I left home around 11:30 this morning, a few hours sooner than I had originally planed. Even so, with several stops because I am not supposed to sit for too long, (the blood clot thing) and slow traffic near Columbus, OH, and two different places nearer Pittsburgh I ended up getting to the motel about the time I gave with the reservation.
Before leaving home I went through everything and removed several I thought I could live without. For the last hour or so I have gone through the process again weeding out even more. Were it not for consideration of fellow Amtrak passengers on the homeward bound trip I could eliminate at least two articles of clothing even now. Unfortunately there has to be at least one spare pair of shorts and a tee-shirt. Clothes that have been worn for over a week of sweat and dirt do not happy traveling companions make. One (actually two) piece of gear might raise a few eyebrows among other cyclists I encounter along the way. Strapped along side the rack trunk on top of the panniers with the bottom ends sticking out behind (even though they are collapsed) are my trusty trekking poles. Why? One is needed for a tent pole and the other will probably be needed to get off the ground after the previous day’s ride.
Some of the added but wish-it-wasn’t-there weight comes from the electronic luxuries that have evolved into (near) necessities. The worst of this is my supersize charger. It is primarily for the phone, but could be pressed into service for the camera and the bike’s headlight as well.
In the last week or so it has occurred to me that there are some similarities between the upcoming ride and the 75 AT thru-hike attempt. The AT hike was started with only the most basic of an idea of what was ahead. I knew the basic route, that the trail crossed the summit of Clingmans Dome in the Smokies, passed through Shenandoah National Park, and finally, after around two thousand miles, ended in Maine on the summit of a mountain called Katahdin. Other parts of the trail, names that would come to be forever etched in my memory, Wesser, the Stekoas, Roan Mountain, South Mountain, and innumerable others, were unknown to me because just about all preparations had been geared to gear and conditioning. And so it is with the trip on which I am about to embark. It starts in Pittsburgh. Somewhere around the halfway point, after crossing the Eastern Continental Divide, it goes from a well maintained crushed gravel path to a largely unmaintained dirt (and, not infrequently, mud) path, and it ends along the Potomac River in Washington D.C. And I kind of like doing it that way. If familiarly does indeed breed contempt, it also kills the wonder of discovery. It’s nice to know of a few highlights ahead, but those need to be seasoned with a healthy amount of surprise. Without it, one might as well confine their riding and walking to familiar residential streets or the track around a nearby high school football field.
This will be no ride around the local football field. I start with only one real concern. Even after paring my gear down to the absolute bear essentials, when added to crushing added weight of the rider, the rear wheel is going to be pushed to the limit. To avoid riding a unicycle, or worse, popping a spoke or two, I will be checking a few bike shops and an REI today about adding front panniers for better weight distribution.