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Messages - Pat Lamb

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Routes / Re: Need help with getting ready for bike tour - Routes
« on: December 16, 2012, 01:02:41 pm »
Most people try to avoid snow and ice while touring by bike; you have more pavement (and more room for other traffic to maneuver around you), less worries about sliding and falling, and it's easier to avoid dying from hypothermia in a snowstorm if you plan your trip so that most of your riding is in warmer weather.  Given those reasons, you might want to consider starting on the Southern Tier in January, and keeping the Northern Tier for closer to summer.

Routes / Re: Need help with getting ready for bike tour
« on: December 13, 2012, 03:51:06 pm »
Almost every long-distance bike tour trip report includes a packing list.  Look at the "registered rides" off the AC home page,, or find some completed journals on for examples.

You can look at warmshowers or couchsurfing for some registries of potential hosts.  There are a few listed on the various Adventure Cycling maps, if you're going to follow them.  Please be polite -- there's a storm brewing over rude guests, see the AC blog for some details and pointers.

After Labor Day, the national parks start rolling up the sidewalks so the bears and elk can come through.  Yellowstone, for instance, starts closing campgrounds a week after Labor Day, and (IIRC) some of the lodges close down by the end of September.  OTOH, everybody in the northwest seems to take off every weekend in July and August, so lodging then can be a challenge.

All of which is to day, I don't know what the southern passes will be like in October.

I've done part of your route in reverse -- Tetons/Yellowstone to Glacier to Anacortes.  It should be doable.  Beware of the (in)famous "5 passes in 4 days" near the beginning of the NT (FWIW, Rainy and Washington Passes are so close they shouldn't count as two).  Those "two" can make for a long day if you're motelling, although there's campgrounds between Concrete and Mazama. 

The worst grade you'll hit on this section of your route is about 8% for 0.8 miles, but there's lots of 6% to make up for the shortness of that climb.  :)  Make sure you have low gears for your knee's sake; I'd shoot for 20 gear inches or lower.  Road-group gearing at 34-28 or even 30-34 lows won't cut it.

You'll probably be limited on start time by the opening of the Washington state route 20 (Northern Cascades) passes.  Google for Washington DOT pass closure to get more information.  IIRC, their average opening date is mid-May, but sometimes it's closed into June.  They closed that road a week before it was planned to close this year, but you'll have to wait until next March to see the late season snowfall before you make any guesses on opening date.

Gear Talk / Re: sleeping bags
« on: December 09, 2012, 10:23:31 pm »
Has nobody started a good chain lubrication thread lately?  Synthetic or down isn't really a religious, it's really a matter of choice -- well, maybe it is like choosing a religion.

Having shivered my through a night because of a wet bag, I like synthetic.  I'm apparently one of very few people who have trouble keeping a sleeping bag dry.  If rain's not splashing in from a downpour, there was heavy condensation on the inside of the tent last night.  I don't doubt the theoretical possibility that one can, with careful attention, keep a bag dry during a tour.   But my history is such that I'd rather not bet on it, and so I like synthetic bags.  If most of my camping were in dry deserts, maybe I'd reconsider. 

There's lots of good brands, both for down and for synthetic bags, so any halfway decent outdoor shop will have plenty to choose from.  Just stay away from big box crap, and you'll be fine.

Routes / Re: Eastbound from Washington/Oregon
« on: December 06, 2012, 06:23:07 pm »
I'm like most of the people posting here in that I've only done one route, but I expect you'll hear from the handfull who've done more in the northwest soon.

Northern Tier to Glacier: the towns are spaced such that you'll be able to motel it most nights.  Rainy Pass and Washington Pass in the Cascades are the exception -- it's a very long day from motel to motel.  You may be able to find a B&B near Concrete, and there's an expensive lodge near Mazama.  The rest of the route you should be able to find motels within 60 miles or so.

The difficult part of the TransAm east of Missoula is the stretch east of West Yellowstone, going through the park.  There's lodges and motels in Yellowstone NP, but the tour operators normally snap those up the second or third week in January.  For that reason, many people recommend planning your trip, with appropriate rest days, early enough to get into a room.  West Thumb is centrally located between West Yellowstone and Jackson Lake in the Tetons, but Old Faithful has more to see and do.  There's a couple of options within 10-15 miles of the east side of Moran Junction in the Tetons, though they're pricy.  If you want to plan on the fly, start a week or two before you'll hit the park, and keep calling (whenever you have cell service!), and you may get lucky and one will open up the night or so you need it.

In general, you should be able to reserve rooms a day or so ahead of time.  Exceptions include special events (like a softball or soccer tournament, or a parade), and weekends often book earlier.  If you take the TransAm, booking will be much easier east of Pueblo, although I'm told the Kansas motels fill up during wheat harvest, usually a couple weeks around the first of July.

General Discussion / Re: guiding services
« on: November 20, 2012, 09:18:52 am »
Does anyone ever wish when they travel they could rent a high end road bike and get a guide to show them the local routes that are the best and safest in that area?

Check out the bike touring companies that advertise in Adventure Cycling, or look in the Cyclists' Yellow Pages off the AC home page.  Several of these companies either include a bike, or will rent you one, in the price of their tours.  You can travel either in the U.S. or abroad.

I think the sales pitch for this is that you don't have to ship your bike, or pay the exorbitant airline fees, or worry about preciousss getting damaged on the way.  Of course, many of these are pricier than my bikes, so that just adds to the fun!

The glacier route sounds brilliant, though I am not exactly a svelt or accomplished cyclist.  4 passes in 4 days might leave me crying into my cup of tea but this is supposed to be an adventure so appeals greatly.  I will leave that thought whirling around my noggin whilst I investigate all of the many other alternatives suggested.

The good news, part one, is that the grade rarely exceeds 6%.  I think the absolute worst grade was 8% going east from Tonasket for 3/4 mile.

The best news is that half of the mountains is downhill.  Whee!

That's a fairly easy question.  Get the northernmost Pacific Coast Trail map, which takes you from Vancouver down to Astoria, which by coincidence is the western terminus of the TransAm.  It's only another 400 miles!  :)

Alternatively, you could take this route or a ferry down to Anacortes, WA and take the Northern Tier east to Montana, where it's just a hop, skip and jump down to Missoula, where you can pick up the TransAm.  Great scenery, lots of climbing, and four passes in four days in Washington.  The nice folks at AC even have a map (Great Parks) to help you get from Glacier (which is well worth seeing) down south to Missoula.

General Discussion / Re: Step thru frames
« on: November 18, 2012, 11:09:05 pm »
It might work, although there's a vicious circle on the horizon ...

When I look at a seatpost rack with no other struts for support, I think "Very light loads only."  (I think my daughter's seatpost rack has a 25 pound limit.)  That's fine for inn-to-inn touring.  But then you say she doesn't have a lot of money, and I think camping.  But that typically weighs a lot.  Unless she goes for ultra-light camping, but then you're talking gear that starts to get expensive again.

Gear Talk / Re: sleeping bags
« on: November 16, 2012, 07:54:50 pm »
That said, I'm eagerly waiting to hear from somebody who's tried one of the new "coated down" bags to see (a) if they live up to the waterproof hype, and (b) how long the super-duper-water-repellent coating lasts in the field.

Are you asking about the bags with a DWR shell or the new treated down.  If you are talking a DWR shell I can comment on that.

I'm more curious about the treated down, like Sierra Design's Dridown.  I say "curious" instead of "interested" because I'm not sure it's worth a new bag to save half a pound or so.

Gear Talk / Re: sleeping bags
« on: November 16, 2012, 03:51:51 pm »
When you have to carry the gear with your own muscles and have limited space like panniers or a backpack, DOWN sleeping bags are the choice.  Small and traveling on your bike with a synthetic sleeping bag?  Good luck.

Depends on circumstances, of course.  I missed one stinkin' stake last summer and got a puddle half the size of my tent after an overnight rain.  With a synthetic bag, only my toes were cold.  I'd have spent the night looking for a warm restroom if I'd had down.

That said, I'm eagerly waiting to hear from somebody who's tried one of the new "coated down" bags to see (a) if they live up to the waterproof hype, and (b) how long the super-duper-water-repellent coating lasts in the field.

General Discussion / Re: Advice on Heading South in Winter
« on: November 14, 2012, 06:53:28 pm »
Another option would be to ship whatever you don't want to carry and can't check.  Pick a hotel or bike shop near your Amtrak arrival point, call them and ask if they'd be willing to receive and keep a package for a few days before you arrive.  If you go this route, check the heavier items on the train and ship the light stuff, as UPS, FedEx, and USPS charge by weight.  And since you're going to be starting before Christmas, beware of the holiday shipping rush and allow an extra few days to get there.

Gear Talk / Re: Bike Rack Advice
« on: November 14, 2012, 10:22:15 am »
I'd suggest a trip to your local bike shop (LBS), REI, or similar outdoor gear store.  You can look at the various racks, touch them, heft them, and talk to people knowledgeable about them.  While you don't have the infinite availability of different models you'd get on Amazon, you can bet they carry good racks, and can show you how to install it on your car, and how to install the bike on the rack.  Finally, you don't have to pay shipping!

Gear Talk / Re: Touring Bikes - Surly LHT vs Novarra Randonee
« on: November 13, 2012, 10:26:57 am »
I'm almost with John on the "test ride and buy" recommendation.  If there's an REI near you that has this (last) year's size XL in stock, try it and buy if you like it.  But REI has been tinkering with the spec on the Randonnee for the last few years.  For a couple years around 2009 they had a road gears with a 30-28 low gear, IIRC.  For loaded touring, you want MTB gears, like a 26-34 low.  I'd wait and see how this (next) year's bike is spec'ed before I pulled the trigger.

FWIW, OP, I'm your height and the XL has fit me pretty well.  My 2006 frame broke in 2009, and REI treated me well; gave me a new bike, and then retrofitted the cassette, fenders, front rack, saddle, and the adjustable stem to get the bars up where I needed them.  They even double-checked the wheel, and I ended up crossing the country with no broken spokes.  Oh, and this frame has over 10,000 miles and is still going strong.

Also FWIW, close to half the other tourists we met had an LHT, and nobody had anything bad to say about them.

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