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Messages - Pat Lamb

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General Discussion / Re: C&O trail
« on: August 04, 2021, 11:12:26 am »
It sounds like a reasonable approach.  A 2" layer of CR-6 and another 2" of AASHTO-10 sounds fairly harmless since the trail isn't going to be in some pristine historical state in any case.  I hope any resulting increased usage isn't too damaging and doesn't result in demands for too many more "improvements".

Well, no, no, and yes.  No, there were some spots when I rode parts of the trail (7 years ago?) where the mud and water were deeper than 4".  In addition, they'll have to dig some drainage facilities to get the water out of those low spots, either toward the canal or the river.

No again, on a warm summer day, it's really, really nice to ride through the overhanging trees.  Those overhanging trees had to go to get the heavy equipment in, so the resurfaced parts were cleared maybe 30-40' wide.

Yes, wow, those newly surfaced parts were sweet to ride!

General Discussion / Re: Aftermath of a dog bite
« on: August 03, 2021, 11:47:07 am »
FWIW, I nailed some dogs with HALT! (mailman's pepper spray for dog) on the TransAm.  More dogs had figured out the 6' effective radius, and circled me at a distance of 6'3".

As for calling 911, do it!  Way back in the last millenium, I was bitten by a dog while I was in high school.  Luckily it was more of a scraping bite than nailing me with his canines, so I rode the half a mile home, washed it well, and bandaged it, and forgot about it.  About a year later, that dog caught a first grade boy and maimed him badly.  If I'd called the cops when I got bit, there's at least a chance that boy would have children now.

General Discussion / Re: C&O trail
« on: August 03, 2021, 09:27:11 am »
Some years ago I read a short treatise on "hardening" hiking trails; this discussion so far reminds me of that.  Up to a certain point, a trail could be marked with a few paint blazes, and hikers would naturally stay on a narrow footpath.  More hikers and/or poor drainage meant more efforts were required to keep the hikers on the trail, such as barriers near switchbacks, ditching and/or surface treatment (gravel).  The alternative was a greatly increased impact area, often in environmentally sensitive areas.  More hikers again, and a wider path needed to be covered in gravel, and ultimately even paved.  Paved trails are, of course, more accessible to handicapped people, so it becomes necessary to relocate the path to reduce the grade in certain areas.

I've seen this kind of thing happen in the Great Smoky Mountains NP; one trail that was a dirt path in my youth had boarded steps by the time my children were walking, and now it's been entirely rebuilt for increasing foot traffic.  (That path is still handicapped inaccessible -- for now -- but wheelchair users can take other trails nearby.  And some of those have been widened a time or two.  Multilane hiking trails?!)

I think there's a direct analogy between hiking trail "hardening" and discussions of potential C&O Canal trail improvements.  At the extreme, tricycle users sound like their requirements are similar to wheelchair users: wide paths, well packed gravel or macadam surface.  Perhaps some (Surly?) fat tire cyclists are analagous to solitary hikers --- they have the capability to handle bad surfaces, and the adventurous spirit to wade through mud if necessary.  In the middle are many of us: we've done a lot of bike touring, mostly on roads, and are often unprepared or poorly prepared for rougher conditions (think White Mountains for AT hikers, or the C&O for cyclists).

Frankly, I'm fine with baldly stating that the availability of the wilderness experience of backcountry trails is more important that allowing access to all users, regardless of the accommodation that they require.  Along the same vein, I think the relative wilderness of the C&O so close to the D.C. metropolitan area needs to be preserved, even at the cost of discomfort or even exclusion of some potential users.

We should also consider what it would take to bring the C&O up to some sort of "easy gravel bike accessibility."  It's a federal park; it would require developing federal regulations for the towpath.  (As Beltway Bandits would say privately, "Big money!  Big money!"  That would probably add 50% or more to the cost of rebuilding the towpath.)  Was it the Monocacy Viaduct that had to be rebuilt a while back, closing ~10 miles of the towpath for two years?  Now imagine rebuilding 100+ miles, because that's what it would take.  To meet those new regulations, they'd have to put in a new path substrate, so dig up the existing path, add drainage tiles, then put the surface on top.  And maybe, since the Potomac floods every so often, to save maintenance money, you'd just dig down and put concrete abutments on either side of the path so it wouldn't wash out so much.

In short, plan on closing the C&O or long stretches of it for 5-10 years.  Is that what we really want?

After that's over, you still have to deal with the fact that the national parks have been systematically underfunded for about 40 years.  So any potholes are going to be left there for at least a couple years, while the budget request goes in to fix them, next year Congress allocates the funding (maybe), and the year after that you can fix 17 potholes (but not the 41 that popped up since the first ones).

Pave the whole thing?  How are you going to negotiate with the walkers and runners who prefer a softer, lower impact surface?

I'd suggest cyclists planning "outs" instead.  Start on the C&O, if you wish.  If that turns out to be too intense, ride the Western Maryland as much as possible.  Consider crossing the river and taking the W&OD into town.  In short, treat this as a wilderness adventure, and if it's too much, there's other options available.

Just to touch on the water question.  For those who've ridden west of the Mississippi, there have been times when water wasn't available for long stretches.  It's common to make provisions for that, taking extra water when it's available for times when it's not.  Reasonable C&O planning might include taking enough water with you to get to the next town where you can refill, if you're not comfortable treating water.

BTW, I do hope the moderators don't decide to evaporate this entire discussion just because there's been some disagreement.  I believe the discussion has sufficient value that it should be kept online.  I would hope the mods and the posters would agree, unlike a few cases where an entire discussion has been removed.

Your ideas and attitudes are too fragile to risk being shattered.

General Discussion / Re: How difficult is Skyline Drive?
« on: June 21, 2021, 09:17:28 am »
ACA has run the supported Blue Ridge Bliss Tour on the northern 200 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive.  (Though I'm not sure how they did that this year with ~45 miles of the Parkway closed around Roanoke!)  When I rode it, it was run south to north; after four days on the BRP, Skyline Drive was quite rideable.  We camped at Waynesville on the southern end of Skyline and Big Meadow the next night, about 50 miles apart.  That's probably doable with a load (we had luggage trucks and a caterer!) if you're in shape; if you had three days you might want to plan two 25 mile days and then a 50 miler to enjoy the downhill.

Services on Skyline were better spaced than on parts of the Parkway, IMO, and the pavement was better on Skyline (too many congresscritters don't want to spend money on necessary repairs on the BRP, while SD has entry fees to help pay for upkeep).  Aside from the ravens, the baby hairy woodpecker that was probably eaten by a bobcat, and the bear that likely caught a fawn just over the rise from where we were eating breakfast, it was an uneventful ride.  We rode through Skyline on weekdays (Thursday and Friday) in June, and traffic was not a problem.

General Discussion / Re: In need of a few hints for NT route and food
« on: June 15, 2021, 09:27:58 am »
My camping breakfast is usually a packet or two of instant oatmeal, followed by a cup of cocoa or instant coffee, and a Pop Tart or two.  Unimaginative but pretty quick.  If there's a diner within the first 20-30 miles, that can be supplemented by a Second Breakfast -- one of the best reasons to tour by bicycle!

Lunch or dinner at a local restaurant will have a wider variety of food than you'll usually prepare on your own.  And while most such meals have way more salt than most Americans need, salt on your baked potato or french fries will do wonders to balance your electrolytes on or after a hot day of riding.  After two weeks eating in small towns, even if you usually don't care for a salad, a well stocked salad bar will look positively amazing.

General Discussion / Re: Neck, arms and hands fatigue?
« on: June 01, 2021, 04:30:31 pm »
John hit most of the high points.  ACA routes are usually well thought out, and the maps (or digital equivalent) can pay for themselves.  Northern Tier to Great Parks to TransAm will get you from near Seattle (Anacortes/Mt. Vernon) to near Norfolk (Yorktown); I did the reverse and it was a great trip.  (Even though I went from very to obese to just overweight during the ride.)  Try to stretch your route to go see Glacier National Park while you're in Montana, you'll be glad you did!

As far as critters, if there are bear boxes in a campground, use them.  Don't try to pick up a snapping turtles with long, skinny green necks.  And watch out for dogs in Kentucky.

A session with a good bike fitter can pay dividends.  Sore neck and numb hands may be an indication your bike doesn't fit you very well, or it might just be you're inflexible and you're grabbing the bars too tightly.

General Discussion / Re: Breathing issue
« on: June 01, 2021, 04:19:04 pm »
Just guessing about location and weather, but Pete's allergy guess sounds like a good guess.  Agricultural dust from plowing or various sprays, tree pollen, or spring weeds can mess things up.  You might pop an antihistamine and see if it helps.  I'm not going to get into the "which antihistamine is best?" hole, except to say I've been surprised how much one Zyrtec in the morning helped me through this year's pine pollen season.

Routes / Re: Southern Tier Supported
« on: May 28, 2021, 02:03:48 pm »
I suppose you could have a car follow you or your group almost all the way.

But I'd suggest you think about what you're asking, and think better of it.  A cyclist is pretty easy for a motorist to get around in almost all situations.  A car, van, or SUV rolling along at 4-24 mph is a rolling obstruction that's a lot harder to pass, especially on the smaller roads ACA (and most cyclists) prefer.

You'd do much better to arrange to have your support driver meet you every hour and a half to two hours.  That would be easier on the driver, and the vehicle is still close enough to provide support.  If you consider "supported" rides, most of them space SAG stops like that.  You can get your food, drinks, sunscreen, etc. at reasonable intervals, and the SAG vehicle passing you about half way between stops provides an extra level of support in those areas where cell phones don't cover the entire route.  You can arrange to meet in a town 20 miles down the road, or the driver can pick a good place to park and wait for you between towns.

The latter situation also makes it easier to support cyclists in a "group" who aren't riding together.  Groups larger than a couple people often split, IME, and may recombine further down the road.

General Discussion / Re: Security - locking your bike
« on: May 26, 2021, 08:28:19 am »
A hardened logging chain can be cut.  It's kind of entertaining to watch the guys at the hardware store (where they have the right tools) cussing as they try to cut a piece for you.

Gear Talk / Re: Leg warmers: Over or under?
« on: May 24, 2021, 03:56:02 pm »
The lower end of my thighs are tapered down toward my knees, so unlike Pete, there's at least a 50% chance I'll have to stop and adjust warmers within a few miles.  Usually that involves pulling the leg warmers up, so if I catch the gap forming early, the chance of repeating slippage goes down every time I stop.  Eventually I have to peel them off.

General Discussion / Re: Free Ranging Dogs and the Cyclist
« on: May 24, 2021, 03:51:57 pm »
Pat Lamb:  How do you mount the Halt to the handlebar?

Halt! makes (or used to make) a plastic clip; one side clipped to the bar, and the other one held the Halt can.  You made sure you mounted the spray end facing forward.  Then when Killer attacked, it was a simple matter to grab the can, aim, and spray.  Didn't really matter whether the can came off the clip, or the clip came off the bar (I've done both).

I don't know if that clip is still made, or where you could find it now.

General Discussion / Re: Toughest Touring Days?
« on: May 20, 2021, 09:55:01 am »
We'd crossed Kansas without getting a century in a day ride (I couldn't handle the heat, which cut short a couple likely days).  So when we got to Rawlins, WY and had a day off, we thought we could make Lander in one day.

Up and riding out of Rawlins as the sun rose, it looked like it was going to be a beautiful day.  Stopped at Muddy Gap for more water and snacks, and noticed we'd be going into a moderate headwind.  No big deal, right?  By the time we passed Split Rock, neither of us wanted to get off the road for a mile because of the time we'd lose as the wind was picking up.  Stopping for lunch in Jeffrey City, we smiled at the bird feeders duck taped to the parking stanchions; but 45 minutes later when we came out of the diner, we weren't smiling any more because of the howling wind.  Still, we decided to push on.

We had food, and water, but pushing into the headwind was tough.  Really tough.  At one point I got curious: I was about 20 yards in front of my daughter, hopped off the bike and started walking.  15 minutes later she was 100 yards in front of me.  OK, walking wasn't really faster. 

It took us five hours to make 20 miles, including hitting 6 mph going down the last hill (probably 6% downhill) to the Sweetwater River.  We were exhausted.  No camping signs at the state rest area, so in desperation we went across the road and begged to be allowed to camp at the LDS facility.  The staff offered us a place to camp, warned us to clean up after ourselves, and let us into the bathhouse.  Bless them!  After our supper, I went to talk to one of the hosts, and asked him what he thought the wind had been.  He'd been pulling a trailer of pushcarts back from South Pass for a summer program, and said it was miserable -- there was no wind cooling him off in his pickup at 50-55 mph.  I've claimed that 50 mph as the headwind we fought for five hours based on his observation.

1) What is the best mobile network as I would like to buy a US SIM for Iphone.  Any suggestions on network or SIM only deals with lots of data?
2) If I am able to stay in one of the many churches along the route - is that typically a space on a floor where you place you sleeping mat etc?>  I assume there will be toilet facilities normally too?  Leaving a donation is expected (happy to do so)?
3) Ok to drink or store water from tap?
4) If leaving from West coast begin of Aug, with plan to camp, comfort level of sleeping bag needed for Rockies - would one at 4 degree celsius suffice?

1. Verizon has had the best coverage IME.  Trouble is, it doesn't use GSM like the rest of the world.  I'll let someone else chime in on best plans -- if you get a SIM to use with one of the wireless re-sellers, that might be a good deal.
2. Most churches I slept on the floor.  Toilets were always available, and some had showers.  Donations welcomed or expected, depending on the church.
3. Tap water is almost always safe to drink.  There'll probably be signs where that's not true.
4. Depends on how cold you sleep.  My wife enjoys a bag that's 15 degrees warmer than mine.  I was happy to have a 20 degree (F) bag a couple nights.  If the bag is big enough to fit you, all your clothes, and a hat, you might make it with a 4C (~40F) bag.

Gear Talk / Re: Finding a Touring Bike 2021
« on: May 13, 2021, 09:10:42 am »
FWIW, if you can find a touring bike that's your size, try it and buy it ASAP.  For many years the big manufacturers have made a certain number of touring bikes, and they've often sold out about this time of year.  (Surly being the outlier, they often had LHTs available later in the year.)

Pete's suggestion of a gravel bike is a good one; just make sure the bike you get has attachment points for racks (assuming that's how you plan to carry your gear).

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