Two Years From Today...

*This post was written to provide early material for a new site devoted to our pending trip. That site is still heavily under construction and will not go live until sometime next year. In the meantime, here's a short update concerning where we're at in our RTW preparations...

It's April 2nd, 2012 and if all things go according to hopes and plans, two years from today we'll be heading northward past the town of Darrington, WA on our way to the junction with the North Cascades Highway and the Northern Tier bicycle route. I must say that despite the lengthy amount of time before we depart, the excitement is already building. I suspect it's this way for anyone planning such a monumental uprooting. Which brings me to why I'm writing this post. I want to make sure and seed our site with posts that point to the steps we took to prepare for the trip and, as with everything that will ultimately appear on, to provide another data point of reference for those who will one day be where we are now: scouring the internet like mad for all the tips, advice, and information you can find. So, in that regard, here's where we currently stand on a few things.

There's nothing more important during the long waiting period than saving and so far so good. We're past the halfway mark for our goal and several months ahead of schedule due to some good investments and are now socking away $700/month towards the trip. We continue to increase the monthly savings amount by $50 every six months.

Kristin and I are lucky in this regard that we haven't had to make any sacrifices in order to save for the trip (very lucky considering Kristin was laid off in December, 2010). We combine for a relatively comfortable "household income" and don't have very expensive tastes, except perhaps in bicycles. But going hand-in-hand with saving for the trip has been a full-frontal assault on all of our outstanding bills. Our mountain of credit card debt has been whittled to a molehill, the cars have been paid off for a couple years now, and we are soon to be debt-free outside of the mortgage for our house in WA, a minuscule mortgage on land we own in NC, and a lingering student loan. The latter two will be paid off this time next year.

Gearing Up
I built up our Salsa Fargos last winter and though I do intend to swap out the butterfly "trekking" handlebar for a standard mountain bike flat-bar to give us a wider grip for rocky/technical tracks (not to mention more cockpit space for accessories), they are otherwise tour-ready. We enjoyed every moment of these bikes during our 10 day tour around the Olympic Peninsula last summer and anxiously await our next short trip. Hell, I actually look forward to my quick jaunts to the grocery store. Anything to sneak a ride in on it.

Though we are two years away and are trying our best to not dwell on the trip too much, we have begun researching and buying gear in earnest. We've so far stuck to products that we either know will not change between now and 2014 and those we love and fear may be discontinued. Part of our reasoning for this was to also make strategic use out of our annual REI Dividend and the gift cards we've been receiving from family for holidays and birthdays. The pile of inspiration in the spare bedroom has been growing of late.

So far we've purchased Ortlieb front and rear panniers for each bike along with our sleeping systems of choice (an unorthodox combination that I'll explain in a separate post). We have a lot of gear already from our past trips, but I've also begun adding some clothing as I see things go on sale. Merino wool for the win!

We've created a spreadsheet that is already taking the form of a packing list, though it's really a way for us to track the things we've bought, what we still need, and what our top choices are for certain topics (detailed gear lists will be provided on this site). We read a lot of bike touring blogs and have studied more than a few people's gear lists over the past few years and have finally begun tracking the products that we want to get. This way we can purchase it gradually over time. This nets us two benefits: 1) We don't suddenly have to dip into our trip savings just as we stop working, and 2) We're not running around trying to research/acquire gear while also trying to sell our house and all of its contents.

Hair Removal
Kristin is in the process of writing a separate post about this, but she'll be going in for her third of six scheduled sessions for laser hair removal this week. This was a costly expense, but one I was not about to say no to. I know some women would rather let their leg and armpit hair grow out and that some guys don't mind their wives or girlfriends going a few days or weeks without shaving. Not us. Actually, Kristin was probably going to eventually do this anyway. I guess the trip just provided the necessary motivation. For those considering this, do note that it cost more than the total cost of my Fargo including racks and panniers. And it's extremely painful.

Snow Route
Earlier I mentioned that we hope to be crossing WA via the Northern Tier in early April. For those who aren't familiar with Washington State geography and highway closures, the North Cascades Highway (Hwy 20) closes every November due to avalanche and re-opens sometime that following spring. There are essentially four major routes through the Cascade Mountains in WA and Hwy 20 is not only the most scenic, but the one we prefer by a wide margin not only for its beauty but it also passes the town of Winthrop in the Methow Valley, one of my all-time favorite places in the Pacific Northwest. The highway didn't open until May 25th last year, its second-latest opening ever. This year it is expected to open the first week of May. As of late March, it still had snowdrifts 50 to 60 feet deep in some of the avalanche zones and the road surface at Washington Pass was under 9 feet of snow.

SR 20 Cutthroat Ridge
Photo from WA DOT of Highway 20 near Cutthroat Ridge during 2012 snow-clearing.
See their impressive collection of photos here.

If our hoping to ride this route in early April sounds like wishful thinking, it is! But it's not without precedent. Here's just a few of the highway opening dates I'm hanging my cycling helmet on: April 16th, 2010; March 10th, 2005; April 8th, 2004; April 14th, 2003; March 22nd, 2001; and March 30th, 2000 (source). Oh, and the road never closed during the winter of 1976-77 so we can always hope for a repeat. The two words we don't want to hear are "La" and "Nina" as the La Nina winters (like 2011 and 2012) are responsible for the immense snowfalls.

It's worth noting that Hwy 20 is only closed to cars. As long as you stay clear of the road crews while they are removing the snow, you are otherwise allowed to be up there on foot, bike, or ski (avalanche risk notwithstanding). So there's always the possibility that we time our crossing with the last remaining days of the snow-removal process and make it down the east side before the road opens to cars. More than likely though, we'll either luck into an early opening or have to take the route over Stevens Pass (Hwy 2), Snoqualmie Pass (I-90), or cross much further south, perhaps in Oregon or on Highway 12 through Washington.

The one thing we don't want to do is wait around until late May to start. We're waiting long enough as it is..

One Year Ago...

As I commence packing for a lengthy bi-coastal business trip (and a couple days on the beach in North Carolina with my sister), I can't help but think back to what I was doing this time last year: Riding! I was about halfway through a 9 day mountain biking trip to the Fruita/Moab area of the southwest US with some new friends. But rather than tell you about this incredible trip, let me show you. Here's a two-part video I shot with my Kodak Zi8 pocket HD camera.

I did 99% of the filming and all of the editing. There's a couple of shots of me in there (usually in a red top, on a white Specialized Stumpjumper 29er). Unfortunately, YouTube replaced the third song "Venice Queen" by Red Hot Chili Peppers with some muzak. Best moment? Definitely part 2, at 2:20. Oh, and definitely bump it to 720p and full screen for the proper effect.

Losing Weight the DBLDBS Way!

It's been five weeks since I stepped off a plane from San Francisco weighing a few pounds more than at any previous point in my life. Nine days spent sitting idle behind a computer. Nine days of eating way too much for breakfast and drinking too many beers with dinner. We need not discuss the desserts. I can't pin all of this blame on Duke though. My eating habits in general had deteriorated over the winter and the frequency at which I was working out could be measured in lunar phases. I wasn't getting fat, but I was certainly getting soft. Something had to give.

This is where I could write about how hardcore I've become in terms of working out and watching what I eat. I could tell you that I'm again training for marathons and Ironman triathlons and stage races in Canada. But it'd be a lie. As it turns out, I'm enjoying pretty significant results with what I would consider a very non-drastic course of action. I call this the DBLDBS plan, short for Don't Be Lazy, Don't Be Stupid. All rights reserved, copyright 2011, property of Randomly Generated blog. Rebroadcast or description of events prohibited without the expressed written consent of Major League Baseball. Oops.

Before I share the details of my plan, a few results are in order. I've been using our wonderful Omron scale every Thursday morning to chart my progression in terms of weight loss, body fat percentage, visceral fat, and skeletal muscle percentage. After five weeks of DBLDBS...

Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit

It's rare for me to watch a movie that I remember two years later, let alone one that I not only import on DVD, but that I even end up buying the accompanying comic books too. Or, in this case, the manga. Actually, it's not rare; it's unheard of. While this may not shock those of you who know me well, many suspect that because I work in the videogame industry that I have certain, shall we say, traits. Assumptions are made that I'm into action figures, that I like science-fiction and superheroes, and that I've collected comic books, played Magic: The Gathering or Dungeons & Dragons, and, well, you get the idea. The truth is, the only action figures I've ever owned were a couple of ThunderCats when I was 10; I hate all things Stars, particularly Wars and Treks; I couldn't tell you who the Superfriends are. I'm not even sure if there are Superfriends or if I just made that up. And though I did buy a couple of "Ghost Rider" and "Silver Surfer" comics as a child, 90% of the reading I've done since then has been, gasp, non-fiction. I'VE. NEVER. ROLLED. TWENTY.

Alas, I am a very poor excuse for a geek. But this doesn't mean I can't be swayed. My time spent writing the Batman: Arkham Asylum Official Strategy Guide two summers ago sparked such a keen desire in me to learn more about the Batman universe that I actually bought the "Arkham Asylum" graphic novel by Grant Morrison and Dave McKean (an exceptional piece of storytelling and art). Though I now have no idea where that book went, I do recall enjoying it considerably (and yes, I do hope to be writing the guidebook for the sequel later this year... fingers crossed).

And that brings us to my foray into manga and Ikigami...

Deciphering Your Xbox Stats Email

So I got an email today from Microsoft detailing my own personal usage stats for March, 2011. But before I share with you a bit of my own time with the system, allow me to show off my avatar's new pant. No, I didn't forget to make it plural.

Behold the Plaid Attack!

Yes, it's a hideous concoction (though he seems to look perfectly dressed when sitting at the table in the new Full House Poker game). Think what you will about his appearance, what everyone wants to know is where did I get my pant. Well, it's actually an unlockable item in the new version of "You Don't Know Jack." Each episode in YDKJ has a sponsor-themed wrong answer. Answer incorrectly (by accident or intentionally, it doesn't matter) and happen to choose that right wrong answer during the show and you get a prize. My fabulous pant was provided by a world famous designer of high-fashion pant and slack.

Ride Report: Blanchard, err, Chuckanut Mountain

Did I really think the ride wouldn't be that hilly? What made me believe Preston would bother looking for others to join him if he wasn't going to at least be leading a relatively serious ride. Sure, he "takes the winter off" and it's "just an early season ride," but me? This year? They say luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. What about when zeal meets sloth? Pain and embarrassment, that's what...

I had never heard of this place Preston called Blanchard (Google Maps insists we were actually at Chuckanut Mountain). I tried to find it on the Evergreen Trail Wiki (an outstanding resource) and came up empty. I asked Preston, and was told it's just a place he likes to ride up by Mount Vernon (a lie, it's actually much closer to Bellingham but he didn't want to scare me off with a longer drive). I should have asked how far we'd be going, or how much climbing we'd be doing. After all, I had only been on my mountain bike for longer than an hour once or twice in recent months. I was also walking quite gingerly thanks to going for a run on Thursday -- my first run in a year. Forty-eight hours later is when the true muscle soreness sets in. Way to time it perfectly, Doug. All I knew was the trails "kicked the shit out of the ones at Tokul." I like Tokul. It's my favorite local ride. And I really wanted to ride someplace new, with guys I don't usually get a chance to ride with. It was settled, agony be damned.

Across Bellingham Bay to Anacortes and beyond...

New Pounds, Garmin Connect

I returned Wednesday night from a nine-day trip to the San Francisco Bay area for work and brought a little something extra home with me. There was the usual suitcase crammed with dirty laundry and a pouch filled with dozens of receipts for the expense report, but there was also an extra four pounds around my mid-section. I knew we were eating well, but I didn't realize just how well. The extra poundage comes at a bad time, as I've yet to shed my winter weight. And the fact that I just nonchalantly typed the words winter weight makes me want to punch myself in the face.