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Messages - John Nelson

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I chose yellow Ortlieb panniers for visibility. Note however that the areas of the panniers that face forward and reverse are black with a reflector patch, so I'm not sure the yellow does you all that much good. Another reason I choose yellow was that if somebody stole one, I could ask around if anybody saw somebody carrying off a big yellow bag--that would make more of an impression.

General Discussion / Re: ACA Maps
« on: April 26, 2011, 11:44:03 am »
In my experience, they save you more than enough money to pay for themselves. It's not just the map and route that you want. The service directory is also very valuable. The state map may tell you how to get where you're going, but it probably won't tell you if you can get any food in the next town.

General Discussion / Re: How would you have handled this dog episode?
« on: April 25, 2011, 09:15:37 pm »
I don't recommend ammonia. It can cause permanent damage, and could get you in legal trouble.

General Discussion / Re: National Parks PASS - Other PASS for camping?
« on: April 25, 2011, 11:26:19 am »
In most towns where bicycle camping is allowed in the city park, the ACA maps tell you to call the police or sheriff first. In most cases, when I made that call they seemed to wonder why I had called. Eventually I just quit calling and went ahead and camped. There was one town, however, where the sheriff arranged for the sprinklers to be turned off, so I'm glad I called. I would, however, suggest you call (or visit) the police/sheriff before camping in a town park for which it's not obvious (from signs or from the ACA map) that camping is allowed. If I hadn't already confirmed that the sprinklers had been turned off, I would generally set up my tent under the pavilion to avoid them.

General Discussion / Re: How would you have handled this dog episode?
« on: April 25, 2011, 11:15:53 am »
Unless you are 100% sure you can outrun them, the first thing I suggest in all dog encounters is to STOP!! It is very unlikely that a dog will actually attack you while you are stopped. If there is just one dog, you can attempt to keep the bike between you and the dog. If there are multiple dogs, there's a good chance they will surround you. Again, if you stay stopped, they will likely not attack. Eventually they will get bored and go home or someone will come along to help. If you brought along any self defense, you'll have plenty of time to get it out and use it while you are just standing there. Personally I do not believe pepper spray is necessary.

Most of the time, you will encounter one dog at a time.

My number one advice is to not attempt any defensive or offensive action from a moving bike. In most cases where something bad happens, it's while you are moving. The dog will either take a bite out of your leg or gear, or knock you down, or you will lose control of the bike while trying to spray or hit them. Don't risk it.

General Discussion / Re: National Parks PASS - Other PASS for camping?
« on: April 24, 2011, 09:28:10 pm »
So, I also anticipate staying in churches along the way. How do you usually get in contact with a church, or some place like that? Is this part of being organized a day or a couple of days ahead of time, or do you just appear and work out the agreements?
First, I check the door to see if it's unlocked. If so, there's probably somebody inside to ask. Failing that, I call the phone number on the church sign out front. The pastor's phone number is usually there.

I am anticipating planning most every night what my next day will look like, including having a good idea of where I want to stay. Is that being too optimistic about my planning abilities (or just naive to the reality of the trip) or am I right about the planning that is involved with staying on top of things the night(s) before I arrive?
When using ACA maps, it's generally pretty easy to plan out where you will spend the next night. Sometimes, however, there are no free places to stay listed on the map, and there are no Warm Showers or Couch Surfing host listed either. In that case, you just have to improvise when you get there. I virtually never plan the day after tomorrow. One day at a time is enough.

General Discussion / Re: National Parks PASS - Other PASS for camping?
« on: April 24, 2011, 09:23:33 pm »
If I were doing it over there was one really crumby campground (Jerry Johnson Campground) where we could have stealth camped a few miles up the road.
The Jerry Johnson Campground is in the middle of a National Forest that openly allows dispersed camping. So you wouldn't really call it stealth camping. There's no need to conceal yourself. I "dispersed" camped just a few miles down the road from Jerry Johnson and it offered me almost as many services as camping in the campground would have offered.

Gear Talk / Re: Ground Cloth Recommends
« on: April 24, 2011, 09:18:42 pm »
How waterproof is your piece of uncoated nylon?
I don't think the answer to that question matters. A waterproof footprint won't help keep water out of your tent, and may in fact make it worse (by holding a puddle of water under your tent).

Yellow is going to be more visible in low-light conditions.

General Discussion / Re: National Parks PASS - Other PASS for camping?
« on: April 24, 2011, 12:44:02 pm »
So, what are the most common types of camping sites I am going to come across while crossing the country? Are parks with a fee the most common or are small campsites the most common?

Of course I will be stealth camping along the way also, but what will I be running into most along the way in terms of types of camping and prices?

I'm trying to get an idea of what I might be encountering. Mind you, my budget is not the loosest, so price will be a high priority when looking.

Ideally I would like to camp in places where there are others camping, but where I won't be spending $20 a night.
Depends on what you're looking for. If cost is a big concern, then you'll probably tend to avoid the higher-priced camping. Some people are willing to pay for camping in exchange for nice showers, a picnic table, a leveled tent pad, a convenient store and a higher level of security. But if you are very price-sensitive, you'll be willing to compromise on these things. There's a whole range of stealth camping. Sometimes you're pretty sure that you're not suppose to be there, so you take measures to not be noticed. Other times, you think it's okay to be there, but you're not entirely sure. So you risk being rousted in the middle of the night in order to save money.

I avoid most commercial campgrounds, which tend to be higher in cost and lower in ambiance. National Park campgrounds are usually higher in cost (unless they have hiker/biker sites), but are typically worth it to be able to stay in a really cool place. National Forest campgrounds are usually less expensive, and sometimes free, but typically have fewer amenities. City parks are often my favorite, since you can usually camp there with permission from the police (and thus feel somewhat safe from being rousted), usually have bathrooms, and are within convenient reach of the service you need.

Bottom line is that it depends on what you're looking for. If you take two different touring cyclists traveling the same route, one of them might be camping free every night and one might be spending $20 to camp every night.

Of course, there are many other inexpensive or free alternatives to camping, such as Warm Showers, Couch Surfing, churches, fire stations, hostels, etc.

Classifieds / Re: WANTED: waterproof handlebar bag
« on: April 22, 2011, 12:30:47 pm »
But the Ortlieb does not fit your criteria of "cheap". Of course, my guess is that neither does your DSLR.

General Discussion / Re: National Parks PASS - Other PASS for camping?
« on: April 21, 2011, 01:12:53 pm »
Regular camping fees in National Parks can be pretty steep. I paid $17 per night at Mammoth Cave and $20 per night at Rocky Mountain National Park. It's much better if the park has hiker/biker sites, but quite a few of the National Parks do not. I paid $7 a night for a hiker/biker site in Grand Teton and $6 a night in Yellowstone. As far as I know, there's no such thing as a camping pass.

Entrance fees for bicycles at National Parks are normally significantly reduced below the motor vehicle fee. Once you know how many parks you're going to hit, you can do the math to see if the pass makes sense. I can't hit enough parks on my bike to make a pass pay by itself, but if I am also planning to hit some parks in my car during that year, it might make sense.

Gear Talk / Re: Ground Cloth Recommends
« on: April 20, 2011, 10:02:26 pm »
I use Tyvek, cut an inch or two smaller than the floor of the tent. I use it for abrasion protection and mud protection only. Tyvek is in general waterproof, but that's not really to protect anything but the footprint itself, since you don't want a footprint that absorbs water (which would be annoying to pack up). Tyvek is cheap, very sturdy, readily available, and relatively light (but quite noisy).

Having said all that, I don't really consider a footprint mandatory. In my opinion, it might be better to buy a slightly heavier tent made with a sturdier floor and skip the footprint. A light tent plus a footprint may weigh about as much as a heavier tent without a footprint, and the former will cost a lot more than the latter.

Gear Talk / Re: Sandles?
« on: April 17, 2011, 07:29:30 pm »
Whatever footwear you choose, make sure you have many miles with them before you set out on a big trip. You don't want to find out in the middle of the trip that they are irritating your feet.

General Discussion / Re: Need advice from you! (the pros)
« on: April 17, 2011, 07:23:01 pm »
I like the website, but I think it's a bit lacking on an overview of your plan. You gave more information in the first sentence of this thread (i.e., "I'll be biking across America solo this coming summer of '11") than I can easily find on your site. Especially if you're going to be seeking advice, a bit more of an introduction would help. When are you leaving? How long do you expect it to take? Where will you sleep? Eat? How far will you ride in a day? How will you carry your gear? What's your budget? How long have you been riding? How old are you? What kind of bike do you have? How will you plan your route? Even if you don't know the answers to all these questions, at least state that you don't yet know.

You've got a lot to do and learn in a short period of time. Good luck!

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