I'd like to say a few things about my gear because many readers or gearheads like me, and some are thinking of long-distance touring. Here's a run down of some of the main equipage at this time:
The bike: As I expected, the Street Machine, set up so expertly by Dana and Fernando at Bent Up Cycles in Van Nuys, California, has been a nearly flawless performer. I've had only two ultra minor problems: 1) The rear wheel developed a tiny squeak that I could only hear during slow speed climbs when there was almost no other sound. I'd be grinding up some killer hill, trying to "Zen-out," and this little squeak, squeak, squeak would pierce my lactic acid enhanced meditation. In Palmyra, NY, Jeff, the son of my hosts Dale and Nina, Dale and I took off the wheel, and Jeff checked the tightness of this and that, cleaned off some gunk. After we put Mr. Wheel back on, no more squeak. Sanity restored. 2) The kickstand poked through the rubber tip so that it was rendered useless. Now, on grassy, soft or tilted areas, I place a squashed beer can under the foot of the stand. I'll carry that can across the country. I can recycle it when I get home AND I got to consume the contents before giving it a second life. Can't beat that. Other than those two things, no problems in almost 1,400 miles. No flats on the solid Schwalbe Marathon tires (new version--not the racers). The wide (1.5 in) tires and suspension of the bike have been superb assets. I'm hitting chuck holes, ratty pavement, errant barnyard animals, you name it, and the bike stays solid. I'm especially happy when I've got to cross railroad tracks, which I do frequently. Thump, thump, and it's all over. By the way, God, Shimano, and HP Velotechnik have yet to invent shifting/steering/ergonomic bliss better than my under seat bars with bar-end shifters.
Camping gear: The alcohol stove continues to be one of my favorite pieces of gear. Easy, fun, silent. Go make one. My tent, a Sierra Designs "Light Year," has been perfect for little ol' me. Just three stakes and she's ready for the storm (likely scenario tomorrow, by the way). This model is especially nice because I can sit up to change clothes, read, arrange my life. When the bugs are swarming or the rain coming down, that means a lot. Sleeping in these hot, humid conditions has been a challenge, however. In the closed space of the tent, the temperature is even higher and the air, mostly still in the evenings, doesn't seem to move. Indeed, it seems to have left entirely, maybe vacationing in Pismo Beach, who knows? So I lie there, sweat pouring off me, and try to relax. Slowly, bit by bit, the conditions ease, and I can drift off to sleep. When it's bad, those first 30 or 40 minutes are just plain nasty. I question my sanity and look forward to the arid West in the fall with a passion you might well call immoderate, excessive, pick-yer-adjective-get-me-the-hell-out-of-here-now intense. Adversity provides spice to the journey, but sometimes you just choke on that fistful of minced jalapeno. Gimme bland, bland I tell you! I want white bread and mayo--okay, maybe not, but you get the analogy.
It's hard to overstate what this backwater place means to long distance cyclists. They roll in from all over the country, all over the world and find refuge from the rigors of the road. Joe Clem, who recently passed on, was a founder of the cycling-only refuge. He enjoyed talking to all the different people and had a huge, giving heart. This same energy is found in the whole town, friendly people who are just happy to see you and give whatever help they can. Warren Fluttrow and Jennifer Yoquelet are two other key players in the refuge, but it's supported by the park service, too. Cyclists, free of charge, get access to air conditioning, full shower and laundry facilities, full kitchen, cots, access to the library and everything else in town within a few minutes walk. For a couple of nights, I'll get a bug-free, sweat-free sleep. I can lock my bike in the living area and walk around. Also a tradition in the center is to invite any cyclists to whatever functions might be going on in the hall adjacent to the living area. Mostly the building serves as a community center, housing weddings, family reunions and the like. We need more places like Monroeville.