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Messages - indyfabz

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General Discussion / Re: So I bought a bike now which panniers?
« on: March 19, 2016, 12:17:26 pm »
Don't overlook the Ortlieb Packers. Easier to get into if you need something on the road.

My first set of bags were made by Robert Beckman. They were compartmentalized. When I switched to Ortliebs, I thought I might find the one large pocket aspect less than ideal, but that turned out not to be the case. I went with the Sport and Back Packers. The Backs have a small outside pocket. The Sports and the Backs have insides small mesh "pockets" and a divided space that will hold thin items like books, maps and even plates.

I am scheduled to start a loop from Missoula on June 15th. I did much of this route at the same time of year in 2014. This year I follow the TransAm to Ennis but with a detour on into the Pioneer Mountains after Big Hole Pass east of Jackson, MT. In 2014 a woman I met on the first day of my trip told me that there has been several inches of slushy snow on Lost Trail Pass a day or two before. Crossing the Pioneer Mountains I had a bit of wet snow mixed with some with sleet and rain. I bring this up only to illustrate what Jama wrote.

Some unsolicited advice fort that part of the route:

If you have suitable tires and don't mind some gravel, take the Old Darby Rd. Alternative between Hamilton and Darby. It's not terribly rough and the views are excellent.

If you are planning to stay at the private campground in Sula, make sure you shop at the nice store in Darby. The campground store has a very limited selection of stuff, although you might find Ramen. However, the store closed at 5 p.m. when I was there. I arrived around 5:03 and the place was dark and locked up tight. You can still camp there and pay in the morning, but you won't be able to get anything to eat.

The spring-fed pool at Jackson Hot Springs in Jackson, MT is nice, but the place is pricey for camping. The only grocery source around is in Wisdom, the town before Jackson. IIRC, the store closes around 5 or 6 p.m. The mosquitoes in Wisdom will eat you alive unless you have repellant. There were some in Jackson, too, but they were not as bad.

Try to time things so that you stay in Twin Bridges, MT. The Bike Camp there is terrific and free (donations greatly appreciated), and the town has a very good grocery store considering the town's size.

There is a camping at the fishing access site just outside the center of Ennis. I haven't been there in 16 years, but it was nice back then. It used to be free, but now it's $12 if you don't have a MT fishing license.

I was there in mid-June. Last year was an incredibly wet spring for the Black Hills. There was a massive thunderstorm the day I landed in Rapid City. Easily several inches of rain in about 1 hr. with steady hail at times. A few weeks before I flew out some places, including Custer, got 6" or more of snow. A local in Custer told me they had gotten 15" more rain than average for that time.

Fortunately, I only experienced rain while on the road one day, but extreme weather can pop up quickly. The storm that brought rain to Rapid City when I was there spawned a small tornado that touched down just outside of Spearfish. When I camped in Hill City there was a nighttime thunderstorm that produced hail up to the size of golf balls, and there were nighttime thunderstorms in Custer two of the nights I stayed there. One evening in Edgemont a massive storm looked like it was going to hit us hard. A local resident drove through the municipal campground to warn everyone there about the weather alert that had been issued. It really looked apocalyptic, but it ended up sliding by the town. Other than that, the days were in the upper 70s with lots of sun. Nights were in the low 50s.

On my third day in Custer I took a day ride on the trail to Hill City since I hadn't had a chance to check it out during daylight the first time I was there. Before I started, I met couple in the Custer city park who was getting shuttled up north and was planning to ride back to Custer. I figured I might see them in Hill City, and I did. The storm moved in and the temperature dropped some 20 degrees or more. While it wasn't raining hard in town, it was on the trail north of town. I was waiting out the rain at the Hill City trailhead shelter when the couple pulled in. They had gotten caught in the storm at higher altitude. To make matters worse, their progress had been delayed by a stubborn group of free range cattle. The husband was wearing shorts and did not have proper foul weather gear, including gloves. He showed me his hands. They were literally blue from the cold. They called the shuttle company and got a lift back to Custer. It's a wonderful trail, but you need to be prepared for what it can throw at you.

I was on the road for 10 days or so. I had originally planned to go down into NB, but scrubbed that part of the trip for various reasons. Didn't see that many through riders on the trail. Saw mostly day users, although I did pas one group of kids with an adult leader who had started in Deadwood and were headed to Hill City. They were so pooped they were walking up the climb out of Mystic. I know they could not have reached Hill City before dark because I didn't get there until almost dark and when I left them they still had a couple of miles of walking left. Budget more time for the trail than you think you are going to need.

So - yes, please share your experiences focusing on the places you overnight, cost and nutrition? 

For got I had this photo from the Spearfish municipal campground:

Tranquil and immaculate. $20, but worth the price of admission:

Will you be cooking or eating out. For various reasons, I did not bring cooking gear on my Black Hills trip. I missed it. There is a lot of meaty and fatty restaurant fare in SD. They seem to like ranch dressing on a lot of things, including the peas in the salad bar. When I did a Needles Highway loop out of Custer I found a place that had spinach salad with goat cheese and strawberries. I nearly fainted.

BTW...If you are not in any hurry and want to do the entire Mickelson, you could finish it in Edgemont, where there is a municipal campground at the south end of town with showers for $10/night. From there, you could take the old highway 18 to where it intersects with the current U.S. 18 and then take that to Hot Springs. It would be short day and leave you plenty of time to visit the mammoth site. That's what I did. Here is the route:

The old highway was nearly deserted. At just past mile 8 you will see that it crosses the trail. That crossing is not at grade but rather via a bridge high above the trail. The crossing just before mile 17 is at grade. If you use the Street View option you can see one of the numerous trail shelters off by the tree. That one has a water cistern as several others do. One issue with staying in Edgemont is the frequent train noise, mostly from 150 car unit coal trains with locomotives on both ends. I recommend ear plugs. Also, the grocery store closes at around 5 p.m. and is not open Sunday and is at least one of the two town's real restaurants. I would avoid staying there Sunday you might end up eating from the Sinclair gas station, which makes food 24/7.

General Discussion / Re: Newbie
« on: March 16, 2016, 02:13:51 pm »
I'll counter that with....In Iowa there are three packed strips.  One in the middle and one to each side.  Cars stay on their side of the gravel. Even the non-packed parts of the road is rideable (in Iowa).  Benefit of gravel is much fewer cars, you can hear them coming from a distance and they are speeding at 45mph (so much less speed than highway).

45 mph maybe in some places. Do 45 mph on these roads and you will be needing some repairs if you don't fall off the side of the mountain:

20+ miles. 3 slowly moving cars the first time and no cars the second time:

9+ miles, one car moving about 8 mph:


Thank you and thank you for sharing the history of Jeffery City.

The story of Jeffery City is extremely interesting in an unfortunate way.  I can't imagine the number of families who were impacted by the process of "Boom and Bust". 

I spent an afternoon and night there in 2000 at the now-closed JC Motel--the only motel I have stayed in that was cash only. The wind was so strong that I had to lean at nearly a 45 degree angle to walk up the highway. That evening, at the lone café/bar in town, I struck up a conversation with a woman whose husband has been told he would have a job for life in the uranium mining industry. IIRC, the only other business still operating was a small gas station which had some snacks and canned food. I bought a can of chili and cooked it with pasta in the Lion's Club park where there were some Dutch cyclists camping.

I remember reading an account of someone who stayed at the motel shortly before it closed. It was either on this forum or on CrazyGuy. He wrote about getting a room that had toadstools growing out of the carpet.

Gear Talk / Re: "Adventure" bike for short rider?
« on: March 14, 2016, 10:01:37 am »
My GF is 5' and rides the smallest LHT made. She's taken it on road and off road with and without a B.O.B. trailer.

There is a long thread about the 920 on bikeforums, where a couple of people were opining about the suitability of the 28h wheels, among other things. Might be worth a read if you ignore any posts by troll user Squeezebox that he didn't later delete:

General Discussion / Re: Newbie
« on: March 14, 2016, 09:42:07 am »
I have toured a good deal in "Pennsyltucky," where shoulders are often a luxury and there are lots of pickups. Choose quieter roads and you should be fine. We spent two weeks in MN when crossing the country and don't recall feeling more at risk there than in any of the other 14 states we rode in. Motorists in IA were actually quite pleasant during the four or five days we rode there. I have always assumed that was due in part to the awareness RAGBRAI raises.

Well then definitely stay in Spearfish. The municipal campground there is amazing. It's right next to a cool fish hatchery/museum that free. In the summer they close off the road through the park so there is no through traffic.

From there I climbed through Spearfish Canyon on U.S. 14A. Very pretty. I then continued on 14A to Cheyenne Crossing, where there is a store/restaurant. Then 14A/U.S. 85 to Rochford Rd. to Brownsville Rd. to pick up the trail at the Englewood Trailhead. Stayed in Hill City at Crooked Creek campground, which a private place right along the trail a few miles south of the center of town. There is one closer to town but it's not as nice.  There is a good grocery store in town.

Here is the map for that day:

I suggest you look at the official site for the trail. It shows the profile and location of shelters with water. While it's a great ride, the Mickelson is not a "warm and fuzzy" trail, and it is not flat. The surface is also not smooth crushed limestone like the GAP and other trails. You will find no commercial services between the Englewood trailhead and Hill City except for a restaurant in Rochford. Bring plenty of snacks.  As soon as you hit the trail at mile 30 on the route linked to above you will have 5 miles of uphill and you will notice it despite it being a rail-trail. Then you have another climb out of Mystic.

After Hill City I finished the trail. But since you are going to Hot Springs, you should exit the trail at the penultimate trailhead called Minnekahta. It's located where the trail crosses U.S. 18. U.S. 18 will take you right to Hot Springs. The mammoth dig site is worth the price of admission. If you take U.S. 18 Bypass as you reach town that will take you right by the place. Unfortunately. there is only one place to camp in town:¬

then on to the Black Hills.

I did a little tour of the Black Hills last June. A loop from/to Rapid City that included nearly all of the Mickelson Trail, Spearfish Canyon, Hot Springs, Wind Cave N.P. Custer S.P., Needles Highway and, of course, Mt. Rushmore. Let me know if you would like any recommendations and/or advice.

Routes / Re: My First Cycling Tour From Michigan To Oregon!
« on: March 11, 2016, 08:34:56 am »
I've NEVER been to Oregon, so I'm really looking forward to that. ... Thanks for the insights. ... Really appreciate it.

Have plenty of water capacity and a tolerance for chip seal. Cycle Oregon crossed the state in 2002--Nyssa to Florence, using U.S. 26 for part of the route. It was crispy critter hot a couple of days, and that was the second week of September. But it was a dry heat. :)

Gear Talk / Re: Who makes decent rain gear....
« on: March 10, 2016, 04:07:26 pm »
Going to score a SP 2.0 jacket with my REI dividend once their member sale rolls around.

Here is one way around both bridge closures that was suggested to me a local club member. It rejoins the regular route at Tennis Ave & Limekiln Pike/PA 152:

Many of the roads are used on local club rides from Philadelphia to Doylestown. It's about 1.5 miles longer than the regular route. As is the case with all the roads in this general area, they are best ridden outside of the morning and evening rush hours and better yet on the weekends.

General Discussion / Re: Bike shops near Seatac airport
« on: March 08, 2016, 10:32:17 am »
I looked (briefly) at Bikeflights and liked what I saw but there were a few not so good reviews which got to the paranoid corner of my brain.  I was a little afraid of getting an intermediary between me and my bike shipment while I was in a hotel in Seattle.    indyfabz, you say you have had good experiences with Bikeflights, that bumps me back toward Bikeflights.

That's surprising. Bikeflights is a "marketing intermediary" but not a physical one that ever handles your bike.  When you purchase shipping through them they email you a pre-paid FedEx shipping document about 10 days before your scheduled ship date. (If you ship date is sooner than 10 days from your purchased date, they email you the label about 30 min. after your purchase. Since there doesn't appear to be any need for you to purchase last minute shipping, you should get your label 10 days before your ship date.) If you don't get your label you have plenty of time to contact them. Before my first use I had some questions. I emailed them and they responded to me within the hour. When I purchased day-before shipping in Missoula a few years ago, my shipping label was emailed to me in about 30 minutes as promised.

Once you get your label, you handle the remained of the logistics. You can have the bike picked up at a LBS, if you have paid for that option, or take it to a FedEx drop off location, including FedEx/Kinko's locations.

My only complaint about them is that, for return shipping, they won't send you the label at the same time they send you the first label even if you purchase both at the same time. That means that at the end of a tour longer than 10 days, your will return shipping label will be waiting for you in your in box, which means you will need to have access to a computer with a printer. The two times I used them I was shipping back from Missoula and Rapid City, SD. Both cities had easy access to computers and printers via their public libraries.

BTW...Make sure you make an "appointment" with the shop you choose as early as possible. The Missoula REI wanted the bike there 10 days ahead of my arrival because my arrival was scheduled during a very busy time for them--a time when they usually get a consistent stretch of good weather and people realize they need to take their bikes in for service or decide to buy new ones.

General Discussion / Re: Rain gear in the summer: Why carry it at all?
« on: March 07, 2016, 10:03:37 am »
I toured in South Dakota last year. I was waiting out a passing thunder storm in Hill City. The temperature in town dropped some 25 degrees very quickly. A couple pulled in to the trail head shelter. They had just come down the hill into town on the Mickelson Trail from about 5,600'. There was no shelter on that part of the trail and the husband did not have adequate rain gear. He was shivering and his hands were literally blue.

I got rained, sleeted and snowed on descending an 8,000' mountain pass in MT two years ago. Some 26 miles of wet, cold downhill. A few days later I descended a 7,300' pass in a pouring, very cold rain. Again, that was in June. In each case there was no shelter from the storm.

My first trip was the Northern Tier. we had several instances of all day rain including the August day that included crossing the Kancamagus Highway. Upper 40s and all day rain along lake Ontario and in the Adirondacks in August. Cold, all-day rain heading to Lake Itasca S.P. in MN in July.

I could go on.

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