Monday, June 25, 2012

On the road again

Well, Mount Whitney left me with shin splints. In truth it was a while coming, but after descending 7,000 feet of rocks last Tuesday, I was fully hobbled for a few days. Rest, ice, repeat. It's really only my right shin that's causing me grief, but enough that I had to cut running out of my routine. Ah, well — what better time to go on a bike tour?

My friend Leah, a school teacher in San Francisco, is all about making the most of her summer break. Even though she just returned from San Diego at about the same time I was limping home from the Sierras, she's raring to go again and the window is perfect for both of us to spend a few days pedaling through the ancient forests of Humboldt County. She outfitted her Surly Long Haul Trucker with mountain bike tires, dropped the stem, and installed a front rack for her own ideal bikepacking rig. We headed out to the Marin Headlands on Sunday afternoon for a test ride, and were treated to a rare brilliantly clear day.

Leah's friend Dylan, a former resident of Northern California and fellow Stagecoach 400 finisher, designed a dirt and backroad route for us. He even threw in the location of secret swimming holes and blueberry farms, and made sure to route us through the Avenue of the Giants.

This is a comfort tour; we're only riding about forty to fifty miles a day — tough and hilly miles, no doubt — but still, there will be actual down time. As such, I needed to load my Moots for "comfort touring," no easy task when you're not running racks. I figured out a way to hang my tent and sleeping pad off the handlebars, and packed plenty of warm clothing and a sleeping bag in the back. Leah is carrying the stove, and I managed to stuff my repair kit, pot, coffee, one hot meal, lunch, and snacks in the tiny frame bag. I took it on a test ride up Black Mountain and man, comfort touring gets heavy (I still have to carry my water, water filter, Kindle, and a few other small items in a pack.) I'll probably use my gas tank as well so I can pack my big camera and Sour Patch Kids. We'll be mostly out of cell phone range and entirely away from computers for the better part of five days. I don't often really get away like this, and I'm looking forward to it.

As for the shin, it manages okay as long as I mostly stay in the saddle and of course don't use pedals that I have to click in and out of. I'm also bringing a compression sleeve and bandage in case it flares up. Hoping for the best. I can't really afford a prolonged shin injury at this point in the summer, but I don't think the bike tour will put too much pressure on it.

Because I'll be out of range for a few days, I wanted to post a pre-emptive congratulations to Eszter Horanyi, who executed a brilliant ride in this year's Tour Divide. As I write this, she's only about 200 miles from Antelope Wells, and will undoubtedly come in somewhere in the sub-19-day range. Can't say I didn't call it. And if her call-ins are any indication, she's probably almost disappointed that the limitless smorgasbord of junk food is about to come to an end. Nice work, Eszter. Way to make the course record unattainable for the rest of us. Ha!

I also wanted to send my respect to the current "Red Lantern" of the 2012 Tour Divide, Tracy Burge, who is pedaling her way through southern Montana. Tracy battled flu and possible giardia infection early in the race, decided to scratch in Butte, and then suddenly changed her mind. A friend of mine in Missoula, Ed, camped with her the other day and sent me an e-mail:

"She is back on and while she won't finish the race in the 30 days, she is going to ride the whole thing. She is a wonderful woman. We camped with her, and I rode a bit with her the next day. We of course mentioned you and she admires you greatly, and has read your book. She has been thinking about you on the trail, knew a few places you bivy'ed, and admires your toughness even more."

I do hear from readers from time to time, and am always touched by their notes. If any words I write somehow inspire or boost others during great adventures, I consider that my highest success. Thanks, Tracy. I admire your strength and perseverance, and I'll be cheering for you all the way to Mexico.