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Messages - indyfabz

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1
General Discussion / Re: Hand Signs
« on: April 21, 2014, 10:38:44 am »
BTW, I'm leery of using "on-your left" announcements on some mass rides or on Rail Trails. There are so many inexperienced and inept riders there that their response is often to veer to the left which is exactly what you DON'T want them to do.

Heh. Yesterday I was riding home during a three-day and on a busy MUP. Said "On your left" and the person moved left. Also, manny users don't hear you anyway because they have the music turned up.

2
Routes / Re: Seattle to Missoula
« on: April 21, 2014, 07:54:10 am »
One way is to head north and pick up the Northern Tier to Whitefish, MT. Then due south thru Seeley Lake.  Not the most direct, but very scenic.

+1. You can take a ferry out of Seattle to pick up the Pacific Coat route. That takes you to just east of Anacortes, where you can pick up the Northern Tier route. Great Parks will take you south from Whitefish/Columbia Falls to Missoula. As noted, it's not the most direct, but it's very scenic. Going this way also gives you few days of warm up before you cross the Cascade Mountains. Both times I rode Seattle to Whitefish at a liesurely pace is took about 17 days including rest days in Withrop, after the Cascades, and Sandpoint.

If time is not a factor, you could also keep on the NT to Glacier National Park, pitch camp for a few days, ride up and back down the west slope of Going to the Sun, then back track to Whitefish/Columbia Falls. That would add two days.

From Whitefish to Missoula is an easy three day ride. Depending on how much mileage you are willing to do, you might be able to pull it off in two days. I left Glacier, rode back to Whitefish then to Big Fork. The next day I camped at Lake Alva. Day three I was in Missoula. Don't recall any of those days being difficult.

3
General Discussion / Re: no progress with Amtrak for GAP / C&O
« on: April 16, 2014, 08:23:41 am »
Passenger rail service in this country, with the possible exceptions of the Northeast corridor (say Norfolk VA to Portland ME) and the Pacific coast from San Francisco to San Diego, has too low a population density and too much space between major cities to be economically feasible.

The Keystone service (NYC-Philly-Harrisburg) is very popular as is Milwaukee-Chicago. Both have about 14 trains each weekday. Amtrak's Illinois service is, too. That's not to mention the numerous commuter rail agencies. New Jersey Transit, for example, is tryingto add more capacity bot on and off the Northeast Corridor.

But I do believe are funding prioritiesd are out of whack.

4
General Discussion / Re: Logistics of shipping equipment for touring
« on: April 16, 2014, 08:08:31 am »
The two TSA agents I have spoken to about stoves both told me that if they are detected they will be confiscated because of fuel and/or ash residue. I have an MSR Dragonfly. No way am I willing to risk that getting confiscated.

The two times I have flown domestically for unsupported tours, I have shipped my bike via UPS in a plastic case from Crateworks:

http://www.crateworks.com/

The boxes are big but still "airline legal." Their depth allows me to fit both my large racks in the case along with my 60cm LHT. I remove them and "weave" them around the frame. I also put my stove and empty fuel bottle in the crate. I ship the package to a local bike shop at the start and have them assemble and tune the bike. The shop stores my box and the duffle bag I flew with. When I return, I take the bike to the shop and go have a beer. The shop packs and ships the bike back to the address of my choosing. The shop labor costs money, but if your airline charges a lot for a bike, youi might save money or at least break even. Plus, you don't have to worry about ground transportation with your bike if you don't plan to ride straight from the airport.

I am booked to Missoula in June on United. I think United charges $175 for a bike each way. I will be going the shipping route again. If you choose to ship, you should leave about 10 days for UPS ground shipping just to be on the safe side. I have shipped from Philly to Montana twice. It's never taken more than about 7 days, but I like to play it safe. Also, you should make arrangmentas with the shop well ahead of time so you will be on the schedule. A few years ago, the Missoula bike shop we used forgot to put us on the schedule for packing and shipping back home even though we had made it clear when we would be dropping our bikes off. That resulted in about a 4 day delay in getting our bikes back.

5
General Discussion / Re: no progress with Amtrak for GAP / C&O
« on: April 11, 2014, 05:04:22 am »
As a rail supporter since the late 1970s, I have seen a steady erosion of baggage services nationwide. Since many stops outside urban corridors have, at most, one train each day in each direction, it is prohibitively expensive to staff a station. For liability reasons it is risky to have people do their own loading.  It's one thing on urban routes with raised platforms or low-level car doors to have cyclist bring their own bikes on board - - but to get a bike into a baggage car may involve too much risk.

This plus the fact that the baggage cars Amtyrak inherited were vintage. 1950s, I believe. Many reached the ends of their useful lives. New baggage cars cost a lot of money, and the remaining ones are expensive to maintain. Amtrak labor is, in general, more expensive than the industry norm.

In Amtrak's defense re: schedules: Outside of the Northeast Corridor and the Philadelphia-Harrisburgh line, where servicve is pretty reliable, Amtrak does not own or dispatch the rigths of way it operates on. The Cumberland--Pitsburgh services operates on a very busy piece of railroad. Typically, there is a contractual incentive for the owning freight road to keep Amtrak on schedule, but that isn't always popular.

6
Routes / Re: From east to west starting June 2014
« on: April 10, 2014, 06:18:36 am »
@indyfabz : Thanks for your advices. Maybe we'll take a train to enter  and leave the cities. We think to use warmoshower, couchsurfing and hostels.

We definitely want to go to Glacier NP and spend a few day there. What is the weather there, in september ?
Excited about the ferry ride too, do you have the name of the hostel ?

According to locals I have spoken with, they love September in Glacier. The bugs are gone as are many of the crowds. Apgar, Sprague Creek and Avalanche Campgrounds, all on the west side of the road, have hiker/biker campsites. A visit to Lake McDonald lodge is a must on the west side. Grab a beer at the bar and enjoying it down by the water.

I would check the park's web site. There has been an ongoing road rehab project in the park. In past years, the park service has closed portions of Going to the Sun for periods in September to allow for uninterrupted constrcution work. Later in the year they will likely post closure information on their web site.

This is the site for the HI Hostel in Seattle:

http://www.hiusa.org/washington/seattle/the-american-hotel

I think there are a couple of others. The HI Hostel was packed in late May. Don't know how busy it is at other times, but a reservation is probably advisable.

This shows the ferries:

http://www.wsdot.com/ferries/schedule/

It's been a long time, so I don't remember the exact ferry that took me close to the ACA Pacific Coast Route, but I am pretty sure it was either the Bainbridge Isnand or Bremerton ferry.

7
Routes / Re: Northern Tier west to east, points of interest?
« on: April 09, 2014, 07:17:51 am »
If you're interested in history, the Nez Perce museum in Chinook MT is interesting

+1. We stopped there and watched the vide presentation.

If you have the time, I highly recommend doing the portion of the roue into Alberta and taking a day off in Waterton Village. There is a very scenic town campsite right on the lake. Further east in Alberta, Magrath is home to a Hutterite colony. Just remember to bring your passports.

In MN you can see a giant statue of Paul Bunyon and Babe the Blue Ox in Bemidji, walk across the Mississippi River at Lake Itasca State Park and visit the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids. The "Field of Dreams" baseball field is outside of Dyersville, IA. If you take a detour to Davenport, IA and cross the river into Moline, IL via historic Rock Island you can visit the John Deere Pavilion, which claims to be the largest agricultural museum in the world. There is a community center in Monroeville, IN where cyclists can stay. Cleveland has the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and the optional tour of the city through Cleveland Heights and Shaker Heights is nice. The Rainbow Hostel in Niagara Falls was a nice place for a rest day.

8
Routes / Re: From east to west starting June 2014
« on: April 09, 2014, 06:45:58 am »
I was going to make tyhe same comment about big cities. A place like Chicago can be very difficult to navigate if you are unfamiliar with the area. If you are set on that plan, you might want to go to www.bikeforums.net and post in the relevant regional discussion area. Someone might be able to give you a good route through town. Just don't expect any camping and be prepared to pay a lot for a hotel room. I would also make reservations. Chicago is very crowded with tourists in the summer.

As for Seattle, you could head north from Missoula on ACA's Great Parks North route. That takes you to Whitefish, MT, where you can pick up the Northern Tier through ID and WA. Hang a left just east of Anacortes, WA on the Pacific Coast route and you will pass within a short ferry ride of Seattle, where there is a nice hostel for lodging. The Northern Tier through WA is quite nice.

From Whitefish, you could take a short side trip east to Glacier National Park:

http://www.nps.gov/glac/index.htm

Set up camp there for a few days and ride up and back down the west slope of Going to the Sun Road, arguably one of the most scenic roads in the country, then head back to Whitefish to pick up the Northern Tier.

9
Routes / Re: From east to west starting June 2014
« on: April 08, 2014, 01:44:44 pm »
Your map has you riding through the Holland Tunnel. Can't do that, legally or with the hope of surviving. Same for many of the other roads your map shows you using, such as I-280 and I-80. Roads marked with red and blue shields and white numbers are called Interstate Highways. Bikes are not permitted in the eastern part of the country. You may ride on many Interstate Highways in the western part of the country, such as in Montana, but by no means all of them.

The only way west out of Manhattan by bike is the George Washington Bridge, which is at the north end of the island. I would avoid Newark and surrounding areas unless someone gives you a trusted route. New Jersey is the most densley populated state in the Unitied States. Newark is the most densley populated part of New Jersey. Not the place you want to wing or ad lib a route.

New York State has a series of signed state bike routes that can take you to, among other places, Buffalo. An interactive map can be found here:

https://www.dot.ny.gov/bicycle

I haven't ridden any of them. It's my understanding that their pleasantness can vary.

Another option to Buffalo is this, also with an interactive map:

http://www.ptny.org/bikecanal/

Yet another option is to take a short train ride from Manhattan to Seacaucs Junction then a second, longer train ride out to Port Jervis, NY (pretty ride.) From there, ride across the Delaware River to Matamoras, Pennsylvania and pick up signed PA Bike Route L starting with Spur Y1:

ftp://ftp.dot.state.pa.us/public/pdf/bikes/state_mapY.pdf

That will take you close to Erie, PA. From Erie, you can follow one of the NY State Routes to Buffalo.

Personally, I would not bother riding out of Manhattan without a good route. There are several train and options, including the aforementioned train connection to Port Jervis and the Metro North line from Grand Central Terminal as far north as Poughkeepsie, New York. You cannot take your bike on during peak hours, but that can be worked around, especially if you start on a Saturday or Sunday.

10
Routes / Re: Looking for week-long spring route in Eastern US
« on: March 31, 2014, 11:41:32 am »
Depends on what you consider "too."  The temperature and percipitation charts included with the Green Mountains Loop show, for mid-May, an average daily high of about 66 F and an average nightly low about 45 F. Total average rainfall for the month is slightly over 3". It's higher in June-September.

I did much of the route as a loop from/to Burlington during ACA's supported camping tour, so I can vouch for the pretty scenery. Burlington makes a good starting point as there is a campground at the north end of town. The towen intself was very vibrant. Our loop included the "East Alternative," which went through some classic Vermont countryside.  If I recall correctly, camping two nights was somewhat of an issue. I recall havign to go off route. One night was at a private campground (can't remember the name) and another at, I think, Silver Lake State Park. The other nights we stayed at Lake Carmi State Park (night 1), Brighton State Park near Island Pond (night 2) and Button Bay State Park (final night). All camping locations were nice. Glancing at the map, it looks like the main route might have a few more camping options on route compared to the East Alternative. I think the same is true for grocery sources. There were some stretches on the East Alternative that didn't have to much in that respect. For example, I remember nothing on route close to Lake Carmi, but Island Pond did have a decent grocery store for its location. Right near Siver Lake there was a cute, high-end country market that made prepared food. Can't remember if it had a decent selection of groceries. In short, depending on the route, there may be places where you will need to carry groceries for a ways if you plan to cook.

As for difficulty, as noted, I was not carryng gear so it's somewhat tough to make a comparison. There are definitely lots of ups and downs. The East Alternative has longer hills and longer descents, but fewer shorter, steeper ups and downs. In addition, there were three longer, harder climbs, including Richester Gap, which was painful for a good stretch. Middleburry Gap was not that bad until the final mile or so. The third of the long climbs, which takes you up to Jay Peak out of Richford, can be avoided by taking a flat alternative that goes into Quebec and then back into VT. We went clockwise, so we did Jay Peak on day one and then Rochester and Middleburry Gaps on the penultimate day). After Middleburry Gap, the route back to Burlington was not hard at all.

Hope all this helps.

11
Gear Talk / Re: Handlebar bag alternative
« on: March 30, 2014, 10:10:20 am »
I have never used a handlebar bag. Camera goes in a jersey pocket. If snacks can't fit back there they go in the panniers. I have Ortlieb Packers so I have a small outside pockets in the rear, which means I don't need to open the main compartment to get things like my wallet or sun screen. If I have a larger lunch with me, I am going to stop to eat it anyway, so the bar bag wouldn't really much if any convenience.

And I am another one in the front platform rack camp. Never toured with anything else. I put my sleeping bag up there. When I had Beckman racks and a smaller tent, it went up there. If I need to, I can secure a map under the compression straps or bungees for easy access.

Here is one iteration:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/davez2007/8693744863/in/set-72157633368316419

12
General Discussion / Re: newbie planning Belgium tour
« on: March 26, 2014, 08:16:53 am »
I would definitely bring my own bike. Wouldn't want to have to count on finding a comfortable ride that is set up for the task at hand. Wouldn't want to expend the effort either just to save some bucks. You would also need to find bikes that are compatable with your racks.

On the subject of cost, the most expensive bike charge I have seen is $200 each way on Delta. We paid that last year when we flew to Venice. Assuming you have to pay that much, you are talking $400 round trip. What's a used bike going to cost? $200? If so, you are only saving $200. And keep in mind that you would really only be renting the used bike you purchase it since, presumably, you are not going to pay to fly it back home with you. Your trip is in 5 months. If you each put $2.50 into a jar each day you should have enough saved to pay the airline bike charge.

As for resources, I love The Rough Guide series. There is one for Belgium and Luxembourg:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Rough-Guide-Belgium-Luxembourg/dp/1848367201

They are typically pretty throrough and, more importantly, candid. If a town or a hotel isn't nice, they will tell you. They also contain a good amount of historical information about regions. Michelin makes good road maps of Europe. I used The Rough Guide to Andalucia and the Michelin map for that territory to plan a 7 week tour. Worked out great. I am sure there is at least one Michelin map for Belgium. There may even be individual maps for different regions of the country.



13
Routes / Re: Starting Trans America West to East in July ... ?
« on: March 26, 2014, 07:50:50 am »
Four years out of five, September and early October are some of the best months out of the year to ride in the east.

+1. The oppressive heat and humidity are likely to be gone by mid-September. Should there be a hurricane, it can often be nice shortly thereafter. In '99 I was coming down the east coast got stuck outside of Port Jervis, NY by hurricane Floyd. Had to take refuge in a motel. The next day was absolutely gorgeous. One problem with big storms is that they can cause road and facility closures. After Floyd, I rode through the Delaware Water Gap. I had to slide my bike under two downed trees and wade across a stream that had come over its banks into the road. When I finally made it to my planned camping spot at a state park, I found it was closed due to flooding.
 

14
General Discussion / Re: Tools for adventure
« on: March 25, 2014, 07:15:46 am »
Allen wrenches, chain tool, spoke wrench and a leatherman.
A small chain tool and include a short length of chain plus a couple of suitable master links or Shimano's joining pins if you have a Shimano chain.

+1. I used to think a chain tool was unnecessary. I rode across the country with 13 people. Over 52,000 bike miles. Not one chain problem. Never had a chain problem on any other tour. Then last Saturday I was on a group ride on my LHT when my drivetrain started skipping even in friction mode. It kept getting worse so I dropped out of the ride and stopped to take a throrough look down. That's when I discovered that half the outside plate of my speed link was literally missing. Fortunately, I was able to spin to a bike shop about 1.5 miles away. Got it replaced in 10 min. at a cost of $5 and change, which was slightly more than it would have cost to take the train home.

I will be getting a chain tool and some spare links this weekend, wiill learn how to make the necessary repairs and will be never take another trip without them.

15
General Discussion / Re: 2 General Questions
« on: March 25, 2014, 07:03:33 am »
The AC maps (with addenda) are pretty good at identifying where lodging is available.  Here you can pick a destination at lunch and call ahead; if they're full, you may have to shorten or lengthen your ride an hour or two if you're going to motel it that night.

+1. The maps are pretty thorough when it comes to lodging.  If you are looking at a city/town park, you really don't need to call ahead. With places like some U.S.F.S. campgrounds, you cannot call ahead as they are not staffed. Even full private places will often find a place to stick you, such as on a lawn, although you might not get such ammenities as a picnic table and a fire ring that you would get if had a regular site. Hotels/motels may be a different story as many of them can be on the small side. Project activity in the area can also affect room availability. On the northern tier our group found at least two motels that were booked solid with long-term guests. One place was full of archaeology students working at a nearby site. The other was booked with construction crews working on a pipeline project.

+1 on what Cycle Safe says about facility SNAFUS. I was riding the Great Parks South one year and planned to get dinner supplies at a small grocery store near my planned campground. I decided instead to go a little off rote to a larger town with the hope of finding a larger selection of groceries. Good thing I did because the store where I had originally planned to shop had burned down a few weeks before. The event was so recent that it had not made it into the addenda. The experience taught me that it can be benneficial to hit up an area with greater resources and carry food for a while rather than count on that the grocery store in the small town 15 miles down the road where I plan to camp  still being in business and not closed for the evening by the time I arrive.

Later in the trip I got to a U.S.F.S. campground near Telluride to find it closed for renovations. Same thing happened a few years ago in Montana. I had checked the web page for the campground and there was no mention of it being closed for renovations. When I got home I emailed the Forest Service and suggested that they might want to note the temporary closure on the web site. I was surprised to get a quick response which read "Good idea." I was even more surpised that they quickly followed through withthe update.

It tends to all work out in the end if you remain flexible. Personally, I like to have a "Plan B" each day if it looks like I might need it.

BTW...If you will be taking the L&C route option through the Bitteroots to Dillon then north, consider staying at the Bike Camp in Twin Bridges. Great facility with plenty of room, and there are lots of services in town, including a good grocery store--assuming it hasn't burned down.  :)

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