Sometimes the preparation is half the fun

I’ve noticed that half the fun of upcoming adventures is the preparation.

Of course, half the pain found on adventures is caused by poor preparation.

So, with a big adventure coming up next week, I’m in the middle of gathering gear, pouring over maps and worrying over what I’m forgetting. The big adventure is to fly into Minneapolis with my touring bike, put it together and ride to my daughter’s house in Madison, Wis., via a round about route along the Mississippi River.

I expect that when I arrive she will have a new grandchild waiting for me, and a diaper to change. My wife, Julie, who is still recovering from spring bone breaks, and doesn’t have as much vacation time to burn up, will fly out to meet us there.

Preparation for a long tour bike trip — this one I expect to be about 500 miles — is similar to backpacking trip preparations (that is if you’re mostly camping).

I prefer to go extra light, so I generally use small panniers and minimal gear. I fuss over which pair of shorts to bring and how many socks. I will use my 3-pound backpacking tent, ultra-light sleeping bag, pad and other camping gear.

Last year, I rode down the Oregon and Northern California coastline to San Francisco, staying mostly on Highway 101 and Highway 1. I was able to drive to my youngest daughter’s home in Beaverton, Ore., and use it as a launch point. This trip will be different with the launch point being an airport in a city I’m not familiar with. If I had the time, I’d ride to Wisconsin starting from Idaho Falls. But that will have to wait until I retire.

One wrinkle in the gear preparations is my cook stove. On the coast trip I used a canister stove which served me well. But because airline regulations prohibit gas canisters, I’ve decided to use a tiny alcohol-burning stove. I should be able to buy a bottle of alcohol at any gas station when I arrive (it’s the type found in those bottles of Heet — gas line antifreeze).

Alcohol-burning stoves are simple, no moving parts, and weigh next to nothing. I picked one up at Sportsman’s Warehouse for $20. Boy Scouts often make them as a project out of soda cans. The advantage of the commercially made stove is a screw-top lid in case you don’t use up all the fuel during a cooking session.

One of the great differences between bikepacking/backpacking and driving in a car or RV on vacation is the total experience. In a car, you are insulated from the environment you are passing through. Unless you get out of the car, it’s as if you are viewing the scenery on a big-screen TV. When you walk or bike through an area, you are part of it — truly in it. You hear the birds, feel the weather, see the small critters.

I remember riding south of Seaside, Ore., and smelling the irresistible aroma of crabs cooking at a roadside food stand just off the beach. I remember the feeling of awe as I pedaled through the redwood forest in California, stopping and touching the 2,000-year-old monsters and thinking, “This one has got to be the biggest one yet,” then seeing even bigger ones down the road.

You also meet and get to know the most interesting people on the road or trail. Like Stephen, the middle-aged Japanese man from Atlanta, pedaling down the coast from Seattle. I met him at Honeyman State Park on the Oregon coast.

“I really like meeting all the people on this ride and hearing their stories,” he said. “I met one guy, who flew to Anchorage and is riding all the way to the southern tip of South America — 15,000 miles. I met a couple from Switzerland who flew to Vancouver, B.C. and are riding to Belize.”

Stephen’s goal was to see a Giants game in San Francisco.

“I’m a big fan,” he said. “Then I’ll probably take the train back home.”

I don’t expect to see as many other bikers on my Mississippi River ride, but I do plan on meeting people.

Right now, the anticipation is causing butterflies in my stomach.


If you’re interested in giving rock climbing a try or just brushing up your skills, sign up for a six-week course offered by the YMCA starting Oct. 2. Classes will be held at the YMCA Climbing Gym at 751 S. Capitol Ave. in Idaho Falls at 6:30 p.m. on Thursdays. The class covers the basics of safety, technique and equipment. All necessary gear is provided. Beware: Climbing is so fun, it can become addictive. Call 523-0600 to sign up.


On the subject of climbing, the Idaho Mountain Festival, a four-day festival held at Castle Rocks State Park near Almo, will take place the last weekend of this month — Sept. 25 to 28. The festival includes trail running races, rock climbing clinics, mountain biking and presentations by professionals. There’s also food, music and camping spots provided. For more information, go to