Yep, it’s less than 48 hours away!
Originally posted on Society Of Three Speeds:
Hello friends and fiends. It’s barely two days until the inaugural Three Speed Ride of 2014! Hope you are excited. I sure am.
And the weather looks like it will be on our side, mostly, hopefully. This week has been quite rainy in these parts, but it’s supposed to remain dry until Saturday evening. And how about the high temperature: 65F/18C! The highest temperature for 2014 so far! But don’t throw caution to the wind, it’s still advisable to bring your old waxed cotton rain cape (the one that smells like burnt crayon) “just in case”.
Here are some important things to note about this ride. Please read, especially if you have never been on this ride before:
I get a “shout-out” from Nicholas on his latest blog post.
Originally posted on gypsy by trade:
A kitchen and a mailbox are perhaps the greatest features of living in town. A bed is overrated, as is multiple bike ownership. Jobs are alright, for a time.
In the past few weeks, I’ve been lucky to receive many interesting things in the mail, including correspondences from old friends, kind offers from new friends, and a few items ordered from faraway. Somehow, I’m swimming in stickers.
Hey friends. The first bike camping trip of the season makes me not only want to do more, but I get all philosophical about it too. I guess you can say that I’m pondering bike camping, but I don’t want Pondero to get mad at me. So here’s some random stuff about bike camping. While it’s definitely influenced by the recent trip, this applies to many of the trips I’ve done in the past few years.
No matter how many times I do a bike overnight, it still takes me longer than I think it should to get ready for one. You figure with as much practice as I’ve gotten with this, I should be able to pack and be out the door in 15 minutes. And reading some other folks’ blogs, you get the impression that many can. For me, it could be a couple hours. Yes, I have my camping stuff in a specific spot in the basement. But still it takes me a long time to get the bits together and get it packed on the bike. It takes longer if there’s food involved. And generally I get distracted through the packing process, when I’m doing one thing I’m thinking of the three other things to do. That of course makes things take longer than they should. I actually did pretty good with my Battle Ground trip, packing in about an hour or so. But still I wish I could be faster.
Bike overnights can exhaust me. This seems counter-intuitive, as you feel that a camping trip should refresh. And the camping part is refreshing. But there’s the mental and physical preparation that goes into it, plus the ride itself. When I return home from a camping trip, often all I want to do after I unpack the bike is shower and collapse. Compare this to some folks’ accounts where they make it out to sound like an s24o takes about as much effort as pooping.*
For me this energy level is about the same as a small bike tour, not a several month, cross-con experience, but one of several days to a few weeks. On a bike tour you get into the “rhythm” of things, so to speak. It’s easier for me to do three consecutive nights of camping on a bike tour than three non-consecutive bike overnights. This is what happened with my three overnights, one a week, that occured last October. One a week for three weeks is extreme, but the weather was really nice and I was making up for not camping much during the late summer months. I went into the whole experience with lots of enthusiasm and the attitude that I would “ride the wave” as long as I could. And the first two trips were loads of fun. But come the third time, I had to muster the energy to get out the door, and while I was on it, I had a couple “Why am I doing this again?” moments. After that trip, I didn’t want to think about camping for a few months. And fortunately since it was November there wasn’t much of an excuse to go camping.
No matter how many times I do them, it still takes about two hours to leave camp from the time I wake up. Again, this is in comparison to some folks who just get up and go or make a bare-bones breakfast. I can get that way when I’m on a tour, but for just a camping experience I like to have a leisurely, substantial breakfast. And I will multitask, like stuff my sleeping bag into the stuffsack while waiting for coffee water to boil. But even with all the practice and “efficiency”, I rarely leave camp earlier than two hours from the time I rise and shine. Not usually a big deal, unless I sleep in.
(I should stop reading other people’s accounts of their bike overnight/s24o experiences. Especially if I’m going to compare myself to them all the time! ;-))
Winter camping in the Northwest (at least low elevations west of the Cascades) is easier than most other places, but it isn’t totally easy. Because daytime temps are usually anywhere from 40-55F (4-13C), nighttime lows usually stay above freezing, and snow is rare, one can make do with “three season” camping gear. But it’ll still get chilly at night, and the longer the night, the more opportunity to get cold. And there is of course rain. I don’t mind riding in the rain, as I already do it daily. But to set up camp in the rain, “hang out” in the rain, then take down the wet camp in the rain…it ain’t fun. That’s why I like “indoor” camping over the winter months, either cabins or yurts found in a few of the local state parks. But I want to do more “actual” camping during the winter months, too. This winter saw two camping trips, and I hope there will be more next year. But it’s more fun to hang out with friends by a fire on a long winter night than hang out by myself. I’ve thought about doing some sort of winter tour around these parts, but I fear that I’d find the long wet nights difficult.
Despite all the “drawbacks”, I still love bike camping and touring, and will continue to do it. Yeah, this post so far is a bit of a downer, huh? But don’t let it fool you: I still love camping. Being in nature, away from the urban areas a bit, making do with much less…still fun. I’m already thinking of other places to go, equipment to test, things to cook. I hope to have a busy camping year, and hope you can do as much as possible, too!
*That is if you’re not constipated.
This image was captured around 2:30 pm today on NE 21st over I-84/Sullivans Gulch, looking south. There’s something that I love about spring days like this: The sky is never boring. One minute it gets dark and pours, the next minute the sun shows its face and you get the dramatic cloudscape you see here. Never a dull moment. Of course, it’s so much better to be outside during the “dry” moment!
One of the reasons that I wanted to go camping last week is to test out new equipment and setups that I’d be using in camping and touring excursions this year. And I mentioned last time that I’d expound on it in detail soon, so over the course of the next week or so I’m going to review the three new “things” I tried out on the recent Battle Ground Lake camping trip. First up, my Eton Raptor radio.
I started carrying a radio on camping/touring trips about four years ago, when I purchased an Eton Scorpion radio from REI. I’ve been using a radio on tours ever since, and am a proponent of using one. The big problem was the Scorpion frequently broke, and I went through a lot of them over the years. While I had at least one that didn’t work out of the box, what usually happened would be the crank, clip, or antenna–the moving parts–would eventually fail. I made use of REI’s liberal return/exchange policy, but eventually REI stopped carrying them, and my last Scorpion broke in January.
REI now only carries lesser Eton radios that would have a crank and weather band, but no solar panel and/or digital tuning. Or they have better Eton radios that are twice as large as the Scorpion. And while I could use my Kaito AM/FM/SW radio instead, it lacks weather band. While it’s fun to listen to Radio Havana Cuba on shortwave at night, here in North America having a weather band radio is much more useful for touring and outdoor adventures.
There was another Eton radio that looked like to be the successor to the Scorpion, the Raptor. It’s relatively compact, has digital tuning and scads more features. The one thing it lacks is a crank. It can be charged via solar or house current/laptop using a USB connection (the one that’s used by many a cellphone.) But I liked having a crank, especially if I were to use it in an emergency situation here in Portland, like the much-threatened mega earthquake. If that quake decided to happen in the middle of a rainy winter, I’d be at a loss if I only could charge via solar. Still, I managed to break the crank on many a Scorpion, so maybe it’s not such a big deal?
I bought a used model off the eBay a couple weeks ago and put it to work. Via USB charging it takes about 4 hours to fully charge, so I charged it fully when I got it. And two weeks later it’s still running off that initial charge, plus solar charging. This is a good thing. February in Portland isn’t exactly a sunny time, yet even with the limited sunlight, I haven’t had to plug it in yet. Granted I don’t use it for more than a couple hours a day at best, but it seems like the solar panel does a good job of charging vs the one on the Scorpion. It is a bigger solar panel,* but it could be also a more efficient panel at the same time. The “charging” light came on even when it wasn’t getting direct sun or it was cloudy. Supposedly 18 hours of solar would fully charge the battery, but that would be hard to do at once unless you’re in Alaska in the summer.
The other feature that looks to work well is the “charger” function. One of the selling points of the Eton Scorpion was that you’d be able to make an emergency charge to a cellphone, and theoretically get enough juice for maybe a two minute phone call. I tried that function a few times but nothing worked. Not so with the Raptor. I plugged in both my Android phone and my iPod Touch and instantly got the “charging” icons on both devices. I haven’t done a thorough test and see how long it would take to fully charge a device (and how much juice would it suck from the Raptor battery), but it’s good to know that I could use it in a pinch.
The big bonus features to the Raptor are a compass, altimeter, barometer, and thermometer. Of those, the thermometer appears to be the most accurate, and the compass never seems to work. The altimeter is a bit wonky, sometimes giving me an accurate elevation, sometimes not. I haven’t compared the barometer to what the NWS says, but I should.
This brings me to the radio itself. It works well, and I get the weather band that I desire. I wouldn’t call the sound quality great, as it’s a small mono speaker, but it gets the job done. I can plug in a phone or iPod and use the radio as a speaker, which is a nice bonus.
I’ve been digging this radio. Sure, there are some shortcomings, and the clip already broke. But besides being able to get the current weather and emergency info, it’s nice to have a radio to listen to in camp, especially if I’m camping alone. There are many fond memories from our big tour across the continent in 2011, making breakfast while listening to NPR or CBC.
*The one drawback to the bigger panel is it takes up the backside of the radio. So if I have it charging on the bike, it would be hard to listen to the radio at the same time.
Hello all, I just wanted to remind you folks in the Portland Metro Area that myself and Ed Groth will be leading back-to-back Bike Touring and Bike Camping workshops at Velo Cult. Tuesday March 4 will be Bike Touring and Wednesday March 5 will be Bike Camping. Both will start at 7pm. More details are over here on the Cycle Wild website.
Here’s the lowdown on the upcoming Three Speed Ride here in Portland, posted on our “sister” blog.
Originally posted on Society Of Three Speeds:
Hello friends of Three Speeds. I did mention this here before, but I figure that I should reiterate that the first Three Speed Ride of 2014 is just two short weeks away!
The Three Speed Ride will be on Saturday March 8, 2014. Meet at 11 am at Woodlawn Park (under the bridge). Woodlawn Park is on NE Dekum just west of 13th Ave. Click here for a map.
This ride will be about 12 miles in length over flat to moderate terrain.I may throw in a small hill or two, but remember, it’s okay to walk it! And as per the “Rough Stuff” tradition, there will be some off-road (read: dirt) sections, paths, cut-throughs, and other stuff thrown in that you probably didn’t know existed. Be prepared for adventure!
Remember in January I attempted to partake in the “s24o a month club”? Yeah, we all know how that turned out. (Answer: It didn’t.) But I still had hopes of doing as many overnight bike camping trips in 2014, and really hoped I could pull something off in February.
And originally this was going to be easy, as I was leading the Cycle Wild trip to the cabins at Battle Ground Lake on February 8-9. Then the weather got in the way: the Snow Event that we get about every five years here happened right on that weekend. No trip. The rest of the month was shaping up to be bad for camping, as Mother Nature was making up for a pretty dry winter by dumping as much moisture on us as possible in February. Every “weekend” I had (and I put weekend in quotation marks because my days off are typically Tuesday and Wednesday) ended up with sucktastic weather. It started to look like February would be a washout, pun intended.
But the last Tuesday and Wednesday of February was shaping up to be different. Indeed, it was going to be dry and mild, with highs in the mid-50s. Perfect off-season camping weather for these parts. I pondered going to Battle Ground Lake State Park in rural Clark County, Washington as it was relatively close (about 25 miles) and we were denied the opportunity to go earlier in the month. Battle Ground Lake is in general a nice setting: a lake surrounded by woods, the lake being a great place to swim in the summer. And it’s sort of a hidden gem as most Portlanders don’t even know about its existence. (Vancouverites however are hip to its charms.) Plus, I was itching to test out the XO-3 as a “camping” bike, and if things went totally south, the park is just about 3 miles from public transportation if I needed to bail.
Then my neuroses started to kick in. I’d be going alone to a campground on a weekday in February, meaning barely no one would be there, if anyone. Sometimes I get weird about this, especially if I’ve been feeling lonely, which I have been lately. Then again, I’d most likely be alone at my house, so the big difference is I’d be in a tent in the woods instead. Then I started to think about all the things on my plate, deadlines looming, etc. But none of these deadlines are that immediate, and I always have stuff going on. Too much stuff going on. There are three strategies that one can employ when one has to do too much shit:
- Get that shit done by making a list and checking it off.
- Realize that your list is way too big and you don’t even know where to start, so do nothing and spend your days in a fetal position, hoping the world ignores you.
- Realize that shit will still be there, and take a mental break.
So wisely I opted for option 3, and on Tuesday morning, February 25 I packed up my bike and headed out on the road, leaving Woodlawn around 1:30pm.
The ride was mostly good on the way out. While sunny, there was a stiff east wind as I crossed the Columbia. (As I got further inland again, the wind dissipated.) While 1:30pm isn’t so bad a departure for a 25 mile ride in summer, I soon realized it was a bit on the late side for winter camping, as sunset was 6pm and I wanted to be to camp by then. (While I’ve done it countless times, I don’t relish setting up camp in the dark, especially with a new tent.) And when I got into central Vancouver I breaked for the obligatory coffee and food (I hadn’t eaten lunch), so by the time I got rolling again it was pushing 3pm. Not only did I have less time, but I would be hitting rush hour, ugh. I had planned a more meandering and ambitious ride out, but I realized that I would need to take the direct route. This put me on busier roads with all that traffic, which wasn’t exciting, but these roads had either bike lanes or wide shoulders, so the fast pace I was keeping and the grandeur of the landscape (especially a very snowy Mount St. Helens and the Cascade foothills in the distance) made up for the shortcomings.
I took a quick break in downtown Battle Ground at Fred Meyer to pick up some groceries, then rode the final four miles to the park. I rolled into camp at 5:30pm. Indeed, besides a few day-users, Battle Ground Lake State Park was bereft of overnight campers save myself and one lone person in the main loop. (And of course, the camp host.) But I was at peace with that, as I was in a nice wooded setting with a view of the lake from my campsite. I set up my tent, went back to pay for the night ($12 for a walk-in site) and bought some firewood from the camp host. Of course, the camp host misheard what site I was in, so I had to go back again to get the wood.* I typically don’t build a fire when I camp solo as I look at it as more of a social thing with people (and April was always better at building the fire than I was.) But on a long night like tonight a fire was nice, though it took 3 Esbit tabs to get the thing going, and it was never “blazing”. Still, any fire is better than no fire,** and even though I had a book to read and a letter to write, I ended up spending a good deal of the evening looking at the fire while listening to the radio. I put out the fire, and hit the proverbial hay.
I woke up around 8:30 on Wednesday morning.*** I made a breakfast of coffee, pancakes, and veggie sausage while listening to NPR and the weather band on my radio, then packed up and hit the road around 10:30am. After a coffee break in Battle Ground, I took a different route home, the route I initially intended to ride out on Tuesday. This route was a bit more rambly but used quieter roads and passed through some bucolic country. There’s a scarcity in this bucolica as the urban area of Clark County (read: Vancouver, for the most part)**** keeps creeping outward. I imagine these lonely roads passing by some houses, some farms, and some woods were much more prevalent 20 years ago. Now there’s lots more housing developments and McMansions.
I also got to ride a portion of the Chelatchie Prairie Rail Trail. Right now it’s barely one mile long, starting at Battle Ground Lake and abruptly dead-ending in the woods. But the backers have ambitious plans: a trail parallel to the Lewis and Clark rail line, stretching from Vancouver Lake just north of central Vancouver all the way to Battle Ground Lake. When completed, it would allow for a completely car-free ride between the two points, which will be great for bike camping! Of course, us Portlandites still need to get across the Columbia River and through the central part of Vancouver. But it’s better than nothing. But at the current rate of development, it could take a few decades to complete. For now I’ll have to be satisfied with the one mile near Battle Ground Lake, and think wistfully for the future.
I got back home around 3pm, exhausted. Unfortunately I can’t classify this expedition as an “s24o” but it wasn’t like I was really trying. And the timing was good, too. Leaving camp it was sunny, but high clouds soon came in, and by the time I got home the wind had picked up and the temperature dipped. Overnight it rained pretty good. I lucked out on getting a window of decent weather.
Overall it was a fun trip. While I wish I had left earlier on Tuesday, nothing bad happened, and the new equipment/setup worked too. (More about all that on the next post.) I’m looking forward to more camping expeditions, especially as the days get longer, warmer, and typically drier. Now I just have to figure out where to go next.
*If you are wondering why, if the campsite is so empty why couldn’t the camp host couldn’t figure out where I was, I’ll explain: He thought I was in the main loop, where the drive-in sites and the cabins are located. But I was in the separate walk-in area, which are 14 sites strung along a quarter-mile trail. And the parking for the sites are near the beginning of the trail, so when he didn’t see a car in the designated parking area, he thought I didn’t exist. Because we all know the only way to get to a campground is by driving.
**Unless you have asthma.
***I always tell myself I’m going to get up earlier.
****Before the Vancouver partisans have my head, I realize that a lot of that growth is unincorporated areas outside of Vancouver proper, like Hazel Dell. And Battle Ground itself is growing, too.