Thursday, 3 May 2012


Safety triangle with waist strap, blinky light, ultrasonic dog deterrent, camera bag
I cycled 250 km a week through the Australian summer, a good fraction of it on routes with plenty of hills. (For those who know Canberra: loops north or south from the Cotter, to Uriarra or Point Hut.) Nearly all my riding was without luggage on the bike. I did one loaded trip, cycling 210 km over two days to visit friends for Christmas and the same again to return home afterwards. The onset of autumn brought rain, wind, storms, and flooded roads and in some weeks I rode fewer, flatter km. I continued to ride unloaded, taking the view that riding up a hill in a middle gear without luggage was equivalent in effort to riding up the same hill in a low gear with luggage. More recently, cold weather and a wish to enjoy home life while I still can have reduced my cycling further. No doubt additional training would have prepared me better. I hope what I have done will be sufficient to get me started and that fitness will build as the ride proceeds.

Training area, Australian Capital Territory
I used weeks of reduced riding to study the maps I purchased from the Adventure Cycling Association (ACA). My planned route is covered by 11 map sections, where a map section is a sheet of waterproof paper foldable in multiple ways so as to reveal any of a dozen or more map panels, each strip covering 50-60 km of the route and having narratives for cyclists travelling in either direction with place names, turns, and distances in both miles and km. The reverse side of the map section has historical and geographical notes as well as information about services along the way, including emergency numbers, bike shops, and accommodation options. Addenda detailing changes since the map section was last revised may be downloaded from the ACA website and touring cyclists are encouraged to report new ones.

Also available free from the ACA website are waypoint files for GPS receivers. I downloaded those to use with the Garmin Oregon 450 and City Navigator North America maps on DVD that I bought late last year. When I looked at the start of the ride in Yorktown using Garmin MapSource software on my PC, I was surprised to find a difference in routing between the paper map and the GPS file at the very first turn. Within a further 2 km, both map and GPS file marked a right turn. Scrutinising the junction on Google Earth, I saw that the two roads do not intersect at grade. The first one crosses the second by a bridge and the only connecting ramp is some way back. I took up these issues with Jennifer Milyko, ACA cartographer, and Fred Hiltz, the ACA volunteer who produces many of the GPS files, raising also a GPS anomaly mentioned by Sholto Douglas, a Queensland rider, in his journal. Both were extremely helpful in email exchanges and on the ACA forum. The issues I identified were swiftly corrected. Fred also gave me step by step guidance on combining the fragmented GPS files into larger and more manageable routes. I edited the names of the hundreds of route waypoints to turn them into meaningful directions and in the course of doing so found other errors in the maps or divergences between the maps and the GPS routings. These I duly reported to the ACA. The entire route is now loaded on my Oregon 450.

Click on any photo to enlarge it
I booked my flights in January, preferring Qantas over the American carriers for the transpacific sector because it seemed to offer the best deal for my bicycle and because I wanted to defer for a little longer the move out of my Australian comfort zone. At Los Angeles I transfer to Qantas’s partner, American Airlines, which will take me to Dallas and on to Norfolk, Virginia. It filed for bankruptcy protection in November and ranked last for customer service in 2011 among the major US airlines. In February, it revised its schedules and as a result my departure from Canberra has been brought forward by two hours. I will now be flying out at 8am. Travelling east across the date line, I should disembark from the fourth and final aircraft on the same day that I board the first.

My bike inside
Once started on my journey, I will write a blog post every day and publish it to the internet when I get an opportunity. Sometimes there may be a gap of several days before the next post appears. That will reflect my inability to find an internet connection in the mainly rural areas through which I will be travelling. My departure date is now less than a week away. With luck the next post you see here will be from America.

1 comment:

  1. Have a safe, satisfying and trouble-free ride. Wishing you blue skies and tail winds every day. Bill