Author Topic: Documenting my maiden TransAm voyage - Suggestions?  (Read 1311 times)

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Offline neilbrew

Documenting my maiden TransAm voyage - Suggestions?
« on: January 14, 2024, 04:53:49 pm »
Hello all!

My name is Neil and I've officially committed to solo riding the TransAm in 2024, W to E, for my first transcontinental tour. I'll be taking Amtrak from the Midwest to Astoria in May. It's an exciting bucket list item for me, however admittedly, a little intimidating.

For a little introduction background, I'm a life-long cyclist and home bike mechanic riding consistently for about 35 years. My cycling roots began in BMX as an early teen, and then moved onto both road and MTB hardcore racing in my teens and 20's. As an adult and no longer racing, I've ridden for fitness focusing on hills and distance, both with groups and solo, logging several thousand miles each season. I got into self-supported touring about 15 years ago and have done several partial week solo tours, completed TOMRVs, Horribly Hilly Hundreds, Dairyland Dare organized rides, and also completed over 20 RAGBRAIs, some being self-supported.

All that being said, this next adventure on the TransAm seems like another level challenge. Being four months out from launch, I feel pretty good overall with my preparation, research and ironing out questions.

One question mark remaining on my list is how to best document and communicate on the trip. Obviously, I'll take many photos and videos and my friends and family will be interested in vicariously following my trip. I've watched some of the YouTube touring channels whose creators generally make and upload 5-minute daily videos. These have been great resources, but do require a level of diligence and commitment to creating the content. I do not know what methods they are using to edit video in less-than-ideal environments on their phones. At this point, I am not sure this is the method I want use due to the time and effort involved, not to mention the reliance on the tech. Additionally, I know myself well enough that I wouldn't be satisfied if the resulting videos were less than stellar productions, which I imagine is quite challenging under the circumstances.

I've read others use social media platforms for daily or periodic updates. I personally don't use any of them, but could start for this trip. The main priority for me is to be able concurrently communicate with and share content with many people without individual text strings and emails. I want to spend my time experiencing, not being consumed with the technology to document it. I am not a pen and paper kind of person, so I know that won't happen.

Any experiences or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

Neil

Offline jwrushman

Re: Documenting my maiden TransAm voyage - Suggestions?
« Reply #1 on: January 14, 2024, 05:54:39 pm »
1) allocate 60 to 90 minutes each night for the journal (and reviewing the next days route ).

2) accept that you're not a professional, so the blog need not be "professional" quality. Proofread to avoid sloppy blunders. Consistency counts.

3) consider a drone.

I did the northern tier in 2019. Most of the people I wanted to stay in touch with were on facebook, but a good number were not, so I sent out a daily email as well.  I allocated an hour to 90 minutes in the evening for sending out my daily updates and planning for the next day's ride. Most days, I stayed in motels/ hotels so internet access, good lighting, and power source was not an issue.  I didn't worry about quality as much as consistency when sending out my updates. But I'm always amazed at the high quality of the blogs of the more experienced travelers. I'm not that experienced, so I'm fine with the amateur quality of my blogs.

I have a year and a half before I do the trans Am. So I'm considering getting a drone. I've seen so many amazing shots from people who've used them. But I imagine there's a steep learning curve on how to use them with facility

Offline davidbonn

Re: Documenting my maiden TransAm voyage - Suggestions?
« Reply #2 on: January 14, 2024, 06:23:05 pm »
  • You'll probably want multiple cameras in addition to a cell phone.  Probably a GoPro-style action camera and a couple of mounting options and a point-and-shoot camera with video capability.
  • You'll definitely want a better microphone and one of those hairy things that filters out wind noise.  Most of the external mic connections for GoPros are kind of ad hoc so you'll want to do some research and maybe consider a different brand of action camera.
  • You'll want to experiment with different action camera mounting schemes.
  • Expect to carry an astonishing array of batteries, memory cards, power banks, and odd charging cables.
  • Editing and managing all of that stuff takes time.  Much more time than you'd expect especially if you have little experience.  Make sure you budget the time for doing all that.
  • Consider something like https://relive.cc .  Which integrates the GPS data from your route and you can post text, still photos, and video from your ride.

Offline neilbrew

Re: Documenting my maiden TransAm voyage - Suggestions?
« Reply #3 on: January 14, 2024, 07:09:59 pm »
Thanks for the posts and suggestions. To clarify, the problem is that I am a professional graphic designer, photographer and produce commercial video spots for a living; this is the reason I know I won't be satisfied with phone app-created content produced from a tent. It's involved enough in a studio setting.

I'm hoping someone has used a platform that is both efficient to collate pictures/video/written content and also be shareable. Maybe Facebook is the answer, maybe something better for this purpose?

Thanks again, and keep the ideas coming.

Neil

Offline John Nettles

  • World Traveler
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  • Posts: 1867
  • I ride for smiles, not miles.
Re: Documenting my maiden TransAm voyage - Suggestions?
« Reply #4 on: January 14, 2024, 07:43:02 pm »
Welcome to the ACA Forums!

I am glad to see you are a professional photographer as you know the time/energy/expense that it takes to "do it right" .

I personally do not take much of a journal that is a only a short and sweet journal to help me remember something/some day vs. the long form of it.  So in that aspect, I am definitely not the guy to talk to.

There are at least two cycletouring-specific websites you may be interested in.  The oldest and largest is CrazyGuyonaBike.com https://www.crazyguyonabike.com/?o=3d2 .  A bit older looking website with an at times extremely opinionated owner (mainly applies if you use its forum section), but it does have over 15k journals with literally millions of pictures/videos.  The journals can be as simple or detailed as you want.  The website is proprietary so you may not be able to just click and load but I have seen some fantastic journals on there. I have not posted there in quite a while (see extremely opinionated owner) but from what I understand, anyone who wants to track your journal just logs on and reads it.  I do not think the website sends out emails letting "subscribers" know your journal has been updated. It is free but donations are encouraged.

The other website is CycleBlaze.  It is a lot newer and only has a littler over 1k journals.  It is "fresher" looking but I know very little about it.  Similar in what CGOAB offers in the mechanics of it but again, I am not overly familiar with since I do not do journals. It too is free with donations encouraged.

I know that over the years a LOT of people have trended towards Instagram.  I personally like reading the journal format but to each their own.

A word of caution though.  As others have said, a decent journal can take up quite a bit of time to write, organize, photo, etc.  If the journal becomes a dreaded chore (like it was for me), you may just want to gather the info and complete it upon your return.

Tailwinds, John

Offline John Nelson

Re: Documenting my maiden TransAm voyage - Suggestions?
« Reply #5 on: January 16, 2024, 01:44:12 am »
My advice, and please feel free to ignore it, is to keep it simple. To me, that means no drones and no videos. Creating a daily entry can start turning into a chore, and it will take you more time than you think. Don’t get me wrong — I think it’s worth the effort, but sometimes you’re tired and you just want to skip the damn entry and go to sleep. It’s enough to include about four pictures and enough text to describe what made today different than all the other days. Of course, some days (maybe most days) are so spectacular that four pictures isn’t enough to do it justice. Just don’t let it overwhelm you.

And please proof read. It’s annoying to read entries that don’t make any sense.

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Documenting my maiden TransAm voyage - Suggestions?
« Reply #6 on: January 16, 2024, 09:03:41 am »
O.P., you're setting yourself a high bar.  I'm going to suggest backing off a step for daily updates; as John and John note, it took me about an hour a day to maintain a journal with (usually) daily updates.

If you plan to meet your high professional standards, I'm guessing it'll take four hours a day with overnights in B&Bs or motels.  You might try an S24O (sub-24 hour overnight) trip with all the bells and whistles to see how close my guess comes to your experience.

Please, please, please, do not post 24 pictures and 3 videos per day with zero text!  Nobody but the poster knows why you took most of those, and you'll forget in a few years.  A good journal/blog needs at least a couple sentences, preferably a paragraph, to set the context for each picture.

IMHO, a trip journal is about the traveler's experience.  If you normally observe things from 25-100 off the ground, take a drone.

To limit your load, I'd suggest one reasonably good camera and maybe one video device (like a GoPro).  Some people do much more, like the people 30 years ago who took two 35 mm SLRs and five lenses.  Have you thought where to put all your clothes, rain gear, spare parts, food, and cooking gear?

If you want to make more of a production, perhaps you might consider keeping a simple journal while on tour; where you went, a two minute highlight with half a dozen pictures and a video with captions and explanatory paragraphs every day, for instance.  Go ahead and take lots more pictures and videos, archive and index them, and spend a few weeks when you get home making that professional production.

And for the sake of your own sanity, accept that you're going to miss some highlights.  I didn't take my camera to the city water park in eastern Colorado where we scampered about for 15 minutes at the end of a scorcher (the camera wasn't waterproof!).  Nor did I catch the bald eagle which came out of nowhere and dived into the river beside the road, flying off with a fish before I could even stop my bike to grab a camera.  Those are just etched into my soft tissue memory -- and I'm happy to have experienced them.

Offline neilbrew

Re: Documenting my maiden TransAm voyage - Suggestions?
« Reply #7 on: January 16, 2024, 03:30:46 pm »
Thanks all for the insights. I appreciate them all. To emphasize, I do not want to put extra pressure on myself to make high production videos each evening under challenging circumstances. I applaud those who can and have done that for our benefit. I have considered, as was mentioned, to gather pictures/videos, digitally document in writing, and then put together a quality video of the entire trip once I get back using real editing tools. I'm thinking this approach will lessen my stress levels and allow me to focus on the experience. Minimizing avoidable hassles is what I strive for on trip like this.

Maybe I'll just utilize a FB or similar platform for simple daily (or every few days) updates for friends and family. I'm not sure yet of the best method to do that. Are there long stretches of cell service dead zones on the TransAm? Generally speaking, how often can one expect to utilize free wifi along the route? I have a NAS server at home to which I can off-load pictures and video while on the road to free up phone/GoPro device storage space. Thanks again for all the considerations mentioned to help me think through this aspect of my journey.

Offline John Nettles

  • World Traveler
  • *****
  • Posts: 1867
  • I ride for smiles, not miles.
Re: Documenting my maiden TransAm voyage - Suggestions?
« Reply #8 on: January 16, 2024, 03:58:12 pm »
Are there long stretches of cell service dead zones on the TransAm? Generally speaking, how often can one expect to utilize free wifi along the route? I have a NAS server at home to which I can off-load pictures and video while on the road to free up phone/GoPro device storage space.
A lot depends on the cell provider.  Verizon is probably the best in rural USA.  I would think at most 100 miles without any coverage.  Most libraries in the US have free internet though you might have to use their computers and a lot of small town libraries have limited hours.  The ACA maps (paper & digital) I think still show the libraries. 

Though not very healthy, all McDonalds and most fast food places have free internet as do Walmarts.  If I do not have service (I use Google Fi due to a pretty fair amount of international travel), I ask locally if anyone has free wifi.  Ususally, someone knows a place.  If the town is less than 500, all bets are off. 

Offline dfege

Re: Documenting my maiden TransAm voyage - Suggestions?
« Reply #9 on: February 01, 2024, 02:29:16 pm »
I have considered, as was mentioned, to gather pictures/videos, digitally document in writing, and then put together a quality video of the entire trip once I get back using real editing tools. I'm thinking this approach will lessen my stress levels and allow me to focus on the experience. Minimizing avoidable hassles is what I strive for on trip like this.

Neil,
It is interesting reading your post and replies and then your latest post.  When I read your first post, I was prepared to respond exactly how you did in your last post.  I think you have found the solution.  My wife and I have logged thousands of miles on 2-8 week self-contained tours over the last 35 years.  The one trip we decided to post a diary and pics daily, we found it changed the entire trip.    We spent 60-90 minutes every day sorting pics (no video) and writing and editing.  Not to mention that we were always looking for accommodations (campground or motel) that had wifi service.  No longer was the journey the objective, it was the daily communication to friends and relatives.  What we do now for friends and family, is put together a video of our pics, with maps and put it to music after we return home. It's usually a 20-40 minute video.  And, by doing the video, we enjoy re-living the trip again.  This usually involves many bottles of wine!  Best to you on your trip.  Be safe. . 

Offline neilbrew

Re: Documenting my maiden TransAm voyage - Suggestions?
« Reply #10 on: February 01, 2024, 05:11:35 pm »
Thanks for all the comments here. As you can see through my meandering thought process during this thread I'm thinking through it and gathering insights from those who have used various methods in the past.

Friends and family naturally want constant updates to vicariously go with me. I don't blame them. It would be exciting to me on the other end too. However, considering the logistics and time element involved that you all have pointed out, at this point, I think I'll keep it simple.

Also, there is a selfish part of me that wants this to be my trip, my experience. This bike trip is a lifetime bucket list item for me as a cyclist and others are, for the most part, indifferent about my personal goals. There is a certain amount of solitude and vulnerability, a conquering of the unknown needed to make an adventure an adventure; something I'm looking forward to.

Thanks again for all the suggestions that draw on past experiences.

Offline John Nelson

Re: Documenting my maiden TransAm voyage - Suggestions?
« Reply #11 on: February 01, 2024, 08:52:33 pm »
I understand the advantages of waiting until you get home to document the trip, but that’s not my preference.

It is important to me to write up the day on the same day it occurred. I take great pleasure in reliving the day at its conclusion. It prevents me from forgetting memorable  details, and cements the day in my mind. It’s very satisfying. I only wish it didn’t take so long.

Offline j1of1

Re: Documenting my maiden TransAm voyage - Suggestions?
« Reply #12 on: February 01, 2024, 09:55:58 pm »
I can't imagine carrying a laptop, 1-2 cameras, extra batteries, maybe a drone and then spending time during the ride to capture the "right picture" then another 60-90 minutes a night writing and editing, but kudos to those that do, because I enjoy reading their journals and viewing their pictures.

Offline HobbesOnTour

Re: Documenting my maiden TransAm voyage - Suggestions?
« Reply #13 on: February 02, 2024, 06:48:26 am »
Like touring, recording a tour is a very personal experience.

Personally, I'm strongly in the camp of keeping a record. For my first few bike adventures I didn't and after even a small amount of time the days, experiences and feelings start to merge together. A bit of discipline to record the special moments has a long term payoff. But like a lot of things one thing affects another.

I invested in a "good" camera and ended up giving it away! It was such a faff to stop, unpack it, take the photo, repack it that I found myself assessing every shot and often deciding it wasn't worth the effort. Probably heresy for a pro! :-) It also took up a lot of space.
I have found a practical point and shoot backed up with my cheapy, Android phone more than enough. I sometimes look enviously at other shots with professional standards taken on pro equipment - but I console myself that carrying such gear would have altered my trip.
(Google is great for adding a location to a photo. With a non gps enabled camera, taking one photo with my phone to supplement the camera means that locating that photo later is easier).

I'm not a fan of drone shots, although I can think of a handful of Youtubers that I do enjoy. However, I'm pretty convinced that the process of taking such footage (as well as the requirements to recharge and manage the footage) would significantly alter my trip. I'm on my bike to travel first, recording it is secondary. If the recording alters the travelling then I'm no longer doing what I set out to do.

I'm a huge fan of the written word (maybe because my pictures are so poor! :-) ) and I will frequently stop to scribble down some words on the notes app on my phone. (I'll write them up later). In particularly special places I might even make myself comfortable and write "properly". That way I'm maximising my time in that place and making a memorable record of it. A simple cheat is to utilise the voice memo feature on my phone. I used to have voice memos of special places that I encountered, or snapshots of the "environmental noise". Fabulous records to keep. I used to have a recording of me babbling excitedly in the pitch darkness on the Natchez Trace. The excitement and wonder in my voice was a joy.

I kept a daily Travelogue on a UK site for (what turned out to be) a three year trip entirely from my phone. It was  a labour of love that I was determined to keep. Most of the time I enjoyed it, sometimes it was a chore and a few times the comments were a real filip when times were tough. I used Facebook as a "proof of life" kind of thing. It was quicker and easier to post something most days and it proved a great way of connecting with people that I met along the way. I'm not usually a Facebook user.
However, for security reasons, I was always careful never to reveal my exact location in real time and all my posts were referring to a day or two in the past. That may be overkill for your route.
Sometimes, internet was non-existent or too slow so postings happened for 2,3,4 days at a time - they were all ready to go on my phone.

I found the process to be wonderful. Every day, at the end of the day I got to relive the day, look at the photos, sometimes listen to the sounds. For good days it was a great feeling and for the less enjoyable days it was an opportunity to put things into perspective, go to sleep  and start afresh the next morning. If I never posted a thing publicly, that process alone was worth all the effort.

The suggestion to go out for a day or two with the idea of doing what you intend to do on the "real tour" is excellent. As a solo traveller I often had plenty of time to write up my daily notes. At other times writing up the notes would mean sacrificing the experience so they got postponed. When typing wasn't possible a voice recording worked a treat. I'd imagine people travelling with another may have different priorities. I tested out my Travelogue process on a week long mini adventure to make sure it would work.

It all comes down to you and what you want to achieve. However, to publish or not, keeping a record of what matters to us is a really, really good thing to do.

P.S.  I used to be highly critical of silly errors in journals - until I did one live! Dealing with different languages, sometimes cold, sometimes sweaty fingers, often tired, sometimes stressed all lead to little errors. To me, they're a descriptive part of the story.
 
Best of luck to you!

Offline travelspot

Re: Documenting my maiden TransAm voyage - Suggestions?
« Reply #14 on: February 05, 2024, 09:59:14 pm »
Hi Neil! I don't have a lot of experience with super long trips, but for shorter ones I normally take photos and videos for myself and maybe post a few on a shared photo album (Google) for those who expressed interest. Then after the trip, I make them into a video compilation, but not during! Also, since I normally just want to relax at the end of the day, I do audio recordings along the way, since I am not doing much else anyway! I use Google Recorder, but I am sure iPhone has something similar, which transcribes all of my voice notes so that I can use them later to remember what I did/what I was thinking/what I saw.

I have also heard good things about the TrackMyTour app; you can give the link to whoever you want to follow you and then you can post photos and/or notes along the way, and also can drop a pin on a map so they can see where you are. Good luck! I will be interested to see what you decide to do, as I am setting off on my own tour in a few months too and I don't really want to bring a lot of gear but I will want to document my trip and share it to a certain extent.