Is there a special lube that stays clean that I'm not aware of? Wax lubes stay clean but a person would have to reply it every day, is that what touring people do? My experience with drip on wax lubes is that my chains get about 2/3rds LESS mileage on them before they are worn out, so replacing a chain once or twice going across country would be ridiculas too.
That has not been my experience. I have not seen issues with shortened chain life and wax based lubes. I generally get 10,000 miles or so with something like Boesheild T9 applied every few days and with pretty much no cleaning.
when I did the NT I replaced my chain twice. I look on chains as disposable and not worth the effort and mess of trying to make them last by cleaning etc. It's a 5 minute job replacing a chain like a SRAM that has a Quicklink if you know the trick for opening gummed up Quicklinks. And they aren't that expensive. I carry a Park CC-1 chain checker and replace them sooner rather than later to preserve the teeth on the cassette (generally I get 3 chains to a cassette another consumable)
That surprises me. It sounds like you change chains every 1500 miles or so and that cassettes only last you maybe 4,000 or 5,000 miles. Is that correct or am I reading that wrong? Is that with a steel cog cassette? Aluminum? Something else?
Chains typically last me 10,000 miles or so (with very minimal care) and truth be told I have only rarely ever worn out a cassette, but some of them have certainly lasted me 20,000 miles or more, some of them probably a lot more.