Glenn Charles

Adventurer | Photographer | Connector

Today I am a Time Traveler with a Camera... Tomorrow, who knows

The Art of Camping

I am often asked how it is that I manage to find a spot to camp each night as I travel the roads and waterways of the US and Canada. My answer is almost always the same, there is always a small piece of scruff land on which to make camp or the kindness of a stranger who is willing to open their home or yard to a wayward traveler. These are of course broad generalizations so I thought I would break down my philosophy and approach to the task of nightly camping into a little more detail.

 

First, I have to lay out a few rules that I have chosen to follow and rarely do I find that I am forced to break any of them. If land is posted then I respect the posting and don't camp there. If the land is fenced, then that is an implicit posting and I don't cross the line. I have traveled enough now to know that if someone really does not want you on their property it is either fenced, posted, or both. Therefore, if those don't exist I consider the land fair game for low impact, in and out camping.

 

To me, low impact in and out camping, what some call 'Stealth Camping', means that I am not going to cut down trees, or build fires, or do any other kind of damage to the land on which I sleep. What I am going to do is leave absolutely no trace that I was ever there. I think that this is very important for the traveler as it sets the precedent that we respect the land and respect that it has remained un-posted and available for use. Lastly, as for rules, it is critical to know if there are local rules that may explicitly bar you from a certain area or a certain type of land. A good example of this is say Maine, where the islands actually belong to people and that ownership goes all the way down to the water. This makes all islands by default off-limits unless specifically stated otherwise. In Canada, the line from the waters edge to the high water mark belongs to the Crown, and is thus available for public use.

 

So, with rules in place, , how do I go about finding a place to stay. I think that for me, the approach or strategy is different for the types of locations that I am traveling through. If you are in the complete wilderness, such as the Inside Passage, the act of camping is easy, just find a place and camp, it is almost all pure wilderness and national park. However, traveling through populated areas it could be broken down into Rural, Urban, and Suburban areas.

 

The first part of my camping strategy lies in my daily route planning. Unless I have a pre-arranged place to stay, I always try and work my day such that I don't end up in a city or town during the camping hours. Camping hours for me are generally about an hour or two before darkness, so that is when I begin my search for an acceptable place to stay. I personally have a difficult time with camping in very populated Urban areas, so I attempt to avoid them at all costs. Not paying attention to your map and daylight is a great way to find yourself in a densely populated area struggling to find a place to sleep.

 

However, should you find that the day is coming to a close, and you can not make it through a heavily populated area, then my top choices are fire departments and then churches. Local establishments make for great places to gather intelligence on where you might stay or who might be willing to host you. Taking the time to stop and ask about locations generally provides you with either a safe place to stay or even offers of support. Strangely enough, asking for permission to camp on someones land generally has not worked well for me, so I choose the old adage of begging forgiveness rather than asking permission. In the event that nothing comes of asking, I have found that the edges of the town are much less populated and offer good opportunities to stay behind old buildings or establishments. Getting to these after dark and leaving before light is sure to minimize the chance of any type of confrontation.

 

For both Rural and Suburban areas I maintain that there is always a piece of land to sleep on. My favorite location is pure woods, especially those that have no homes or establishments anywhere near by. It is amazing how in tune dogs are to strangers in the area and there is nothing worse than knowing that you are the cause of that dog's incessant barking. Making sure there is a good amount of distance between you and anyone else really helps with any feeling of angst you might have.

 

Second, in the event that pure woods don't exist, there is almost always a stretch of land, generally wooded, that serves as a buffer between roads and utility lines. Most people don't like the sight of power lines, thus these buffers work great at buffering the utility lines and the camper from the roadside sight line. In addition, the utility companies need to get to the lines, so there is most likely a cleared area that works perfect for camping as well as some easy access point for you and your bike. I would say that I camp at places like this more than half of the time, unless I am in extremely sparsely populated areas.

 

The other option in rural/suburban areas are small pockets of woods that have a dense layer of foliage on the road side, often found between communities or industrial developments. Finding these pockets enables you to get back into the woods and have a good sight buffer between your camp and cars that are passing by. I often look for game trails that have been worn into the woods because these almost always serve as good entry and exit paths for myself and the bike. Animals are generally wary of humans so these paths are often at locations that don't have large numbers of people surrounding them, thus making excellent sites for camping.

 

The real trick to all of this is to be patient and be confident that a good place to sleep always exists. You must also develop a feeling of comfort, and trust in this feeling, so that when you find a location that does not feel right, you are willing to pass on it. I think that this is critical to finding safe and secure camp sites because you really learn to develop a good instinct about locations and their viability as a safe and secure place to sleep.

 

Stealth camping often gets a bad rap on the internet as something dirty or illegal. I think that we all have the right to travel and that there should be legitimate options for camping in the wild, even if that means areas that are populated. The current price of staying in state parks is around $17-$24 a night, which is just an unreasonable amount for any long distance, low budget traveller to afford, especially those under human power. In the US, we also don't have a network of hostels or other low budget options available to us, so we are therefore forced to either spend large amounts of money for nightly lodging or to look for viable low impact alternatives that allow us to travel on very small budgets. I don't need amenities each night, just a simple place to lay out my tent, bivy, or hammock; cook my simple dinner and breakfast; and get a good nights rest.

 

My top locations:

  • Pine Forest Woods

  • Small pockets of dense woods

  • Utility lines with good buffers between the lines and the road

  • Volunteer Fire Departments (power and water can often be found here)

  • Churches (power and water can often be found here)

  • USFS/NFS primitive camp sites (generally these are free or 4-5 dollars/night)

  • Asking in very small towns if camping in town parks is ok

  • Buildings on the outskirts of towns that are vacant with ground behind them and limited lighting



Austin Texas

After hiding out from the cold weather with my father, I have finally made it to Austin Texas.  I have wanted to see Austin for a good 10 or more years, so I am totally stoked to finally be here for a few days.  I am in the process of getting the bike modified to better handle the gearing required of the upcoming mountains.  My layover will give me a chance to see the city and do some updating to the site.

Already I have posted a review of Cohill's Inn, a very special place located in the Northeastern most part of the US.  If you are looking for a place to launch your summer adventure vacation, then Cohill's is the place to stay.

I have also begun updating my galleries to help visually tell the story of my travels around North America.  One of the most recent updates is a running gallery of images intended to showcase the often unseen side of America.  The Adventure Cycling routes that criss-cross the US do a great job of guiding the cyclist through some of the more well known areas, but also through beautiful back roads that may be even more indicative of what is 'True' America.  My hope is that these images will inspire you to get out and explore this beautiful country that we call America.

Cane Creek SCR-5C Levers

I got the call today that these levers are in.  I am hopefully optimistic that this will solve my issues.  For anyone contemplating the same setup I can emphatically say that Tektro 520 levers and the BB7 Road Disc brakes DO NOT work.  There is absolutely no stopping power at all, and is in fact more like mush.  One simply squeezes hard and prays that the bike slows down in time.... I will install the new levers tomorrow and if all goes well I set out on Jan 2, 2011.  Like all things in my life the delay was a wonderful gift that allowed me to spend some beautiful time with my family and my two adorable nephews.

Bike Repaired & Ready to go

I picked up my Fargo from the folks over at Bicycle Outfitters and everything was ready to roll.  We had to swap out the handlebars for a set of Salsa Woodchippers; we switched from hydraulic disc brakes to mechanical disc brakes, largely because the hydraulic levers would not fit on the Woodchippers; and lastly we had to fix the bottom bracket that I damaged during last weeks training rides.

Needless to say, I feel like I have a completely different bike than the one I dropped off at the shop a week ago.  I love the feel of the Woodchippers and think they are really going to be great.  Clearly Salsa built the bike with those handlebars in mind because they just fit.  The jury is still out on the swap of the brakes.  I loved the hydraulic brakes as they really stopped the bike.  The switch to mechanical Avid BB-7 and Tektro levers requires a bit more effort to actuate the brakes. I am sure I will get used to them and adjust accordingly, but for now, I really preferred the hydraulics.

The repaired bottom bracket is so smooth, I guess in hindsight I should have known that something was wrong.  But, I have been away from biking for a while, so it just did not register that things were not quite right.  Needless to say, Bicycle Outfitters did an amazing job fixing things up and taking care of me.  I can't recommend them enough, really a great shop. Thanks Chris, Richard, Rob, Adam, Glen, and the rest of the crew.

The final touch was to adjust the positioning of the bars and then buy some tape and install wrap the bars.  I don't have any bike gloves so I decided to go with gel padded tape.  I like the tape and the gel, but went a little crazy on my choice of colors.  The B.O.B. trailer skin that is being designed has a lot of green in it, so I thought some green tape would really go with the overall color scheme of things.  Well, I think it is a we bit bright, but there is nothing I can do about it now.  So, I will treat it as one more safety measure, because it is so bright, you can't miss the bike now.  It almost seems to glow in the dark!

One week to go, and I am down to training rides and last minute packing and route planning.  My ACA maps arrived last week so I have some time to begin reviewing the details of the route.  I think the only issue is the weather, which appears to be building up to a cold winter throughout the country, somthing that I am not really looking forward to.  Last winter was so cold paddling through the Atlantic that I was hoping for a warmer time of it this year.  Who knows how it will play out, but it has already been a very cold December.

6 days and counting....

 

More Free Images

I uploaded more images today from my travels through Everglades NationalPark. As before, these images have been resized to fit modern day smartphones, so download images and have some really cool backgrounds and screensavers that remind you of how beautiful Mother Earth is!

The Waiting

Salsa FargoWaiting to start is always the hardest part of initiating any long distance trip, let alone one done by human power.  So, here I find myself patiently waiting, and waiting, and waiting, for the call from my LBS telling me the replacement part has arrived and the bike is fixed.  I have been ready to go for two weeks now, but one thing after another has come; each time pushing back my start date. 

The latest set-back was the destruction of the bearings in my bottom bracket.  I am still not sure how this happened, but in my Zen like way, when informed of the damage, I did not ask why, or how, but instead evaluated my options and moved forward.  The decision, replace the bearings, which needed to be shipped in from Minnesota, and would thus push me back another week.  Little did I know that the North would get hammered by snow, including Minnesota thus possibly further delaying my start and truly testing my inner peace.

I do realize that nothing is going anywhere.  The road will still be there, the flats will still be flat and the hills will still be hilly.  I realize this at a conscious level, but subconsciously there is that feeling of angst that wants to creep up each day and invade my spirit.  If left to its own volition, it would rise up and cause me to fret all day long about the part, the repair and the delay -- things that I obviously have no control over.  However, being me, and having now done this for two and half years, I realize that I can't do anything to speed up this process.  It must unfold at its own pace, and so, I breathe and patiently await the phone call, the one telling me I am ready to go.

The delay has not only pushed back my start date, but also my plans for New Years.  It had been my intention to make it to the lovely city of New Orleans for New Years, a city that I adore and just love to visit.  With the delay, there is simply no way that I will make it to New Orleans, so I will stick to the standard ACA route and just see where I end up.  A huge part of the journey for me is just travelling, with as few plans as possible.

Glacier Bay When I did the Inside Passage, my first long distance solo trip, I had everything laid out.  I mean, I knew where I was going to camp each night, when I would arrive in cities, and where packages would be mailed.  For my first trip of that magnitude, I think that level of planning was appropriate.  It eliminated a one set of angst and  created another.  You see, I find that when you make that level of plan, your daily routine becomes one of chasing the plan.  You wake up thinking ok, I have to get out by such and such a time in order to get from location A to location B.  You feel stress over anything that gets in the way of executing that plan, and I think to a great extent, you then miss things.  I know for the Inside Passage, there were places that I really should have just lingered and explored, but I didn't because I was focused on my plan.  Next time up the IP I won't make that choice.

For the Atlantic Odyssey, my 3000 mile paddle up the Atlantic Ocean, I took the exact opposite tack.  I had absolutely no plans at all.  I woke each day and paddled however far I wanted to paddle.  When I found interesting locations, I lingered and took my time.  When I needed something mailed to me, I simply looked a week ahead of time and had the items shipped. Traveling this way made the trip much more flexible, relaxing and enjoyable.Georgia barrier islands - remote campsite

For the upcoming Bike Around America tour, 11000 miles plus,  I find that I will split the difference.  Since so many roads in the US are not bike friendly, I must rely to a large extent on the ACA maps.  These great folks have spent a good deal of time mapping out routes across and around the country that are as bike friendly as is possible.  So I will mainly stick to these routes, thus committing to some form of a plan.  However, in honour of the 'no plan' way of travel, I won't worry about mileage or destinations. I won't sweat not knowing where I will stay each night, just having complete faith that Spirit will help me out, guiding me along, and showing me the way. 

And so, here I sit, waiting for the call, completely packed and ready to go.  I look forward to the road, it is a calming, dynamic, and exciting place.  Seeing the world by bike will be such a completely different experience than viewing it for sea level in an 18 foot kayak.  Needless to say I am stoked and look forward to sharing not only the imagery of the trip, but the personal dynamics of long distance travel. 

Happy Holidays

Inspiration in a Bottle

One of my favorite companies, Lululemon Athletica has these really cool water bottles in house.  They come in different colors and sizes and all have a unique message.  While I love them all, and want one of each for my tour, the purple one with inspiring messages on it is my favorite.  What a great thing to carry with you as a daily reminder of that which is so important.  Not only are you helping the environment by not drinking out of plastic water bottles, but all you have to do is look at the bottle and be reminded of what is really important in life.  Great job Lululemon, you are an inspiring company!

Final Shakedown

Courtesy of DaveI did my final shakedown with the bike the past two days.  A 58 mile pedal up to my friend Dave's house went really well.  I am lucky to have the flats of Florida to start out in as pedaling the single speed pulling a B.O.B trailer is going to be a real challenge going up the hills.  So, I will enjoy the flats while I have them, and just spin my way to my destination each day.

The second day of the ride, a slightly shorter, 50 miles, went well even with the 49 degree morning temperature and the falling rain.  It was good because I was able to test my cool weather clothing and my inexpensive 'dry duck' rain gear.  Something that can be picked up at your local fishing shop for less than $20.  While it does not breathe like high tech Gore-Tex or Event fabric, it did keep me relatively dry.  After about two hours their was definitely moisture built up on the inside layers, but the wool I wear does a great job of wicking that off of your skin and then drying out very quickly.

A brief stop at a Starbucks to warm up, dry off and eat lunch and I was set to finish the shakedown.  As I was walking out, a gentleman came up to me and asked if that was a Fargo that I was riding.  I told him it was and thus we struck up a great conversation.  Seems this gentleman is from Canada and had been looking for quite a while at Fargos but was unable to actually see one in person.  He, like me, had actually gone so far as to bid on several Fargos on Ebay, but each time was unsuccessful in winning.  What he really wanted to do was to hop on the bike and check out the sizing.  Being slightly taller than me, he felt like he was in between sizes, so hopping on my medium gave him great feedback. Unfortunately the bike was a mess or I would have let him go for a quick spin.  Needless to say, he will surely be a Salsa Fargo convert and acquire one very quickly.

The rest of the ride was uneventful with the rain finally stopping and some semblance of sun coming out.  It was a great shake down and just about the perfect distance.  My goal is to eventually average 60 or so miles a day, but in the beginning I will slowly break in to things and average about 40 or so miles.  This philosophy of going slowly and letting my body adjust has worked well in the kayak and I have no reason to doubt that it will work equally well on the bike.

Lastly, a huge thanks to my friend Dave.  Dave has been one of my biggest supporters and continues to help me out in countless ways.  Dave, you are true friend and a man of beautiful Spirit.  Thank you for being my friend.

B.O.B camp

Top line setup for tarp, front wheel stabilized with line and stakeFull tarp setup with bug netting strun underneathView from the inside, with bug netting strunToday I did one of my final trial runs before heading out on the trip.  The goal of this exercise is to pack everything up and then go out and make camp.  It is critical to go through all the steps you would on a normal day to insure that everything is packed in the kit.  Even though I have this down to a science, switching over to a short B.O.B trailer instead of an 18 foot kayak is a bit of a challenge.  I am having to really slim things down and totally re-think the concept of 're-use'.

Re-use is the art of having individual pieces of gear and clothing do double duty.  The more you can double up things, the less gear you need to carry.  I am discovering that the B.O.B. gear bag is about the size of a large Blue Ikea bag, which is perfect for me.  However, in the Kayak I always had the day hatch to store some of my less critical, but 'must have' items.  Things like my repair kit, tools, and first aid pack.  Now, I don't have a day hatch to hold things in, so for the most part it all needs to fit in the B.O.B bag.

The exception to this is the use of two Salsa Anything cages which will mount at the back of the trailer and carry a few items to help eliminate bulk from the larger bag.  I am still working out what gets moved out, although I know that one of the bags will contain my Tarp/Ropes/Stakes thus making it possible for me to arrive at camp, set up my tarp, and get dry, all without having to open up the main bag.  After my next trial run I will decide what goes in the other cage, but I am leaning towards my rain gear and some warm extras like gloves, hats, etc.

B.O.B. Trailer Arrived & Put Together

The trailer arrived and I am looking forward to getting everything set up.  I put it together last night and loaded it up today for a test run.  I need to sort out gear loading and other issues over the next 2 days.  The trailer bag was packed as I intend to on the trip, with the sole exception of food.  I was really surprised at the volume in the bag.  I am a huge fan of the large blue Ikea bags and this is even bigger.  I can see why it is so important to get the bag loaded correctly with the weight down low.  Since I am riding a 29er, any weight placed up high would have a negative affect on the handling of the trailer.

In general putting it together went very easy. The exception was the challenge in getting the shock pin in place.  This however is a good thing, since it represents a critical pivot point and the tolerance is spot on.  After a little struggle, I was able to get it in and everything else went together in a snap. 

Today I loaded up the bag, and hooked everything up to the trailer. One of the first things that I noticed with it fully loaded was how challenging it is to get the bike from a parked position into a ready to roll one.  I am sure that with practice that will get easier.  One really nice thing is the way you can park the bike at a 90 degree angle to the trailer and not need a kickstand.  This is an awesome thing and will serve as one of the end points for my Tarp setup in areas without trees.  I will post pictures of this setup tomorrow along with details of the bag contents.  The total weight of kit came in at 25 pounds without my tool bag and no food.  I expect that the two of these will push me into the 30-35 pound range, which is a little more than I wanted, but ok given some of the extra stuff I will now carry.

As I peddled away, it was a very strange sensation at first.  The trailer really does track amazingly well, and once up to speed you really don't notice it with a few exceptions.  First, today's ride was dead into a 15 plus knot wind, so I think you really do notice the fact that you are grinding into the wind with a load behind you.  When I could duck out of the wind, it really went back to hardly being noticed.  The other trait I observed was gusts from the side definitely had an impact on the sway of the bike.  Now this is not unique to towing an trailer and surely something I would notice with a bike fully loaded with paniers. 

Going up hills, of which there were not many, are probably my biggest concern.  Right now I am running a 33Tx17 drive train and I definitely noticed this both in the wind and up the hills.  Luckily I will have a while to get used to it and strengthen those core muscles. My one consolation will be carrying a 30T chainring that I can switch to in the event that things become un-bearable, but I am hoping not to have to do that.

Lastly I was able to mount the Salsa Anything cage to the back of the trailer which is an awesome location.  I will use it to hold one of my bulky, but light, dry bags to free up some space in the large B.O.B bag and provide quick and easy access to frequently used items.  This will free me up some space and make it so that i don't have to open and close the bag searching for those pieces of kit that are used frequently.

All in all I am really pleased with the decision to add the trailer.  I think while it will create a few challenges, the benefits are worth the trade-offs.

Another Salsa Convert

My brother got the chance to check out my Salsa Fargo the other week and the next thing I know he is about to be the proud owner of a beautiful Fun Green Fargo.  The more I ride my bike, the more I love it.  While I am still adjusting some setup things, and would definitely prefer to have a Woodchipper bar over the One Mary's that came with it, all is good otherwise.  The bike is so comfortable, handles like a dream, and with the single speed drive train, it just accelerates instantly.  I am confident that I made the right choice in going with this bike for a 10,000 mike pedal around the country.  If you have a Fargo tale to share, please comment and share with the rest of us.

To much turkey

We have been eating leftover Turkey for 3 days now and I just can't take it any more.  It is definitely time to go back on the training diet and get out and peddle.  I am only a few weeks away from the start of the next leg of my 50,000 miles in 5 year challenge and I need to get going.  My body and my mind is definitely ready to start the journey, so after another day with family, I will begin the final countdown to my Bike Across America trip. 

For now, please, no more Turkey

No more crocs

Salsa Fargo, spinning wheelsI was able to root through some of my brothers old biking gear and pick up a few things.  Most importantly he had a pair of old MTB biking shoes that magically fit, which I am still not sure how that happened, but it did.  So shoes, combined with an old entry level pair of SPD pedals and I was tossing out the Crocs and moving into the land of clips.  Wow, we went for a ride the next day, and I could not believe how much better I peddled.  I am longtime user of SPD peddles, but I had truly forgotten what a great sensation it is to peddle clipped.  I think this is even more true when using a SS, as you really have to spin.  We did about 15 miles and I really cruised, spinning around 90 - 100 RPM the entire time.  It was a great training ride and while I love my Crocs I am so glad to be clipped in.

Years ago, my last set of SPDs were XTR pedals and it is really apparent the difference between the higher end models and the lower end models.  Don't get me wrong, I am definitely not looking the ungrateful, but wow, what a difference there is.  I am sure that their is a good middle ground between the upper end and the bottom end, so something worthy of note.  I also had the chance to try out my brothers Crank Brother pedals which were a treat to get in and out of, although they do create a strange sensation of not being attached to anything.  I think the versions with a small platform, similar in size to the SPDs would be great. 

New (Old) shoesTraining rides continue, and the bike is still a Single Speed (33-17T).  Unfortunately I was not able to come up with any other parts for gearing the bike, so I am seriously thinking of going fixed gear on the trip.  If I have to do this, I will buy a new 30T ring from Surly and when I get into big hill terrain I can just switch out the ring to at least give me some lower gears.  This is clearly not the optimal choice, but the move over to a rear wheel with gearing along with the other components necessary to make the switch are just beyond my means.  There is still a few weeks left before the start of the trip, so I am optimistic that something will work out, but if not, it might just be the longest trek done on a modern day Single Speed bike?

On the big news front, I was able to get a donor for my B.O.B trailer, so I am stoked about that.  While I will still go ultra-light, this will certainly make things a tad easier. As I began to work out where gear was going to go, it became apparent that I could make it work ala the Bike-Packing community, it was really going to be a challenge because of the length of the trip and my desire to document and share.  Things like my solar panel were just not going to easily fit on the bike.  With that and other issues, when the opportunity came to get a trailer, it just seemed like the appropriate thing to do.  A trailer should tow very nicely and will give me the opportunity to explore some areas without any gear attached to the bike.  I will update pics of the trailer and my loading/kit when it arrives.

Early morning dew

 

An Early morning ride today in the dark and mist to Starbucks.  Not quite the same as hitting the trails at dawn, but for today it will have to do.  In the end, it doesn't matter what you do or where you do it, the important point is to 'Just Do It'.  I love that Nike campaign, one of the best ever.  I can't get Nike to sponsor me, so I think I will sponsor Nike.  In fact, there are a number of companies whose products I use and love.  I think that it is important for these companies to remember that it is us, the consumer that keeps them going.  So from now on, I am going to list and talk about some of these companies that "I Sponsor".  What about you, what companies do you Sponsor?

One of my favorite blogs to read is the Culture section of the Salsa website.  These guys have come up with a great formula for tying their products to an image and a sense of adventure.  The postings on their blog detail actual trips using their products by the staff.  These guys are great writers, great photographers, and great people.  The end result is that each time I read a new post, I want to go some place new.  Heck, I never thought I would want to bike in the snow, I mean years ago I did it because I commuted by bike, but that was a while ago.  Now, well, I want a Mukluk fully loaded and heading off into Denali or some other remote, cold and snow covered destination.

 

 

Crocs, the ultimate biking shoe?

Training on my Salsa Fargo, Crocs clearly visibleWell, ok, honestly, I don't think so... However, until I find someone with a size 8.5 (41.5 Euro) mtb shoe that is willing to donate them to me, I will continue my training runs in my trusty crocs.  I will say, for casual peddling on platforms, they really do rock.  For serious distance, they just don't do the trick, but hey, you already knew that didn't you.

Yesterday the weather was great so I got in my first 20 plus mile ride.  It started slowly, but then my tight legs began to loosen and the miles began to role under my feet.  I am still getting my callouses in the appropriate places, luckily 5000 miles of sitting in a Kayak does something good for the bum. 

First pass at my kit and placement on bike. Missing Food/Water/Ditty KitI am also still adjusting the fit of the bike, messing with saddle height, tilt, and fore-aft positioning.  I am optimistic that I will somehow be able to acquire a set of Salsa Woodchipper bars for the trip along with the Salsa 'Do Everything' cages.  These two things will really help with the ultra-light packing on the bike in lieu of a trailer.  Speaking of trailers, there is still the chance that the B.O.B. will come through, but if not I will go with the Frame Bag from Revelate and that, combined with my shirts will be skinned with sponsor logos.  Personally, I can go either way.  Part of me would love the simplicity of the B.O.B, as it is more like packing a Kayak.  One big container with lots of little bags.  Nice and easy, straightforward with no mess and fuss.  On the other hand, I am so intrigued by the thought of an Ultra-Light kit that takes me around the country and fits right on the bike, nice and easy.  Just like the Fargo was designed to do.  Stay tuned, we shall see.

Fixed Gear, 1x9, What to do?

As I prepare for my upcoming trip I am torn with the idea of running the route with a 1x9 setup.  Since I plan on going ultra-light, I don't know that I need the big gears, so a 32T 11x34 would give me a fighting chance (84.4 high, 27 low) on the low end.  Not quite the same as a 24T x 34 (63 High, 20 Low) granny setup, but pretty close.  Then, since I am prone to thinking of things way to much, I thought, wow, could you do the trip with a single speed? I am guessing the answer is yes, but it would be painful going through those mountain passes out west on a on a SS.  I have been doing a bit research to see if it has been done before, but the jury is still out.  I did find a guy that did the Great Divide MBR on a fixie and I think he made it.  Wow, that must have been epic.

Still, 7,000 miles around North America on a SS, now that would be so very Wabi Sabi!

Chime in, your thoughts and opinions are welcome!

Biking in Denali

This is a cool story about biking in Denali National Park this fall.  The Salsa guys are doing some great stuff with their bikes, especially the Fargo and the Mukluk. I just love how they share adventure stories on their blog, each one inspires me to go do new things. If you have ever contemplated  biking in Alaska, these pics might just inspire you to grab your bike and catch a flight!

Two More Training Days

Development never seems to end, even on a tranquil saturday morningI got in a nice core workout by doing a 16 mile paddle and then got in two more days of riding, 14 miles each.  The weather has been spectacular and that has really helped to get out and train.  My attempts at 'self taught' Yoga are continuing and I am optimistic that I will eventually get it.  This morning was an early ride, and I caught a cool image of my front wheel on my Salsa Fargo spinning along as well as the early morning construction crews were busy at developing more un-devleloped land.  Just what we need in the middle of a terrible recession, more torn down forest land to build homes that no one can afford to buy.  I really don't understand, but lest, I digress.

The Fargo is working out awesome, really everything that I had hoped.  I now have two donors for a drive train, everything except a bottom pull front derailluer (anyone??).  I am inclined to just stick with the bars that came with the bike even though I really want to run those sexy Salsa Woodchipper's.  However, unless I find a few more sponsors, the bars that came with the bike are it. I will try and find a used pair of bar end shifters to throw on, as I don't think there is really enough room for the donated XTR shifter pods on the One Mary bars.

Spinning wheelsLastly, I need to replace the rear wheel and possibly the front.  The tires are Schwalbe Big Apple tires, and I so love them.  Big, fat and comfy, they roll amazingly well on both the road and some rough dirt trails.  Great tires, so I am good to go there.  I would love to pick up a pair of the Spinergy Xcyclone Disc wheels, so I am on the lookout for a pair that could make the trip.  I think that 7,000 miles on wheels like the Spinergy's would be an awesome statement.  I have heard amazing things about their lightness, speed, and overall durability, all very important to me.  Given that I will be staying in North America, I am not overly concerned about the use of such 'alternative' wheels & spoke technology.

As for carrying all of my gear, I am totally committed to going ultra-light no matter what means I use to actually store the gear.  At this point my overall preference is to go with a Bike-Packing style using a combination of frame bag, seat bag, front bar bag, and then two new products from Salsa.  First the ultra-light front rack would be used to carry my camera gear and then two Anything Cages and one Minimalist Rack up front.  This would allow me with enough storage for my kit, plus 3 days worth of food, my estimated resupply load for this trip.

The second option for storage is to go with a B.O.B trailer.  I think it would be awesome to use one of these as they have a multitude of benefits, not the least of which is getting all my kit into a centralized spot.  However, their is something really intriguing and 'Wabi Sabi' about being able to go with an ultra-light kit and have it all on the bike and not have it look like I have panniers full of everything including the 'kitchen sink'.  I will make my final decision on that in the next week or two as I get to the final stages of preparation.

I plan to eat the same way as I do on my long distance kayaking (5,000 miles and counting), so I don't expect their to be too much difference in diet.  One possible exception is on the snack front, since a higher heart rate from biking is likely to cause a greater expenditure of energy during the day.  My three main meals should not change at all (Oatmeal, Peanut Butter, Pasta/Quinoa), as the core meal components.  I also should not have to carry anywhere near as much water, thus allowing me to use one of my 8 liter dromedary bags for my main water storage.

Up next is to collect the rest of the donated parts and make the big switches, and then train, train, train.

Peace -

Glenn

15 Miles plus yoga

I am now feeling more comfortable with the miles and my sit bones, so I will begin upping my daily mileage in another day or two.  Today I was able to get 15 more miles in, using intervals as a means of training, along with some post work out Yoga.

My efforts to re-condition the old used Brooks B-17 saddle I found this summer is coming along slowly.  I am using Brooks leather treatment to restore some vitality to the top leather, but I am going to have to resort to other means to get the underside softened and re-worked.  Having read multiple articles, including those by Sheldon Brown on conditioning Brooks saddles, I am going to attempt a combination of techniques in hopes that this beautiful saddle will be ridable again one day.

I am actively seeking out maps of the ACA southern and pacific routes.  My preference would be to acquire used ones, and even better, borrow them and return them at the end of the trip.  The route for the Northern tier is open to much debate due to historical weather forecasts for that time of the year.  I will post more details shortly, but in the meantime if you have local knowledge of the Northern tier during the April-May time frame, please drop me a note and let me know your thoughts.