Friday, June 26, 2009

Setting Things On Fire.

Before I describe my current stove, a little disclosure of my personal history with stoves might help to explain my stove addiction. Being a typical heterosexual type male I’ve always enjoyed setting things on fire.

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

Another WarmShower

Our second WarmShowers guest has come and gone. Once again the experience was positive. Jeremy Myers, touring up the east coast and, on a whim, deciding to traverse the state of North Carolina, took respite in our home for a couple of days. Jeremy is a recent college graduate who is doing a bit of adventuring before settling into the day to day drudgery of employment. Jeremy recently earned his degree in civil engineering. We can only hope he will go to work for DOT and dedicate his career to making the roads more bicycle friendly.

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

Tsali Bike Camping

Tsali Recreation Area is only about 12 miles from our back door. It’s named after a Cherokee leader who refused relocation via the Trail of Tears. He and his band of followers hid in the mountains of Western North Carolina until his capture by the government. Sometime later he was executed by firing squad.

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.


Hanging a bear bag

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Bicycle by Korns 1892 ...Enjoy

If this isn't working for you, the book can be found at

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Jack's Gear Notes

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.