The Early Bird…

Sometimes the early bird gets the worm, but sometimes the early bird gets frozen to death.   – Myron Scholes

It shouldn’t be much of surprise to anyone to learn that temperatures usually warm up during the day.  Sometimes that is good, sometimes that is not so good.

On our first five BRAT rides, we rode in May and June.  Especially down south, it was wise to get up early and grab some miles before the sun made it high in the sky and heated things up.  Heating up also usually means that the winds kick up as well.  So while we dreamed of being able to sleep in each morning before hitting the road, we frequently woke up between 6:00 and 6:30 a.m. each day.

Once we developed a system of packing and loading up the vehicles, we could go from sleep to bikes in about 40 minutes.  As one who slept on an inflatable mattress with a sleeping bag, the first thing that I’d do when waking up each morning was to pull the plug on the mattress.  The weight of the sleeping bag and pillow would deflate the mattress while I made a trip to the bathroom and kitchen.  Once back at the mattress, I would roll up the sleeping bag (with my blanket inside) and the inflatable mattress.

I usually pull cycling shorts and a jersey for the day out of bag the night before.  We took showers at the end of each day, so instead of hitting the showers in the mornings, we’d head in to bathrooms in the morning to lather up in sunscreen while dressing.  We’ve found that NO-AD Sport SPF 50 sunscreen works very well.  After a generous application in the morning, only one other dose was needed in the afternoon.  And while we always end up with tanned faces, necks, arms, and legs, we rarely get sunburns.

For both rides to Canada, we traveled with a car-top luggage carrier on one of the vehicles.  On our cross-Texas rides, we always wind up in Abilene at about the mid-point of the ride.  With Abilene as a mid-point, we only need 4-5 days worth of cycling and driving clothes with us in the car before and after Abilene.  On the rides to Canada, we hit Abilene after 3-4 days on bikes and then needed clothes and gear for another 2+ weeks on the road.  Even though we try to wash clothes every 3-4 days while on the road, we always end up taking a lot more stuff with us to Canada that just across Texas.  The car-top luggage carriers helped us tote all of gear with us on the trips.

On both trips with car-top carriers, they ended up holding all of the inflatable mattresses, cots, bed rolls, sleeping bags, and pillows.  Bags with clothes and cycling gear got loaded in the backs of the vehicles.  Food, tools, repair equipment, tubes, pumps, and our helmets, gloves, and sunglasses all went in the cars.  We also carry a large collection of old bath towels to cover the seats as much as possible and protect them from our sweaty backs and rear-ends.

While a couple of the team members would load up the car-top carrier and pack up the vehicles in the mornings, others would bring out the bicycles and pump up tires.  We would also have a breakfast strategy for each day that we would discuss the night before.  Many of our “extreme hospitality” hosts would supply breakfasts for us.  Other times, we would purchase things to eat from a grocery store the night before (e.g., bananas, eggs, pastries, etc.) or send someone to find a donut place to grab kolaches, pigs in blankets, biscuits, and other high-energy foods.

The day’s Road Captain would determine when we needed to get up each day in order to be on the road by time that worked best for the temperatures, wind conditions, and distances for the day.  On most days of our summer rides, we were on the road between 7:00 and 7:30 a.m. each day.  Before hitting the road, the group would get together to receive the Road Captain report and say a prayer for safety.

BRAT6 was different.  It was our January ride and it was still dark at 7:00 a.m. each day.  On the first three days of our ride across Texas, the morning temperatures were 22 degrees–cold!  We had to wait later to leave on BRAT6 than on our previous rides because we needed light in the sky and to give the temperatures a chance to warm up–theoretically.  We still had to contend with winds that strengthened as the day went on so we tried to get rolling as early as we possibly could–usually around 8:00 a.m. each day.

Our method of packing and loading changed dramatically on BRAT6.  With the addition of our bike trailer, we also gained the ability to load personal gear onto the trailer as well.  Each person got a 50-gallon, water-tight storage tub with wheels and a handle to pack all of their gear–sleeping bags, blankets, pillows, clothing, and cycling gear.  The tailgate of the trailer drops down to allow the storage tubs to easily roll on and off the trailer.  With nearly all of the gear in tubs on the trailer, the vehicles carried food, repair equipment, pumps, and other in-car necessities.  It was amazing how empty the backs of the vehicles seemed on BRAT6.

To get a glimpse of our trailer and the loading and unloading of bikes and the storage tubs, take a peek at our BRAT6 music video.  BRAT6 GoPro Music Video

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