Bike Arrives in San Diego

I was happy to learn that my bicycle made it safely to Bernie’s Bike shop in San Diego. Nevertheless, after reassembling my bike, the front tire was flat and wouldn’t hold air. While I had purchased new tires and tubes for the trip, I hadn’t had time to mount them before I packed my bike. Although I always fix my own flats, I had the bike shop fix the flat. I figured it’s just one less thing I had to worry about when I arrived and it would give me more time to enjoy San Diego.

Ken Whittaker


Original post February 20, 2015
Updated April 15, 2018


Boxing & Shipping

I found shipping my bicycle to a bike shop in San Diego, and having it reassembled and ready to go when I arrived, was much less stressful and less expensive than taking it on the plane with me.

After inquiring at several of my local bike shops about having my bicycle packed for shipping, I found that the price varied significantly from shop to shop. One shop wouldn’t even box my bike for me. They did, however, give me a bike box and all the packing material that came with a new bicycle so I could do it for myself.

Let’s face it, we love our bikes and I am no exception. So I chose to pack my cherished 1998 Trek 5220 myself to ensure it had a safe journey across the country with FedEx. I also used BikeFlights to make the shipping arrangements. I don’t know why, but it was less expensive using them than making the shipping arrangement myself with FedEx. If you choose to pack your bike yourself, BikeFlights also provides packing instructions that I found very helpful. All I had left to do was to leave my boxed bike in front of my garage to be picked up.

Tip: Put small parts in a separate box so they cannot fall out of the bike box if it is damage.
Tip: Use the smallest practical box for your bicycle. I used a 56x9x31 (LxWxH) box. Had I used a standard road bike box, 54x9x29, the shipping cost would have been considerably less expensive.

Ken Whittaker


Original post February 7, 2015
Updated April 14, 2018


Ready to Box

The next step in preparing to cycle across America was to get my bicycle ready for shipping to San Diego. I won’t bore you with a lot of the details but I will share a few tips. First, thoroughly clean your bike before shipping. Clean the chain, drivetrain, frame and wheels. If you’re not sure how to properly clean your bike, Bicycling Magazine provides “A Step-by-Step Guide to Cleaning Your Bike” online.

Cleaning my bike gave me the opportunity to closely inspect it. This increased my confidence that my bike was ready for the journey we were taking together. After the cleaning, I inspected the brake pads and remove any objects embedded in them. Finally, I lubricated the chain, cables, derailleurs, and shifters.

With a clean and lubricated bicycle, I was it ready to box it.

Ken Whittaker


Original post February 7, 2015
Updated April 13, 2018


Intimidating

Since the maps for the 2015 Coast to Coast tour were posted online before the start, I had the opportunity to pour over them beforehand. However, after reviewing the maps, I was a bit intimidated by the +3969 ft. climb out of San Diego the first day and another +3788 ft. of climbing the next day. The route also crosses the Continental Divide several times and to make matters worse, the total elevation gain over the complete route was equal to twice the hight of Mount Everest.

Considering the elevation gains, and that I was going to be supported, I chose my lightest bike with narrow tires instead of my touring bike. This may have been a mistake. When I chose my bike I should have consider all aspects of the route, not only the elevation gain, but also what bike I would feel most comfortable with for the 52 days.

Ken Whittaker


Original post January 20, 2015
Updated April 12, 2018


More Maps

While I’m on the subject of maps, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention some of the other great sources of cycling maps.

Adventure Cycling is a full-service site with a mission to inspire people of all ages to travel by bicycle.

Google Maps is where you can get directions for traveling by bike to anyplace and they offer a street level view that can greatly assist people who navigate by landmarks.

East Coast Greenway Alliance is developing a 3,000-mile route for safe cycling and walking throughout the Eastern Seaboard from Canada to Key West.

TrailLink is part of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a nationwide network of trails from former rail lines and connecting corridors to build healthier places for healthier people.

Ride with GPS is a site that makes it easy to map, analyze, record, and share your bike rides.

Local Bicycling Clubs and Shops are places where you can many times find great bicycling maps in the locations you want to ride.

 
 

Ken Whittaker

Maps


Due to my crash on my first attempt to cycle across America, my wife Colleen strongly encouraged me not to ride alone in 2015. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anyone to ride with me. In addition, I was naturally resistant to the idea of riding with an organized group. I felt that it was too restrictive and contrary to the free-spirited ideals of cycle touring. However, at Colleen’s urging I signed up to ride with Bubba’s Pampered Pedalers on his Coast 2 Coast supported tour.

As a result, I am not able to share the details of the route with you. Bubba, the operator, considers his route proprietary information and does not want to make it public. While it wouldn’t be difficult to determine my exact route by reading my posts, I would not recommend it. Since Bubba provides support to his riders, there aren’t always services available along his route. Seriously, you could find yourself without lodging, food or water on sections of the route. Honestly, there were sections of the route that had nothing to offer a rider but scenery.

However, if you are a free spirit and decide to go it alone, Adventure Cycling Association offers a very similar Southern Tier route from San Diego, CA to St. Augustine, FL in a 7 Map Set (3069.5 mi.). In addition, they offer many other tools, including GPS waypoints for their routes, places to stay (free & paid), and interactive maps with additional layers for route conditions such as USGS Fire Data (Active Perimeters), Flood Warnings, INCI Fire Data, Weather Forecast, Clouds, Google Bicycle, Google Traffic and Amtrak Routes.

Adventure Cycling maps are not only available for cross-country riders. I’ve used their maps for routes that pass nearby my home and for areas that I’ve toured and vacationed at. I have used Adventure Cycling maps many times and found them to be excellent and I highly recommend them.

If you’re riding self-supported don’t leave home without a good set of maps. I recommend joining Adventure Cycling Association and taking their maps with you.

Ken Whittaker


Original post January 19, 2015
Updated April 10, 2018


The Route

Although I failed at my first attempt to cycle across America, I did complete it in 2015. Here is an overview map of my 2015 coast to coast cycling journey. As you can see, I was cycling across the southern tier of America. This route is one of the shortest Pacific to Atlantic routes across the country, approximately 3,000 miles. Nevertheless, it offered a wide variety of terrain, vegetation, climate, and people.

While the mileage was challenging, it wasn’t about the miles or my speed. For me, it was about the experience. It was about being absorbed into new environments and experiencing the people, foods, and cultures. It was about traveling under my own power down roads to places that I’ve never been before.

In fact, after completing the journey, not one person has ever asked about my average speed. Yet, for some of the riders that I rode with, it was a race, a challenge to be the first one to complete the route each day. For others, I think they may have just wanted to get it done as quickly as possible so they could get out of the saddle. However, that was not the case for me. I tried to savor each and every mile. I wanted to observe and experience everything I could along the way. And to stop and take pictures so I could share the experience with others.

In retrospect, I did have a goal that seemed important to me at the time, but seems a bit foolish now. That was to pedal each and every inch of the way. While I did pedal EFI (Every F*@#ing Inch) of the route, so what? Would it have been any less of an experience or accomplishment if I had accepted a lift due to a break down or injury? I don’t think so.

So, don’t rush through the adventure of a lifetime. Remember to enjoy the journey, you may never have the opportunity to travel by this way again.

Ken Whittaker


Original post January 17, 2015
Updated April 9, 2018


Adventure of a Lifetime


It has been decades since I began the adventure of a lifetime. In 1999, my son Dan and I started off on a self-supported bicycle trip across the United States. Unfortunately, eleven days and 660 miles into our journey, my wheels slid out from underneath my bike while crossing railroad tracks during a rain storm, and I crashed. While I wasn’t hurt badly, suffering little more than a good case of road rash with minor cuts and bruises, I gave up. In retrospect, I realize that my spirit was hurt more than my body.

To this day I regret that decision but I’ve never given up on the dream of cycling across the country. So, I decided to give it another shot. Please join me on my ride across the USA. I hope to share the adventure and some of the lessons I learn along the way.

In that spirit, here is the 1st lesson learned – wet railroad tracks and manhole covers can be as slippery as ice.

Ken Whittaker


Original post January 16, 2015
Updated April 7, 2018


My Biggest Challenge


On April 28, 2015, I checked off my top bucket list item by cycling across America. I started in San Diego, CA and finished in St. Augustine, FL. While the 52-day and 3000-mile journey was a challenge, it was nothing compared to what was to follow about a week later.

On my first bicycle ride, after returning home, I was struck from behind by a car just two miles from my house. While the driver of the car was issued a traffic violation for the incident, I was not as lucky. When I regained consciousness, I found myself staring at the bottom of the engine with my legs just inches from the tire. Initially I had no idea where I was or what had happened . Gasping for air, I suddenly realized that I had been hit by a car and I felt like I was suffocating as the car crushed me. It was terrifying!

Although there was a hospital only a few miles away, I was rushed to Johns Hopkins Bayview Hospital Trauma Unit about 20 miles away. My injuries included a collapsed lung, 9 fractured ribs on the left side, a lacerated spleen, dislocated and broken elbow, dislocated left ring finger and internal bruising. After a week in the hospital, two operations and months of physical therapy, I was recovering nicely from my injuries.

As my body mended, I realized that my biggest challenge was recovering from my emotional injuries. I was suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) and my fear of seriously injuring myself again was much more difficult for me to overcome. I was afraid to walk on the sidewalk with my back to traffic. The sound of a siren would bring on intense feelings of sadness and have me reliving the incident in my mind. And sometimes, out of the blue, I would feel the crushing pressure on my chest again and I couldn’t breathe.

Nevertheless, I was quick to return to riding my bicycle, but I found that I didn’t enjoy it anymore. Even though I loved riding a bike, every close call, like a car turning or pulling out in front of me, would have me asking myself if riding was worth the risk. Then, on a short ride near home, two cars collided while I was riding along side of them. I had a meltdown and stopped riding my bike completely.

It’s been a long hard recovery, but with the help of my family and friends I am riding again. Now, as the pain fades and I am able to focus, I can finally appreciate how fortunate I am just to be alive and able to enjoy life again. In fact, I am planning my next trip to cycle across America. I am hoping it will be in 2019.

Please join me in the discussion. What is your biggest challenge?

Ken Whittaker

Why Start a Blog About Bicycle Touring?

I’m passionate about cycling. Whether it’s riding down the road or mountain biking down a trail, I love being outdoors and the thrill of flying along with only a few square inches of rubber touching the ground. But, bicycle touring is what I love the most about cycling. Whether I’m self-supported and lugging all my camping gear or carrying nothing more than my credit card and sleeping in motels, I love touring.

I’m not sure what appeals most about touring to me.

• Is it being absorbed into a new environment, people, foods, and culture that I couldn’t have achieved using any other form of travel?
• Is it the challenge of being forced outside of my comfort zone and traveling down roads and trails that I’ve never traveled before?
• Is it the satisfaction of knowing I’ve got the guts to continue the journey no matter what conditions I encounter?
• Or perhaps it is the feel of accomplishment, knowing I’ve traveled great distances under my own power?

I really don’t know. I just know that I love it!

As a community, I doubt if bicycle tourists make up more than .1% of the general population. And, I know from my own experience, it is hard to find someone that can help you to start bicycle touring or to share experiences and ideas with. I hope my blog will provide its readers with helpful tips on bicycle touring. I will share my firsthand experiences in preparing for a weekend adventure or a trip cycling across America. Please join me in the discussion.

Ken Whittaker