Thursday, July 30, 2015

Tripod Camp Table

Tripod camp table

I've been thinking of ways to make camping on tour more comfortable. Figuring a way to have a table to use for cooking, eating, drawing and to set my MacBook on. Seems that campgrounds don't always include tables anymore. Hiker/Biker sites rarely ever did. I often bring food to prepare in my bags and finding a place with a flat surface on the road can be a challenge. Eating off the ground is annoying and disagreeable. 

Here is my solution to this touring issue. Since I'll be bringing a tripod anyway, why not give it another purpose?  I'm using a Sirui carbon travel tripod. This tripod weighs 1.7 lbs, comes with an arca type compatible quick release plate and a sbh-100 ball head.  I expect to use this table top mostly while sitting in my trike. Since I have a chair, why not use it?

My MacBook Pro will be the heaviest thing I use the table for.

I went to a local shop that sells all kinds of plastic (TAP Plastic) and found a scrap piece that is rated OK for food/eating ($4). I haven't weighed the plastic but guess it is less than 1/2 lb. This plastic is smooth and will be easy to clean. I had them cut the plastic to a more manageable size. The most expensive part of this project was buying another quick release plate - $19.95. I brought the plate and piece of plastic to an ACE hardware store explaining what I needed. The guys fit and drilled a metal threaded piece into the middle of the plastic using the screw that came with the quick release plate. That cost $5. 

Magazine added for scale and humor to show the tripod and table top are quite small.

Tripod mount upside down attached to table top.

We'll see how this idea works in real life. I'll be bringing this set up to the recumbent retreat next month. Getting to the retreat is a 2 day ride and I'll be camping on the way. 

My next tour will be in the US and one of my goals is to get more comfortable camping. Most of my tours have been out of the country and, although I bring everything I need for camping, I very rarely camp. Even in campgrounds, my imagination gets the best of me and I don't sleep well.  On all my tours, accommodation has always been my biggest expense. Camping would certainly help me save some money.

By staying mostly in hotels, I feel like I've been missing out on some additional freedom that cycle touring offers. Wouldn't it be great to camp where ever I feel like stopping for the day? On my past tours, my only real issue has been to make sure there is a place to stay at the end of the day. My routes have always been dictated by where I can find a hotel. I don't know if I'll be ready for stealth camping on this trip but finding a place to set up a tent will open up more possibilities for where to end the day. I know this camping fear is all in my imagination and I really want to get over it.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Route Ideas for My Next Tour

I've been thinking about where I would like to tour this winter and decided I'll be riding in the US. A big consideration influencing my decision to ride in the US is I've got many friends having important birthdays this year. One friend is turning 100 years old! I sure don't want to miss this party. Staying in the US will make 'flying in for the weekend' easier than coming from a foreign country. There are lots of places in the US I still want to ride and I expect this won't be the last tour I take in my home country.

With weather in mind, I'll start this tour just after Labor Day in September. Any earlier and I think the heat will be too much.  Another reason to start the tour after Labor Day is kids will be back in school and there should be less traffic.

Rough idea of route through the US

A dear friend recently moved from Portland to Missoula, Montana and I'd like to see her new home. That is how I decided on the first part of the route. With the brutal heat we've had this summer so far, I decided to take a route along the coast of Washington going north through the Olympic peninsula. This route should be much cooler than taking the more direct route east through Oregon. From the San Juan Islands, I'll take Hwy 20 east through Washington and Idaho into Montana. I expect this ride will be as challenging as it is beautiful. The route is also the Northern Tier bicycle route and will have lots of camping and Warm Shower stay possibilities.  Missoula is home to Adventure Cycling Association and it will be interesting to stop in there too.

Portland through Olympic Peninsula, Missoula, Yellowstone to Salt Lake City

From Montana, if the weather permits, I'll ride to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons on my way to Utah. The route from Portland through the Olympic Peninsula, hwy 20 to Missoula and down to Salt Lake City has over 50,000 ft of climbing.  I'm sure it will be very beautiful and rewarding but I'm so slow I'm not sure I'll be able to take any detours if I want to get to Arizona before winter temperatures hit.  There are so many national parks in Utah that I would like to see I'm hoping for a long, dry autumn. From Utah, I'll continue south into Arizona to pick up the Southern Tier bike route. I'll take that route east to Florida. There are only 2 US states I haven't seen and Florida is one of them. 

Salt Lake City to Wickenburg, AZ

Somehow, I'll make it back to the west coast.  Even though the route I've picked is almost 4800 miles, I expect to make it to Florida around the end of January. That still leaves me 4 months of more riding to do before I can return to Portland. Maybe I'll turn around and ride a modified southern tier back to Los Angeles. We'll see... As with all my tours, plans will be very flexible.

Wickenburg, AZ to Austin, TX

Austin, TX to St. Augustine, FL

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Addition for this year's tour?


Earlier this summer my sister and her finacĂ© came to Portland for a very nice visit. She gave me a small painting from a collection she is holding for me while I tour. I don't have a home and all my stuff is in storage. I didn't want the collection of paintings to be damaged while I travel and sent them to my sister for safe keeping. I inherited the collection of around 30 paintings, of no great value, from our father. The artist is Maria Rand and I've never been able to find any information about her. Perhaps my father bought everything she ever painted. Most of the pieces are cheery, bright colored landscapes and still lifes painted in oil with very thick brush strokes. This one is a bit of an odd duck and doesn't fit with most of the other paintings. My sister thought I should include this little painting on my next tour and titled it Irving, our father's name. 

The idea of hanging this quirky little original painting in the tent while I camp really is irresistible.

Do you carry artwork on cycle tours or while you travel?

Friday, July 10, 2015

TOT 2015

Krispy Steve's logo design
TOT (Trikes Optional Tour, aka Tater TOT), is a yearly event that has been going for many years. There were probably 100 trikers taking over the Guest House Inn in Kellogg, Idaho this year. People came from all over with lots of trikers from Alberta, Canada, Oregon, California, Iowa, Minnesota, Florida and Colorado.  Many arrived by motor home parking in the hotel lot and more stayed in sites at various local RV parks. Watching everyone arrive hauling trikes in every way you can imagine was fascinating. Trikes in pick up truck beds, trailers, big vans, mini vans, on racks, double racks, trikes stuffed in cars, on top of cars, RVs and folded into trunks. The sight of so many trikes was very impressive. I really enjoyed seeing all these crazy trikers again. There were also a number of velomobiles. Beautiful, super fast machines. And, of course, lots of 2 wheelers joined in the fun as well.  

Trying out a Velomobile, woohoo!!
TOT takes place on the Trails of the Coeur d'Alene which offer 70 miles of continuous smooth paved biking trails with gorgeous scenery. The event is for a long weekend but most people come earlier and stay longer.  I arrived at the Guest House Inn, getting a lift with my friends Dave and Edna, on Thursday staying until the following Thursday. Many of the surrounding towns are old-timey quaint and a lot of fun to explore.There is so much to see and riding to do I could have stayed longer. 

All the towns in the area are rich in mining history. A good group of us took an afternoon to do a tour of a gold mine in Kellogg. Outside the temperature was 108 and inside the mine was a refreshing 48 degrees. The history was very interesting and everyone was happy to get relief from the heat. Even with the heat, some people also tried panning for gold and stones from some tubs set up outside the mine. 

Gold mine tour
TOT isn't an organized event. There are certain rides that happen every year but, mostly, I wake up, see if anyone has a ride planned and join in. Often there was a breakfast ride to Wallace or the Snake Pit. Sometimes I ate breakfast at the hotel fueling up before a longer ride.  Some people got up extra early to ride the 144 miles of trail out and back. Edna did a century training ride in the heat to prepare for STP (Seattle To Portland).  I chose more manageable, shorter rides like to the end of the trail in Mullan and back.

This year, the weather was searingly hot and this shaped much of our riding decisions. Every day the temperatures were in the high 90's and even over 100 degrees. Brutal! The weather channel said there was a heat dome over the entire Pacific Northwest. An early start was important in order to be back at the hotel before we all melted. In years past, people would congregate at the entrance of the hotel, setting up chairs and yakking late into the night. Not this year. Everyone made sure to get up earlier to ride before the heat was overwhelming. There were a couple of night rides I joined to Wallace for huckleberry shakes which were great fun. We returned after 11 pm and the hotel was eerily quiet. 

Center of the universe is in Wallace.
View from the trail.
Night ride to the spaceship at the Red Garage in Wallace

One of the most popular rides is the Trail of the Hiawatha which starts in Montana high up on an old mountain rail trail. The ride crosses into Idaho in the middle of a very long tunnel. The trail is 15 miles downhill with spectacular scenery riding over trestle bridges high above the trees. Buses at the bottom give cyclists a lift back to the top, even trikers. Even though the ride is all downhill there is so much to look at most people take hours to complete the trail. The path is hard packed gravel with larger stones and a much rougher surface for the last few miles. Without suspension, the ride can be teeth rattling. Many people rent mountain bikes with suspension instead of putting their trikes and bodies through the tougher terrain. 

Cataldo Mission and Parish House
There are lots of group rides and 2 that go over passes, Dobson and Thompson.  Some people get a lift to the top and ride down. I did Dobson last year, and loved it, but this year was simply too hot. A few of us did a ride to the beautiful Cataldo Mission which is one of the oldest buildings in Idaho and very well preserved. People would come back from rides and show off pictures of moose and baby moose, herons, egrets, eagles and elk they saw on the trail. I never saw any moose but enjoyed other's pictures and excitement. One of the big rides is from Harrison to Plummer on gorgeous Lake Coeur d'Alene. Everyone loads up the trikes driving 45 miles to the trailhead. There's a fantastic bike path bridge that crosses the lake and has a fabulous view. The turn around point for the ride was a veteran's park with a tribute to the Coeur d'Alene tribe.

Bridge across Lake Coeur d'Alene
Boat Houses and Lily Pads
Turn Around at Plummer
Lake Coeur d'Alene

(click above arrow to view video in full screen)

Snake Pit buffet line
The Snake Pit restaurant put together a nice buffet dinner of bbq chicken with all the fixins for the whole group. We all rode the 6 miles there and the parking lot and grassy area outside the restaurant was full of trikes with colorful flags. This was also the second year a fundraiser pig roast dinner took place on the trail just outside the hotel. Lots of fabulous salads and pulled pork. There are also many really good restaurants in the area. This year I tried the Fainting Goat in Wallace which has a big time chef trained in New York and Italy. Great food. The Silver Mountain lodge is across the street from the hotel. They have a ski lift where mountain bikers can put their bikes in a gondola to the top of the mountain and come down on single track trails. The lodge also has a restaurant with good food offering lots of healthy choices. This is my 3rd TOT and there are still more restaurants I want to try.

Snake Pit parking
Buffet at the Snake Pit

Just like last year, I made reservations for next year before I left. Next year's TOT will be a week earlier in June and, hopefully, cooler. Many thanks to Edna and Dave for giving me and Myrtle a lift - there and back. It was fun hanging with you too.