Some bike trips are bigger than others. 6 days on the road...
Some bike trips' mothers are bigger than other bike trips' mothers. True fact. It makes a twisted kind of sense if you really think about it; the kind of thinking one can really only settle into whilst sitting around on your saddle with several other wasted and weather blasted hobos in the middle of nowhere deep in the heart of an 11 hour pedal. Drifting in and out of the here and now as weather, clothing, road/trail conditions, hunger, exhaustion, hilarity, helpful teammates, the availability of water (or tallboys), etc conspire to effect change.
Such weather! Sleeping in a luxurious campground shitter. Sleeping under a jury rigged $4 blue tarp as the storm raged and the thunder crashed about 18" overhead, and the hail fell hard and loud. Sleeping roofless under clear skies. Etc.
I enjoyed the ____ out of the Condor Tour 2014, and all of y'all who rode along were solid and even-tempered hard men of a type seldom seen in this modern and pussified world. Thanks, bros, I never had a better time. The wall rides down the penultimate downhill? Watching a paceline of dirty yahoos loaded with bags and racks hit them in formation? Words.
It was as though we were on a secret locals' tour everywhere we went. Super well routed. Several folks referenced the currently ubiquitous finely-documented bike touring epics sponsored by X, Y, and Z and laughingly compared our rag-tag band-of-brothers shoot-from-the-hip rough-and-tumble aggregate to that kind of slicksterism. Each time, we all laughed. Well, looking around at the other dirtbags, you had to. There was not the matching kit, nor the matching bikes, no support car, and the guy at the liquor store in Santa M_______ was so convinced I was just another homeless DUI on a bike he tried to deny me a plastic bag (which I needed in order to tear in half and line my disgustingly wet, cold and smelly shoes)...you know, regular assholes on whatever they brung.
I wish I had photos of all of it, but- alas!- I left my phone on the 1st day, and it died. I would show you the different set-ups, because that sort of thing is interesting to me. I was surprised and impressed at the packing skills some of these fools evidenced, as in "how does he keep pulling more warm clothes out of there?" and "I wish he had shopped for me instead of my own lousy choices", or "I'd like some of your beer", etc. As for me, I was running the well-used and trusted Surly Ogre, as it had served me well on the Death Valley Ramble and other bike campouts. I ran the Big Wheel front end because there were to be multiple dirt sections (local singletracks, oh yeah!) and I like the float without the complexity and I understand Murphy's Law. I was ridiculed and envied in turn...there were also lots of road sections. Overall, I am satisfied with my choice. I do wish I had run lighter racks and not assumed that my packed-to-go sleeping bag was the synthetic model I thought it was in stead of the susceptible-to-soaking down version that it actually was (check your gear, meathead). My choice in rain wear was the controversial waxed cotton poncho/chaps, and it worked as well as anything does in a full-on gale but it was slow to stow, requiring stopping and strapping. I feel like it was 6s, even given the headwinds (many and mighty). I did miss a wind-proof layer, and will remember it next time. My Jiffy-Pop surprise failed when sorely needed- the aluminum pan had taken too much abuse and sprung a leak, dropping ugly red geasewax all over the stove. I want a bigger tiTAINium cook pot. Using the future stove instead of my cave-tech Kelly Kettle not only saved bulk (we split the load) but worked in all the soaking wet conditions that would have really stymied the wood burner (thanks, To_d!).
Riding a paceline is a skill, and it is worth having. Those fellows all knew what they were doing, and it showed. Hand signals, laying off the brakes, etc. We moved along at a good clip, which felt great sometimes and was all I could do to hang on at the back other times. I will say- when you come to the front, do NOT surge, but keep the pace even. It hurts the yoyo at the rear.
I am left with Good Feelings. Mostly, I am deeply impressed with the routing- it was SO good. But also, I respect and admire the spirit of brotherhood (without getting mystical- it's just riding bikes) shown so casually.
If you go...just go. You don't need anything fancy. The gear you have is the best gear of all. Use it.