Once we figured out how we could financially make this trip happen, there were only about a million other things to figure out next.

We have a fully furnished, two-bedroom house, a garage full of tools and a “bike room” loaded with bikes, camping and climbing gear.  It didn’t seem like we had a lot of stuff until we started thinking about where we were going to put it all while we were gone.  Renting a storage unit is ridiculously expensive around here and it’s not much better even if we hauled it out to the central valley where things are “cheap.” 

However, we got lucky….very lucky!  Mike’s parents are letting us store stuff in the loft of their garage, various friends and family members are using some of our furniture and watching over our hundreds of plants (for some reason we think we need to live in a jungle) while we’re away, and our friends Char and Dan are allowing us to use part of their garden shed to store the larger, heavier items that cannot be carried up a ladder into a loft.  Although all of our belongings will be spread out all over the bay area, we are appreciative to have family and friends who are willing to help us out.  It is a huge money-saver for us and we cannot thank you all enough!

There is a lot of gear we’ve gradually been purchasing over the last 6 months.  First, we needed the correct bikes for this type of riding.  We’re both racers and have always been drawn to the fastest, lightest, carbon fiber bicycles.  Unfortunately, the geometry is not conducive to touring and would undoubtedly break down on day one, unable to handle the load that we’ll be carrying.  Our original idea was to build our own bikes out of old parts, so we visited a bunch of local bike shops and got price quotes on frames and major parts, but walked away completely discouraged after every visit.  Each shop told us the same thing: 1 - It’s incredibly more expensive to purchase all the parts individually and build a bike from scratch than to buy a brand new one.  And 2 – You cannot trust old, used bike parts.  It’s hard to know if there’s anything wrong with them until sometimes it’s too late.

On to Plan B.  After researching various touring bikes, we concluded the Bianchi Volpe was the best fit for us.  It got great reviews, was in our price range and so Mike made the splurge and bought them for us for Christmas.  They were sure beautiful, all shiny, dark green in color and without a scratch, but kind of boring at the same time.  We wanted custom paint jobs, which was part of the original lure of building our own bikes, so shortly after they arrived we took the sandpaper to them.  It took me a few minutes before I could bring myself to scratch up a pristine paint job, but I had a vision in mind of what I wanted, so I clenched my eyes shut and went for it.  Mike was the master of the paint project so I’m going to leave it up to him describe in a later post the process of how he turned our bikes into the argyle and leopard print masterpieces they are today.

The original bike

Mike's argyle bike

Cari's leopard print bike

Panniers and racks were our other major purchases for this trip.  Again, we researched online and visited REI over and over debating which ones would work best for us.  We found the perfect set of large, waterproof Ortleib panniers from an online source based in Colorado.  Thank you Wayne at TheTouringStore.com for all of your insight and helpful advice!  We will soon be putting your gear to the test!

We may regret our decision to set aside our lightweight, down, mummy sleeping bags and instead spring for the super heavy, bulky, synthetic, square, zip-together bags, but the thought of being unable to snuggle together for the next year was unacceptable.  Besides, I don’t think I could handle sleeping in a claustrophobic mummy bag for that many consecutive nights.  It drives me nuts that I can’t move!  I won’t have to worry about that in these new bags.  They’re huge!  When zipped together, they’re about the size of a queen sized bed….room for visitors, I guess!  Ha!

I love taking photos and I only plan on taking about a million over the course of this trip.  I have a camera that takes excellent pictures, but it’s getting old and every once in a while decides to act up, make funny noises, or just not turn on.  I didn’t want to risk not having a camera whenever I wanted, so that was another major purchase.  As much as I would love a big, fancy SLR that takes outrageously high quality pictures, I have to remind myself that I have to personally carry everything myself and weight and space matter big time.  I settled for a small, very lightweight Canon and I’m sure it will do the trick.

Our final purchase was a tiny netbook (thank you Ken) which will be used to edit and organize pictures as we go, keep in touch with family and friends and do the best we can on posting to our blog.  I’m not sure how well it is going to hold up with all of the bouncing around it’s going to have to endure, but we’ll soon find out.

We have only a month to go before we depart and only a few more things (insurance and phone) to get straightened out.  It’s hard to believe it’s almost here!

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