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Messages - staehpj1

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Gear Talk / Re: Recommendations for thermometers?
« on: March 22, 2017, 08:16:59 am »
If you carry a cell phone and remain in an area with coverage, your phone should have a weather app that will give you the current temperature and projection for that day.  You would also have  internet access (assuming you have a data plan) to the various commercial or government weather sites for both forecasts and history.
The problem with that is that a lot of the time on tour when I have cared the most about what the temperature was I was on top of a pass or somewhere that would be a lot different than the nearest weather station which even if you count all the little personal ones on WeatherUnderground, might be far away and thousands of feet different in elevation.  The differences can be pretty substantial.

Routes / Re: Transamerica route question
« on: March 22, 2017, 07:38:53 am »
I agree that jeans are a bad choice and two pairs would be one too many if you do take them at all.  I typically take one pair of light weight nylon zip off leg pants, 1 pair of tights, 1 pair of bike shorts, and one pair of running shorts.

Recently I have sometimes taken some ultralight wind pants instead of the zip off leg pants.  They are lighter and pack smaller, but are probably less presentable and not especially suitable if it is warm.

I typically am inclined to not be bashful about wearing my bike shorts just about everywhere.  When people know that you are riding coast to coast they will cut you a lot of slack about how you are dressed.

Gear Talk / Re: Recommendations for thermometers?
« on: March 22, 2017, 07:31:02 am »
I tried one of those zipper pull ones.  It was light and cheap and gave a general idea of the temperature, but it wasn't easy to get a very precise reading.  Mine was an REI house branded one.  As long as you don't need too much precision it is okay.

I have since started using a cyclo-computer (planet bike) that has a built in thermometer.  I like it very well.  It is surprisingly accurate as long as you are either in the shade or moving.  It heats up in the sun when sitting still, but I never found that to be a problem since when I read it I was generally either parked in the shade or riding.

Routes / Re: Northern Tier vs. TransAm
« on: March 18, 2017, 11:12:09 am »
1 On the NT you will have much more twilight. What does this mean? It means that you will not be surprised that it gets pitch dark too quickly. As the sun slowly sets you can still ride for a long time finding food and shelter and still set up tent in pitch darkness without a flashlight. This of course is important for people who really try do many miles a day. Overall you WILL have more riding hours each day (about 1 extra hour NT compared to TA).
It depends on how you look at it....  Personally I never found that to be an advantage.
Even on the TA, that is one thing I found kind of annoying while in the NW portion or the trip.  It seemed to stay light forever, long after I wanted to turn in for the night.  There were plenty of daylight hours in June to do 150 mile days in daylight, but few people really want to go that far IMO.

Since I like to get on the road at the crack of dawn and seldom do much over 100 miles on any given day, I often wound up wanting to sleep hours before it was dark.  Judging by how often I rolled into camp and found that there were cyclists already turned in for the night with the sun still high in the sky, I'd have to say I am far from alone on that.

Routes / Re: Northern Tier vs. TransAm
« on: March 17, 2017, 08:26:12 am »
If you're doing either one, you should consider the Eastern Express route that connects DC to the Transamerica route up through Pittsburgh (though there is a Pittsburgh bypass available as well). It misses the VA/KY hills and dogs. Not an ACA route, but they endorse it, kinda - ACA email is how I found out about it. Check it out...

Sent from my XT1080 using Tapatalk
Interesting I hadn't seen that option before.  It looks like it would be easier, but I am not sure I would want to skip the Kentucky and Virginia portions of the TA.  Yes they were the hardest part of the whole Trans America, but they were a great sampling of the heart of Appalachia.

I found that by the time we got to the East when going W-E you we were road hardened enough to handle the tough parts.  I could see using the Eastern Express if going E-W and not in shape for the very tough hills of Virginia and Kentucky.

Gear Talk / Re: GPS bike device for the Trans Am
« on: March 13, 2017, 07:58:54 am »
I have used a handheld GPS in a bracket for one off road tour where I needed the GPS to stay on a confusing route and it worked out okay.  I used regular alkaline batteries.  Last time I shopped for a GPS the handheld ones were easier to deal with wrt battery life than bike specific ones.

That said...  I'd reconsider using a separate GPS and consider using the phone.  They really work well these days and battery life is quite good if you turn off the features you are not using including the cellular coverage, basically use airplane mode with the screen off and the GPS on.  You can take one or more extra phone batteries and maybe a power wallet if you will be going far between charging options.

BTW, I found that you can find phone batteries for a fraction of the cost of the ones the service provider or phone vendor sells.

General Discussion / Re: Northern Tier cell phone service
« on: March 12, 2017, 08:51:05 am »
On the Northern Tier route, does anyone have experience with cell phone reception, as in which service providers do or don't have good reception?
I have not done the NT, but have done the TA, ST, and a bunch of other routes in the rural US.  I found that Verizon was pretty universally the best bet based on comparing notes with other tourists along the way, but recently others have been catching up.  I read that T-Mobile is pretty good now, possibly passing Verizon.  In the review that I last saw AT&T was next and Sprint after that.  I had Sprint with my employer before I retired and they had terrible coverage outside of urban areas.  It has been a few years so they are likely improved, but I would still avoid them myself.

My advice is to plan on leaving the phone off or in airplane mode all day to save battery.  When there is a poor or no signal it kills battery fast searching for a signal.  Also I found that even when the signal is really poor I can often send a text where a call would not be possible.  A text will go in a few seconds so a intermittent signal is easier to deal with.  Email works pretty well with an intermittent signal too.  That assumes text only with no attachments.

Routes / Re: Northern Tier vs. TransAm
« on: March 12, 2017, 08:36:53 am »
Going west the hills in VA are really demanding and they hit you like a sledge hammer after just a few days. This goes on also in KY. Then you will have annoying hills in the Ozarks again (MO).

That is a good reason for riding W-E on the TA and was why we chose that direction of travel.

I loved the TA.  For me the lore of Bikecentennial was part of it, but I think it had a wonderful diversity and was the best possible sampling of what life and scenery is like in the rural US.

Santiam Pass is plowed and is an alternate route shown on the Adventure Cycling maps.  It would be kind of a shame to miss McKenzie pass, but not the end of the world.  I think of getting to  McKenzie Pass when it opens to bikes but has not yet opened to cars as being the best time to go west to east.  I think that it was kind of fun to ride it before it is open to cars and while there is still snow on top.

Right now the ODOT web site says "The highway will open to motor vehicles on Monday, June 19, 2017 for the summer season."  I find that kind of surprising and wonder if it is accurate.  Typically the road opens to bikes a week or two sooner than it opens for cars, plus that is probably 250 miles into your trip, so it may be open to bikes when you get there.  If not you can take Santiam Pass.

General info about the pass:
Historic opening dates:

Another option would be to start in the East, but I'd go even earlier if I was doing  that.  BTW, don't believe those who say that the prevailing winds make that a bad idea.  In the Great Plains the summer winds tend to be out of the SE and the route runs NW-SE so the winds might actually slightly favor an E-W ride.  I wouldn't base the direction of travel decision on wind direction for this route though.

General Discussion / Re: Receiving mail on the road
« on: March 04, 2017, 09:56:04 am »
Like Pat, I found the postal employees who helped me with General Delivery stuff to be helpful, polite, and competent.  We never had a problem, ever, despite using General Delivery quite a bit.

I also used general delivery for backpacking restock points often in "post offices" that were just a cubby in a general store or outpost.  In those cases the people tending the "post office" were not actually postal employees, but they were generally helpful and in several cases were willing to retrieve my package for me even when the post office wasn't officially open.

The use of warmshowers hosts for me has always been one of those things that sounds attractive, but doesn't really pan out all that well in actual practice most of the time.  My touring style is such that I avoid any rigid scheduling, I find a rigid schedule sucks much of the joy out of touring.  I like being able to not decide where I will stop for the day even in the morning of that day.  I might decide that I want to knock off at a 30 mile day or may feel like pushing for a 130 mile day.  As a result I typically do not even know in what towns I will be actually staying in even the same day and definitely not exactly when I will pass through a town a few days down the road.

If using a post office you always have the option of changing the pickup location, by requesting that the package be sent further along on your route.  With a warmshowers host I feel committed to be where I say i will be when I say i will be there.  They most often quite reasonably expect notice of when and if you will be staying with them well ahead of when I typically like to make that kind of decision.  I often don't decide for sure where I will be staying until I actually arrive there.  I may roll into a town and decide to stop mid day or i may feel like riding late into the evening and knock out big miles.  To me having to commit to a time and place a few days down the road just doesn't fit my preferred touring style at all.

I know that not everyone tours that way and some plan out every stop even before they hit the road.  For them none of this is an issue, but it is worth considering whether it is for you or not.

Gear Talk / Re: Advice for long underwear while riding?
« on: March 03, 2017, 07:18:06 am »
I am going to be in some cold weather next month, and I was wondering what you guys wear under your pants to keep your legs warm?????
I don't wear pants (other than bike shorts, tights, or rarely a wind/rain shell) or underwear while riding on tour.

That said I have several different weights of tights ranging from thin silky ones to ones that are slightly brushed inside, to heavier ones that are windproof in the front.  The nap that is raised on the brushed ones adds a surprising amount of warmth.

I also have some ultralight wind pants and some light rain pants.

What I take on tour varies with where and when I am touring, but if I need any of that I choose one pair of tights and may take either the wind pants or much less frequently the rain pants.

The tights are much more frequently worn in camp in the evening or to add warmth at night, than they are worn for riding.  The wind or rain pants are also more frequently worn in camp.  I don't tend to wear the tights or wind/rain pants for riding until it is pretty cold.

I have not generally toured when there was consistently cold weather, but have often seen frost overnight and a few times weather down to the 20s or teens.  In all those conditions tights and wind pants were always sufficient.

In practice I find a wind barrier much more important than how much insulation I wear.  I have never actually taken the heavy windproof tights on tour.  I have used them for bitter cold conditions mountain biking or road riding around home.  They work great for quite cold weather.  The ones I have are "Performance Triflex Tights without Chamois".

General Discussion / Re: Receiving mail on the road
« on: March 02, 2017, 08:09:59 am »
If you do miss a package, either because you pass through town when the P.O. is closed or because it's slower than expected, it's still easy to get it.  Take a piece of paper (or index card), write something like "Please forward all general delivery mail for Connie 808 to X," where X is your next best guess (2-4 days up the road, similar criteria as before).  Sign the card, date it, drop it in the "local delivery" box in the post office, and ride off into the sunset.
I have never done that, but do have another method that has worked fine.  You can stop and any post office, not just the one the package is at, and request the forwarding.  You can even do it multiple times for the same package.

On one trip we were given a large amount of dried and freeze dried food and shipped it ahead to ourselves.  We kept getting to where it was shipped before we needed it and forwarded it several times.  They didn't charge for the forwarding.  I would not ship food ahead via general delivery again unless maybe it was a mountain bike trip that was more like backpacking than bike touring, but for getting stuff from home it is a great option.

General delivery works way better than shipping to a store, bike shop, or host.  We first tried having things shipped to a business along the way (with their prior approval), but when the package arrived late we either needed to wait around, abandon the package, or have them forward it to us.  Fortunately they reshipped it ahead for us for only the cost of the postage. 

General Discussion / Re: Transamerica trail temperatures
« on: March 01, 2017, 10:00:22 am »
If you aren't already aware of it, most sleeping bag ratings are overly optimistic.  (Except for military equipment.)  My 45F bag is useless below 60.  Had to stop at a Wallymart and buy a fleece bag to put inside of it.  It's a good thing I did that, we had frost on the bags the next morning.
That is widely variable buy individual person, by how optimistic the rating is, and by how much it is supplemented by being in tent or bivy and how much clothing you wear or pile on top of yourself.

If you go by the EN ratings they should at least be consistent.  FWIW, I find my Mountain Hardware Phantom 45 to work out fine for anything but real winter camping.  I sleep on top of it if it is hot and add more clothing as it gets colder.  It has worked out well for me from hot weather down to the teens F.  A cap and a really warm loose fitting pair of socks helps immensely.  So on top of a pass with my thermometer reading 18F I was still comfy enough.  The locals claimed it was actually colder.  I apparently put out heat like a furnace though so YMMV.

It helps to not bundle up too heavily too early and get sweaty, better to adjust to the temperatures as they drop during the night.  Adjustments can be made by whether you drape the bag over yourself, zip it up, put the hood on, and pull the hood drawstring tight leaving only a small breathing opening.  Don't breathe into the bag or you will get it all damp and be colder.

You really need to find what works for you.  Advice from me, or anyone else may be spot on for them and way off for you.

Oh, and let me say again that ratings other than EN ratings are not to be trusted or even given much consideration at all.  I have used nominal 32F and even 20F bags that were not as warm as my Phantom 45. 

I found that places on the ST where I might have wanted to use it there was no surface water to filter, so it is unlikely to be useful.

I did find it extremely useful for my tour of the southern half of the Sierra Cascades route.  Freshly filtered ice cold water from snow melt streams was great in the 100F heat.

These days with filters that weigh less than two ounces the decision to carry one does have a lot less of a downside.

General Discussion / Re: Transamerica trail temperatures
« on: February 27, 2017, 07:22:22 am »
If for camping, you probably do not need to consider the weather on the passes, because you're not likely to camp on the passes. Anyway, I plan my clothing and camping choices to be the least that will keep me alive in the worst possible conditions. It's okay to be uncomfortable in unusual weather--you just don't want to die. I plan my clothing such that on the coldest night, I will be wearing everything I brought at the same time.
^ This except, I want a little better than not dying, I want to be sure of keeping all my fingers and toes :)

For the TA at that time of year, I'd expect frost at some point and to be over 100F at some point.  We did it an exceptionally hot year and 100F a lot of the way, but even on that trip we had some moderately cold nights (never much below 32 F).  One evening it was bitter cold and a howling wind on top of a pass, but we rode down into the next town and it was much warmer where we camped.

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