Sunday, November 29, 2009
Today Richland Balsam enticed me to play on her steep slopes with sunny skies, moderate temperature and the solitude of a closed and gated Parkway. Just above 5,000 feet, the mood turned gloomy as a half frozen rain began pelting me. Turning back, I found the weather had closed in from behind as well. Sneaky mountain.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Monday, September 28, 2009
Friday, August 28, 2009
This is one of our favorite rides and is one of the most beautiful in our area. You’ll ride by rolling pastures surrounded by mountains and two quaint small towns. The folk school makes an interesting rest stop and a great place to have a picnic.
Saturday, August 1, 2009
Saturday, July 25, 2009
Friday, July 24, 2009
The trip was great despite the rain and fog, which had us hemmed in at Tuggle’s Gap for two days and sitting by the side of the road for some time atop a few of the higher peaks. We reluctantly decided to cut the trip short at Fancy Gap, rent a U-Haul in Mount Airy and truck ourselves back home. We had thoughts of pushing on in the thick fog and frequent heavy downpours and getting a bit farther south, but we realized we would be missing the very thing we came for, the views. We also had a sick puppy waiting for us at the vet. The kennel called to tell us our beloved 15 year old basset hound Indio had emergency surgery. She is doing fine now.
Fancy Gap is only a four hour drive from home so it will make for a good starting point for a second tour to complete the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Special thanks to Paige for the ride north and the offer to “come rescue” us if anything went awry. Luckily, all went well (okay, not the weather, but all else) and we can hardly wait to accrue more vacation time to finish the Parkway. We feel very fortunate to live next to such a beautiful scenic byway that lends itself so well to touring by bicycle.
Here’s a link to the album: http://picasaweb.google.com/jdmoore63/SDBRPTOUR2009#
Jack and Raquel
Friday, July 10, 2009
Monday, July 6, 2009
Raquel is the ‘planning’ type. I’m more the ‘procrastinate till the last minute’ type. But I can say, I have put a lot of thought into what I will be taking on the Blue Ridge Parkway/Skyline Drive tour.
I’ve been into ultra-light backpacking for many years so I’m looking at this trip the same way I would a backpacking trip. I really don’t want to slog a bunch of gear up and down the mountains either on my back or on my bike. Luckily, the same gear works well for both backpacking and biking.
Here is my ‘minimalist’ kit for two weeks of touring in the mountains.
-Big Agnes Seedhouse 2 tent (this one can be set-up using the fly only, but Raquel will not consider it. So we’re taking the whole tent.)
-Big Agnes sleeping pad
-Coolmax sleep sheet
-Inflatable pillow (yes I could do without this, but I refuse to live like an animal)
-Umbrella (I’m not sure if an umbrella is an unusual bike-touring item. I can’t recall seeing anyone carrying one. But I never backpack without one, so I’m taking mine. It’s great to have an umbrella to cook, eat, pitch the tent, whatever in the rain and this one weighs almost nothing and is fiberglass, not metal.)
-Titanium pot/mug/bowl and a home-made stove/wind-screen/pot-stand
-Lexan spoon, knife, fork
-Poncho/tarp to cover the bike at night
-Rain jacket, booties, helmet cover
-First aid kit
-Nalgene bottle, water purification tabs and bandanna (for filtering out the big chunks)
-Bike tools, pump, tubes
-Clothes in a compression sack
-Small bottle of woolite
I hope I'm not forgetting anything, Jack
Saturday mornings before 10:00 am the park service closes the loop to all but bicycle and foot traffic. Prowling through the historic churches, houses and barns make Cades Cove a good mix of on and off the bike activities. The single lane road is in poor condition so fat tires are preferable but this is a great ride for kids and beginners. The biggest hazards are from (guess what) kids and beginners, but this makes for a good opportunity to practice patience. Cades Cove has a nice primitive camp ground, a camp store, bicycle rental, horse back riding, hiking trails, hay rides and lots of activities for kids.
Friday, June 26, 2009
My first stove was a Coleman multi-fuel I picked up somewhere when I was a teenager. It would burn un-leaded gas and had a little pump on the side to pressurize the tank. All the elements for a proper disaster were in place. Teenager? Check. Gasoline? Check. Matches? Check. Device to spray gasoline into the air? Check.
To this day the hair on my left hand grows in thicker than the hair on my right. Much of my first attempt to light it is a blur, but I do remember kicking the little metal fireball away from my camp-site and into the woods then spending some time stomping out the fire. But I still used it for a few years with only the occasional mini-inferno.
Next I moved on to a tiny German-made butane stove that would easily fit into a pocket. The fuel was expensive and hard to find. I soon lost the German stove and replaced it with a Primus stove that worked great but was very noisy. Pressurize gas stoves are expensive to fuel, the canisters end up in landfills and they sound like little jet engines. The noise seems to take away from the back-to-nature experience.
I tried a wood burning stove with a battery powered blower underneath. It worked pretty well and was a move in the right direction, but a bit on the heavy side. Burning wood was appealing, fuel was everywhere and free, but rain is common in the mountains and a few experiences of eating dry/uncooked noodles led me to look for something more reliable.
On to alcohol; my current favorite. I have a couple of Trangia stoves and love their simplicity, affordability and reliability. I’ve also been making Pepsi can stoves that weigh and cost nothing. Wood and grain alcohol is environmentally safe (I think) and can be found in any hardware, auto parts or liquor store. The only drawback is the invisible flame which can easily burn the bejesus out of you.
We’re trying esbit tabs and twigs on our next trip. We are trying to go as light as possible and space is an issue as well. With the esbit tabs we can take exactly what is needed for each day. I’m looking forward to trying something new.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
And he could start by doing away with the rumble strips that are in the shoulder of the road by our house… no pressure Jeremy, just whenever you can get to it.
Jeremy left in a somewhat southerly direction as he meanders his way back home to Pensacola, Florida. Raquel and I wish him all the best.
Follow Jeremy’s adventure by clicking on his link to the right.
Saturday, June 13, 2009
The government was so moved by his bravery they decided to build a monument to his name. First they built a hydro-electric dam and flooded his ancestral home creating Fontana Lake. Then the government took axe in hand and cleared away some useless and unsightly old growth forest. In its place they created a campground with miles of single track mountain bike trails, an information kiosk, boat ramps, paved parking lot and a multi-hundred dollar cinderblock two-seat outhouse complete with hand sanitizer dispensers and those really big rolls of toilet paper. Nice.
Anyway, Tsali Campground was our destination for a short overnight bike camping trip. I ran out of the office at exactly 5:00:01 pm and made my usual 20 minute commute in 17 minutes flat. Raquel had the bikes packed and waiting at the back door. So off we rode.
Arriving at Tsali, we found the campground packed silly with screaming children, RVs with generators, people grilling with pungent lighter fluid soaked charcoal, and not an empty camp site to be found. So, in the spirit of Tsali himself, we quickly decided to defy the government and sneak off to one of the many finger-lakes to stealth camp.
We returned home early the next morning.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Saturday, June 6, 2009
The Surly Travelers Check is working out well. The Travelers Check is basically a Cross Check with couplers. It’s a good all-around bike that can be dressed up for touring or dressed down for general riding. I’ve enjoyed the bike on day rides and now a short credit-card tour and look forward to two weeks on the Blue Ridge Parkway soon. The chain stay length is a bit shorter than the Long Haul Trucker and there are no braze-ons for front racks, but still a good bike for touring and a more affordable choice if you are looking for S&S couplers.
I could not be happier with the Carradice Camper Long Flap saddle bag and Ostrich handle bar bag. Together they provided plenty of cargo room (before over-stuffing, which you can easily do with both). People have thru-hiked the AT with less pack space. Together they should provide enough room for many days on the road if packed wisely.
The Carradice bag sits mostly in my slipstream which is a good thing if you are riding into a strong head-wind. Most of the weight is carried in front of the rear axle (also a good thing) and I didn’t notice any ill effect on handling having the weight so high. The Ostrich bag sits on a Nitto front rack putting the weight on the fork, not on the handle bar, so loading it heavy is not a problem.
Another handy item is my parking brake. I’ve tied a loop of elastic cord around my handle bar and slip it over the brake lever when I park the bike. The bike stays put even in a stiff wind. This is a useful thing even if you don’t use a kickstand.
And then there’s that. I’ve had a mental block keeping me from putting a kickstand on my bikes for years. Now that I have one, I love it. No more laying my bike down in the dirt and no more bending down to pick up a loaded bike. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen folks lay expensive bikes down on pavement or have them fall over after being haphazardly leaned against something.
Metal versus plastic fenders. I have plastic fenders on my Sequoia and metal fenders on the Surly. Yes, the metal ones weigh a bit more, and cost a bit more, but I think they are worth it. They are much more durable and should last years. I’ve had a few toe strikes before I got used to the overlap. Now, I don’t even think about it when I adjust my pedal stroke to miss the fender in a slow turn. It quickly became automatic. If I’m in a slow uphill turn, I’ll unclip my outside foot and pedal through the turn with my foot back a bit.
Saturday, May 30, 2009
The bike and I have been through a lot together. I’ve been squished between two buses in Manhattan, crashed in the Adirondacks which dented the top tube and gave me a concussion and I was knocked over by a pickup truck. But lots of good things too, century rides in Montauk, New York, Lake Tahoe and Savannah and countless shorter rides as well as some light touring. Throughout the years my Tommaso has been a faithful companion and just like her owner, she’s a tough New Yorker.