Thursday, October 25, 2018

Fantastic Summer in Portland and Upcoming Tour to Colombia and Ecuador

Drone flight over Echo Park Lake, Los Angeles
After another fantastic summer in Portland, I'm now turning my attention to the next trike tour. All summer I've been plotting where I should go and if I wanted to make changes to my gear. And, of course, I've made many changes. 

How to Pack Your Trike for an Airline Flight

Originally, I had planned to continue riding through Central America where I last off in Belize going through Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. But there seems to be a lot of political upheaval at the moment and I decided to put that trip off until the situation improves. More than likely, I would have had a great time but going to South America seemed like a choice with less risk. I have also never been to South America.

This Saturday, I'll be flying to Bogota, Colombia. Why Bogota? The simple answer is there is a direct flight from Los Angeles and I really like direct flights especially when traveling with my trike. Bogotá is at 9,000 ft in elevation and I'll need some time to acclimate. I signed up with a Spanish school for 3 weeks where I'll be living with a family. Staying with a family in a foreign country is highly recommended to speed up learning a language. The school found me a room with a private bathroom that is walking distance from the school. I was given a choice to have the family provide meals as well. I asked to have breakfast every morning. Language schools really make travel easy. They take care of everything. They always offer apartments to rent or the chance to stay with a local family. All I had to do was ask and someone will pick me up at the airport. Language schools also offer excursions to explore the area. There will be outings to events, restaurants, museums or nature areas with more opportunity to practice Spanish as well as tours to local towns. I've also heard people travel to learn other things like tango dancing and photography that offer all-inclusive services. It's nice to be around people that you have something in common with whether learning a language or dance or photography.

Riding through the meadow on the Bank/Vernonia trail
I was such a beginner when I studied in Guanajuato last year that I didn't feel comfortable being with a family. When you don't have enough vocabulary and understanding of a language, trying to speak is stressful and quite uncomfortable. I'm sure I would have learned more if I had stayed with a family but I felt like I needed to study on my own first. What was interesting is the school in Mexico put me in private classes almost exclusively. They didn't charge me extra which was nice but I think I would have learned more being with other students. I doubt I'll ever be fluent but I would like to be comfortable speaking Spanish. I think knowing Spanish will make for a much richer travel experience and it could be safer as well. Over the summer, I continued to study on my own using an online course and I think studying in Bogota will be very helpful. I'm also thinking to stop for a couple of weeks in Medellin to study more at another school. Medellin is supposed to be a very beautiful city to explore. I've also heard that Colombian Spanish is easier to understand. The people speak slower and clearer than other countries. This will be very helpful for me.

Rough Route Idea
I've plotted a rough route for my next tour of about 3200 miles over 6 months. Colombia and Ecuador are both extremely mountainous and I am quite nervous about the climbing. The most climbing I have ever done in a day is 3700 ft and I think there will be many mountain passes in Colombia that are more that 5,000 ft. I'll be bring everything for camping because I am such a slow climber. I'm expecting there will be many days I won't make it to a town that has hotels. If there is a hotel that is where you will find me at the end of the day but I'm prepared to camp besides firehouses, churches or ask to camp in someone's yard. So far, I've never felt safe stealth or wild camping. It is something I would like to do and I think it offers the ultimate freedom. When I tour, my only real worry is to find a safe place to spend the night. It sure would be a great feeling to trust I can always find a place to camp and be able to set up a tent anywhere. Maybe, someday, I'll get to the that place of trust as well.

At the moment, my idea is to end in Quito, Ecuador. Depending on how much time I have I may do a bigger loop in Ecuador or even take a trip to the Galapagos Islands. If I feel rushed to do the islands I can save it for my tour next year which I expect will begin in Quito.

So those are my rough plans, we will see how it all turns out. 

Oversized baggage handler taking care of Myrtle before my flight to Los Angeles

Rolling Myrtle to the ticket counter of Alaska Airlines with new Ortlieb yellow panniers on top
Over the summer, as I prepared for this upcoming tour to Colombia, I made some changes to my gear. I bought a new set of Ortlieb panniers which are the same as my last set but in yellow. Ortlieb discontinued this color. I had planned to buy a set when my current set needed replacing. Ortlieb's decision to only carry the black color in this recumbent style pannier meant I had to replace my set earlier than intended. No problem, my friend Dave helped me sell the old pair which off-set the costs nicely. 

Myrtle arriving in style at Tater TOT in Idaho last June

Testing the zoom on my new travel camera - Panasonic Lumix ZS200, view of Mt St. Helen's and Portland

Night View from the house in Portland

Every summer for the last 8 years I have been housesitting in a beautiful house for a friend in Portland who also has a home in France. She spends every winter in Portland and when she returns to France that's when I end my tours and go to Portland. This has been a wonderful arrangement for both of us. I already know I'll be able to return next summer but after that I'm not sure. My friend is in her mid 70's and I expect the day will come when she can no longer make the trip to France and will return to Portland full time. With this in mind, I'm starting to think about what it would mean and what I will do if I don't have the house in Portland to return to for the summer. My 1st reaction is that I would tour with Myrtle full-time. What changes would be required to my gear if I started to tour full-time? This is something that I've been thinking about for awhile and would like to try some day. There aren't many gear changes I need to make for this transition to full-time touring. 

As I was thinking about it, there are really only 3 gear considerations for touring full-time. Where am I going to tour full-time, would I need to plan for winter and summer camping conditions and the 3rd consideration is to decide about cooking.  

Top of Dobson Pass at Tater TOT in Idaho with trikers Christine and Dawn

Primus Stove Initial Observations

Right now, I only tour in the winter which limits my destinations because I don't like being cold. If I could tour in the summer I would spend more time in the US probably starting out across the TransAm bike route. I could also spend time exploring the UK, Europe and Scandinavia as well as countries like Japan and Taiwan during warmer times of the year. Since hotels in the US are so expensive I would probably do more camping and cooking.  In the US, using canisters for cooking is easy. Even Walmart carries them but this isn't true for much of the world. For instance, these handy canisters are not available in Colombia, or anywhere in South America, so I decided to invest in a Primus multi fuel stove. The Primus allows for use with a canister but also all types of gasoline and white gas which is available anywhere in the world.  I also bought a 1.1 liter MSR pot that the stove fits into which can also be used as a pan.

Camping at Big Eddie Country park on the way to the Recumbent Retreat
For me, one of the hardest conditions to prepare for is camping in hot as well as cold weather. Often, along the coast, temperatures can be hot and humid whereas in the mountains, at high elevations, temperatures can be cold. What kind of sleeping bag do you use to be comfortable in both extremes? I decided to go with 2 sleeping bags. I bought a Mountain Hardware 50 degree bag with a hood and another 20 degree Zpacks sleeping bag without a hood. My objective is to be comfortable in temperatures around the freezing mark.  These bags both have stuff sacks and pack very small. If temperatures are even colder I can put the 20 degree bag inside the 50 degree bag for more warmth. I also use a sleeping bag liner, mostly to keep my bag clean, and the liner will also add some warmth. On this trip I'll be riding above 10,000 feet where it could be very cold and at sea level along the Caribbean where conditions will be hot and humid. I will be able to put the bags to the test. 

Gorge in Eastern Oregon
Another thing I have been interested in is improving how I get my water. In the past, I have always bought bottled water. It's convenient and safe but also a lot of plastic waste. After lots of research, I decided to invest in a Grayl water purifier and filter. While I was researching I discovered there are 2 issues with water cleaners. One is purifying for viruses and other is removing particles. There aren't many options for one device that filters particles and purifies for viruses. Many of the options involve more than one bag and hoses which filter from a dirty bag to another clean bag. The Grayl doesn't have any hoses. It is essentially a water bottle with a cartridge that both filters and purifies. It is a fairly lightweight option for having clean drinking water anywhere. There are 2 issues with the Grayl. It only cleans 1/2 liter at a time and each cartridge will only filter 150 liters before needing to be replaced. It's unclear how easy I could buy another cartridge outside the US, so,  for my 6 month trip I'll be bringing an extra cartridge. The cartridge doesn't weigh much but it is 'an extra thing'. I've always bought water and for this trip I'm going to see how convenient it is to use the Grayl. Maybe I'll shrink my carbon footprint just a bit as well.

These gear additions mean I'll be carrying more weight. I think I'll have about 10 lbs more than I had on my tour of Mexico where I only took a sleeping bag and pad. 

With Brandon riding to the Recumbent Retreat

Lighted Bikes Parade at the Recumbent Retreat

Photoshoot at the Recumbent Retreat

Aside from planning for my next tour, I did a lot of rides with friends. I went to Tater Tot in Idaho in June for a week. I did many group rides around Portland including Pedalpalooza bike festival, RecumbentPDX shop rides, OHPV club rides on the Banks/Vernonia and a camping trip out to Big Eddie County Park. The highlight of my summer is riding out to the Recumbent Retreat. This was my 13th year attending. I have always ridden there and feel very fortunate to live close enough to do this fabulous ride. I also had family many friends visit. I had recumbent friends from Ohio stay, friends I know from Mexico, friends and family visit from California and other close friends from Chicago and Montana. It was super fun to see everyone and spend some quality time. I also took a trip to Eastern Oregon to explore as well as a couple of quick visits to Los Angeles.

Pedalpalooza kick-off ride

20,000 cyclists on the Bridge Pedal Ride across 8 bridges in Portland

During this tour, I plan is to update my blog weekly with a written description of my rides and experiences. At the top of each post will be the Garmin maps so you can see where I went with all the stats. I'll also attempt to do 3 short videos with photos, videos and drone footage. 

Sunset Ride at the Recumbent Retreat

A year ago, I started a YouTube Channel to do tutorials, gear reviews, trike specific info and mostly highlight my rides. My friend, Matt Galat, made me a new logo and intro for my videos which has really added a more professional look. Here are a few of the videos. Thanks to everyone for watching and subscribing. It's easy and you can get notifications of new videos when they are release. 

Sticker card with the new logo to give out on my tour

I think this tour is going to be especially beautiful and very fun for drone flying. Colombia is a favorite destination for cycle tourers and I've been looking forward to going for many years.

Thanks for following the continuing adventures of Myrtle the Turtle and I'll see y'all next week in Bogotá.