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Messages - Itinerant Harper

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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.

Routes / Re: Suggestions needed for favorite 7-day trip in US
« on: May 24, 2013, 12:40:26 pm »
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.

Gear Talk / Re: Novara Safari..opinions of ownership
« on: May 23, 2013, 12:46:34 pm »
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.

Gear Talk / Re: Bio Lite Stove...
« on: May 22, 2013, 01:02:18 pm »
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.

Routes / Re: Northern Route oil and gas activity
« on: March 14, 2013, 01:21:26 pm »
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.

Gear Talk / Re: Generator Hubs and USB Devices
« on: February 09, 2013, 12:12:46 pm »
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

Pacific Northwest / Re: San Juan trip - suggestions
« on: November 22, 2012, 12:27:35 pm »
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.

Pacific Northwest / Re: San Juan trip - suggestions
« on: November 15, 2012, 01:41:05 pm »
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:

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.

Pacific Northwest / Re: San Juan trip - suggestions
« on: November 14, 2012, 01:42:45 pm »
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:

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.

Routes / Re: Transportation options from Bar Harbor
« on: August 08, 2012, 11:11:51 am »
Hey thanks for the info. I decided to just ship my bicycle out from the Bar Harbor Bike Shop (good guys) and fly out via the BH Airport. There are plenty of other options but this seemed the easiest. Had a hard time getting train tickets and getting to places I can check baggage and the like. Would have rather done the train but what can you do?  Anyway I'm sort of surprised there isn't a page on the ACA website for transportation options at the start/end points of the various routes. I've got most of the info gathered for Bar Harbir if they want to start one  ;D

Routes / Re: Transportation options from Bar Harbor
« on: August 04, 2012, 10:11:15 am »
So it looks like you have to take the Bangor Shuttle to Bangor and from there you can take Concord Coachline directly to Boston whe one can take trains anywhere or to Portland where one can catch the Downeaster. Sort of a PITA - any better options out there?

Routes / Transportation options from Bar Harbor
« on: August 04, 2012, 09:43:26 am »
So my Northern Tier is wrapping up and I've been looking into how to get out of Bar Harbor. I want to get on the train which looks like Portland, MN is the closest stop. Anyway good ways to get there? Public Transit? Shuttle Bus? Etc.  Other options of interest as well - what do most people do?

Huh, it works for me. But I'll update it with the full Google Maps link instead of a short URL.

The above route to Fidalgo Island seems okay and the route on Fidalgo is nice, but here's the route I'd take:
Bayview to Deception Pass Bridge

I started it a Bayview State Park as that should intersect decently with any backroads route from Sedro Wooley (and maybe you'd want to camp there anyway).

This route takes you around March point, which has a refinery in the middle of it which is sort of horrific but in an industrially fascinating way.  But it's flat and along the water the entire way with views of Mount Baker/Cascades, Skagit flats, San Juan Islands and the city of Anacortes.  As you round to the western side of the point you get on a rail-trail that crosses on a long trestle right over the bay.  This will take you right into Anacortes. I changed the route to bail you off early, but if you continue on the trail you'll go into "Old Town" Anacortes where you'll find the best cafes, restaurants and pubs.  You can easily get back on this route from downtown by following M Ave south.

From Anacortes this route then takes you into the Community forest lands. There are tons of trail riding in here (though the best are a bit west of this route) but this route takes you past three lakes (Hart, Erie and Pass), Mount Erie, past two great beaches (Rosario and Bowman) and then to Deception Pass (also my childhood home at a certain point :) ). Of course both of the routes that hug the coasts are great too but this is my favorite route through the Island and keeps you the most off of Hwy 20.

General Discussion / Re: Vancouver BC to Seattle Route
« on: April 24, 2012, 08:36:54 pm »
Both routes are quite scenic but the San Juan's are a national treasure. If you can spend a few days (or more) in the Islands I would do it.

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