Harry on his Bike

Days 25-27

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Day 25. Thursday, September 28
     Jean always gets up around 4, but I decided to sleep in. Shortly
after I arose at 6 I was treated to a wonderful breakfast of tuna casserole
and scalloped corn (my requests, since I love unusual breakfasts). Jean
has a large supply of orange juice in her freezer so I knew I was going
to have a gastronomically satisfying rest.
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     Since there would be no biking for the next three days, I'll use some
of this space to describe my equipment. These are not recommenda-
tions, but just descriptions of what works for me on a tour. Since the
first order of business was washing, I'll start with clothes.
     For biking I brought two shorts, two jerseys, and three pairs of
socks, but so far have only used one of each, washing them by hand
at every opportunity. Although hand-washing is a bit of a pain when
I first get into a motel, the alternatives are to either bike in dirty smelly
clothes (I don't mind but other people might) or else find a laundromat,
which is even more of a pain.
     For dress-up I have one pair of slacks (elastic waist so I don't have to
have a belt), one pullover shirt, and one pair of underpants. This set is
used for warm-weather dining, but for chillier evenings I have a set of
"dress-up sweats", which in an emergency could be used for cold-
weather biking (although on no tour have I ever seen temperatures low
enough to put them to this use). With care, my "dressy" clothes can
go about a month between washings, since I only wear them for a few
minutes each evening. But if I have a rest day or am staying with
friends I take advantage of machine washing.
     Another set of sweats are my camping pajamas. Those also could
be used for cold-weather biking.
     For outerwear I have the Gore-Tex jacket and pants I got from
Performance about 13 years ago. Although Gore-Tex is supposed to
keep you dry, it doesn't keep you from sweating. However, I've found
that jackets made from other fabrics make me feel like I'm in a sauna
compared to my jacket of Gore-Tex. A velcro-atttached hood fits under
my helmet and keeps my ears warm on cold mornings. For milder
(but still chilly) conditions I have a light-weight windbreaker and pants.
Finally, for real cold mornings I have my smelly gloves.
     My bicycle is a Trek (Lance Armstrong rides a Trek) low-end mountain
bike (he doesn't ride that model). When I was buying it from Peter Kendal
(my favorite bike mechanic) he pointed out that it had a spring-post seat
and flex handlebars (as well as---horrors---a kickstand) and said: "You
don't want this bike---it's for an old man who doesn't like to hit bumps."
I said "That's me, that's me!" and the deal was made. A couple of months
later I upgraded the wheels, since I have had wheels fail on a tour and
wanted to avoid that major pain. As components wear out I upgrade to
better ones.
     Camping gear: My tent is a Eureka, self-supporting, 4' 6" by 6' 6",
which cost about $100 (on sale). I use a ground tarp with exactly the
same measurements, which also serves as a rug protector when I move
the bike into a motel room at the end of a wet and muddy day. My
sleeping bag is Eddie Bauer, filled with down, and very old (about 30
years). A liner made from an old sheet attaches with velcro loops, and is
easily removed for washing. (Later in this trip I may send this bag home
and replace it with another lighter bag filled with Hollofil.) I use an
air mattress (I've never been comfortable with thermarest pads), which
takes about 48 puffs to inflate (35 for the main compartment and 13 for
the pillow). Folding it to a size small enough so it can be packed in a
front panniers was impossible until I discovered the trick: I suck out the
last bit of air.
     My panniers (front and rear) are made by Arkel, a small Canadian
company with very good customer relations. They are very well-made,
and have more than their advertised capacity (I checked by filling with
foam peanuts and then pouring the peanuts into a rectangular box).
The front panniers hang on a low-rider rack; the rear on a Blackburn.
     On this trip I am loaded with electronic equipment. My computer is
a Dell Latitude (about 4 years old). With the extra lithium battery I have
about 4 hours of operation, so I can download pictures while on the road
should I fill up my camera's memory. To download pictures from my digital
camera I must attach the floppy-disk unit that plugs into the Latitude,
because the serial port is on the backside of that unit. I carry a charging
cord, a telephone cord, and a cable that connects the camera to the
serial port.
     While biking, the computer is wrapped in a garbage bag and placed
in an inner pocket of a rear pannier. Between this pocket and the bicycle
frame are the plastic newspaper bags filled with clothes, which provides
quite a bit of shock protection. The Dell people advertise that their
Latitude computer passed a "drop test" (four-foot fall onto a hard surface);
my spill didn't affect the computer at all.
     To connect to AOL while in a motel room, I just turn on my computer,
open AOL, enter the area code I'm in, and see if there are any local
connection numbers (so far only at Boise, Ogden, Provo, and Albuquerque).
If not, I must use AOL's 1-800 number ($6 per hour surcharge). Once I
know what number I'm going to use I unplug the line into the motel phone
and plug it into my computer. Then the computer makes the call.
Fortunately, cheap motel rooms seldom charge for local- or 1-800 calls.
     All composing of reports and e-mails is done off-line. After they are
ready I do a "flash session" (now called "automatic AOL"): I click to
start, AOL logs me on, messages are sent and received, and I'm logged
     My camera is an Agfa 1280e, an obsolete-but-adequate model. The
camera holds about a dozen pictures at the resolution I use (780 by
1040). The camera is powered by four AA batteries. I have 14 NiMH
(nickel metal hydride) rechargable batteries and a fast charger that
plugs into a wall outlet. These batteries also run my tape recorder,
a small flashlight, and my GPS.
     The GPS is certainly not essential, but does add to the fun. I always
log my position at the end of the day, and can get great-circle distances
to various goals, such as Albuquerque, or Beaumont Texas (my sister's
home, my next goal), or Gerry's home in Miami (my ultimate goal). The
GPS also gives the exact time and a reasonably-accurate altitude. (I
know it doesn't give exact altitudes because I took it to the beach and
it missed sea-level by quite a few feet.)
     Since I like to know what I've done, what I'm doing, and what I'm
going to do, I have a lot of instrumentation. I have three cyclecomputers,
all of which show the usual functions: current speed, average speed
since reset, trip distance since reset, total distance (since the
odometer was zeroed), and maximum speed since reset. One
computer shows time since reset, while the other two show moving
time since reset, sensing when the bicycle is at rest. (I reset all cycle-
computers every morning.) The Cateye A100 also shows altitude and
temperature. (I had a regular thermometer taped to my downtube, but
it didn't survive the crash.) The altitude works on air pressure, so
changes in the weather can affect the indicated altitude by as much
as several hundred feet; corrections can be made with the GPS. My
Cateye CC-HB100 shows heartrate, using a sensor that goes around
my chest (I never even know it's there). Heartrate is another function I
really don't need (I can estimate my heartrate within a few beats per
minute) but it adds some interest to the ride. I've found that my heartrate
while pedaling on flat terrain is usually about 120, rising to near 140 on
hills, dropping to under 100 during downhills. Although my maximum is
over 200 (which I reach only during sprints), I've found that a few seconds
at that rate will show up as extra fatigue near the end of the day.
     The third cyclecomputer is an old Vetta. It works fine, is a very
reliable backup, and I saw no need to remove it when I bought fancier
     Since buttons must be pressed to show the different functions, with
the three computers I can simultaneously show current speed (on two
computers), average speed, trip distance (to the nearest hundredth mile),
altitude (precision 5 feet), and heart rate. Taped to my stem is a Casio
watch with a stopwatch function, allowing me to play other number games
while biking.
     I'm sure many of you will believe this is overkill, but what can I say?
I'm a number person. While biking I often work on math problems---ones
that have a fighting chance of being solved without putting pencil to paper.
While biking down the Pacific coast with Doc we would entertain each
other by posing various math and physics problems. We met an official
at the Canadian border who took one look at the electronic gear on my
handlebars and asked if I could run Windows 95. On this trip I could
answer "sure!" and whip out my computer. I also carry a scientific
calculator but haven't yet devised a satisfactory way of attaching it so
it is accessible while biking.
     Finally, I have an Aiwa radio tape-recorder -player. I brought about
eight tapes of some of my favorite music, which is classical, piano
(Emil Pandolfi, Sally Harmon), and South American Indian folk music.
I occasionally listen to a tape while climbing a long hill (only if traffic is
light and there is a generous shoulder), the music taking my mind away
from the constant grind. The radio can be entertaining when I wake up
in my tent for a couple of hours in the middle of the night.
     My tools enable me to fix a flat, replace a chain link, or replace a
broken brake- or derailer-cable. Anything more serious and I must find
a bike shop. I never begin a tour without getting a thorough check-up
from Peter, and have had very little mechanical trouble on my trips.
     The last indispensible items are plastic bags of all sizes. I use
newspaper bags (the kind your deliverer puts the paper in on wet
mornings) or ziplock bags to wrap everything that goes in the panniers.
Should it start to rain I need make no adjustments. My panniers are not
waterproof, which is no disadvantage; in a heavy rain a waterproof
pannier, if opened, becomes a bucket.
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     After doing washing, taking an afternoon nap, and eating an excellent
supper, Jean was kind enough to lend me her car so I could drive out to
the Sandia Casino and get my poker fix. They have a very good cardroom,
and I was immediately seated at a table playing my favorite game: Omaha
hi-lo. (In this game each player is dealt four cards; ultimately there are
five community cards on the board. You use two cards from your hand
and three of the community cards to form your best possible high hand,
and perhaps different cards to form the best possible low hand. There
is a lot of wild betting, and then the best high- and low-hands split the
pot, while the losing players cry and whine.) It was a friendly game, with
a lot of pleasant bantor between hands. The fellow sitting next to me
looked vaguely familiar, and he mentioned that he was sure he'd seen
me somewhere. After a few exchanged questions we figured it out:
he was a poker dealer at the Horseshoe in Las Vegas and we'd seen
each other at the internet poker convention last August.
     I didn't sit down and say "I'm Harry, and I'm biking from Seattle to
Miami", but when the Horseshoe dealer asked if I flew to Albuquerque
and I said no, and when he asked if I drove to Albuquerque and I said
no, then he up and asked how I got here, so it came out. Most of the
players were quite interested in my trip, and there were many questions.
They were so impressed that when I cashed out at 11 I found that they
had (unwillingly) contributed $139 to the continuation of my trip.

Day 26. Friday, September 29
     This was a great day, for Mary was flying to Albuquerque and would
arrive this afternoon. She normally visits Jean two or three times a year,
and adjusted the timing so we could be there simultaneously.
     In the morning I worked on a report, while Jean did a few hours of
volunteer work at the local Ronald McDonald House, a charity that
provides free or low-cost housing to out-of-town families who have a
child in a local hospital. At noon I picked up Jean and we had a
fantastic lunch of stuffed grape leaves at a local Greek restaurant.
     Mary arrived in the afternoon, we warmly welcomed each other, and
she was properly sympathetic about the scrapes on my arm. Then the
gals did culinary stuff in the kitchen while I downed my second and
last Black Russian for the next few weeks.

Day 27. Saturday, September 27
     My left hip had been very sore to the touch ever since the first
evening after my spill. There was no sign of injury, and absolutely no
pain while biking. This morning, however, there appeared a dinner-plate-
sized bruise showing most of the colors of the rainbow. This gained me
a bit more attention. I photographed the colorful display but can't post
it on yahoo because it doesn't meet the promised PG rating. Please
trust me when I describe it as horrible-looking, and be very sympathetic.
     Jean went to her French class, and I crawled up on her roof to clean
the leaves and pine needles out of her gutters, a task I do (and actually
enjoy) on every visit. I then cleaned up, and put on a dressier pair of
pants that Mary had brought. Very strange discovery: Those pants were
tight in San Diego, but here in Albuquerque they were at least two inches
too big. Must have something to do with the dry climate.
     Jean returned at noon and we then went to our favorite Mexican
restaurant in the whole world: Pancho's Mexican Buffet. 
     You go down the line and select any or all of about a dozen delicious
preparations, take your seat, and the waitress brings a basket of
sopaipillas.  As soon as it is empty you raise a little Mexican
flag and she brings you more. (You might notice that this spelling of
"sopaipilla" is different from my earlier discussion. I have seen three
different spellings, but since Pancho makes the best sopaipillas I'll go
along with his choice.) After I'd raised the flag three times she started
bringing larger baskets. Want another taco? Raise the flag and she'll
bring it.
     Their salad bar has various salsas and unlimited guacamole. Their
dessert bar has a flan (a type of vanilla custard) to die for. After I
down my last sopaipilla  I realized there would be no room for supper
that night.
     On returning home I began packing for an early departure. Oh joy!
Two flat tires. Both leaks were from very tiny reinforcing wires that are
in truck tires. Along the interstates and main highways are parts of
truck tires that have failed. These tiny wires got stuck in my treads,
and eventually worked their way through my tire, my Mr. Tuffies, and
my tube.
     The flats were fixed, maps were organized, and the packing finished.
All ready for an early start. To bed at 10.

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