The time for my Mississippi tour is almost here. I’m very excited to have this opportunity, and at the same time apprehensive about the challenge.
I’ve kept refining my planned course and stops over the last few weeks. My trip to Mississippi keeps getting longer as I continue to send the line wandering around northern Alabama and Mississippi. My latest change is to pick up the parkway well north of Tupelo and ride down to Aunt Hazel’s house in Okalona that way.
I transferred all of my google maps waypoints into the tomtom iPhone app. That was tedious. I wrote a SlickEdit macro to turn all the google maps links into tomtom links. I would use the newest version of google maps for the iPhone, which is pretty nice compared to previous versions. But tomtom still has a critical feature that google is missing – that being that tomtom can plot and follow routes without a network connection. In rural areas I often find myself with no cell coverage so this is very important to me.
Part of my worry has centered around keeping my electronics charged. I’ll want to be camping out and I will most-often not have access to A/C power to charge my batteries. I have a dyno hub on my bike for keeping things charged, but I’ve had issues with it in the past. Most recently the voltage regulator failed so I could not get it to charge my battery pack. The hub would only run the lights, which don’t need regulated/rectified output.
So to guard against trouble in that respect I’ve added a Mophie Juicepack Powerstation Pro to my power storage. I expect my Power Plus pack to give me about 2.5 iPhone charges, and the Juicepack is likely to give me around 3.5 or maybe more. If I leave with charged batteries and a charged phone I should be able to ride for about 6 days without charging. I plan to be charging with the hub as I go, so this will be six days I have in reserve, should the hub/battery combo have problems. Time to quit worrying!
I’ve also been apprehensive about the hills. I’ve done a lot of mountain riding in my life but lately just the hills around Atlanta. And I’ve never been into the mountains with a loaded touring setup, only on a lightweight road bike. My route thru northern Alabama looks like it won’t be constantly challenging. But there are indeed some steep climbs along the way. The steepest one is 19% grade. It looks like I could entirely avoid steep climbs, but not to go to the exciting places I want to visit like Little River Canyon.
I just want to believe I’ll tolerate first gear going up these. I think I’ll be OK. If I have to get off and walk some then so be it. I just don’t want to do a lot of that. It’s not very easy to walk the bicycle when it’s loaded down. But I’ve spent hours studying the terrain maps and such. At this point there’s nothing to do but go give it a try. I’m steadily training my body with extra situps, pushups, touch-toes, and yoga poses.
Today I’m going to start building a staging area for organizing what I want to take. I’ll stack everything up near the bicycle and organize it all so it goes on the bike without a lot of thought. I also need to plan how I’ll carry things onto the train when I get to Meridian.
The route I’m planning to Okalona looks to be about 450 miles. More directly it would be only 300 miles but I’m zigzagging a lot based on places I want to see. I’m guessing I’ll average around 60 miles per day so that would get me there in about one week (7.5 days) of riding days. I might take a rest day along the way, particularly in bad weather. Then I expect to ride about 125 miles in the Okalona/Columbus area while I visit family and my home town. After that I’ll ride about 250 miles down the parkway to Jackson and on to Meridian where I’ll take the amtrak train home. All in all it looks like two solid weeks of riding. Since I have three weeks allocated for the trip I should be able to just hang out for a day or two or three at cool spots along the way.