In my product management life, I always looked forward to the project "post mortems." For one, they provided closure to the projects. But more importantly, they allowed for continuous improvement by enabling me (and my team) to reflect on the things that went well and the things that didn't go so well. Reviewing and incorporating the learnings from the post mortems facilitated efficiencies and helped to ensure smoother projects moving forward.
Last May, I biked solo 1,450 miles from Seattle to Santa Barbara. I did some extensive journaling on the trip, with the intention of perhaps one day writing a memoir. The memoir has yet to happen, but, shortly after my return, I rummaged through the notes to pull out some key lessons learned.
In preparing for my upcoming trip, I reviewed the lessons learned from my Pacific Coast trip, and I pulled out the ones that will be most applicable for my upcoming trip. Those notes, along with commentary, are provided below:
- Stretching after a ride really helps muscles recover.
Yup. I'll definitely do a few yoga stretches after my ride each day.
- Use sunscreen. Lots of it. And don't forget your fingers.
All adventures bear some risk. But it's neither being hit by a car nor having my bike stolen that frighten me. Rather, it's the sun that frightens me. I don't want to reward myself with skin cancer while on this trip. So, I'll definitely be slathering on a thick layer of SPF 50 for babies before the first rays of daylight, and every few hours thereafter.
- Eat regularly so that you don't bonk.
I'm looking forward to eating like Miss Piggy with a tapeworm infestation. I particularly look forward to lots and lots of avocados. Yum!
- Don't bring too many bike clothes. I ended up wearing the same non-padded biking skirt and the same long sleeve bike shirt nearly every day of the trip.
This is the tricky one. While I can see wearing the same bike clothes for every day of a three-week trip, I can't see doing the same for a three-month trip. (Though, there is a point when you stink soooo much that you don't notice the stench anymore.) Fortunately, there's a package of some lightweight merino wool shirts en route to Portland. I apologize, in advance, that I will be wearing one of two outfits in all of my trip photos.
- If possible, take your trip without time constraints. You'll meet people along the way that you'll want to spend time with.
This is definitely a rule I will follow this go-around. My last bike trip was limited to 20 days because I could only take so many days off of work without getting fired. I will have no such time constraints this go-around. The first five weeks of my trip are somewhat defined by an itinerary, as I need to be in Missoula for a class the second weekend in June, and I will be riding with Jake for weeks three thru five of the trip. I'm going to bike without a schedule for the remainder of the trip. I'm thinking I'll likely return to Portland by the end of August, but it could be before then. Or after then. I'm just going to do what feels right.
- Best roadside graffiti: "Take a chance. Live your life."
There were so many wonderful pieces of graffiti along the Pacific Coast. So many of these precious little nuggets were tucked away in inconspicuous places, such as on the back side of mile markers or in tiny print on the tops of guardrails--places only noticeable by those traveling by foot or bicycle. I will definitely capture more of these messages on my upcoming trip.
- Sometimes you just gotta pop-a-squat (i.e. pee) in clear view of traffic.
Yeah, no more holding it in until I can hardly stand it. When a woman has gotta pee, she will pee. Don't like it? Look the other way.
- Water immersion heaters are fantastic, unless there are no electrical outlets.
I've decided that I will bring both my tiny immersion heater and my MSR Dragonfly on this trip. As I'd like to experiment with "stealth camping," having the stove will enable me to prepare warm meals in places that don't have electricity.
- Getting an early morning start generally means low winds, low temps, and low traffic. It also means getting lots of miles in by mid-morning.
Yup. I'm definitely looking forward to early morning starts again on this trip. Particularly since I anticipate running into some very hot and humid riding days, particularly in the midwest. On those days, I hope to have my riding done by early afternoon so I can spend the remainder of the day basking in the shade or taking a dip in a nearby body of water. I'm definitely game, though, for trying a few nights of night riding (but only on super-duper low-traffic roads).
- The advantage of riding without shoulders is that there is nowhere for shoulder rubbish to collect.
This is just one of those "gotta look on the bright side" things to always keep in mind.
- There is a huge difference between solitude and loneliness. Solo bike touring is about the former.
While I greatly look forward to having Jake join me for a few weeks of the ride, I also greatly look forward to the solo riding. When I ride with others, I tend to limit my conversations to those people. But when I ride by myself, I find myself starting up conversations with people with whom I would typically never converse.
- Cycling 1450 miles in 20 days can do wonders to a naked body.
I can't wait to see what three months on the road will do!(For a complete list of lessons learned from my Pacific Coast trip, click here.)
I look forward to compiling a list of lessons learned from my trip this summer. Each trip keeps getting better and better!