With a little less than three weeks to my departure date for Punta Arenas, Chile, I am feeling confident and prepared as well as completely overwhelmed for the Cycle South Expedition. Thinking about all the tasks that need to be completed before my departure in December, makes my mind reel and my stomach churn. For an adventure like this, planning and preparation are key - yet it's hard to pin down one specific component as 'the most important' prior to leaving. Training, gear testing, menu planning and more are all integral pieces and require equal amounts of time.
Bike-wise things are progressing nicely - albeit a little down to the wire. Alex from A-Train Cycles built a beautiful custom front and rear rack that will nearly double my ability to carry gear and supplies. Surly sent a loaner Moonlander to Alex which is now at Granite Gear in northern Minnesota where they are building a new set of lightweight, large volume polar bike panniers. Eric Parsons from Revelate Designs is also helping out which is much appreciate as well. Andy at Surly also sent the new Bud and Lou tires - which at 4.8" should be just the ticket I need for extra traction and float on the Antarctic snow. Thule is chipping in a hard travel case which should make transportation to the ice easier.
Menu planning has hit a bit of a stale mate as I haven't been able to place an order with Mountain House yet. This is a relatively critical detail as I am planning on eating freeze dried dinners for both breakfast and dinner. Previously, I've made my own special high energy super oatmeal, but after months on the ice, I don't think I can stomach another bite so it's dinner for breakfast this year. I want to cut down on my food volume as well so I will be blending all my freeze dried food into a powder then doling it into individual meal bags. Basically that means, dinner one night will be lasagna mush or beef stew mush - not much different than the original non blended version but as space is critical this will be an important step in packing. The Clif bar fairy arrived again which is timely as I will eat roughly 5-6 Clif products per day. The key now will be getting the Clif MOJO bars through customs (no imported nuts in Chile!?!). Last on the food front is the hard candy that Skratch Labs is making for my trip. More details on that at a later date.
On the gear front, I left Minnesota with a new Ergodyne duffel full of gear that I am in the process of sorting. Shelter-wise, I'm taking a tent that I have not previously used in Antarctica but I am confident in it's durability. I'll be using a Hilleberg Akto which is a one pole, one person tent. I wanted a small tent to conserve heat. Even though a two person tent is only slightly heavier, the larger footprint creates more open space that is not covered by a sleeping pad; and therefore, lowers the overall tent temperature inside. I've got a new clothing sponsor, Bergans who by all accounts makes the best polar gear in the world - hands down. Their gear has been a staple for most of my polar heros for quite some time.
Tim at WebExpeditions has been furiously twisting time and cyber space to ensure that I can update remotely my web site and social media from Antarctica. I dropped the RoadPost Iridium Satellite phone for him to test with a the new Iridium AccessPoint which will provide a wireless connection to my iPhone. Crazy. But also pretty cool. Tim, who will also be flying down to Punta Arenas with me, has been updating a series of 'To Do' lists which seem to grow ever bigger (instead of the opposite) by the day. Besides finalizing our the expedition web site design, Tim is integrating tracking with DeLorme's inReach beacon (seriously one of the coolest pieces of gear I've ever used).
One thing I haven't been worried about is the Antarctic weather. There's nothing I can do about it - so it really is pointless to worry. I'm scheduled to fly from Punta Arenas, Chile to Antarctica on December 17th and then land on a 5 kilometer Blue Ice Runway - essentially an undulating glacier - at ALE's Union Glacier Camp. Wind and visibility can be a problem for landings here and two years ago flights were delayed for nearly two weeks due to weather. For me, that would be an expedition ender. I'm already running on a pretty tight timeline. That said, once I'm in Antarctica, whatever weather is fine with me. Whiteouts are problematic but after that I pretty much count on it being cold and windy. Everything else is pretty much gravy.
Throughout all this, I've been getting some solid training in which I'm pretty psyched about. I've been feeling strong despite a significant lack of sleep due to the new addition to our family. Merritt is two months old now and we have given up all hope that he will sleep through the night.