More thoughts on the gear list

Posted by Dale

Dale SchlatterFirst of all, shame on you who have not stopped by MountainbikingX.com. If by some chance you haven’t, please do.

I am going to give you a brief run down of my part in this journey. Unlike Jayme or Mack I have no chance of ever getting a month off to ride from Oregon to ND. The best I can do, in what is referred to as a prime time vacation month, is five days in a row. It should coincide with the last five days of the trip give or take. I am making all the preparations I can so I can join them, but I must admit I am jealous of the fact that I cannot be there for the whole thing.

Now I will admit that I am no Marine, and as Jayme will tell I have had a fairly posh life growing up and still do. But as he will also tell I am an old farm boy who can make things work, don’t mind to get dirty, and know to improvise when needed. I love to ride bike, so to me that side of this trip will not be a worry. My physical condition may.

I know I need to be in way better shape if I want to achieve the miles I have to ride. I am joining these two when they are almost done. They will be seasoned. A hundred mile day should be nothing for them. I am going to have to train hard so I can join up with them and be ready to ride that hard. I am going to be the guy with a loaded trailer you see on the roads this year putting in my fifty mile training rides. I plan to ride at least once with both loaded panniers and a loaded trailer to compare the two. I am pretty sure from what I have read the loaded trailer will be better, but I don’t want to say that with out first trying both. Once I decide on one I am going to make a number of runs, working up to a certain distance to make sure I am ready to ride with the needed weight.

I am trying to help out with this trip where I can for Jayme and Mack and this is one of the reasons why I must question some of the things they (I should say Jayme, I know how he is Mack) come up with sometimes. It is actually going to work to our, and everyone who reads this and is looking for info on touring, advantage. All three of us have different views on what we do or don’t need to do or bring for this tour. Granted I may not be doing the whole thing, but like I wrote in my article I really don’t think it matters much if you are doing fives days or twenty-five. You will still need a lot of the same things. You can read more about that and other stuff about touring here. Now granted I am going to get by easier in the sense that I can bring less food, but that is about the only place for now that I found I can really cut a lot of corners. I am still bringing just as many clothes, spare parts, and camping gear.

The camping gear is where our first real disagreements have begun. One thing about Jayme and I you have to remember is we love to disagree. It feeds our egos to disagree with each other. It gets so bad that even when one of us may agree with the other on a subject we just dig our heels in and stand our ground. But that is the way it has been for years and will continue until we beat each other over the head with our canes in the nursing home over which Jell-O flavor is better.

On the other side of the spectrum we are each coming up with some ideas that the other two may not have realized or may have overlooked on why it is important. I will give you one point that has come to light already: what to eat out of. My original plan was to use a military issue mess kit. I saw one on eBay and it looked good, compact, and fairly light. This was before I read Jayme’s gear list and saw something called a Canteen cup that I do believe Mack gets the credit for. This thing is great. I can drink, eat cereal, and heat soup in it. You name it and I can do it with this cup. This is one fine gem of camping material. While on eBay I found one and paid for it and discovered I can buy a stand and trioxane fuel specifically for it. Perfect. I can now have my beloved hot oatmeal for breakfast. I watched a new stand and thirty fuel bars sit at $9.99 for almost five days. I figured these were mine. Today I open My eBay to discover someone bid on them and realized it was Jayme. Mine would have to be the next set. It is amazing thousands of miles apart, all sorts of different types of research and some how we end up buying the same thing with out it every being mentioned to each other. These are the items that no one should doubt as being almost perfect for the job.

There are some things that we will always disagree on. The tent verses the tarp probably will be the greatest one. I am going to use the tent. They more than likely are going to use a tarp, and good luck to them. In the end I hope it rains on us while I am with the, that way when it is all over we can get a good comparison for the next time. Who knows what I will use then? This tour is doing more for me than just riding on the road in the middle of ND. I am learning a whole new side of bicycling, finally finding a true motivation for losing that 30lbs I need to. My upcoming wedding is another plus for the weight loss. No one likes to see an over stuffed penguin. No matter what comes of this tour it is already making us better in many ways. I for one say bring on the road, heat, bugs and rain we will show it what we are made of.

This is the first of many articles I will post. I would defend my point on the tent verses the tarp more, but I for one say go with the tent and I didn’t want to repeat what you will already find on MountainbikingX.com.

Stop by and check it out.

Thoughts on the gear list

Posted by Mack

Kevin Mackhere i am, i just finished reading jayme’s thoughts on the gear list. the more i talk about this with my counterpart, the more motivated i get. when jayme says “we went on a training ride” sometimes that may include a pound of rat on a stick and 8 beers, and we still hump it all the way home yelling and going about 45kph. honestly, even though i am not the strongest rider on the block, i think that i can handle this ride no problem, save the hills.

what concerns me is the issue of warmth and the sleeping situation. the warmth problem really isn’t one, it’s just that i resist buying sport specific clothing. example given; spandex with reflective sides. sure it works great but i am just too cheap, hands down. but why you say can i buy a $100 bivy bag but not $25 pants. well, i don’t know either, but i am sticking to my guns. just because i “blow” 100 bucks doesn’t mean that i should blow $125. get the picture? i’ll end up buying stuff on sale that has minnie mouse on it or something. fair enough, i guess that’s what i get for being a little cheap.

so, essentially, the clothes fiasco isn’t really a problem. what troubles me is the sleeping concerns. i like the idea of the tarp, it makes sense to me. one problem jayme hasn’t addressed is the speed factor. can we set up this tarp as quickly as we dream? yes, but with practice. honestly, bare bones camping is great for me. i hate carrying anything that i don’t need. and the truth is that you don’t need an $85 high speed stove and pillows. i understand that a canteen cup and little flame stick stove isn’t the best way to make fish and chips, but that’s not the point. the point is that i can get anything in a tin can, we stop in cities every night, plus we have mre’s. i told jayme that i need one good meal a day. that can be breakfast or dinner. i see no shortage of mom and pop 5am breakfast nooks. a huge plate of grits and an omelet will do me just fine until the granola bar lunch and can of dintymore beef stew dinner. i really am fine as long as i am full and reasonably warm.

once, in the marine corps, i had to sleep under the stars in 19-degree weather. i had no sleeping bag, and definitely no tent. it was terrible yes, but tolerable. mind you, i don’t want to tolerate this trip, but enjoy it. with my bivy and sleeping bag i am already two steps ahead of this terrible memory. i am happy with that, seriously. so even a tarp is extra. i would rather carry 4 pounds of chow i put in a doggy bag than 4 pounds of nylon and aluminum.

does this sound crazy? maybe, well yes i guess it does… but that’s not the point. the point is that i will be fine with the supplies that we have chosen. some old fart may need a 5-pound air mattress, but i don’t. i just want beef and potatoes. is that so difficult? i think not. i just want 300 feet of 550 cord in case i have an emergency. i want a map and water tablets, not a rain fly and a coleman stove.

i think that this adventure will be a successful one. just a couple thoughts on the way out… first, will we be as comfy as some folks when they camp? of course not. if that were the case, nobody would use a tarp or even consider one. let’s face it, right now we are the minority in this thought process. second, this is an expedition, just like capt lew and officer clark, remember that. and finally, nothing easy was ever worth doing. why choose the easy route when there is a challenge that waits over the next hill?

semper fi.

The tarp vs. tent debate

Mack and I went on a training ride of sorts the other day in preparation for the tour this July. We cycled a whopping 40km, which is 25 miles, and never felt better. How could I possibly call this a training ride when we need to average just over 73 miles a day for three weeks? Well, this wasn’t a physical ride to get our bodies used to the effort, but rather a ride into the psychological expanse that comes with a tour of this nature.

We went over my gear-list-in-progress item by item, picking it apart, turning it over, evaluating, scrutinizing, and tossing ideas back and forth. With my recent purchase of Beyond Backpacking: Ray Jardine’s Guide to Lightweight Hiking, I’ve learned a hell of a lot about making do with less, getting more out of what I do have, and cost and weight effective ways to reduce pack loads. And in recent days when I actually broke out the medical scale and started weighing a standard tour load versus my proposed lightweight, streamlined load, the results were amazing.

I had planned on revamping my proposed gear list, writing something up explaining my reasoning in more detail, and letting everyone know of the update so I could possibly collect valuable feedback from readers. I didn’t quite get to the write-up before I received a scathing email from Dale, my supposed third team member for the North Dakota portion of the tour, about my changes. He was livid. He was fired up. He simply couldn’t believe why on earth I’d ever want to make the changes I made for whatever reasons. He raised a few good points about a handful of items in question, but his anger and bewilderment seemed focused on my decision to carry a trap instead of a tent. Rather than go into painstaking detail and regurgitate everything he wrote, let me quote Dale himself on the pertinent “issues”.

Since we are both thick skinned opinionated [edit] I figure you can take me chewing on you a bit, nothing personal just making a few points you may have over looked. No trailer huh. What is up with that? Alright I can buy the no trailer thing, but no tent. Do you remember what mosquitoes, rain, the storms and the wind are like around here. You are going to need to get a good nights sleep or it will start to wear on you if you are riding a lot each day. I mean a tarp, your are never going to keep out the bugs with that, and what are you going to do when there are no trees. Or if it rains too much you will wake up in a pool. Just a few thoughts, its not like you are going to be out there for a few days and unless you plan on spending some money on a room here and there I would bring a tent. Of all of the tour journals I have read they all have brought a tent, with the exception of the ones who stayed in rooms and even some of them brought a tent.

Obviously, Dale has some issues.

So Dale, this post is for you, primarily you, and if any other living soul on the planet can learn something from this then I’ll die a happy man.

Let’s follow two riding pairs as they cycle 1,969 miles of the Lewis and Clark trail: Jim and Wally are camping with a 10’x16′ tarp. Phillip and Lyle are camping with a dome tent equipped with a full sized rain fly. Here’s the breakdown.

1. Weight.

Phillip’s tent is a top of the line 3-season tent. It has a million and one features that make it the best. That’s why he bought it. Add a cut-to-fit ground cloth and the total weight of tent, poles, stakes, carrying case, and ground sheet is 8lbs. He knows this because he weighed the damn thing before the trip. This weight is average as far as two man freestanding dome tents are concerned.

Jim and Wally are carrying a standard 10’x16′ tarp, the blue kind you can get at any hardware, sporting goods, or department store. It weighs 2.75lbs. Add 150′ of cord (Wally’s theory is that a man can’t have enough cord) and tent stakes and the weight increases to 4lbs even. A ground cloth is not needed because the tarp can be folded on the 16′ side and a portion, about 5′, can be designated for sleeping on (which is above average width for sleeping space of a two man tent). In summary, Jim and Wally’s tarp/cord/stakes combo cuts the weight in half.

2. Water repellency.

Let’s began following Phillip and Lyle as it’s time to set up camp. It’s raining like a bastard as they began setting it up. Phillip read the directions on the box and noticed the rain fly goes on last. By the time the fiberglass poles were inserted and the rain fly was attached, the portion of the tent that wasn’t supposed to get wet is just that. In fact, it’s pretty soaked even though it didn’t take long to get the poles in place. With the rain fly now assembled and attached to the tent body, the men comfortably assume that the interior of the tent that was drenched in the process of setting it up will dry when they crawl in from body heat alone. Wrong! They failed to remember a tent rain fly is nonbreathable. That means that no water is getting in, and no water is getting out. Rain flies are not like Gore-Tex. If anything, they’re like plastic or rubber that breaks down over time that causes post-production applications of waterproofing in order to maintain water repellency. Jim had just done it with his 7-year-old Eureka Prism tent, which he left at home in favor of the tarp, and it was once again a pleasure to camp in during inclement weather on weekend campouts. Prior to that it leaked like a siv. In addition, Jim’s Eureka Prism has a standard rain fly that extends to the ground on either side, and has beaks in the front and rear, allowing him to open a window or door if its not raining too hard. Anyway, the rain fly of Phillip and Lyle’s tent extends all the way to the ground on every side to prevent water from splashing back up on the underside and entering the tent. This full rain fly also keeps the Phillip and Lyle from getting wet if they should come in contact with the sidewall. Of course, all this is based on the fact that both they and the tent were dry before it started raining. So now Phillip is in the tent, and probably Lyle too because he’s tired of getting his ass rained on, and they’re changing out of their wet clothes. It’s literally turning into a steam bath in there. The rain fly prevents all that excess moisture from getting out. 99% of tents Jim has seen are not designed to have an open window or door and still keep out rain, therefore if something is opened up to ventilate while its raining, even more rain will be allowed to enter and soak the dry clothes that were just put on. Get the point?

Moving on, it’s morning. It had rained sporadically throughout the night and the weather stayed cool. Phillip had been cooped up in the steam bath (a.ka. his tent) with his smelly riding partner Lyle for at least six hours, and there’s a river of condensation clinging to the roof and walls of the tent from wet gear, breath, and body heat throughout the night. Phillip carefully tries crawl out without disturbing the condensation, but his elbow smacks the door and a shower of water comes crashing down on his exposed back and still sleeping Lyle. He’s not too happy. Phillip gets out into the sunrise and sees it has finally stopped raining, the clothes he had changed into are dry but that’s about it, and it’s time to pack up and go.

In 30 minutes they eat breakfast and pack up everything but the tent because it still hasn’t dried. The morning is like any other morning: cool. Phillip and Lyle pack up the tent with the wet rain fly and condensed interior and ride on into the day. If they’re lucky they’ll be able to attempt to dry it out during their lunch break. Nylon absorbs water in various degrees. It’s a proven fact. But in addition to the water that was on the tent when they packed it, there is also whatever it absorbed by being in a deluge overnight. Regardless, Phillip and Lyle have effectively added a few more pound of moisture to their already 8 pound behemoth tent.

Now let’s zip over to Jim and Wally who are carrying a tarp. Once again it’s raining cats and dogs, but let’s think worst-case scenario. They’re in the middle of the prairie, nothing but grass for miles (no rocks, no twigs, no sticks), and the wind and rain are howling. They unpack they’re 10’x16′ tarp in the rain and the side exposed to the rain is immediately wet. Okay, so they fold one end under to the third grommet (about 6′, leaving 10 more feet to work with) and stake it down to the ground by the end grommets. Keep in mind it was folded under the portion that is being rained on, hence the side on the ground now facing up is dry. Stakes are also placed at the second grommet and now Jim has a 6’x10′ area on the ground that hinges and is covered by the remainder of the tarp he and Wally are holding. Following? Jim takes his side of the tarp and places it directly on top of itself on the ground, burrito rolls it underneath itself and stakes it down using movable after market tarp grommets that are about $3.99 for four at any department store. So now two out of four sides are 100% sealed from wind or rain. There is the original hinge side and now the burrito rolled side. That leaves two sides open. In true, intelligent form, Jim and Wally had the common sense to put one of the two sealed edges into the prevailing wind. Remember, there is still 10′ of tarp that can be used, and right now it’s keeping the staked down 6’x10′ section of sleep space bone dry.

With the flapping edge of the 10′ that is left, Wally takes it right to the ground where it is staked, burrito rolled under, and re-staked. So, with the right folded edge, the bottom burrito rolled, and the left burrito rolled, Jim and Wally now have effectively 5’x9′ of floor area with 12′ burrito rolls (and that’s a lot). If you’re doing the math, that’s 45 square feet of floor space, but we’ll get into more detail later. All that is left is one open end. What are they going to prop it open with?? Well, depending on how high they want it open, Jim or Wally can simply arrange one of the bikes and tie it off to that. They can also tie the bikes together and lean them inward, and could then tie off the door as high as the handlebars. By turning a bike upside down and tying the door off to a chain stay or something similar, they have effectively lowered the door to that height. It’s up to them depending on what the weather is doing.

Jim then puts a couple pieces of gear underneath the tarp at the door so water won’t run in due to runoff. Wally pulls a tire off a bike, sets it up lengthwise in the interior, and just got 26′ of ceiling space. It’s more than enough to get comfy and change into dry clothes. The tire also keeps the tarp taught in the middle and helps reduce flapping in the wind. Oh yea, Jim and Wally’s 5’x9′ sleep area was never even exposed to the rain, so it doesn’t have to dry. The same goes for the walls and ceiling. With nine feet of vertical living space, they can afford to scoot down if by some odd chance rain is misting in the door or wind is howling in a bit (but proper tarp orientation will prevent that). Jim and Wally change into dry clothes and any condensation from thier effort or wet clothes is immediately evaporated out the front door. Throughout the night they don’t worry about touching the sides of the tarp with their shoulders or feet because a tarp with no holes is 100% waterproof for the life of the tarp. It’s not silicon impregnated or any other crazy crap. It is simply a tarp and the material absorbs absolutely no moisture.

Let’s move on to the morning. At sometime during the night the rain shifted directions so Jim simply retied the door to about six inches from the ground. Even a 5’x6′ gap provides a hell of a lot more ventilation that any tent with a full rain fly. Jim and Wally wake up dry and refreshed because they’ve have had the chance to air out.

But what’s this? It’s still raining! No problem. Jim cooks breakfast in the mouth of the tarp knowing that superior ventilation will prevent carbon dioxide buildup and they eat chow nice and dry. They pack up their things while in the tarp and stay dry. Knowing they’re going to get wet on the ride anyways, they crawl out of the tarp, remove the tire from the center, untie and unstake the tarp, and proceed to fold it dry side inward, thereby keeping it dry indefinitely. With one shake of the tarp they eliminate 99% of the water that may have been clinging to it. Jim then rolls it from one direction and squeezes any rain that had fallen on it during the packing process out the other end. In total, mere ounces of water may have been accumulated during a rain which lasted over 8 hours. Wally straps everything down and the two men ride off into the deluge.

3. Configuration options.

With a tent of any shape or form, Phillip and Lyle can only assemble it and place it on the ground as is. Maybe they add or remove the rain fly depending on weather, but Phillip has exactly what he bought. End of story.

The varying ways Jim and Wally can pitch a tarp is practically limitless. The way they did it in the previous section is for extreme conditions, but it doesn’t stop them from doing it whenever they so choose. In their opinion, the beauty of using a tarp is that of choice. Other popular methods they plan on implementing are a single pole design, similar to what was discussed with one closed end and one propped open, the classic “A’ frame with two open ends, and the reliable lean-to that works great as a temporary shelter in any conditions from extreme heat, rain, or even snow. All angles, dimensions, degrees, and guy line techniques can be adjusted however they see fit to meet any weather condition presented.

4. Space.

Phillip and Lyle’s tent measures 7’7″ x 3’6″ which equals 30 square feet of usable floor space, all the time, every time. It is a non-negotiable number.

As Jim and Wally have proven, even in the worst weather they still have 45 square feet of floor space to use. In a standard open “A’ frame design without the utilization of a floor and a 7′ ceiling, the floor area increases to 90 square feet! Of course these are ridiculous dimensions that would really only be used with six hookers, a keg, and a four hose beer bong, but easily doable with a tarp of that size.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that Jim and Wally’s tarp method is head and shoulders above a tent. I have no intention of staying in hotel rooms unless the urge strikes me. Mack agrees. Being the rainy season in Brazil right now, I plan on testing my various tarp-pitching techniques extensively to see what works and what doesn’t. Even though my tarp-pitching experience is based on reading and not doing, both Mack and I have extensive knowledge in knots and resourcefulness in general. If it’s one thing we’re used to is being uncomfortable in the outdoors if need be. But as Mack pointed out, our definition of mild discomfort would make most people hop a Greyhound bus and go home. We will live and learn, and if it happens to be on the trail then so be it.

Another issue Dale pointed out is the presence of bugs. Of course a tarp won’t keep any bugs out. That’s a no brainer. But how much time would we actually spend in a tent? My only intent would be to sleep in the tent, not hang out in it for whatever reason. A man doesn’t cycle halfway across the country so he can relax in a tent when the ride is over for the day. I plan on relaxing completely outdoors until it’s time to sleep. Then, and only then, would I retire to the tent and could experience bug free sleep. Outside of shelter everyone is subject to mosquitoes and the playing field is even. So how to we, the tarp dwellers, get around the bugs? Mosquito netting of course!

Mack’s sleeping bag has an integrated mosquito net over the upper torso that stows conveniently in the hood of the bag. Although mine does not, I’m retrofitting a similar system on my bag. I’ve recently purchased a 15’x54′ roll of mosquito netting and a 15’x1′ black roll of Velcro adhesive tape. I will ring the top half of the mummy bag with the hook portion of the Velcro, beginning with the right side underneath the zipper at waist level, over and around the hood to the left seam, down the bag to the same point as the right side, and directly across to the zipper. The Velcro will start and end at the same point with zipper separating the single piece. I will then fashion a section of mosquito netting with the loop portion of the adhesive Velcro. I will leave enough netting available in the design to allow me to fold the mummy bag open at the waist and sit up while still being covered my netting. When properly applied, only the 1/4″ or so gap where the zipper separates the strip of hook Velcro will be exposed. But “exposed” is a bad word. If the mosquitoes can find a gap that is smaller than a quarter is thick they deserve to feed on my head. The sleeping bag netting system that Mack and I will have on our bags will also allow us to sleep worry free under the stars without fear of some gangly spider crawling into the sleeping bag with us. Damn, I hate spiders. I will test the adhesiveness of the Velcro and possible take the mummy bag and netting to a local tailor to get it stitched into place for added security.

One more thing that Mack is implementing is a waterproof bivy cover that compresses to the size of a baseball and weighs much less. All in all it’s a good idea, but I haven’t decided if I can justify $120 on one. Bivy covers are generally breathable and totally waterproof, which makes them more expensive than the sleeping bag in most cases. They are great in all types of weather but tend to restrict ventilation somewhat. I will continue to scour the net for a good deal and let everyone know what I come up with.

I almost forgot about my other weight saving decisions. I spent the majority of yesterday painstakingly weighing all my equipment and writing down accurate packing dimensions. The only items I don’t have in my possession to perform those tasks are the B.O.B. trailer, rear rack, and panniers. I’ve asked Dale to weigh them for me to the nearest ? lb and let me know so I can plug the numbers into my spreadsheet.

My major weight saving takes place in three areas: my sleeping bag, my sleeping pad, and my tent. As the post is about, I’m swapping out my 8-pound tent for my 4-pound tarp. My 3-pound, 72″ self-inflating sleeping pad is being nixed in favor of a 48′ closed-cell foam pad weighing in at 9ozs. In all actuality, a sleeping pad needs only to extend from your hipbone to your shoulder, the points of your body that contact the ground and require the most insulation. Spare clothes can be used as a pillow and nothing is required for your legs or feet. If I wanted to get really anal about it, I could trim the sleeping pad down to 36″ in length and wide enough to extend 1′ around my torso print. Weight savings would not be dramatic at all, but the sized rolled would be. I’ll look into that as well. And last but not least, my sleeping bag that I’ve had for over 15 years and weighs over 5-pounds, is being replaced. I’m buying a Kelty Stratus mummy bag rated down to 35 degrees and weighing in at 2lbs 3ozs. And what’s the dollar cost of the weight savings? Well, the foam pad cost me $10.97 and the sleeping bag cost me $49.99. Not bad considering it will be the first new sleeping bag I’ve ever owned. With the three major weight savers and a few other odds and ends, I’ve chopped 10lbs off my pack weight so far. If you don’t think 10lbs is a lot, weigh it out in a book bag and carry it with you wherever you go for three weeks. It sucks.

In spite of Dale’s seemingly foolishness with the tarp, he did point out a couple items that make sense that I forgot about. For instance, I have chain links mentioned but no chain. He was right in saying that once a chain is broken it continues to break so a completely new chain would make sense. I’ve decided to carry one new chain between Mack and I. We will also carry one new tire. If we need to replace more than one tire in the time it takes us to replace our reserve, we’re in more trouble than anticipated.

If nothing else, Dale, Mack and I all agree that a simple canteen cup for all-purpose dining and cooking as required is the smart way to go. Credit goes to Mack for the idea. I will also be purchasing a stand and fuel tabs for the canteen cup. Just think instant chicken noodle soup or chili con carne or even hot cocoa. It’s the little things that count on a trip of this magnitude.

Dale asked the question if all my weight saving options would be traded off for the associated bulk and weight of MREs. One case of 12 MREs weighs 35lbs. That’s a shit load of anyone is doing the math. I bought three cases for Mack and I. We plan on field stripping the MREs to the bare essentials. We also don’t plan on bringing 18 MREs each. We have 25 days on the trail. How heavy our gear is getting as we move towards the MREs will determine how many we bring. A majority of the food on this trip is being oriented towards cafes, gas stations, and general scrounging, but a package of 12 instant soups will go a long ways if we really need to stretch it out.

The one thing I can’t stress enough is that my gear list is a work in progress. I’m learning new things every day and developing new resources I can apply to the tour. My biggest concern right now is whether I should stick with the B.O.B. trailer as originally planned or scrap it in favor of a rear rack and panniers. With a reduction of the overall gear list I won’t require the shear carrying capacity of the trailer. I know the weight savings will be considerable, but the really issue is efficiency in transporting a load. Dale has decided to test both methods of travel so I’m relying on him for an accurate report. It’ll be an enormous factor in what I end up using.

This is enough for now. There are other developments with the tour but I’ll save them for another post. You can expect pictures and detailed reports of my tarp pitching experiments, as well as more training information as I load up my rack trunk to the max and take off on overnight tours in the one-day range of Brasilia.

Until next time… live to ride.

Thoughts on the tour

Posted by Mack

Kevin Macki just thought that i should say a few words concerning this pilgrimage to mecca…

over the past few months, and countless kilometers, i have been thrashing the hog with a person you know as jayme. i don’t call him jayme. i call him uncle billy ray. ok, i call him staff sergeant. anyway, over hundreds of kilometers of fire road, singletrack, grass, jungle, river, and pavement, jayme has been a motivator. he has somehow coerced me into traveling 1969 miles across the united states. i have yet to purchase the supplies needed. as usual with these types of things, i will make do with less. you can guarantee that i will be cold and miserable while i am actually riding the bike. more than likely, i will simply go with 3 MREs and a gatorade. but, i’ll get to point b somehow.

yesterday, i was pondering whether to bring a MP3 player. it is dangerous, i know. it’s even against marine corps regulations. do i have to actually talk with jayme the whole 1969 miles? will he even be within sight on the upside of the mountains? i doubt it. i think i will bring my harmonica. i would like to enjoy myself on this venture. will there be female companionship on the way? will there be a feira da guara? can i handle getting wasted and still ride somewhat well in the morning? i have so many questions. however, the real question will be a question of self discipline and determination. this will test not only my thighs of steel but those great golf balls between them.

i am excited.

my only real fear is that i will have no way to cut my hair on the duration and will my mustache grow as well as i hope?

PayPal tour donation winner

Congratulations and a hearty thank you! goes to Shawna for a $20 donation to the already infamous Lewis and Clark mountain bike tour of 2004! Her donation is being used for 9 feet of reflective tape with which to adorn my B.O.B. trailer to keep from getting killed on the highway.

As you can see, donations are being used effectively rather than blown on hookers and whiskey, as I’m sure was the misconception when I requested fund assistance. The process is safe and indeed secure, so feel free to join the crowd and donate a buck or two so I don’t have to make people up.

Jayme and Mack in the jungleMack and I, under his direct supervision and navigation prowess, went for a ride yesterday. Within minutes of leaving the sanctuary of the fire road, we were enveloped in jungle so thick it would make an Amazonian claustrophobic. It was a team effort as I pulled my bike through the dense underbrush and Mack pushed it. We jumped ravines, crossed rivers, were bitten, stung, scraped, scratched, beaten, bruised, stabbed, gouged, and punctured, and overall had the times of our lives. The day ended with almost 45km under our belts, half of which was practically swinging Tarzan style from vine to vine.

The jungle beat us that day, but we will return triumphant! I just received my Garmin eTrex Vista GPS and the world is now our oyster. No longer will we stumble unaided through the brush and the bush and the foliage. From now on we stumble accompanied by $240 worth of navigational wonder which is practically useless in triple canopy jungle! Ah, the perks of the technological age.

Our progress continues…

Tour donations via PayPal

$100 billIn response to the flood of requests as to what I want for Christmas (all three of you), I’ve decided to make things easy. As you may well know, an undertaking such as the Lewis and Clark mountain bike tour of 2004 gets quite expensive. Rather than submit lists of items that I may or may not eventually decide on getting anyway, I given you the opportunity to donate cold, hard cash to the cause. It’s the gift that keeps on giving… until it’s spent! The beauty about donating directly to my PayPal account is it’s safe, secure, and I’ll blow it on eBay stuff for the tour anyways. Every dollar counts! Those who donate will receive full recognition and publicity on my next journal entry, and a coveted spot in my sidebar on both this page and my home page for millions of jk.com visitors to see and admire. Send me a dollar. Send me five. Hell, send me ten! With your help we can make this trip possible.

Power to the pedal!

Recruitment

Mack thumbnailDale thumbnailBefore strange, random posts start showing up and raising unneeded questions, I figured I’d give everyone the heads up. My partners in this endeavor, Mack and Dale, have been authorized writing privileges inside these very walls of jaymekohler.com in the daily log of our workup. As they continue to prepare for the infamous journey of man and machine next summer, they may occasionally scrape together brain cells and write some useful, informative quips and stories about how their own progress is coming along. I hope they do. The world waits with nervous anticipation.

There has been rapid development in my gear list. The dollar figure is slowly adding up, but I’m using my average military pay for the duration of my leave block prior to reporting to duty in back in the U.S. as a reference. I’ve already dropped $240 on the Garmin eTrex Vista GPS and $235 on the B.O.B. Yak trailer, but these two are my big ticket items that I’ll be using on a regular basis. If a Thai hooker for $240 were on my gear list, I would have to reconsider my priorities. But alas, she is not. It’s money in the bank.

Leg injuriesArm injuryIn the colorful spirit of the Christmas season, my Specialized M-4 decided to toss me over the handlebars at almost 50kmph, over a curb, and onto a sidewalk where I promptly lost approximately 14% of the skin on the right side of my body. This is an estimate only, and actual numbers could vary. The really odd thing is I was remarking to Mack not a day ago about how I haven’t had a really good wipe out since I’ve been in Brasilia. I usually leave all the falling to him and I take care of the showmanship and public flare. And you know what the really irresponsible, stupid thing of it all was? I wasn’t wearing my helmet. In fact, I haven’t worn my helmet since I’ve been here. It’s a dumb thing to do, especially when I’m weaving in and out of rush hour traffic at over 30kmph. I know the dangers, I see the dangers, I’ve experienced the dangers, but I haven’t been wearing my helmet. I actually tried to justify my actions the other day when I was trying to cross the street and a bus blew a few inches past the front of my face. In a case such as that one, what good would a helmet be? An open casket funeral? They might as well stick my perfectly preserved, intact head on the end of the spatula they used to peel my guts off the grill. Gross. I vow to do better!

Plans are really beginning to solidify. I’ve got my orders to _________ (I’m not telling yet) and have to report between 30 June and 31 July 2004. Because of the length of the bike trip, the boss man said I could leave 30 June. Assuming I leave in the morning, it will put me into Bismarck, ND late that evening or even butt-crack dawn. Regardless, I plan on using one full day to prep and pack. Then I’m hopping a plane from Bismarck, ND to Portland, OR. Mack may meet me in Bismarck or Portland depending on ticket prices. The only real wrinkle in this plan is how we will get the 97 miles from Portland to Astoria. If we ride it, it will add another day and we’ll be covering the same ground twice. Okay, but not what I want to do.

Passmore thumbnailNielsen thumbnailEnter: “Marine buddy hook-ups”. I’ve got a friend in Albany, a scant hour from Portland, who I might be able to coerce into picking Mack and I and our gear up in Portland, then dropping us off like so much garbage in Astoria. Passmore, if you’re reading this, this is me asking. If not, expect a phone call soon. Another option I have is Nielsen, currently in Medford, OR, which isn’t exactly a hop, skip, or jump from Portland. The good thing about Nielsen is I talked to him the other night and planted a bug in his ear about the trip. Him and I put some serious miles on the hogs back in my SoCal days over three years ago, and he really sounded up for it. The idea was to get his sister to drive him up in his truck, load us up, and then drop all three of us off in Astoria. Provided that Nielsen actually goes, this is the most viable option. Staring the ride in Portland in another option, but we’re just so damn close that it would be a shame.

There are still plenty of what ifs and how tos and maybes, but one way or another this is gonna happen.

The journey continues…

Inception

It wasn’t like I woke up one morning with a burning desire to ride the Lewis and Clark Trail. It just happened. But I know now that it had to happen. Trout swim upstream to spawn. I ride.

The idea didn’t start for any reason in particular. I was leafing through an old issue of Bike Magazine and saw a small ad about the Adventure Cycling Association. I checked it out online and thought it would be cool idea to go on a cross country ride. I scratched my head and snooped through the routes. Hell, I had thirty days of leave coming to me once I rotated off the Marine Security Guard program, and that would be plenty of time to take a long distance ride. But which one? Dale was getting married around the same time frame so a ride ending in Bismarck would be perfect. Suddenly, I spotted the Lewis and Clark Trail and my eyes bulged.

Gear in the culvertOf course! It went right through Bismarck with plenty of miles on either side to keep me busy for a couple weeks. I sprung into action and started pouring through magazines and touring websites to see what it would take to make it happen. I needed gear. Not much, but something better than the panniers and WalMart bike rack I used in 1997 on a 180 mile attempt from Bismarck to Medora, ND. 35 miles into the ride the rack snapped, leaving me to stash all my gear in a culvert under the interstate and ride for assistance. The trip was cut sadly short because of pinching pennies.

I’m older now, 20 pounds heavier in a good way, and a lot wiser when it comes to the quality versus price debate. If I buy cheap, I get cheap. Simple as that. I decided to go with a B.O.B. Yak trailer, and practically stole it off eBay from some sorry soul who had to let it go. Sometimes at night I swear I hear him weeping for his loss. Oh well, my gain!

The route is almost 100% solid now to the tune of 1,969 miles and 25 days according to Bicycling the Lewis and Clark Trail which was written by the Adventure Cycling Association. The trick to the route is that I’ll be doing it backwards in respect to the original expedition 200 years ago, and the book was written as such. It’s a simple enough fix. Turn the book around.

Mack thumbnailJoining me on this trip of self discovery, sporadic body hygiene, and plenty of mosquitoes, is one (1) K.C. Mack, a.k.a. Tuna Can, of Detroit Michigan. Mack is stationed here in Brasilia with me and due to get out of our beloved Marine Corps early next summer. After a few pain compliance techniques, he happily agreed to ride along with me, or behind me a few miles if the hills got bad, for the duration of the trip. He enjoys stargazing, long walks on the beach, and traditional Brazilian music. I wish him luck.

A big question mark that has been raised is Dale’s participation. Will he or won’t he? Can he or can’t he? Should he or shouldn’t he? Like the number of licks it takes to the center of a tootsie pop, the world may never know. My propaganda war continues as I flood his inbox with web sites and links and wisdom from other cyclic travelers around the country. I speak to him of racks and packs and components and sunsets in the saddle. I feel him crumbling. I await his decision.