rider nos. 68-71

We’ve received official confirmation that our family is registered for PALM XXVIII. Whew-hoo! The paperwork recommends bringing the following items on the tour:

  • Tent
  • Rain fly
  • Sleeping bag
  • Extra clothing
  • Rain gear
  • Bike tools for normal biking emergencies
  • Bicycle lock
  • Personal hygiene articles
  • Swimsuit
  • Towel
  • Water bottle(s)
  • Sun screen

Touring alone or with other riders who are accustomed to this sort of thing is entirely different than touring with a family, especially one with children as young as ours. (They will be ages two-and-a-half and nine-months at the time of the tour.) I am interested in what those of you who have toured before, and those of you who ride regularly with kids, would add to this list (as well as any general advice you’d offer with respect to quality of life issues over the span of six days roughing it together).

Tent and rain fly go hand-in-hand, so that’s covered, and I would probably include a ground cloth also. With four of us in the tent and it being late June, I’ve been wondering about other options in lieu of bulky sleeping bags. Clothing, yes, but how much and of what sort? Would “bike tools for normal biking emergencies” entail anything more than the multi-tool and tire levers I already carry on the bike and some extra tubes? To their suggested hygiene items I’m adding aspirin or ibuprofen, Icy Hot for sore muscles, bug repellent, sunburn treatment, and Blistex.

Can anyone think of anything else? How many “creature comforts” and entertainment options will the kids need, especially with everything that will be going on during the day and around camp in the evening? Are there any tricks to make things easier when it comes to things like setting up and breaking camp, getting little ones cleaned and fed, etc.?

Even though my wife will have the car, I’m trying very hard to convince her that we can get all our gear into two standard issue Army-style duffel bags so we can dodge the temptation to take more than we need. Am I being realistic?

What about on-bike gear; on the daily rides, what do I need in the way of stowage (e.g., handlebar bag, trunk bag)? Can I get away with only my under-seat bag and jersey pockets? My under-seat bag holds my toolkit and cell phone, which leaves my pockets with a camera and snacks. But what about rain gear, cue sheets, nifty little souvenirs nabbed along the route? I want to travel as light as possible.

Lots of questions. Lots to figure out. Four months to go.

Finally (for now), I’ve got a big question for those who ride with kids: how do you deal with helmets (particularly with kids two-years-old or less), especially in colder months when they have to wear some sort of cap underneath? I tried to take my daughter for a quick ride this afternoon. She gave me two tries to get her helmet on and properly adjusted. When I was unsuccessful, she let me know in her own special way that we would be having no more of that today. Honestly, I can’t say I blame her. These helmets are such a pain in the butt to adjust, and they frequently force the kid’s head into an awkward and uncomfortable position, e.g., when they’re in a trailer. Any suggestions?


6 responses to “rider nos. 68-71

  1. Wow, that’s a big adventure! I have no advice to give, but have fun and good luck with preparations.

  2. Thanks. Yeah, it’s definitely going to be an adventure, and in more ways than one. The really cool thing about PALM, though, is that the organizers pride themselves in putting together a very family-friendly event and one that’s designed to introduce people (slowly and gently) to touring. Something like a third or more of the participants every year are first-timers.

  3. Hi. I am one of the PALM organizers and this will be my 26th year on PALM. Congratulations on getting registered for PALM! For the past few years, my job is “Mail Granny” meaning I answer the PALM phone and email. Earlier this year I corresponded with another rider who will be also trying PALM with their one year old (I am assuming this is not you). If you would like, I can put the two of you in touch and you can talk about strategies to try with very young children. I can also forward to you the email I sent her with things to think about when traveling with the very young. By the way, despite the problems with helmets, both your kids will need to wear an approved helmet whenever they are on the road in the trailer — it is absolutely required by our insurance company. Since you will have a car, you may be planning on the little one riding most of the day in the car, so this may not be an issue. You wondered about storage on the bike. Given the great possible variety in Michigan weather, most riders find it very useful to have some sort of carrying device on the bike, usually at least a rear rack. If you are pulling a trailor, you probably can stow some stuff next to the child, but you probably still want some extra carrying capacity. I think that our bike ed guy recommends bringing a pretty good assortment of bike tools, but I usually just carry tube, tire irons, and my multi-tool thing. We have two great bike repair shops that travel with us and they usually follow along near the end of the stream of riders. Anything more serious I assume that I will wait for one of them or enlist the services of a sag. We do ask private sags to stay away from the main biking route and to meet their family/friends at places where the ride intersects with other roads (or at swimming places, parks, fruit stop). We do provide a separate booklet that gives the locations of stores, fast food, playgrounds, swimming, etc. along the route. So you might want the driver to bring along a Michigan road atlas or other map source so that you can plan these rendezvous places. If you haven’t done lots of multi-day touring, you might want to bring along some “bagbalm.” for the sore places where you contact with the bike seat. Bagbalm is actually manufactured for cow udders, but is a favorite of cyclists. You can sometimes get it — in cute little green flowered cans — at drugstores but I usually get mine at an agricultural supply store in one of the local towns. You can also find it on line. Please email me at palmbiketour@yahoo.com or call the PALM number at 734-669-0172 if you have questions or concerns. See you in June!

    Ellie, PALM “Mail Granny”


  4. Hi Ellie. Thanks for stopping by the blog, and thanks especially for all the great advice. If all goes well, I’ll be chronicling both our preparations and the trip itself.

    I know the kids (and the rest of us) are required to wear helmets anytime we’re on the bike. No problem. I had no intention of doing otherwise. I was just looking for some feedback from folks on how to get the comfortable with them, especially for extended periods of time. My oldest will ride with me some days, while the youngest stays with mom in the car. However, we’re planning as a family to ride into town in the evenings for meals and such. My wife is already planning to stay clear of the tour route, but hopefully we’ll arrange to meet mid-day for lunch or at sites of interest. The extra booklet sounds like it will be tremendously helpful.

    I would absolutely love to be put in touch with the other family traveling with a one-year-old. I’ll email you separately. Maybe, if nothing else, we can camp near each other and save everyone else the grief of 2am wake-up calls!

    We are looking forward to this so much. I can hardly wait to get underway.

  5. HI scott, just wanted you to know i stopped by your blog. i look forward to checking it out

  6. Thanks for stopping by, Jen. I look forward to meeting you and your husband on the tour!