Get Out of Town, Shake it Down


As the date for my trip approaches, I’m trying to iron out all the kinks and pretend like I’m preparing effectively for this massive undertaking. While fewer miles have been put on my Skye than I would have liked, we have managed some adventures. For Mr. Bike’s and my 7th anniversary, I made a three-day weekend, and we went bike camping for a shakedown tour. The goal was to drive outside of town, and park the car with “just in case” gear while I rode 50 miles to a campsite and Mr. Bike would ride half out and back to grab the car and drive down. We decided that camping outside Yellowstone would be ideal, with a stop for a soak at the magic waters of Chico. So away we went, on what was indeed an adventure. Here is what I learned:

  1. Headwinds are hard! All the way from Livingston to Emigrant, the wind was blowing hard. I maintained a 3-5 mph average, which is not fast at all. The diamond reflector things make good pullouts for a brief rest, and I learned that there are 17 of them in a mile. With the wind, I stopped short, even though I’d planned to go 15 mi further. Lessons learned? Start early in the day to accommodate conditions out of my control. Oh, and when the weather report says  “S” in regards to wind, it doesn’t mean blowing to the South. So be cool with low gears.
  2. Have plenty of food on hand. In our eagerness to get going, combined with a late start, we didn’t really contemplate the timing and necessity of carrying a meal in addition to snacks. We were both very, very, very hungry at the end of our rides, and it made the physical work that much more difficult.
  3. This is weird to say on the internet, but underwear isn’t as necessary for daily life as I thought. However, they do seem to keep my bum warm. Cycle shorts are made to be worn without the pantaloons, but with the wind, my tush was cold.
  4. A highway with more traffic and more shoulder space is better than a road with lighter traffic and no shoulder. Taking the scenic East River Road for a “quieter” ride, we discovered that blind corners and no shoulder is a nervous-making combination. So I’ll take a little more traffic if it means a more developed road.
  5. Did I mention food? Touring and other long distance activities, according to the internet, are good excuses to eat such nutritious food as pop-tarts. But pop-tarts don’t get one very far…
  6. Did I mention wind? Tailwinds are incredible. You can hear everything around you for miles. You’re zooming on with barely a stroke of the pedals. My return trip back towards Livingston two days later made me feel like a Goddess of speed and athleticism. This time, I had way more food in my panniers and hardly ate a quarter of my snacks that had previously been insufficient against the headwind. Lesson learned? Take advantage of the good days.
  7. My gear worked out pretty well, with only a few more adjustments to make. I’m excited to add front panniers to balance the weight and offer more organizational opportunities, as this shakedown I only had my rear rack set up. I’ve heard varying opinions on which way the 60-40 weight balance should go: front or back? That bears further testing.
    1. Wool mittens are warm, but lack mobility and control.
    2. My tent will be huge with just me, so I’ll be able to have all my gear inside at night.
    3. I’m uncertain what my plan of action is for bears (aside from bear spray, duh). Will a bear bag suffice? Or do I need to get one of those awful, bulky bucket things?
    4. Small adjustments to the seat and handlebars have drastic impacts on comfort.
  8. People are amazing!!!!!! Let me add some more exclamation points!!!! I stopped for food at the Emigrant market on the way out (and really to await rescue from the wind by Mr. Bike), amazing things happened, aside from animal cookies and chocolate. Within the first fifteen minutes I had awe from the ladies at the register that made me feel amazing, a kiss on the hand from a gentleman named Louis, and a free room at Chico from a guy named Colin (coh-lin) who told me he works there. He noticed my bike while I was in the lobby stuffing my face with the aforementioned animal crackers and struck up a conversation with me. We chatted about his bike tours (plural) across the country, and my plans. He was very encouraging and excited about meeting a new cyclist. When he asked where I was staying and discovered that I was planning on camping, he offered to see if Chico had any unused rooms that I could use. Unbeknownst to me, Colin is the owner of Chico Hot Springs and worked it out for me to have a free room. Deep thanks to my road angel. I’m not even a hundred miles from home, and already people are helping me out and pushing me forward.
  9. I love my husband. He likes bicycles. He encourages me, he trusts me to go on this adventure and make the most of it. He is a badass that goes over mountains with me. This shakedown was the perfect anniversary. We have such fun together, trying to roast marshmallows with barbecue tongs and camping among huge boulders. We had a fancy dinner at Chico, which we shared it, partly because holy $$ batman, but also because we like each other. I never see people really sharing with those they love that often. And we do. Cool beans.
  10. This is going to be hard. Really hard. And I’ll want to quit. And I’ll doubt my ability to be successful. And I’ll miss my hubs/dogs/home/Montana. But I think that I can do this. I think I’ll even have fun, and get strong, and learn all kinds of new things. I think I’m excited.
  1. Resting from the wind. 2) Back in the wind. 3) Andromeda rides with camels. 4) I skunked him at cribbage. Mr. Bike is on a bad losing streak. 5) Beautiful Paradise Valley.

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