Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Little Things

Should look a little something like this (no, this ain't me and/or my bike!)

The weird spring I was describing not too long ago is starting to go back to normal, which means I can once again get my mind in a bike touring gear. Let's see just how weird: on March 20th I was riding my bike to the first drumline practice in shorts and T-shirt, and and the next day I was having a beer on a patio not only in shorts and T-shirt, but at 10PM. Seasonal norms: 4 degrees Celsius! Two days later we were below the freezing point with heavy wind chill. After that it rained a lot, winds blew a lot, a bit of nice weather mixed in, but nothing ressembling a pattern. And then again a really short hot spell of 29C, and last weekend just around the freezing point and crazy winds. Oh and I managed to catch a flu last week. Kinda hard to plan riding days! But now May is here and despite a slow start things are slowly looking up, with weather temps around the seasonal norms (10-15C) and slowly climbing on the forecast. I'm crossing my fingers for light winds this weekend!

With the big bike ride plans I also need to start thinking about the little things that will not only be useful on a multiple day journey which will not always be in or close to a big city but which could also save my ass. If you look at the map I posted a while back, you see that my 550 kilometer ride forms a triangle, so I can easily split my trip in parts 1, 2 and 3 for planning purposes. Each part has it perks; for example, part 1 will be relatively flat (if slightly uphill) as I will follow the Ottawa river, but going almost due West can mean some pretty stiff head winds at times. And if I want to make big mileage in single days, this is where I have to do it. Part 3 should be fun; apart from a slight uphill between Mont-Tremblant and Ste-Agathe, the ride will be all downhill with the wind mostly at my back all the way to Montreal. What will make the last part even easier is that almost all of it will be on bike paths with zero traffic. And yes I plan the few days after the ride to be absolutely blissful!

The part that's got me not really worried but where I know I have to plan a bit more carefully is part 2. From Gatineau to Mont-Tremblant there aren't many roads so getting lost shouldn't the problem. But on the one road that links Thurso to St-Jovite there aren't that many villages and/or camping grounds. So even though I kinda want to go out on an adventure I do need to plan on some possible hard living, which is the whole point actually. Here is a small overview of what I will want to have with me on the trip:

- 2-person tent. Not that I plan on having any company, it's fun to have the extra room and anyway the package isn't too big and will easily fit in the BOB trailer.

- Heavy-duty plastic tarp. No, not the one that comes with the tent, an extra one. It can be very useful to protect the tent against winds or sideways rain, and if you have to camp out in the open it can also provide some shade. But yeah, the main purpose is wind and rain protection for either the tent or the bike/trailer, whichever needs it most.

- Better/extra tent stakes. The ones that come with tents do the job, but it's never a bad idea to have better ones and more of them.

- Multi-purpose emergency crank radio. I usually use my smartphone for various things like listening to radio, checking the news and weather, playing some games, and oh, making phone calls. But out in B.-F.-Nowhere my phone will 1- lose connection, and 2- lose power. The crank radio will be able to keep me informed in order to keep my phone's battery for actual phone calls, but the good radios even have USB plugs to keep a small charge in the phone if I absolutely need it.

- Multi-tool and/or Swiss Army knife. Made by Victorinox. Accept NO substitutes!

- As much dried fruit and imperishable snacks as I have room for. This trip will never be super far from civilization but if I'm stuck in the middle of Part 2 and a coming storm bogs me for a day and a half 30 km from the nearest village I will want to replenish my calories to actually make it there.

- Most important, a decent First Aid kit. Bike spills suck, and happen when you least want them to. Ask the guys who got pushed into a barbed wire fence at the last Tour de France! So going on a 550 km tour I do have to be ready to clean any wounds I may get, and bandage myself up if need be.

I've actually found a few models of radios I want to buy so over this weekend I will test 'em and one will become the winner. This will allow me to go to this store on the South Shore of Montreal called Mountain Co-op. The prices are awesome, and over the next couple months these guys will know me by my first name :) I also have a date to shoot for now: September 4th, the Tuesday after Labor Day. I just have to not abuse too much in the beer department because that weekend is also an awesome beer festival (remember that fort I went to last summer?). One thing is for sure, with the spring finally blooming I'm extremely anxious to get some mileage under me and finish acquiring the gear that will make big bike trips not only a possibility, but a way of life!

Ride far


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