November 2015
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Day November 20, 2015

route planning

So here’s how it goes in advance of a new country, or at anytime my route plan has finished.

I usually plan in various levels of detail.

First, an overall country plan. Which border in, which border out. Overall route that connects things we want to see, in loose terms. Calculate mileage estimate vs days on visa. Get an idea of where to shop for insurance after entry. Then we plan out as many days, in detail, as makes us comfortable. Being comfortable with life, no matter the circumstances, is the constant goal on a long ride and planning is the obvious, if only partial, solution. If the country is ‘difficult’ like Bolivia we might have a detailed rolling 5 day plan. If it’s easy like Australia we might just have a loose big picture plan then take it day-by-day.

So Laos for example is somewhere in the middle. Not hard, but needing some thought. I don’t have a table in my room where I’m staying, so this is how it looks
DSC03044

Maps. I buy the ITM maps for countries ahead whenever I can find them. I bought a handful when I was back in Vancouver. Then I have something to look at well in advance. But over the last few years I’ve found out that local maps are nearly always better. So here I have 3. I compare them, write notes on the best of them and throw the other 2 out. My paper map will be my Bible and will sit in my tank bag window. I’ll pull it out when I meet someone who knows more than I do and write more notes on it.

Right now in the photo I’m almost at that stage and I’m┬ácomparing the quality of my recently downloaded new OSM country map for my GPS with the best of the three paper ones. Then I start planning the first few days (in the case of Laos, 3, not easy, not hard) and enter the hard data into Basecamp and transfer it to the Montana.

I have Google Earth running on one of my iPad minis so I can see the geography of my route. On the second mini, here beside the PC screen, I’m watching a movie. I like to watch downloaded movies when I’m working.

I’m also mentally going through if I need any gear or supplies than may be needed or that I’m running low on and get this sorted before I head off. For instance I haven’t been able to buy Laos Kip, their currency, here in Chiang Mai. So I had to go top up my US dollars, knowing that will work until I can find them. In the back of my mind I’m thinking there might be a hawker at the border.

When all this is done I’ll head down to the bike and repack the panniers. They’re never organized after a few weeks riding and I like everything to be close to perfect before heading off.

But perhaps the biggest thing is assessing Lucinda’s service and tire needs. As it happens Chiang Mai was a good spot for a regular service, so that’s done. I’ve been keen and had 2 sets of tires shipped here a couple of months ago. A set of Heidenaus for China and to remount for Myanmar and into India, where I’ll need to think ahead again. Plus a set of Karoo 3’s (TKC 80’s unavailable in Bangkok) for Laos/Cambodia for the dirt, which I’ve had mounted. I’ve got a spare air filter and a quart of oil. I’ve mentally processed that my nearest mechanic will be Phnom Penh, about 6 weeks (?) down the track, should I need something. So that’s done.

I’ll wash my suit if I can find a place with a bath. Unfortunately, not this time. So I’ll head off a bit stinky, but not horrendous.

So it’s all of this stuff. I really enjoy it. But blended with the enjoyment of the process, unique to each rider, is a constant background feeling which can be anything from happy anticipation to apprehension. For instance, I was apprehensive about Indonesia. There have been so many bad stories and unhappy endings. But it was fine, thanks to Lucinda’s ‘alert/responsive’ nature. Now the background feeling is slight nervousness that the dirt tracks I have in my plan might not be dried out, ie mud, after rainy season, which I’ve been warned about. So we’ll adapt the route as we go depending on conditions.

Bye for now.