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Messages - Itinerant Harper

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I don't know about your time constraints or what have you but from Anacortes to North Bend but if you aren't super time compressed I'd take the Mountain Loop Highway and camp in the National Forest there. There are many campgrounds in that area you so you could adjust the miles to your needs. This is a really scenic route, though it does have many miles of gravel road. Not a problem on my touring bicycle with 38mm tires but YMMV.  I basically did a trip from Kirkland WA to Red Bridge Campground on the Mountain Loop Highway to Bayview State Park which by your itinerary you could certainly do. As the Mountain Loop campground was day 1 on my tour I of course got off late so one could certainly make it well beyond Kirkland with an earlier start. It also would be very easy to connect to the Snoqualmie Valley Trail from the Mountain Loop and this would take you right up to Snoqualmie/North Bend/Rattlesnake Lake where the Iron Horse Trail begins.  Anyway if this seems interesting I could dig up more details on the route.

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Pacific Northwest / Re: Anacortes - Concrete ?
« on: March 31, 2014, 08:41:28 am »
So having grown up in Anacortes and toured extensively around there I can say that the ACA routes and virtually every other one I've seen is not the best route in the area.  What you really want to do is take the Tommy Thompson trail from downtown which crosses Fidalgo Bay on a decommissioned train trestle.  Then you want to hang a left on March's Point road and go around March's Point. This road is along the water the entire way and on the land side is two oil refinery's which are of course horrific but fascinating in that decline of industrial empire sort of way.  March's Point Road then swings back in and intersects with Hwy 20 right at the Twin Bridges over the Swinomish Slough.  By taking this route you only have to ride on 20 for the Bridge Crossing as pretty much right off the bridge you take a right and go under the bridge and then you are back on the ACA route.

The ACA route from the bridges to Sedro Wooley is great and is definitely recommended. You get a bit along the mudflats at the beginning and then across farmland and around the Skagit River.  Sedro Wooley as far as little towns go has it's charms and you should certainly stock up on anything you need at that point as the services begin to dwindle.

Okay so as for the real question at hand I have ridden the South Skagit Highway, the Cascade Trail and the North Cascades Highway. S. Skagit has it's charms for sure - the lack of traffic and the tree lined corridor is definitely the kind of riding I like. However I've taken the Cascade Trail far more often.  It is a gravel trail, but quite hard packed most of the time (closer in to Sedro Wooley a bit less so) and the chip seal you'll find on the SSH isn't much better. It follows the Skagit River for a fair piece closer to Sedro Wooley and you see far, far more of the river than on the SSH.  It then cross farmland and gets into the trees and it is a treelined corridor the rest of the way to Concrete.  I tended to occasionally hop on the the N. Cascades Hwy to break it up a bit, but once into the wooded sections I stick with it. 

The other reason I prefer to be on the north side is that the last grocery store you going to find is just West of Concrete and you have to backtrack to it if you take the SSH. Additionally one of my favorite campgrounds - and definitely the best you'll find before you get into the National Park - is also south of Concrete: Rasar State Park. This 'ground is on the river and has a new-ish and very nice hiker/biker site that is nicely separated from the main ground.

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Routes / Re: Sierra Cascades or Pacific Coast?
« on: January 16, 2014, 09:37:59 am »
If you are going south to north I'd take the Sierra-Cascades. But it's a tougher route which might be a factor for one's first tour.

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General Discussion / Re: Olympic Discovery Trail
« on: January 15, 2014, 09:46:50 am »
You pretty much are stuck with hwy 20 for the bulk of riding around Discovery Bay.  From Port Townsend you can take the "Larry Scott Trail" which intersects with 20 and then heads west. You can take it a bit further west and then use Discovery Road, but really if you are heading south it's easiest just to ride on 20.  At that point it has a nice shoulder which does fade away as you get further south.  But in my experience as it's downhill most of the way to the intersection with 101 it's fine. Going North is harder but I've done it a few times and it's survivable. 

Once you are on 101 there is a big shoulder all the way to Blyn where you can get onto the ODT.  There are also frontage roads that you can go on and off if you want a break from the traffic.  Old Gardiner Road comes and goes as you make your way up the hill to Gardiner.  I can't vouch for it having the same gentle grade of 101 - you are climbing for a mile or two up from the bay - as I've pretty much just stayed with 101 as it's not that bad and you'll be on the trail soon enough.

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General Discussion / Re: Olympic Discovery Trail
« on: January 13, 2014, 09:35:08 am »
I've ridden the Olympic Discovery trail many times and it is absolutely worth doing. They seem to extend it a bit every time I end up out there but as of last summer it was paved from Blyn to Port Angeles with a few sections that take you on the road.  The ODT is a rail trail but many of the trestles weren't maintained/rebuilt and the trail can plunge down into river valleys and climb out. No problem really fully loaded but just an FYI that it isn't your 2% grade trail the whole time. There are unpaved "adventure" routes past Port Angeles which I haven't done but I have ran into other cyclotourists who have.  When I rode out to Cape Flattery in 2012 I used the Adventure Cycling Route (Washington Parks) from Port Angeles to the hwy 112/113 intersection and then 112 to the Cape.  The PA to 112/113 is right on the coast, not too trafficked and much better than 101 along Lake Crescent. The dirt ODT runs on the other side of Lake Crescent from what I understand so it is a bit South of taking 112.

Anyway hope that helps. I basically recommend the ODT from Blyn to PA and hwy 112 out to the Cape.

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Scotttb has it pretty right on - I've stayed at/eaten/etc most of those places he cites and can second them.  Apart from that a few things:
- All the National campgrounds are great and you can't go wrong with them.
- Allow yourself some time at the coast. 101 skirts the Quinault Indian Reservation so really isn't on the coast all that long. Stay at South Beach or Kalaloch and spend some time at the beach. Great lodge at Kalaloch and a little store so I've always stayed there. The coast is pretty wild this far up and while always windy and can be cold is fantastic.
- Plenty to do at Lake Quinault with a number of national parks there plus several commercial. Several lodges, restaurants, stores and so on.
- Take the side trip to the Hoh and spend at least one day there. Plenty of fantastic hikes, hot springs and rain forest info and such there.
- I took a side trip up to Neah Bay and hiked out to Cape Flattery (the most NW point in the state). This was well worth doing and the road - which is a there and back situation - is incredibly scenic.  You can get to this by turning left (NW) onto 112 where the route splits off of 113 (heading east on 112) if going CW. Neah Bay and the Cape are on the Makah Indian Reservation and there is apparently camping up there which I hadn't known so I camped just outside the Res at Snow Creek Fishing resort which is a fisherman's place but has a nice wooded camping area off from the main boat ramp. http://www.snowcreekwa.com
- Port Angeles has several brewpubs if that's your thing (it is mine!) Peaks is great and there is another tiny one just a few blocks from there: Barhop  There is also a great Co-op where you can get bulk foods along with all the other amenities.
- Definitely stick with the Olympia Discovery Trail. From Port Angeles it heads right to Sequim Bay State Park which has h/b sites and is a cute little park on the bay.
-Port Townsend of course has the Port Townsend Brewery and the Pourhouse, both south of downtown by the marina for the beer drinking. In downtown proper among the bookstores and knicknack shops are several cycling shops if the need arises, Waterfront Pizza which has HUGE slices,  Elevated Ice Cream which makes their own and Better Living Through Coffee - my favorite coffee shop on the peninsula.

There is of course tons more. If you are going to Anacortes and beyond I have a much better route than the Adventure Cycling Route plus plenty of info on Whidbey, Fidalgo, Anacortes, Skagit Valley and so on.  Anyway this is a beautiful area that I really love so you'll have a great time. Enjoy the ride!

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I rode Washington Parks map 1 last year and living in the area plenty of bits of it in the year since. There is plenty of chip seal on the route but there has not been any sort of complete chip sealing of 101 - I think I encountered more chipseal on the side roads and smaller highways on the route.  There are definitely some places where you are riding on it for many miles but often there will be places where the shoulder was left unsealed and you can ride in relative ease there.  All that being said, this is some fantastic riding and I wouldn't let chip seal deter me.

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Routes / Re: Suggestions needed for favorite 7-day trip in US
« on: May 24, 2013, 09:40:26 am »
The San Juan Islands in WA State up to the Gulf Islands in British Columbia is an excellent place to tour. Could do tons in a week, though of course it's one of those places you could spend a lot more time. Lots of good camping, incredible sights, quaint little towns, nice trails on Vancouver Island, ferry boat travel and so on.

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Gear Talk / Re: Novara Safari..opinions of ownership
« on: May 23, 2013, 09:46:34 am »
I had a Safari for years (proof here: Safari Gallery) and while in the main I think it's a pretty great bicycle I had some issues with it. Of course mine was so old that some of these issues might have been resolved. There were basically three primary problems I had with it. One it's hard to get a real good fit on it. Mine was probably a size too small, but I think I would have been to stretched out when in the "hooks" with the next size up.  Like others I also had to use a stem riser to get the bars higher and could have gone with them being even higher.  The next issue for me was that I really came to dislike the twist shifters.  I looked around for other options and I think I could have gotten thumb shifters working, so that is an option. For the record I came to dislike grip shifters while on a tour in the San Juan and Gulf Islands where it rained for 9 days in a row. I found my hands constantly slipped on the grip shifters in this scenario which on the super steep hills in these islands is a serious downside.  I also came to not like that the brakes are on the most upright position on the trekking bars.  I found this somewhat unstable when you'd be braking at speed under load. It'd be better if they were on the "hooks" which perhaps you could do. Finally I came to not really like the aluminum frame. It does indeed have that brittleness that so many have noted and I certainly prefer steel.

So anyway I think if one was going to check one out definitely try going at least a size up from what REI will put you on. I probably could have worked around all the issue with the h'bars but the fit was in the end a deal breaker for me. I'm just not entirely sure that most people can dial in a perfect fit on that frames limited sizes.

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Gear Talk / Re: Bio Lite Stove...
« on: May 22, 2013, 10:02:18 am »
So I picked one of these up this spring and have taken it on a short 4 day tour around SW Washington State. I wouldn't consider this extensive testing by any means but I can certainly offer my impressions so far.  Let me set the stage first: so far I always tour solo, self-contained and do pretty ambitious cooking. That is to say I'm not just boiling water, I'll actually cook things where it may take a long time (like rice say), you are pretty active in the minding the cooking (like a stir fry) or you need temperature control (something like oatmeal, or the rice, etc).  I've been using alcohol stoves since I've been touring and I'm a pretty die hard Trangia fan since picking one of those up a couple years back. I also have been experimenting with electronics and charging systems for most of my tours. These experiments I've pretty well documented in these two posts on my blog: charging systems and charging systems revisited.

One of my latest interests has been one reducing overall dependency on services. Two aspects of that IMO are buying fuel and charging devices. So the BioLite seemed to offer solutions to those problems. Now as always I'd done my research and knew that the BioLite is not going to offer much charging unless you just sat there feeding the fire for hours. However in my experience if you are serious about charging stuff what you want is an external battery and you should always keep that charged. You also should keep your devices charged as well instead of running it all the way down. The goal should be to be able to only drain your batteries in a give day as much as you can recharge in a typical day. That is if you use 10% of your smartphone battery per day you should be able to charge it 10%. So anything that offers additional charging along with its primary function is an advantage - if and only if it does the primary function well.

So how does the BioLite work for cooking? I have to say not bad.  I made soba noodles the first time I used it, which is a pretty common go to dish for me. However it's not one that demands a lot of temperature control. I mean its nice to turn down your stuff once the water is boiling so it doesn't boil over but you can deal.  You can control the fan speed on the BioLite between high and low and that gives you a rough temperature control. You also as you use it build up coals inside and you actually can have a nice lower temp burn up going.  But it's hard to keep it at that. This is because you need to constantly feed the stove. It's small - which is good cause otherwise you wouldn't tour with it - but that means it doesn't hold much wood.  For pure boiling of water from my kettle it pretty much kicked ass, at least as fast as my Trangia with kettle. 

I have a style where I tend to either setup or take down my camp while cooking (if the food prep isn't too demanding). This is true in the morning especially where I always make oat bran and coffee and can pretty much have all my gear beyond the cooking gear packed by the time breakfast is ready. This is much more difficult with the BioLite.  Since I used my Trangia cookset with the BioLite I carried the whole thing with me and used it for breakfast cooking.

So my thoughts on this is that the best way to use the BioLite is to carry another stove, one that ideally fits in your cookset and thus isn't much more bulk. One could carry less fuel in this case -  basically one bottle of HEET being the typical minimal amount I can buy. One would want to use the BioLite as much as you could but in the cases where you find no twigs - say in grassland type camping - or where you don't want to feed the fire, or are in a rush you use your other stove.  This does bring up the last point worth mentioning. The BioLite is pretty heavy and bulky as far as it goes. Since you have to carry at least some sort of cookset along with it, your space for your cooking gear is a lot bigger. If you could use it exclusively the weight savings on carrying fuel would I think be pretty close but the bulk is unavailable. In multi-person groups I think a lot of these problems would be alleviated - the bulk is less of an issue, someone needing to constantly mind the stove is less of an issue, carrying a backup is less of an issue.

I did use it to charge my external battery and it worked fine. But I'd need to do a lot more experimenting with it to say how much I'd count on charging in a typical cook session. Unless you just barely use your devices I wouldn't count on it to keep your stuff charged. But if you have another system (generator, solar or frequent mains access) it certainly will help. 

I suppose it's also worth noting that this is a fire you are cooking over. So there is smoke, soot and flames.  I rarely made campfires in camp myself but I do enjoy them. The BioLite does give you a nice, easy to make fire for that purposes. But you do smell like smoke and your cookgear gets a lot more dirty.

Anyway as I use it more I'll post some more experiences.  In the end I think it works as advertised but there are a lot of things to consider. But this is the case with any cooking gear so everyone will have to decide what the tradeoff and benefits they are willing to make.

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Routes / Re: Northern Route oil and gas activity
« on: March 14, 2013, 10:21:26 am »
Even with the reroute you are still impacted by the shale gas bubble.  The new route to Dickinson is mostly parallel to I-94 and the traffic isn't bad. But once in Dickinson the bubble is definitely being felt. By the time I arrived there I'd been in need of a rest day for quite some time and figured in a decent sized town I'd get a hotel room. Not a single room was available in all of the recommend joints on the ACA maps. Doing an increasingly expanding Google Maps search I did find places with one or two available rooms but always in the US$200 range - outside of my budget.  I ended up camping in this place that had RV's parked almost on top of each other but with three little "cabins" and three little plots of land for camping. Super nice people there - as I arrived there was the biggest storm I'd ever seen with the clouds swirled like a tornado, torrential rain and crazy wind.  They let me stay in one of these cabins without the cash deposit as I only had enough on hand for the normal fee. 

Anyway the long and short of it is that all the hotel/motel rooms and all those people in RVs were staying in Dickinson and commuting up to Williston to work the shale fields. Which is crazy but it must be absolutely insane up there.  So if I was doing it again I'd try to arrange my travel so that I passed through Dickinson. Being a larger town you can definitely resupply and such there - several good health food stores are there - but very busy and tough to stay there. I ended up taking my rest day in Bismarck where hotels were pretty much what you'd expect for North Dakota. Though even at that hotel, there were people staying there long term who were working in the fields.

The route the ACA routed through all of this was fine though and there wasn't traffic issues.

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Gear Talk / Re: Generator Hubs and USB Devices
« on: February 09, 2013, 10:12:46 am »
I wrote two extensive posts on my blog last year about my experience with various charging systems. Not a comprehensive overview - I tended to research extensively first and settle on a specific system. So these reports are based on my experience of a couple of systems on long tours.

Charging Systems
Charging Systems Revisited

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Pacific Northwest / Re: San Juan trip - suggestions
« on: November 22, 2012, 10:27:35 am »
Sounds like a good trip - you can't really go wrong out there. Plenty to explore too; if you do a longer time out in the Islands I highly recommend riding Canada's Gulf Islands along with the US San Juans. It's the same island chain but just across the border. However the character of the islands is remarkably different.

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Pacific Northwest / Re: San Juan trip - suggestions
« on: November 15, 2012, 11:41:05 am »
Do you mean Fort Worden outside of Port Townsend? If so, +1.  Have stayed there twice. Definitely nice hiker/biker sites and nice shore.

No, I meant Fort Townsend State Park: http://www.parks.wa.gov/parks/?selectedpark=Fort%20Townsend

Fort Worden is fantastic of course with excellent Hiker/Biker sites and all the great beaches and hikes and such.  Definitely worth staying at. However when coming up from the South staying at Fort Townsend can cut off a few miles at the end of your day. It is right on the trail into Port Townsend and it's pretty much all downhill into town. If you are just coming in in the evening and going to leave next morning I think it's the better option. But if one can spend some time actually doing stuff at Fort Worden it is the place to go.  Great place for a rest day - beyond all the stuff at Fort Worden itself you can easily take the bus into PT or a nice walk through the town which has a lot of old classic architecture.

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Pacific Northwest / Re: San Juan trip - suggestions
« on: November 14, 2012, 11:42:45 am »
Hey Max!

I've ridden all of those options that you listed and they all have points in their favor  Here's a route that I setup for someone here who asked about Seatac to Anacortes: http://g.co/maps/hw2up

This more or less follows the Interurban to Everett and then a pretty direct route to Mukilteo.  The routes on Whidbey and Anacortes are the most scenic routes - not the fastest or shortest. But the most off the highways and like I said the most scenic. This is pretty much the most direct route and you can camp at South Whidbey State Park or Deception Pass State Park if you want to split up the distance (its a bit less then 100 miles from your start point). Both of those campgrounds have hiker/biker sites.

Note that this ends right in Anacortes which if you want to go right to the ferry may not be what you want. However Anacortes is worth hitting for supplies, restaurants, pubs, the 24 Hour Donut shop &c.  Then you just ride the signed 20 spur to the Ferry.  However if you camped at say Deception Pass and wanted to ride straight to the ferry you should turn Left onto Marine Drive from Rosario Road and then Left again to stay on it. This becomes Anaco which takes you right to Sunset Ave where you turn right and you'll be at the road down to the ferry. I should say though that I really recommend my route through the center of Fidalgo as it's a nicer ride and beautiful.

If you go inland that is also great riding.  You could do Edmonds to Port Townsend in a longish day. I'd camp at Fort Townsend State Park which is a few miles outside of PT and will cut down the mileage. It also has a great hiker/biker site. Don't skip out on Port Townsend Brewing :) 

On the San Juan's themselves, well they are all great riding. Lopez is the flatest with only the climb up from the Ferry. Orcas is the most hilliest but very scenic, the most quirky and Moran State Park is excellent (Plus Mt. Constitution is must do). San Juan Island has the most riding and interesting historical things to see. Plus Friday Harbor is the biggest town out there and you'll find the most groceries, restaurants and pubs (though I hear the great Front Street Ale House is closed). Shaw is the smallest but not without its charms. It has a little county park there where the hiker/biker camping was super cheap and right on the beach. I don't recall there being much shopping options on Shaw (there probably is a general store but I can't remember it) so I'd bring at least some food supplies with you if you stay there. Orcas and Friday Harbor both have plenty of options.

The Vancouver Island option is a great choice - lots of great riding there plus Victoria is an excellent city. Good hostel there, plenty to see and do and a number of great pubs.  I assume you'll ride the Lochside Trail from the ferry to the city, which is definitely the way to go. It rides pretty much right past the hostel once you get into the city (though its pretty much city riding at that point).  It also connects right to the Galloping Goose Trail which is an amazing trail that goes pretty far up the western edge of the island. But whatever you do on Vancouver Island it will be nice.  Looks like you are taking the Ferry back, the Victoria Clipper I assume. Note that with them you bicycle is more or less exposed to the elements and they recommend you strip off all your gear. So be prepared for that.

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