Waiting For Wednesday

After a six month cycling hiatus – not necessarily a planned hiatus, but a hiatus nonetheless – the hours are rapidly dwindling before I embark of my first European cycling tour. I’m not going to lie, I’m more than a little surprised as to the number of iterations my “planned route” has taken leading up to this point. That said, I SEEM to have come up with a route through Scotland that is both doable and interesting – at least I hope it’s doable … and interesting. Of course, at this point my route only gets me as far Inverness – from there, my route is entirely unscripted. Well, maybe not “entirely” – but “mostly”.

My efforts to pack lighter this year have not exactly panned out. Shocking, I know. While I managed to exclude a number of items to lighten my payload from last year, I also managed to add a few new items which “un-lightened” my payload. At this point, I don’t know what the actual weight of my gear is but if I were a betting man (and I’ve been known to place the odd wager – from time to time), I would bet that I haven’t shed any weight – at least not a discernible amount.

Nikwax to the rescue!

Nikwax to the rescue!

On the upside, it looks like I’ve avoided the need to purchase a new sleeping bag. By the end of last year’s ride, my sleeping bag wasn’t exactly doing a stellar job of keeping me warm during those long, chilly, Florida nights (seriously, February nights get cold in Florida!). When holding my (once lofty) down sleeping bag up to the light it was clear that the insulating qualities of said bag were a thing of the past. Or so I thought.

Last week, I took a ride to MEC in Burlington (a decent training ride of 64 km each way) with the full intention of purchasing a new sleeping bag. That plan changed after talking with one of MEC’s employees. After quizzing me on my usage of my current bag (including when it was washed last and how said washing was done), he recommended washing the bag with Nikwax Down Wash Direct and Nikwax Down Proof. While results couldn’t be guaranteed, it was a significantly less expensive plan than buying a new bag. I opted to give it a try.

I won’t bore you with the details of hand washing my loft-less sleeping bag but, suffice it to say, hand washing a down sleeping bag is not a pleasant experience. Not in any way. But without easy access to a front-loading washing machine, it was my only option. Okay, yes … I could’ve gone to a laundromat but I knew I was going to need multiple rinse cycles and typically washing machines at a laundromat make you go through the entire wash cycle. (Ok, so apparently I decided to bore you with details of hand washing my loft-less sleeping bag).

Fast-forward a few hours to the removal of my sleeping bag from the dryer where I discovered that the bag was in fact no longer loft-less. At all. Sure, the drying process wasn’t exactly fast but, aided by the three tennis balls I had tossed into the dryer, I was stunned by how much loft had returned. It was like new! Okay, maybe not “new” but, well … pretty close to new!

The true test will come during what I expect to be many cool and damp Scotland nights but, between my revived sleeping bag and my new Jag Bag silk liner, I’m reasonably optimistic that I will not only avoid hypothermia, I may actually be warm (which for me is no easy feat)!

Unrelated Side Note: With my bike now disassembled and in a box, I want to thank my friend Narayana Reddy (aka. Nani) for all the maintenance he did on my bike to get it ready for this year’s ride. Nani runs a bicycle repair course in Toronto which is where I met him back in 2009. He’s been helping me prepare my bike for all my tours since then – and by “help”, I mean, he’s done all the work and cared for my bike as if it was his own. If you live in Toronto and are considering a bike repair course … well, Nani’s great. As is his course. And if you take his course, don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty – you learn a LOT more that way. Thanks again Nani.

Dog and a Beer in Cleveland.  Mmmmmm.

Dog and a Beer in Cleveland. Mmmmmm.

Even More Unrelated Side Note: While I probably should have spent the weekend finalizing my route and working on other last minute preparations, instead I went on a road trip with a few of my friends. Destination: Cleveland. Yes, Cleveland. We checked out the Pro Football Hall of Fame in nearby Canton, skipped the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame because we’d all been there before, and we saw a baseball game. Oh, and there may have been a beer or two along the way. Of course, no trip to a ballgame would be complete without the obligatory “dog and a beer” photo – although, in this case the “dog” was actually an Italian sausage. All things considered it was a great weekend … and I tried to absorb as much heat and sun as possible as I’ve been informed (many times) that Scotland can be somewhat lacking in both. But I hear they aren’t lacking in rain and gales (and I suspect I know which way they’ll be blowing).

Of course, as a result of the weekend getaway I spent today scrambling around doing last minute errands that I didn’t do on the weekend … like buying Sterling Pounds for the first time in my life. And with that said (and done), I THINK I’m essentially ready to go. If all goes well, I’ll be on my way to Glasgow tomorrow (Wednesday, the 22nd).

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4 Comments to Waiting For Wednesday

  1. AnneD says:

    Hey Mark – excited to see you are setting off for the wilds of Scotland. You will love it except for the dearth of Subway’s. Not sure if you have discovered Sustrans yet. Anyway Sustrans is the bicycle advocacy/adventure cycling network in the UK. They have a great website, lots of awesome signed bicycle routes covering the whole UK and absolutely stunning maps for the routes. We have done a number of rides on Sustrans routes and enjoyed them immensely cos they are on low traffic roads and take you to all sorts of seldom frequented places. Anyway all the best and I will be watching for your updates.

    • Mark says:

      Thanks Anne. Great to hear from you. Bit of a slow start to this year’s adventure but hopefully things will turn around once I get my bike issue dealt with. That said, Scotland is beautiful. I’ve been to the Sustrans site and followed along a couple of their sections so far – although somewhat inadvertently. I’ll likely end up on their routes again as I get further east and then again as I head south to Amsterdam. Hope all is well with you on the island.

  2. Mark Weinstein says:

    Another day, another test. Sigh. This is getting frustrating. :(

  3. This is awesome Mark. I can’t wait to read up on your progress. have a safe journey!! :D

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