Monday, February 11, 2008

Not Necessarily Planned Day Off

Life always seems to get in the way. I had a number of administrative things I needed to take care of, so I had to take the day off from riding. I had been planning to take a day in Phoenix as I had never been there, but some things just can’t wait. I still may stop in Phoenix though.

As I had a little time I figured I would plan my attack on Phoenix. It seems that getting in and out of major cities is the hardest part about riding a bike cross-country. I started by visiting the California Highway Patrol or CHP. My sympathy to the three remaining die-hard fans out there, but they no longer go by ChiPS. In any event, CHP referred me to the Arizona Highway Patrol, who referred me to the Arizona Department of Transportation, who transferred me to the Department of Public Safety who then handed me back to the Arizona Highway Patrol. Needless to say, I am on my own.

I have been getting a number of questions about my trip, gear, etc.. On the days I am not riding, I will try to answer some of the more frequently posed questions.

Question: I didn’t see an MP3 player on your equipment list; do you have one with you?

I don’t. This trip isn’t just about riding a bike across the United States. Part of this trip is about experiencing what is out there along the way. Having an MP3 player takes away from that; at least for me. Also, I don’t think it’s very safe. Many cyclists wear MP3 players, but I like to hear when cars are coming up from behind me.

Question: What kind of maps are you using?

Inasmuch as I have a laptop I am using mapping software. It is interactive so that it lets me plot out distances as well as zoom in and out. One of the best features is that it shows hotels across the country. When I plan my route I can gauge in which town I might reasonably find a place to stay. It’s not perfect, but it is a good start.

In addition I have topographic software that shows the elevations of any route I choose. It can build a side profile so that I can see what I will have in the way of hills for the day. I didn’t have the topographic software for my 2005 ride as it isn’t necessary, but it is nice to have.

Lastly, I periodically supplement the electronic maps with a paper map. I find that county maps usually provide the right scale to be useful, but I can ride in and out of more than a few counties on a given day so that while the maps help, they don't help for long.

Also, I will almost always stop at bike shops if I happen across one, as they are generally a wealth of information. When there is no bike shop around I find myself speaking to people about the planned route. It doesn’t always work though. On my 2005 ride I had asked a local waitress in her mid-40’s about the route to the next town, 40 miles on. Her response was, “I don’t know. I have never been there".

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