Preparations for Cycling Across the U.S. – the Southern Tier Route

My wife, Betsy, and I fly to San Diego this Saturday morning to begin a cross-country bike ride on the Southern Tier Route, which starts in San Diego, California and finishes in St. Augustine, Florida.

We’ve been gathering gear slowly for the past month and more quickly for the past two weeks. I prepared a gear list for the trip that’s helped us decide what to bring. My loaded panniers weigh just over 9 pounds. I’ll carry the tent and Betsy will carry the food (typically one day’s worth) and the cooking gear.

As I type these words, Betsy is watching a YouTube video to remind her how to remove the pedals and the handle bars such that the bike will fit inside the box we scavenged from a local cycle store. She’ll need to remember how the various items that make up the handle bar column fit together so she can reassemble the parts correctly at the San Diego airport.

This afternoon, I took a test ride with my new panniers. As I rode up the new bike trail that runs along busy US Highway between Boulder and Superior, I moved along nicely in spite of the steep grade and wind in my face. The ride built my confidence. An hour later, as I hit a sharp bump, the hook on my right pannier came loose, broke in my spokes, and lodged in my derailleur. Happily, my spokes and derail secured tight.

The weather looks promising, although hot (over 90 degrees during the afternoon), for the first week of our trip from San Diego to Phoenix. We’ll need to drink a lot of water next plus some electrolytes. Overnight temperatures should be in the low 70’s, cool enough that we can sleep comfortably.

I think that the most compelling aspect of this trip will be the adventure. Not knowing exactly what we will encounter, not knowing if we’ll find the heat exhausting, and not knowing where we’ll stay each night until we get there. We have the seven-map set for the Southern Tier Route published by from the Adventure Cycling Association. Each map has about 15 smaller maps that show the route in detail (see photo). Based on the Adventure Cycling maps I used on my ride along the Pacific Coast Route in 2012, the Southern Tier maps will be essential in determining where we can find food, water, and shelter each day.

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