I ordered two final items last week that I hope will prove to be very useful throughout the next three months. I've decided to add a large handlebar bag as an attempt to make some of my items more readily available (camera, maps, cell phone, candy bars). I also purchased a sleeping pad to make getting up in the morning a little less painless. The handlebar bag is made by Banjo Brothers out of Minneapolis (probably my favorite city in the Union outside of NE Ohio). The plastic mounting bracket that came with the bag did not fit properly but wrapping a steel wire around the stem and handlebar appears to keep everything place. What I'm hoping to be my favorite part of the new addition is the spot to hold a map. There's a plastic sleeve right on top that's perfect for inserting directions, allowing me to keep my hands on the bike and the bike on the road. Coincidentally, when I mentioned to my dad that I had picked up a handlebar bag, he spoke high praises of one he had used to bike to Toronto decades earlier. It's looking like I made a good investment.
As for the sleeping pad, I was apprehensive about bringing anything inflatable, susceptible to puncture. A month earlier I had read a review by a guy who had completed a cross country bike trip. He had purchased a $100+ air mattress, only for it to be rendered unusable three days into the trip, relegating him to the ground for the remainder.
I found my solution in the form of a closed cell pad (no air). Although less comfortable than an air mattress or open cell pad I'm hoping it'll provide enough cushion to make it easier to get up in the morning. The Z-Lite packs rectangularly, and even though it is very bulky at 20 inches in width (the widest part of my bike), it weighs in at just under a pound.