Back in Mendoza after a nice visit to Colorado.
I swapped in a new front tire and went for a test ride. All seems well. Nice to have a new tire, two new spares, a new mirror, new gloves and a new Camelbak. After almost three weeks off the bike, it will be nice to ride again.
Monday is Chilean Independence Day. The agreement that I had with the hotel was two nights reservation in return for their keeping my stuff while I was gone. This way they don’t as easily get stuck with an empty room that Chileans might otherwise rent for a long weekend in Mendoza. If there had been a window of good weather followed by worse weather, e.g. wind/rain coming, then I might have gone early but forecasts look good for a while and I have some time, so one day in Mendoza to put everything in place for departure.
Plans can always adjust but following is the rough idea for the next nine weeks until I need to be in Puerto Montt (purple pin) to meet TDA:
- Start cycling from Mendoza (red pin) to Bariloche (yellow pin) (AB). Distance is slightly less than 1500km and looks to be mostly paved. Towns are found along the way, but it will be mostly two-day gaps between towns.
- At the two-week point, end of September, make a rough decision between “ferry” or “school” and make appropriate reservations:
- Ferry: After Bariloche, another 1600+ kilometers to Puerto Natales (green pin) along Ruta 40 (BD). A little tougher than before but should still be possible in the time I have. At Puerto Natales, a car ferry leaves once a week and takes four days to go to Puerto Montt (purple pin).
- School: In Bariloche, there are two Spanish language schools. One looks interesting and also has a homestay option with a local family. Sign up for appropriate number of weeks depending on my Bariloche arrival dates and then the week before TDA arrives, cycle over to Puerto Montt (BC).
From Puerto Montt, TDA takes 29 days to get to Ushuaia including 16 cycling + 6 rest days to Puerto Natales and 6 cycling + 1 rest day to Ushuaia. So if I do cycle to Puerto Natales on the Argentina side, then I will see bits of Patagonia from multiple angles. First two weeks of cycling before I get too far ahead of myself.
Happy San Martin Day!
I didn’t realize until later that today was a holiday. The supermarket was open on Sunday hours, so open in the morning and closed in the evening. Fortunately, I stocked up on most things in the morning. A number of the other shops still stayed closed, though I didn’t figure this out until later.
Four of us cyclists in town all on a rest day and all planning to depart tomorrow, so nice to catch up with others on similar journeys.
Some of the cars around I had previously seen in Europe but not for many years.
Otherwise also got a bit more rough planning together as I have three months (November 21st) to get to Puerto Montt some ~2150km from here. TDA will cycle the same distance in just under a month, so I do have a little time to play with. Following is a rough updated plan:
- From here to Mendoza is ~650km and will have combination of an occasional town but also camping along the way.
- I’ve booked a short flight back from Mendoza to Colorado in September. This gives me a chance to pick up new tires and potentially a few other spare parts. I had budgeted the time+money for one trip back to the USA and Mendoza seems like a good place for such trip and tires are a good excuse. The only drawback of flying from Mendoza instead of Puerto Montt is I’ll still need to carry anything extra I bring to Puerto Montt.
- From Mendoza to Puerto Montt is another ~1500km to cycle most likely heading via Bariloche on the Argentina side.
- Puerto Montt to Ushuaia with TDA is ~2475km and a more intense month of cycling – though no longer carrying my gear. TDA ride finishes in Ushuaia on December 21st at the summer solstice.
- After that, fly back to the USA. My tenants’ Austin lease finishes December 31st and I will re-enter the working world in 2018.
A day to be a tourist and plan some additional details for Bolivia.
This morning I took a boat tour to the floating islands near Puno. These are inhabited by Uru people and hence are also referred to as the Uros Islands.
It was about half an hour slow cruising on our tour boat to reach the islands. Each island has half a dozen structures and is inhabited by five to eight families. Hence, our boat picked one of the islands and locals there provided a tour, allowed photos and otherwise hosted. It was fun. What I actually found most intriguing was feeling the ground move up and down as the island bobbed in a wake of a floating boat.
The explained how the island was constructed.
The sold and showed handicrafts.
One of the huts in basic original form.
One of the huts in newer revised form. Also interesting to see the solar panels that drive electrical items including lights and televisions.
Construction of a boat. These used to last only a few months. However, newer construction methods that use both nylon line and plastic bottle materials (up to 1000 per boat) will make them last several years.
Also a good overview of the lake. As a whole half day was reasonable amount of time to get a good perspective.
I have also been looking through blogs and planning a bit further on the ride across Bolivia. The general idea is to first go to La Paz (~300km) and then fairly directly via Oruro, the salt flats at Uyuni and cross the border at Villazon. Until La Paz, there will be more towns where hotels have wifi. After that, it will be hit and miss with some larger gaps between internet service. One blog I read had seven days without wifi between Oruro and Uyuni and they were making reasonably long days through harsh terrain, so I might have that or longer.
Fortunately, there are not huge amounts of climbing involved. In total, expecting ~1650km until Salta through some beautiful but harsh terrain. Nights will also be cold until I descend off the Altiplano.
Also did a quick sync with how my riding pace is going relative to TDA:
TDA expects to have a rest day in Puno on September 27th. This means I am now approximately 70 days ahead. I left Cartagena 83 days ahead of their July 9th departure. So roughly speaking, it has taken me 3 months to travel what TDA will ride in 2.5 months and they will have “caught up 13 of the original 83 days” by the time they are in Puno. Of course their route is also a little longer and with some more gravel roads and challenging riding that I bypassed.
From Puno to Puerto Montt, I have approximately four months and TDA will have just slightly less than two months to ride a relatively similar distance but with TDA again occasionally picking tougher roads. In any case, those extra 70 days will be caught up on way to Puno.
An interesting blog for TDA trip can be found here. The TDA pace was to ride from Caucasia to Medellin (over the first set of hills) in three riding days. I took five days and a rest day.
I have been looking at the elevation profile on way to Puno as well as likely places to stop along the way.
Around 25 kilometers down the road is Yura, elevation 2590m/8500ft. This is last place with a hotel for a while.
Around 130 kilometers is Imata, next medium sized town at elevation 4451m/14,603ft. Weather forecasts for Imata seem to have high temperatures around 15C (59F) and lows around -5C (23F) with it warming rapidly after the sun comes up.
It looks like there is also a village around the 80-kilometer mark at that little dip below 4000m/13,100ft on the elevation profile.
Following is a summary of key elevations along the route. It is not *that* much more than I’ve been before, but the trick is to avoid climbing too quickly and give my body some time to adjust to the altitude – while also covering these gaps between villages so I don’t have to carry too much food/water. It is right around 100 kilometers where the road is above the 4000 meter mark and I’ll be camping somewhere once or twice in this gap.
|Elevation (meters)||Elevation (feet)||Description
|5328||17480||Highest elevation I've been, in a bus; Tanglang La Pass in the Himalaya
|4396||14421||Highest elevation I've hiked, Mount Harvard, in Colorado
|4200||13800||Typical elevation I found myself much more short of breath hiking in Colorado
|2328||7638||Arequipa starting elevation
|2590||8500||Yura, last hotels
|4451||14603||Imata, village near high point
|4528||14855||Highest point on road to Puno
Decided to sign up for the last segment of South American Epic 2017 from TDA. In particular, the 2475km from Puerto Montt to Ushuaia (link). I expect to ride self supported from Cartagena to Puerto Montt and then finish South America with TDA.
I’ve written before about trade offs of doing a supported tour (e.g. having gear carried and support for mechanical/medical issues) vs. riding self-supported (e.g. ability to ride at your own pace, route and interact more closely with locals). All else being equal, I prefer riding my own self-supported ride at least in countries where the logistics aren’t too difficult.
However, I also figured it would be a nice blend to get at least some riding in with TDA. Given that the TDA ride generally goes faster, if I wanted a fixed end date (December 21st), then it makes the most sense to make the last segment the supported ride. It also turns out that physical logistics in Patagonia for distances/food/wind are up for a good challenge as well. If I were doing my own ride in that section, I might bias towards ruta 40 on the Argentinian side.
What this also provides is a nice “backstop”. Hopefully not, but if for some reason I end up traveling even slower through South America, then might consider trying to join the TDA ride earlier. Also it helps add some certainty about “finishing” my ride by end of 2017.
I have a lot more riding to do through Mexico and Central America first and then need to ride >80% of South America on my own, before doing that last 20% with TDA, so it is still a ways off…but also nice to put a piece or two together along the way.
p.s. For those who don’t know TDA was originally “Tour d’Afrique” but now named “TDA Global Cycling” to more closely reflect their multitude of rides. I’ve enjoyed my past two trips riding with them:
Bags are packed:
I have four new panniers packed as follows:
- One with food for eight days
- One with camping stuff such as thermarest, stove, water filter, fuel, etc.
- One with clothes
- One with miscellaneous items including bike repair, toiletries and some electronics.
I sent off a package to Fairbanks with some items to swap. In particular, after Fairbanks I may not need as many warm clothes or to carry as much food at a time. However, sent some additional items I can use along the way.
My storage locker is now packed with everything to save away in Austin including four bicycles.
Finally after packing everything up, I locked my doors and handed over my keys to property manager. They will list it to find tenants. My gear is packed in a rental minivan. Tomorrow morning plan is to drive to Colorado. Will spend the weekend there before flying out on Sunday.
My townhouse is now empty. This past weekend I completed moving my remaining items into storage. As these things go, it barely fit in the size I had rented, though if I’d rented a different size I’m sure that would have been the case as well. Towards the end, I had the sense that I’d like to have sorted through a few more things since I’m sure there is more being stored than I might later use, but that time will mostly wait.
This afternoon I met the cleaning crew. This is from a company that does “move out” type services. Costs a little, but nice to get everything thoroughly cleaned. Tomorrow morning I will have a company clean the carpets. After that, hand the keys to a property manager and hopefully will soon have it rented. I decided to rent to get some income but more importantly to have someone looking after those little maintenance items that can otherwise creep up.
Once I downsized from a full house, I put my remaining items and bicycle into a rented minivan and am staying at motel in Austin. These past weeks I’ve kept some bins for things I might “possibly” need for the trip. From the photo below, clearly these five bins are more than will fit in my panniers. Not particularly worried since I know several instances where I have half a dozen tires or extra things to completely sort through. However, general idea is to start with this limited stash and pack together four panniers and perhaps a care package of things I don’t need yet that I’ll send on to Fairbanks.
Not to make too much of plight of those who are homeless not of their own choice (seems like a tough life), but I jokingly describe myself as having become homeless (this week) and unemployed (last week) – but also freed up from these things so I can take off on this trip.
The Tour Divide mountain bike race had its grand start yesterday on traditional second Friday in June. The link to the leaderboard is here and the discussion forum is here. A description of the route is here. Also a fun article describing 2015.
The racers that win the Tour Divide are really a different class, covering 2700 miles in around 15 days including 200,000+ feet of climbing and mostly off road. It is something I’ll follow along as a spectator but have no pretense of doing. Checking the leaderboard periodically as well as the blogs.
The route that the Tour Divide race follows is the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (GDMBR) as mapped by Adventure Cycling. It is partially through Tour Divide and partially through Adventure Cycling (I’m a life member) that I’ve gotten interested in the GDMBR. As a result, my plan is to try riding the route after I get to Banff. I will swap out my touring bike for a mountain bike (already sent on way to Montana). It is a bit of an experiment: I’ll see how well off-road touring goes and I’ll also get some riding this trip on my mountain bike. Overall, I’m expecting my pace to be 4x-5x slower than the winners of the race or try finishing in two months or so.
Of course, can’t get too far ahead of myself, first up on the docket is Alaska and starting my ride. So in the mean time, I’ll watch vicariously as some of these racers show their stuff and offer occasional tidbits about the route.
When I was a kid I sometimes visited Sunset swimming pool in Longmont. There was a high dive board there that I would jump off. It was perhaps only 3m high, but to me it was way up in the sky. As I climbed and walked along the board I’d peer down and think, “my goodness, that is way up,…what am I doing, what if I fall, will the water hurt, etc”. Then I’d run to jump off end of the board and after a momentary descent fall into the water and all would be OK. “That was fun! Time to do it again!”
I’m reminded of the high board during this past week as I’ve done my last week at AMD. I’ve been mostly too busy to think too much about it, but when I’ve peered off the board I have wondered once or twice, “wow, it will be a long way down!”. Since graduating from college in 1986, I’ve worked for two employers: Hewlett Packard from 1986 to 2009 and AMD from 2009 to 2016. I’ve moved around a few times and lost my job in internal reorganizations. However, by the time each position was due to end, I had something else lined up. I had a paycheck lined up when I stopped receiving the previous one. So this is a first, which adds a bit to both the nervousness and also the thrill of really getting out there.
If I think about it, I realize things should be OK and just like once you hit the water from the jump – you settle into a routine and swim and make it all work. There is still a lot of loose ends to tie up here in Austin and then drive to Colorado before departure, but I do look forward to time I’m finally on the road and can just get into a “flow” and be in the trip. That is just part of what comes with the adventure. Having fun with the excitement of making the change but also looking forward to getting to the new routine.
p.s. I sent my goodbyes already but also leave with a postscript to my AMD colleagues. I enjoyed the almost seven years at AMD including people I worked with and projects we did. Will keep in touch and hope our paths cross again in the future. I will miss AMD.
One thing I enjoy doing is catching up with other cyclists along the route. Back in 2001, when I cycled around Australia there was what we called the “bush telegraph”. There was mostly one road that was traveled by both cyclists and caravans as well. As we met each other, we would trade accounts about other cyclists on the road. “Did you see to cyclists pulling trailers?”, I would ask. “You mean the ones with the big hats, yes we saw them around Kununarra”. With conversations like these the bush telegraph allowed us to informally keep tabs on other cyclist friends and occasionally meet up as we went along.
While the internet was certainly around and I blogged my 2001 trip, the availability of wifi and cell internet connections has now only increased. As a result, one can now augment the bush telegraph by checking up on respective web sites as well.
So far I’ve read quite a few journals of folks who did similar trips and added those to the links page. As I meet others in real time, I’ll try adding there as well. One that I’ve been following recently is Dr Scott Acton JWST World Bicycle Tour. Scott is from Niwot, Colorado so there is a connection there since I graduated from Niwot High School. He has a multi-part trip whose first segment started in Colorado and is heading towards Deadhorse or Fairbanks. As a result, the last part of his trip, from Watson Lake onwards, is giving some early hints of road conditions I might expect on my ride. Not sure if we’ll intersect (his original plan was to get to Deadhorse around time I depart), but at least fun to see his journal and photos.