everywhere, even when I took the cleats off. I wish that I had packed a pair of my Dressports® shoes. They are lightweight, comfortable, and they can be packed down so as not to take up too much room. Strictly a bounce box item.

Aw shucks list

Some things I wish I had in Texas.

I deliberately left my bulky microphone headset behind, but I found that I could not rely on the microphone in my computer or the ear bud microphone of my smart phone for the professional dictation I use with Dragon Naturally Speaking®. To draft the coffee table book, I had to order another set, accepting the bulk in my computer bag. This may be less important after I replace the computer next week, because I hope to save some bulk and weight with the new model. 

Finally, there was the change of seasons.  I should have realized that occasional cold snaps as far south as Texas and Tampa would feel very cold. I barely got by with my bike hat to keep my head warm and my fleece-lined bicycle jacket. I did not bring the Under Armour® undershirt that I wear in cold weather. I also did not bring a long-sleeve jersey or bicycle gloves with fingers.

This week, I am going through the boxes of things left behind, and rethinking what I pack. Lessons learned from the first two months on the road:

  1. Pack everything you need only for a particular event (Conference, presentation, particular family visit) in one box, and send it back after the event.
  2. Pack about three days’ worth of clothing and plan to do the laundry. Bicycle clothing usually dries overnight, but I found that using the driers in the hotel guest laundry after washing my bicycle kit in the sink was worth the small cost.
  3. Include one (no more) nice set of street clothes, including lightweight dress shoes, in the bounce box.
  4. Include one (no more) set of off-season bicycle clothing for where you are headed. In Texas, that would have been a winter cycling jersey; for Michigan it would have meant a short outfit.

Next week, I would like to start a series on the details of running a business on the road: insurance, codes, backup, handling snail mail, client confidential material and classified work, maintenance and repairs, and similar items. Please send your questions, so I include the answers in my posts.

Smooth roads and tailwinds,

Jonathan.

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