Gear Shed

Q:

Which GPS will allow family to track a cross-country bike trip?

My son is cycling the Lower 48 starting on January 1, and I would like some way to keep up with him. Is there a GPS unit that can accomplish this? Karen Atlanta, Georgia

iPhone     Photo: courtesy, Apple

Apple iPhone

iPhone

A:Mom, I understand your angst. But here’s my advice: Relax a little. I assume your son is a competent cyclist, or else he would not be attempting such an ambitious…uh, wait. Did I read this right? January? As in, the month that follows December?

You cannot bicycle cross-country in January. Not even if you do the Florida-San Diego route, via Mexico. There’s too much chance for lousy, cold, snowy weather, not to mention the lack of daylight. Did I comment on the snowy weather? And the lack of daylight? Seriously, I don’t think anybody in their right mind tries this before May. It’s simply too hard on its own, without adding the impediment of having the weather gods all arrayed against you.

So once you get him to agree to a May start, then we can talk. My own feeling is that a good wireless phone and charger is more than adequate. Get him an Apple iPhone ($199 with contract)—it’s cool and it has e-mail, maps, and GPS. He calls every day at 6 p.m. or you promise to hunt him down. You are Mom, he will listen.

Other advice: Buy a copy of Barbara Siegert’s Bicycle Across America ($14), a good guide to this trek. Get him a BOB trailer ($329), which will work much better than using saddlebags (a.k.a. panniers). Make sure he has lights…lots of lights. Otherwise, he’s young and there’s not much he can’t endure. But have a one-way plane ticket stashed somewhere. Many a strong person has bailed on this effort.

Otherwise, let him go. Bicycle accidents actually are quite rare. This is safer than sending him cross-country in a Ford Mustang. But dear Lord, not in January!

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