Over the last couple of years, Felkerino and I have had the pleasure of getting to know Jerry, a local cyclist and fellow D.C. Randonneur who will be riding a solo coast-to-coast tour from Alaska to Washington, D.C.
We first heard rumblings of Jerry’s trip last year. As we rode together through the winter and spring months, we noticed Jerry showing up with new rack attachments and testing pannier setups on his Independent touring frame.
Hmmm, I said to myself, this bike tour talk is not just chatter. I think he’s really going to do it.
And so he is. Next month the adventure begins. Before he sets off, I asked Jerry to share some pre-trip thoughts with us, and he graciously agreed.
What inspired your tour?
Mainly I just wanted to go for a long bike ride. Sometimes when you cycle to work and the weather is beautiful, you don’t want to make that left turn into the parking garage. You feel good, and you imagine cycling on to the other side of the country.
I’ve been very inspired by the randonneurs I’ve met over the last few years. They ride all night and no one cheers them on. They fix any problems that come up and just get back on the bike. They support their comrades and stick together. These are my people.
I also have great respect for Mark Beaumont who set the round-the-world cycling record of 194 days in 2008. People didn’t think too much about fast touring before that. He just rode the length of Africa in 42 days.
How did you decide upon your route and not the more conventional coast-to-coast routes mapped out by, say Adventure Cycling?
I wanted to visit Alaska again after having had a taste on the Big Wild Ride 1200k Grand Randonnee in 2013. A few of us from D.C. Randonneurs rode the event and I remember the incredible evening light casting across these immense landscapes.
Alaska was definitely on my list, and riding back from there to D.C. seemed a logic route to me. You can string together a lot of National Parks like Jasper, Banff, Glacier and Badlands.
I plotted my own route because that’s half the fun. The Adventure Cycling routes don’t cover the country I want to travel through, and besides where’s the adventure in following someone else’s meticulously researched route? Adventure is just bad planning, after all.
What was it like to plan your course? Were there certain factors you kept in mind, or?
Planning and anticipation are half the fun of any trip. You open up your mapping software and dance across the landscape. I use Ride with GPS and look at streetview to see how the roads are and whether the remote gas stations seem to have a convenience store.
I wrote myself a cue sheet, though people like to suggest I should get a GPS device. The whole route fits on five printed sheets. In Canada there is a 1,325km section without a turn.
How are you packing? How often do you think you’ll end up in hotels?
I’m packing light. I cut the labels out of all my clothes, but it only saved 16 grams, so that was a bit disappointing. But I’ve got all of my gear into two small panniers, a handlebar bag and a small saddle bag.
I want to keep the weight down so that I can still enjoy the cycling and travel a reasonable distance each day. My route is about 9000km and I have 9 weeks before I am due back at work.
Hotels?? They make me feel lonely. I have my tent and as a randonneur I like a good sleep in a ditch.
I’m hoping to stay with a few Warm Showers hosts which should allow me to learn a little more about the places I’m traveling through. And otherwise I’m sure I’ll stay at a few backpacker hostels along the way.
What do you imagine it will be like to solo tour for that long?
The African proverb has it that if you want to travel fast, go alone; if you want to travel far, go together. However, it doesn’t elaborate on what to do if you want to go fast and far. Thus left without guidance I’ve plumped for a solo expedition.
I find that when you’re travelling alone you are more open to the culture and people you encounter. I’ve solicited my friends for good topics to think about while I’m riding, so I should be alright. Hopefully I’ll meet some nice cyclists en-route too.
What most excites you about this trip?
The unknown. National parks. Roads that tilt upwards to the sky. Not seeing any hungry bears. Meeting strangers. Not breaking any spokes.
Tailwinds. A few small, but manageable, dramas. Camping amid beautiful landscapes. Just riding my bike. Reaching familiar roads just before I get home.
How can we follow along/travel vicariously/send encouragement?
Oh yes, I didn’t mention my support vehicle? It’s called Instagram. What I do is post photos of my journey. The people who follow me then “like” my photos and leave comments. I will find this very supportive.
It’s not the kind of support vehicle where they give you food and you can sleep in the back and get a massage and all. But it’s kind of a support vehicle, and I’ll be happy for it.
Bonne route, my friend. We look forward to following your travels from our desks and hope to meet you at the end of your journey.