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Yep, I’m solo (again)

I’m in Sheyenne, ND. I’ve been anticipating an amazon order shipped to the local USPS in this town for days, but when I arrived the postmaster told me he *just* gave it back for return delivery to the UPS truck a few hours earlier: “sorry, I held it for 3 days as a courtesy.” (every other USPS that I’ve dealt with shipping via General Delivery holds packages for 30 days–it didn’t even cross my mind that he would ship it back to Amazon. Exhausted both physically and emotionally, I asked for Internet access to resolve this situation. I was directed to an old school, where I’ve been permitted to crash for the night. This place is awesome. There’s a huge gym with showers, plenty of couches, and (best of all) Internet!

Which brings me to the more important update: Yep, I’m solo (again). Sorry for the lack of update. Ever since the Twin Cities, I’ve been self-supported. This drastic, unanticipated change required a lot of sudden planning which pushed my blogging down my list of priorities.

Brandon (one of the cross-country cyclists with whom I was previously riding) graciously let me stay in his house for the 2 days I was in St Paul, MN. When I arrived, only 1 of my 4 panniers from last year was working. My 2 front panniers were both broken (hooks pulled through the cheap fabric), and I left my other rear pannier back in Atlanta.

The day I was riding into St Paul (my mind racing–trying to think of everything I needed to get myself safely to Seattle, alone), I ran out of gas on the road, took the next exit, and searched (as usual) for a place with a spicket and a shaded bench. I found a Dairy Queen. While searching for a spicket, I ran into a DQ employee tossing an empty tub of used-to-be 30lb of strawberry topping. In my eyes, that tub & the piece of wood I picked up off the side of the road earlier that day had my rear-right pannier written all over it. Epic score. He rinsed it out, and I strapped it to my bike.

dairyQueenPannier-1

The next morning (in St Paul), I went down my extensive TODO list. I hit up the local library & Hardware Hanks. I looked up several DIY Kitty Litter Panniers to get an idea of what to buy at the hardware store to build my new pannier & fix my other 2. On the afternoon of my second rest day in St Paul, with the aid of the internet, Brandon’s Drill, pliers, and a bit of creativity, Jamie was once again fully loaded, and we were ready (mostly) to take on the next 2,000 miles to Seattle.

dairyQueenPannier-2

dairyQueenPannier-3

fullyLoaded

I was also able to fabricate (using corner mounting brackets for shelving units, bolts, washers, nuts, and a bit of the wood I found on the road) bomb-proof spare hooks for my front panniers should the others rip through the fabric as well (I had to use 1 of these just the other day, actually).

spareHooks

I shipped 13lb of gear back home, but the added weight on my rear rack (>30lb) would add *even more* stress to my rear wheel, which was already breaking a few spokes / week. I learned how to replace a broken spoke & true the wheel just a couple weeks ago, but I didn’t (and still don’t) have the tools necessary. I went to the LBS recommended by Brandon (NOW). They gave me some expert advise. Turns out my spokes *are* generic crap. They recommended & carried DT Swiss (I’ll swear by the MAC spokes that came with the Sojourn). I bought 6 DT spokes and a set of tire levers (I broke mine a couple days before).

Looking at my chain, they pointed out that it was well beyond its lifetime (I expected this). Looking further at my drivetrain, we noticed a few of the rear cassette’s sprockets had ground down teeth. Not looking to spend $150, I decided to leave it be. I already have a spare chain, and I’ll ride my cassette as long as I can. I think that, because I ride my shifters in friction (as opposed to indexed), a worn cassette isn’t as big of a deal. We’ll see, but I’m expecting to get at least another 1,000 if not 2,000 miles out of these components.

I headed back to the library and ordered all the remaining gear I needed to ride self supported. I bought a small, brilliant J.A. Stein Mini Casette Tool, 3 size all-in-one spoke wrench, a spare tire, tube, chamois butt’r, sunglasses, and an external HDD (anticipating less Internets). My first packages of this order were *supposed* to be in this town (Sheyenne). And they were, until 12:30 PM this afternoon >:0

Anyway, I’m off to take a shower (last night I had to hitchhike & fix 2 broken spokes, so I didn’t get into the tent until ~23:00; the shower skipped). Then it’s dinner (typically ~9.5 servings of rice & beans) and bed. I’ll try to upload some of my photos & videos through the night, but I’m not 100% positive I’ll have the time.

3 comments to Yep, I’m solo (again)

  • dad

    Thanks for the post. Too bad that the USPS sent back your package. Perhaps you should call the USPS you plan to send to in advance of placing an order next time…just a lesson learned, the hard way.

    Stay clear of the high water I am reading about in ND…

    STAY SAFE!

    LOVE,
    DAD

    • Michael Altfield

      @dad Actually, I *did* call the USPS ahead of time. Not only that, I left a message for the postmaster explaining how important it was that the package *not* be returned. When I showed up (without saying anything) he looked at my bike clothes and said, “oh, now you’re here. I just gave your packages back to UPS a few hours ago.” The issue was that he had to hold it for a _whole_ 3 days. Every other USPS I’ve ever spoken with holds packages for 30 days.

      And, sorry, I failed to follow your advise. I’m going to be staying in the high water flooded city of Minot for the next few days it seems : (It’s OK, the worst of the flooding is over here)

  • Eric

    So, why are you solo? What happened to the MS crew?

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