Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The moped diaries, part 2

Last fall, when I began to seriously formulate the plan for the walk, gasoline prices were in the midst of a precipitous drop, bottoming out at below $1.50 a gallon, so I wasn't thinking too much about saving money on fuel. But as the time got shorter I started to think in terms of how much the whole trip was going to cost, and just about then the price of gas started to go up again. I've never been much of an optimist, so I figured maybe it would be up around $3.50 or $4.00 a gallon by the time the walk started. With that in mind, I started doing some rough calculations, and was kind of shocked when I realized how much gas the motor home would suck down.

In the idea's infancy, the trip was going to involve a small van-sized motor home, just big enough to stretch out in, along with the fuel-sipping moped. Then my wife and I bought the 29-foot job we have now, mostly because the price was right. I'm glad my original vision didn't pan out, because the motor home I have now is great--all the comforts of home, including a queen-sized bed, kitchen, bathroom, shower, eating area, and tons of storage space. (Sounds like I'm trying to sell the thing, doesn't it? Well, make me an offer. When this is over I'll probably never want to see it again.) Living in it after a long day of walking won't seem too much like roughing it, especially with the TV, computer, and sound system. But it is a gas hog.

So I started thinking about taking my car along, to cut down on the miles I otherwise would have to put on the motor home. (As I mentioned, under my master plan, for every mile I walked, other vehicles would have to traverse the same distance four times, so 100 miles of walking would require 400 miles of driving/mopedding/biking.) I then decided to obtain a towing dolly, figuring that I'd save enough in gas during the course of the trip to pay for the dolly several times. But to make the car work as a substitute for the motor home, I would also need to use the moped or something like it.

Well, the moped is history. But I still have my trusty bicycle, a venerable but sturdy and lightweight Panasonic 10-speed, which my son-in-law Mario bought for five bucks at a garage sale. (Who even knew Panasonic made bicycles?) At first I didn't really want to pedal from the motor home to the beginning of my walks, because that would be the first thing I did in the morning, and I'd get to the beginning of the walk already having taken a fairly long bike ride. But now that there's no moped, I'm starting to warm to the idea, and have started taking 20 mile rides, to get used to doing that distance in an hour and a half to two hours without being exhausted. (I don't walk fast, and I don't bike fast.)

Here's how the cost savings of using the bike in conjunction with the car and the motor home would work. Right now at the gas station down the street from me the price is $2.51 a gallon. But as I said, I'm not an optimist. So let's suppose the price this fall averages $2.75.

If I use only the car and the motor home, for every 20 miles I walk, I will have to drive the car 20 miles (taking me back every day from the motor home, at the end point of the walk, to the beginning point of the walk). In addition, I'll have to drive the motor home 60 miles (20 miles back at the end of the walk to get the car, 20 miles forward to the end point of the walk, and 20 miles beyond that to the end point of the next walk). So if I walk 100 miles in a week, I'll drive the car 100 miles (at 30-35 mpg) and use 3 gallons of gas, and drive the motor home 300 miles (at 7.5 mpg) and use 40 gallons. That's a total of 43 gallons of gas for every 100 miles walked, which will cost about $118.

On the other hand, if I use the bicycle, the car, and the motor home, for every 20 miles I walk, I will have to ride the bike 20 miles (taking me back every day from the motor home to the beginning point of the walk), the car 40 miles (20 miles back at the end of the walk to get the bike, and 20 miles forward to the end point of the walk), and the motor home 20 miles to the end point of the next walk. For every 100 miles of walking, I'll drive the car 200 miles and use 6 gallons of gas, and drive the motor home 100 miles and use about 13 gallons, for a total of 19 gallons, which will cost about $52.

Using the bike, then, would save $66 for every 100 miles walked. Projected over the entire walk, that's a savings of probably $2000, and even more if the price of gas spikes again. Not an inconsiderable sum, especially in light of all the other anticipated costs. Such as what, you ask? Well, there's food, laundry, and gas to run the motor home's generator while I'm parked (a few hours each night, at one-half to one gallon per hour), and propane for the motor home's furnace, refrigerator, and hot water heater, and the cost of the occasional stay in a campground to fill up on water and dump the tanks, and other things I haven't thought of yet. Not to mention irregular costs like repairs to all this mobile infrastructure.

Okay, your eyes are glazed over from all those numbers. I know mine are. And you're thinking, "If you really want to save money and gas, why don't you just stay home?" Good point. And it might well be that the first (or second or third) time I find myself riding my bicycle 20 miles uphill into a headwind, with my prostate begging for mercy, just so I can get to the place where I will begin a long day's walk, I'll start thinking that $66 a week is a small price to pay for a little extra speed and comfort.

But for now, I'm looking forward to using the bicycle.


rmbikes said...

Pete, I know a couple things about riding bicycles so I will make some suggestions. The comfort for your prostate may depend on your position on the bike, and how much your ass likes the saddle. If you sit more upright (handlebars up and back relative to the saddle) it could put more pressure on that prostate. With the bars more forward it takes weight off the pressure points of your rear end. It may be wise to take your bike to a good bike shop and have someone assess how your position is. You likely do not want to be sitting like Lance but small changes can make big differences. There are many brands of very comfortable saddles, but you do not want to make a change without spending some time in the saddle. Generally lots of padding is not as good as shape and flex. Many saddles have cutouts in various places and many riders ( male and female) find these quite comfortable. Some shops have demo seats so you can try before buying.
Make sure you do not neglect hydration and nutrition before/during/after the biking portion. The cycling world has many concoctions of these things that are handy to carry and quickly offer nourishment. You wouldn't want to start your walk already "in the hole".
Many tire companies make a durable tire that is much more resistant to punctures than the average tire. You will want to have a tire/tube repair kit on the bike. It doesn't seem likely you could cross the country and get no flats. Carry a pump and/or a CO2 cartridge to fill up those flats. Plus check that tire pressure often. Proper inflation pressure means less rolling resistance means less tired rider.
You may know all these things, but I didn't want to miss mentioning something you may not have thought of. Let me know if there are biking questions you may have. I wish I could figure out a way to hook up for part of the journey----hhmmm. Randy

Linda Moses said...

Why don't you take Randy with you? You could get a tandem bike. Randy can do the hard part and you can watch the scenery (you can sit in the front seat.). You can buy a hot air balloon, which you can tow in a Burley behind the bike. When you reach point A of the day's walk, put Randy and the tandem in the hot air balloon. Randy and the bike (in the hot air balloon) will follow you on your walk, and meet you at the end of the day for a nice cup of decaf. Thoughts? Linda Moses

Peter Teeuwissen said...


Randy said...


Doug Keeslar said...

So as not to be dependent on the vagaries of wind direction the hot air balloon should actually be dirigible but that would mean an additional gas requirement which could easily be met by buyin a goat, an entrenching tool, a bushel basket and a methane collector/compressor. When you were still thinking about a moped, I had envisioned the goat sitting in a sidecar with the wind in its hair as whirred down the highway but I am sure that the dirigible will be even more fun for the goat and Randy will have something to talk to while you are afoot grinding out the miles solo each day. The three of you would likely become inseparable and you should set aside some time at the victory dinner for capricious comments. I understand that goats don't actually eat tin cans as is widely believed but only chew off the labels to get at the salt from the sweat of human handling, so I guess you will have to be careful about what you touch along the way. I would suggest that you wear gloves if you need to change a tire. etc.