Planning is such a fun part of any adventure and I really enjoy doing it! I like to plan, and to have a clear plan of action, plus, I like to know what I’m going to be doing and when I need to do it by. For me personally I work well with having a structure in place.
I really want to share more about this aspect of planning with you , so you can see how I take the idea, and what steps I take to turn it into a reality.
Where to start with the planning?
I start with google! Literally tying in ‘Pacific Coast Highway’ and ‘Baja Divide’. I then start reading, browsing websites, reading blog posts, watching youtube videos, etc, seeing which books come up over and over again, as well as any other pieces advice that I need to be aware of e.g. the best type of tyres for the Baja Divide, need to be about 3 inches due to the sand, the 101 Highway on the Big Sur, has been closed due to a mud slide which I was not aware of! This could potentially add a 100 mile detour to a 3 mile stretch of road, but I’ve also read they are looking to fix it in the Summer of 2018, so fingers crossed when I pass through it will have been cleared.
A lot of people recommending getting ‘Cycling the Pacific Coast' By Bill Thorness.
I do like having a physical copy of a guide book, especially one which has maps, route plans etc. I don’t read it cover to cover, but I do flick through and it helps me to plan various sections. I will also go through the book and break it down into further sections, e.g. distances covered, each states. This is part of my process of chunking it down and turning it into smaller and smaller challenges, so I don’t get overwhelmed by how big a challenge it is!
Having a start date.
This is the deadline date, this is the date I need to work towards to make sure I have everything ready. This is my D day. I have also found having a countdown clock useful as well. I have added this onto my website, so I can always quickly check to see how long I have to go. It really does give you added motivation!
I picked the 4th September as my start date, as that is when I could get the cheapest flights out to Vancouver! The first thing I did was book my flight which cost £230 from Manchester. Which I think is an amazing price for such a long journey!
With that in mind. I need to give myself a few days in Vancouver to explore and look around, do any final bits of preparation as well as to get over jet lag. I always think it’s important to have a few rest days as well, before starting a challenge, so you’re not going straight into it. I do this, because I know in the run up to the challenge, I’m going to be so busy getting everything ready, I will need to take some time to decompress and also to ensure my body is rested before I start a physical challenge.
I plan on starting the challenge on the 10th September, as I like synchronicities. This was the day I finished the Appalachian Trail in 2017 (also my birthday!), so I think it’s pretty awesome to start my next challenge on this date. I picked a start time of 10am (as it’s the 10th), and also I wanted to start after all the morning commuter traffic had been done, so the roads won’t be as busy!
Once the deadline date is set and I know what the goal is - I share it on social media. In this case I did a short video for youtube, which I then shared across all my social media platforms.
You can watch the launch video here:
This does two things, it keeps people updated about the challenge and what I’m going to be doing, and it allows them to be a part of the journey, and for people to follow along from the start. So they get inspired and invested in the journey, while also learning about the steps which need to be taken.
I’ve also found, people are incredible helpful and knowledgeable, and they want to help you achieve your goals. I’ve already had three people reach out with places to stay, two offers to pay for a meal out when I reach certain points. I’ve also been recommended youtube channels to watch and other people to follow who have been on this journey.
I’ve also found out - I’ve been pronouncing Baja wrong!! It’s meant to sound like - Bahaa not Baja!!
With advice and information there is a lot of it out there, and I know now it’s not about listening to everything. It’s about picking and choosing what’s going to work for me. I’ve done challenges before where I’ve been overwhelmed trying to follow all the advice, now I am so much more aware of how I work, what works well for me, and what I need to do to prepare myself to get ready for a challenge like this. I think this is something that comes with time and experience. Plus it’s good to remember there is no one way of doing a challenge like this.
Having a Rough Plan/Outline
I have a set start date and end date (these do not change, no matter what. I also book my flights to give myself added motivation). Once these dates are locked down, I then create a very rough guidelines over what I need to do in that time (basically breaking down the challenge again into smaller chunks/sections). However, you can never plan 100% so you need to have flexibility.
I’ve broken this challenge into 2 parts*:
Part 1 - Leave Vancouver on the 10th September - spend 45 days (Approx) travelling down to San Diego via the Pacific Coast Highway.
Part 2 - Travel from San Diego to Mexico via the Baja Divide. Approx. start date either 24th October or 1st November
*There is some flexibility in my plan with regards to how long each section will take. By starting part 2 by the 1st November this should give me enough time to get to the finish line by the 10th December, before my flight home (which I still need to book)
It will take me about 2 weeks to get my ‘bike legs’ and to build up the fitness I will need, as well as giving my body time to adapt to riding the bike. I also want to make sure I get to stop off and see some of the sights on the way. Then if I am pushed for time, later on in the trip, I will more easily be able to do the long distance, and increase the mileage to ensure I complete the trip in the timeframe. I plan to be away for about 90 odd days.
What do I need to do next.
The next items are all what I would call big ticket items which are essential for the trip and are going to cost me a fair amount. These are the foundation pieces which I need to get in place before I can start looking at next steps - such as the logistics, and equipment (e.g. getting a bike!, figuring out if I need a tent?, will it be possible to get a drone?!)
To Do List
Research and pay for insurance
Sort out visa for Canada & Mexico (or just understand what the process is e.g. do I need to pay cash at the border etc)
Closest airport and rough costs of flights back to UK - book flight home in time for graduation (12th December).
Insurance - I would never do any challenge with out insurance. It’s just stupid not to have this in place. You obviously hope you never need to use it. But you have to have it. Going to America, it is so important to get insurance, they don’t have the good old NHS!
I have used Global Link Travel insurance before for my Appalachian Trail challenge and although I have never needed to use them, they are the best value I have been able to find for physical long distance hiking challenges. However, they don’t cover bike-packing, which is really frustrating as I now need to do more research to find out which company is going to give me the best cover at the best price.
Visas - I need to double check what the visa requirements are for Canada, I already have a visa for America and I need to check what the visa requirement are for Mexico. As I’m a British passport holder I am very fortunate that getting visa’s are not really problem (or it shouldn’t be!). It’s good to know this in advance, it makes me feel more comfortable knowing what the process is and what/if any preparation I need to do.
Flights - Flight to Vancouver has been booked and paid for (£230 - bargain!). I need to be back in the UK for my Master Graduation which is happening on the 12th December. So ideally I need to fly back around the 10th (which fits will with synchronicities - as I started on the 10th!). I need to research the closest airport to the finish and work out the approx. cost for a flight back to the UK, so I can start saving for this now. I also need to see what other ways there are of travelling back. e.g. Is is cheaper for me to fly back from LA - or is there another airport I should fly to before getting a connecting flight back home.
Once the above has been completed, I’ll then start looking at the following in more detail.
Getting my knee sorted
Figuring out which bike?
What to see? Where to stop on the way?
Building up contacts of who to stay with?
Tribe meet ups?
Promotion and Social media?