Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Where *not* to have a broken bike lock

So it's been just over 7 months, 17 states, and 2850 miles since Ollie and I hit the road. We're about half way in our round-the country loop. I've learned quite a bit about farming, cycling, and camping. I also have learned quite a bit about what is and is not "waterproof," "indestructible," or "functional." Prepare yourself for a long overdue series of rants....

Item 1: Waterproof, eh? Hardly.

Back in Pittsburgh, I bought a pair of "waterproof" cycling shoe covers at REI. It'd rained the better part of the first two weeks of my trip, so the investment seemed a wise (if pricey) one. But they were a bear to use. I swear I pulled a few muscles trying to shimmy them on every time, and then to zip them closed required the invocation of a contortionist with the patience of a monk and the strength of Samson (pre-haircut). I found that unless it was torrentially raining, I'd rather just have wet feet. This was all well and good until I began biking through SW Wisconsin at the end of September and the temperature started to drop just as the wind and rain -- that I'd been deprived of for whole days at a time during the stint in Madison -- picked up. I recall more than one occasion in Iowa and later in Washington State (aka the horizontal rain capital of the country) asking veritable strangers at campsites and folks I was staying with to help me get those blasted rain covers on. Oh, and also: once I finally had them on, they were only rain resistant, so once they were soaked through I had cold, wet feet that didn't let the moisture back out. By Eugene, I'd had enough and marched into REI. I returned them and bought neoprene socks. Like for scuba diving, yes. I've heard the material doesn't breathe, but it's waterproof and at this point, after months of biking with wet, frozen toes, I'm actually kind of looking forward to warm, sweaty feet. (Oooh, stinky. Probably doesn't make me such an appealing house guest, but I'm hoping my cooking and lively conversation outweigh the anticipated foot odor.)

Item 2: Indestructible? Ha!

Wouldn't you know it, less than a year after purchasing a brand new bike lock, the heaviest single item I've been dragging around the country, it crumbles in my hands in front of a Kinko's nowhere else but the bike stealing capital of the country: Eugene, OR. (It's true, ask any cyclist.) Luckily the nice folks at Kinko's let me store Ollie inside behind a display while I made some photocopies. The bike shop I'd bought the hefty lock from is across the country in DC, so I couldn't simply exchange it. You'd better believe I meant for the lock company to replace its faulty product, so I called them and told them as much. I don't want to get into the whole sordid tale, but I will say that I would have expected more from a "lifetime warranty." I bought a new one at REI, where words like "warranty" and "customer satisfaction" actually mean something. At least if this one breaks they will give me a new one on the spot.

Item 3: Functional? Only if today is opposite day.

I've about given up on the Verizon Navigator feature on the blackberry. Let's just call it the Windows Vista of the GPS world: it works occasionally and doesn't play well with other programs. Grrr. Good thing I picked up a book on cycling the Pacific Coast so I have a route pretty well mapped out. (Supplemented by the AAA maps you sent, dad -- thanks again!)

I'm feeling pretty good about things in general, in spite of the aforementioned product failures, and am really looking forward to exploring coastal Oregon and California in coming weeks. And if you're curious about how the neoprene socks are working out, rest assured that there will be an update (on the waterproof effectiveness as well as the stink factor -- all the better to keep curious marauding animals away from my tent at night, I say.)

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry


  1. Neoprene is awesome at waterproofingness, but it is very warm and doesn't breathe. Great for standing in trout streams in February, but I'm not so sure about biking in.

  2. Only a card carrying REI member for two weeks and already a spokesperson, eh?

    Neoprene SCUBA wetsuits keep you pretty dry, as long as you don't have to pee. Then waterproofing is a problem. (and comeon, as soon as you properly hydradte yourself, then zip up in a constricting suit and jump in the ocean for an hour, I'm just sayin')


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