New Adventures

So, my wife of 17 years and I are going through a separation.

I can go on and on about the drama and heartbreak surrounding this, but I won’t. Long story short, I need to take this time to truly find myself, figure out who I am without my wife, and do the things I always wanted to do as part of my own independence. I’m learning about Buddhism, being present, being at peace with myself, exorcising the hurt from my childhood that is coming up again and again in my adult life. As they say, history doesn’t necessarily repeat itself, but it certainly does rhyme. I think Mark Twain said that. Strangely, I’m not a big Mark Twain fan.

Part of my newly found journey of self-discovery is to do the things I always wanted to do, but for whatever reasons couldn’t do. Those things include making music again, video production, photography, …and now bikepacking.

Bikepacking is basically strapping a bunch of camping stuff to a bike, pedal out to a campsite, pitch a camp and stay for an evening. Multi-day (or even multi-year) rides are completely do-able. I’ve known people who rode from Central California up the coast to Arcata near the Oregon border, and back. I’m not that hardcore… yet. But, I can see this as something I really could love to do. Part of the planning is to figure out what will be available along the route. For instance, if a bikepacker was to just ride somewhere to stay in a hotel room along a well populated route, that person would not have to bring a tent and sleeping bag, or even meals (and means to cook them, depending on the preferred food in question). If the plan was to cross the high plains desert, s/he would need to bring enough water and emergency supplies to make it across.

A few weekends ago, I met up with a meetup.com group, who were doing a bike tour to the Rodeo Beach Youth Hostel as an overnighter. We would ride out to Rodeo Beach on Saturday, spend the night there, and ride back Sunday. I was kindly invited to go with them, and had an absolute blast. I came back from that trip beaming. I met some new bike touring friends, talked to some French and German tourists at the youth hostel, lost some of my fear of riding in traffic. I’ve been nearly hit by cars on at least 5 separate occasions, so I largely gave up road biking.

My wife wanted to change our separation schedule so we would have complete weekends away from the house, trading off who watches the kids, and this was to be my first weekend free. She suggested that I should meet up with the bike touring folks, but there was no ride planned.

Heck, I’m working for more self-sufficiency in my life; why not do a solo trip? This is a perfect opportunity to do my own thing on my terms.

My plan was to ride from Oakland to a BART station, ride BART to the Embarcadero station, cross the Golden Gate Bridge, and into Marin. I was going to reserve a campsite, but there was no campsite reservation system. Being Labor Day weekend also meant things were going to be busy. A friend suggested that I just crash one of the campgrounds, and somebody would likely give me space to pitch my tent. There tends to be a lot of cancellations for campsites as well, so I might get lucky. Worst case, I ride back to Mill Valley, call a friend for a couch to crash on, or get a motel room. Also, my wife was at Stinson Beach with the kids that day (just 12 miles down the hill from Bootjack Camp), so I put my bike rack in the trunk of her car so she could potentially pick me up as a bail-out option if I have a mechanical issue or get injured or whatever might happen.

I set my sights on Bootjack Campground on Mt. Tamalpias. There are 30 campsites and a big group campsite. I figured my odds were pretty good. I load up my bike during the week, working out my gear and supplies, and I bought some freeze dried camping food from REi. I would shoot for leaving OMG early on Saturday.

So, for packing the bike, I decided on this rig list…

Bike:

Bike Multi-tool
Chainring bolt tool
Tire pump strapped to bottle bosses on frame.
Spare tube
Swiss Army cheap knockoff pocket multi-tool knife.
Tire patch kit
rear Nashbar pannier bags on rear rack
NiteRider Lumina 650 flashlight, bar mount
Planet Bike Superflash tail light on the Camelbak.
Black Diamond LED headlight

Camping:

Kelty Teton 2 person tent
Thermarest foam pad (non-inflatable)
4pc pot and pan kit
Can of white camping gas
Screw-on ultralight stove top (from Amazon for $10!)
flexible aluminum wind shield
Ultralight sleeping bag in the handlebar bag.
Super concentrated liquid camping soap
Kid’s SPF50 sunblock

Electronics:

Garmin Edge 705 GPS computer
iPad in Pelican case
Cellular modem
iPhone in top tube bag
Canon Elph camera in bag strapped to stem
Two solar batteries
one 18650 USB battery
Phone/iPad charger and cables

Clothes:

I wore…

I wore some lycra bike shorts with a bike jersey, REi middle temperature socks, my Sidi bike shoes, bike glasses, full finger gloves.
Camelbak, containing tools, clothes, extra water bottle, wallet, keys and my orange knit long sleeve bike jersey

Packed…

My regular dark sunglasses (with wire frames, not safe to ride with, tho)
Fleece workout pants to stay warm
Winter weather thick boot socks
Knit beanie hat

Food:

Mountain Home freeze dried Chicken and Rice.
a bunch of cliff bars
Trader Joe’s dried fruit bars
Trader Joe’s Honey Pretzel sticks
A baggie of Powerbar Sports drink mix
two packs of maple brown sugar instant oatmeal
An insulated water bottle of soy milk

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The bike is my trusty Performance Bike Access 29er bike that I assembled from parts mostly from the parts bin. It cost me almost nothing to build… at least, very few parts were purchased specifically to build it. I did have to buy a pannier rack for it. Let me tell you, the bike touring world has not caught up to 29er bikes yet. All of the racks out there I could find were either for 29er tires, or for bikes with disc brakes, but not for both. I had to do some crazy bending, fabricating and McGuyver-ing to make the legs clear the disc brake caliper on my disc brake equipped 29er bike. And I gotta say, virtually ALL 29er bikes these days have disc brakes. Even with this, the rack is not perfectly centered on the frame, but it works. The rack I got is a Planet Bike KOKO rack with 55 pound capacity. It was the beefiest rack I could find short of spending hundreds of dollars on one. That 55 pound weight capacity I’m sure doesn’t account for a mountain bike pounding over rocks while fully loaded. Well, not fully loaded. I probably had 20 pounds of stuff on it. Still, aluminum doesn’t do well with fatigue, and the bike does waggle a lot with a loaded rack. I have to keep an eye on it for cracking. Luckily, nothing yet.

On the rack, I use a pair of Nashbar pannier bags. I got them on crazy markdown sale for like $25 for the set. Good size, they seem to be well made. I’m not sure I trust the waterproofing. My sleeping bag lives in a Cordura Nylon bar bag I got from a swap meet for a dollar, strapped to the handlebars with my ultralight sleeping bag inside.

I use a couple of cheap eBay bags for my top tube iPhone bag (and it lets you use the touchscreen through it!) and a triangle shaped frame bag. In the top tube bag, I kept the extra USB batteries and phone clip.

So, I was pretty tired on Friday night, the night before roll out. I figured my bike was mostly packed anyway, so it should not be a big deal just to finish the last few things and roll out the door. Well, kids needed breakfast, house needed some cleaning, blah blah blah. Next thing I know, it’s 9:30 by the time I swing a leg over and start cranking.

I roll down Skyline to Sheppard’s Canyon, down Moraga towards Mac Arthur BART. I got on the platform, thought I was on the wrong platform, switched, missed the right train because I was on the wrong platform, changed platforms again, caught the next one. BART is pretty awesome in that there are so many trains, I never have to wait very long for the next one.

I got on the train, and got off at the Embarcadero station. By now, it was late morning… nearly lunchtime! Last bike tour I did with the bike touring club, I hit this little place down at Justin Herman Plaza called Crepe and Curry. They make these killer crepes and have some Thai food. I love their cocoanut milk chicken soup. So, I took an early lunch to load up on some calories. I got a Florentine crepe, a cup of Chicken cocoanut milk soup, and a can of coke.

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From there, I pedaled down the Embarcadero, through the touristy area of Fisherman’s Wharf, Chrissy Field, base of Golden Gate Bridge, and across.

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Oh man, Golden Gate Bridge was the biggest Fred festival ever. To be expected, tho. Holiday weekend, lots of folks from out of town renting bikes to ride across the GGB… actually, it was really cool to see all of those folks out there riding bikes. The problem was more that the Freds aren’t very aware of bike traffic or how to conduct themselves in crowds. Several times, I had to slam on the brakes while somebody pulled out in front of me suddenly, stopped suddenly on the bridge with no warning to take pictures, weaved all around the place as they rode.

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So, I get across the bridge (missing some tire I left on the bridge as skid marks) make my way up to Conzelman Road (with the view of the GGB), down Conzelman road (which is an awesome, paved, high speed rollercoaster, BTW) where I found an overgrown fireroad that lead to a horse stable. I mean, really overgrown. The shrubs tore up my shins. I rode through the stables, to the road out to Rodeo Beach.

Break time!

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I rode on to the beach, and took a half hour break, watching the surfers and kids playing.

I rode up Miwok Trail, which I gotta say, is steep, and kinda hurt to climb. Low and slow, that’s the tempo. The thing about long climbs is that I like to get a feel for the air flowing through me, oxygen hitting my muscles to do their thing. It feels like a river of energy flowing through my body, converting air and carbs into muscle motion. I ride it like a wave up the hill. Push too hard, the legs burn out and it starts to become a slog. I find a gear that works for the conditions and load, and sit back and crank. No rush… I’ll get there eventually.

Down Old Springs Trail, to the horse stables (different ones than before), down to Tennessee Valley, up Miller Ave to downtown Mill Valley. On the way, I stopped at a 7-11 for a Snickers Bar, Gatorade and two small bottles of orange juice for breakfast tomorrow. I need calories for this stuff.

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I’ll add, stopping at a store with a fully loaded tour bike is a major pain. I feel like I have to pick off the expensive electronics off the bike… the GPS bike computer, the light, my iPhone, take my gloves off, pack things in the Camelbak…  It was a 10 minute operation just to spend 2 minutes in 7-11.

I rode through downtown Mill Valley and started my grind up Old Railroad Grade. It starts at around 200′ elevation and ended at West Point Inn at 1800′ elevation. It’s a long grind. I stop inside and talk to the caretaker on duty. I ask him if there are any cabins available, just in case the campsites don’t work out. No luck, but I’m not surprised. He did tell me that if I wanted a campsite, I would have to check in with the Pan Toll ranger station. He said chances were good I’d score a place to pitch a tent. It’s just a short two mile jog down Old Stage Road trail.

I roll into Pan Toll Ranger Station, and ask the ranger on duty about available campsites. She tells me they are all booked up…. but, oh, wait! There is one shared hike-in or bike-in campers. They allow three tents and 5 campers total. Turns out, there are two tents, and 4 people camping. Room for one person (me) and one tent! I’m in luck!! Good thing, too. I really couldn’t see pedaling back to Mill Valley to get a room. I was pretty toasted at that point. Pushing a 50 pound loaded bike 37 miles up 4000 feet of climbing over five and a half hours took it’s toll on me.

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I introduce myself to Nora and some other young twenty-something lady who’s name escapes me. Nora said they hiked up from Four Corners, and it took them a few hours to do make it up. They seemed nice enough… friendly. I didn’t actually talk to them much. The other couple rode up the hill on rented electric assist beach cruiser bikes. They had their camping gear basically strapped to the backs of those bikes. I’m amazed they made it up the 1800′ climb from Mill Valley on those things.

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Mmmeah, I’m not sure that heat shield is doing a dang thing.

I got out my camping stove, camping pan set, boiled some water and reconstituted my freeze dried chicken and rice in a bag. This stuff is surprisingly good. At this time, I discovered that I forgot to pack my camping spoon/fork/knives. That’s an all in one thing. I took my scissors from my cheap knock-off Swiss Army Knife and cut out a spoon from the mylar bag I cooked the chicken and rice in. Noms!

I pitch the tent, roll out the Thermarest mat. Loads of snacking, drinking water, tired as heck. I unload the bike of all of the important stuff, clean myself up in the bathroom, and crawl in to my tent for some well earned rest and shut-eye. While falling out, I bust out the iPad and watch some True Detective. Awesome show, by the way. I’m really too tired to pay close attention to it. I found a nearby electrical outlet to charge up my iPhone. It was nearly dead. An hour on the charger brought it up to 75%. Close enough. I gotta hit the hay.

I probably should have just sat there and meditated to myself, being this bikepacking trip was supposed to be a trip inwards, but I figured I was in my own thoughts the entire day, and I needed to shut my brain down for a while.

I packed one of those little self-expanding pillows, but it was really too small for me. I stuffed some of my old clothes in the empty tent bag to use as a pillow, but that wasn’t much better. The Thermarest foam pad was just too thin as well. I was warm enough in the tent, in the ultralight sleeping bag (which was a first) but there was just not enough padding and support for my body to be comfortable. I didn’t sleep well. I fell out around 9:00 and woke up around 6:30, but didn’t feel like I got enough sleep. I remember changing positions all throughout the night when my hip, elbow or back started to feel sore. I probably snored as well. I woke up with a mildly sore throat.

The next day, I came to… sore all over, but not too bad. I wish I brought some Ibuprofen with me. I boiled some water to cook up my oatmeal, put some soy milk in it, and again… no spoon to eat it with. So, I cut up one of my small orange juice bottles to make a spoon. We had two guests show up. Friends of the electric assist couple showed up sometime in the night. A gay couple from San Francisco rode up on skinny tire touring bikes. I’m not sure exactly where they slept. Maybe in bivy sacks under the starry sky. It was a beautiful night, but really windy. I remember my tent being showered by falling leaves and twigs from the trees above. In the morning, one of those guys complained a lot about a crying baby somewhere in camp. They also said my bike had so much stuff on it, it looked like something Inspector Gadget would ride. Heh… I did feel a bit over-accessorized.

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So I packed up, and started my ride back to the real world. I repacked the bike, and started up Old Stage Road, to West Point Inn, back down Railroad Grade. I rolled through downtown Mill Valley, to the bike path, and through Sausalito. The Art Festival was this weekend. There was a lady directing cars to the paid parking, cheering the cyclists on. I put my hand out and high fived her as I passed. That was awesome. I got a lift from that.

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I realized I was going to pass by Fred’s cafe. Fred’s has the best French Toast on the planet. They cook it on the grille and deep fry it. Oh, my, goodness! They also had a new option… Millionaire Bacon. I capitalized it, because such a thing should be referred to as a proper noun… like the French Toast. They did something like candied some really great quality, thick cut bacon. With scrambled eggs, and some fresh squeezed OJ, I was in heaven. Best breakfast ever, even if it was a second breakfast.

I continued to pedal through Sausalito, through Fort Baker, up to the Bridge, and back over. Chrissy Field to Fisherman’s Wharf, Embarcadero to Justin Herman Plaza. More cocoanut chicken soup! The, BART back to Lake Merrit.

Once I hit Lake Merrit, I pedaled up Park Blvd, across Monterrey to Skyline Blvd near Joaquin Miller. Last bike tour, I pedaled up Snake Road, and let me tell you, that is not the way to go. The steep climb up Skyline was actually not too bad in a low gear, and I wasn’t as worried about cars buzzing by me around blind corners.

So, a couple more miles of pedaling, and I was home. I had a blast, and I think I can do this again.

Totals for the weekend:

70 miles ridden

6600′ of climbing

9 hours riding time

8/30 Strava

8/31 Strava
 

Lessons learned:

Start earlier… meaning, don’t slack off on packing the night before.

I need to find a better sleeping pad. I tried an inflatable mattress once, but it put a nasty kink in my back. The Thermarest pad was just too thin. I have a thicker foam pad, but it takes up a ton of room.

Find a thicker and/or bigger pillow. Or, find more clothing to fill a stuff sack with.

Pack utensils. Or, bigger picture, make a checklist and make sure everything is on it.

Rethink the iPad. It seems like a lot of weight and size to carry just for a movie watching device and note pad. I never ended up writing notes, just watching a movie. The iPhone would work for this, but would kinda suck to write anything lengthy on… and I do write lengthy stuff, as you can see.

The solar batteries were pretty close to useless. The smaller USB batteries did a much better job at topping off my phone’s charge… not to mention they are like $5 each on eBay. I can keep 3 or 4 of them for the weight and size of one of the solar powered batteries.

Bring some sweet snacks next time… cookies, candy, chocolate. That would have really hit the spot at the end of the first day.

Reassess the hot food option. Seems I could save a lot of weight if I could do without the cookware and stove. Then again, hot food at the end of he day is a real spirit lifter.

Audi wheel bearing job.

I made a stab at my wheel bearing. It was noisy, but not bad. The part that freaked me out about it enough to fix it was that I could feel a bit of a notchiness (is that a word?) at the steering wheel and through the pedals.

So, I bought a new wheel bearing to attempt a DIY repair.

Oh, and the lower control arms are groaning at the ball joints. So, I got a new control arm kit. But, nobody had a deal on just the lowers, so I got the whole set. Oh, and there’s more: Turns out Audi (and many other cars today) use one-time-use stretch bolts… only source: the Audi (st)(d)ealership. Dang, the bolts alone for the wheel bearing, the driveshaft bolt and brake caliper bolts ran close to $50 for 7 bolts.

I take a day off of work, get started, and I realize I forgot a couple parts at home. Wups. Go back, find the wife and her car (cause that’s where I left them) and by the time I ate lunch and got the car on jack stands, it’s 1:00.

I never figured out which side was actually bad, but my best guess was the driver’s side. I get that side apart, pull the bearing out, and it feels perfectly buttery smooth. Rats! so I put it back. It’s 2:30 now. Well, at least it wasn’t that tough to do.

I pull the other side apart, get the bearing out… feels the same. Double Rats!! This one is making a bit of a rattling noise inside. Maybe it’s just worn out of tolerance.

I get the hub/bearing/flange assembly on the bench, apply the hub puller and get it apart. The hub (where the disc brake rotor and wheel bolt on) is pressed into the other part, the wheel bearing/flange (which bolts to the knuckle of the car). I had to put it in a puller, pop the two apart, and then pull the inner bearing race off the hub. That took a while, probably about 45 minutes of heavy pulling on a jury-rigged kinda setup. But, it worked. Then I had to chisel off the inner bearing race from the hub. This is the part I was fearing most. I read stories on the Audi message boards of that part being fused solid to the hub on cars from snowy areas where they salt the roads. Turns out, it popped off with a about 5 minutes of tapping at it with a hammer and chisel. It was not unlike removing a headset crown race from a bicycle fork.

Pop!

I inspect the innards of the bearing, and it’s as smooth as can be. No signs of pitting, wear or grooves of any kind. It wasn’t exactly awash in grease, tho. Dang. I was hoping to find an obvious source of the noise. The main problem is that the old bearing is destroyed in removing the hub, so I was pretty much committed to the new one at this point. I hope I just didn’t waste my time.

Then, I pressed it all back together. I ended up using part of an electrical knock out tool kit from the shop. I was going to use the shop vise, but a ball peen hammer and that knock out kit part worked well just tapping it back together. Again, like a bicycle headset.

It’s about 5:00 at this pont.

I start putting it all back together. It actually went pretty quickly. Done in maybe an hour or so. But… dang! Those bolts have to be crazy tight. Like, the brake bolts need to be 140 ft pounds plus an extra quarter turn. The main driveshaft bolt needed to be tightened to 14o Ft. Pounds plus another 180 degree twist. I took the longest breaker handle I could find… about 4 feet long, and used all my might to get it cranked on. I was seriously worried I would break the tool off in the 17mm allen bolt.

At this point, it’s around 6:00, and  I still need to clean up. I gave up on the idea of doing the control arms at this stage. I would have been there all night if I started that job, and if I got stuck, I would have had to spend the night there. No thanks, some other time.

I get it all back together, put the belly pan back on (which was probably the hardest thing of all), get it off the jack stands, and go for a drive.

Noise… still there!! GGGRRRR. Okay, it wasn’t as bad as before, and I dont feel the notchiness like before. My only theory is that both wheel bearings were bad or worn out of spec.

On the plus side, I found this to not be so bad to work on. All the bolts are easy to get to, nothing was badly stuck. My only real complaint is that Audi uses expensive single use stretch bolts.

It occurred to me after all this… you know… I actually have all the repair records on this car. If I was less lazy, I would have looked it up to see if the bearing had been done before, and if so, which side?

On a side note, on the way home, my car hit 111,111 miles. :)

Wups!

I had a little mechanical boo-boo on the trail today.

I was rolling down some stairs that go into a switchback, when I leaned too hard on the outside bar while applying the front brake. Wups. The wheel just folded over like Newt Gingrich after a call from Grover Norquist.

Rim was cracked at the pinned seam (yeah, it was a cheapo rim), but the tire still held on and held air. It was a rim a friend gave me for free (pretty much for the same reason you see here) so I wasn’t feeling much of a loss. However, I was 4 miles from the house, and it was so badly bent it wouldn’t turn in the fork… well prong… whatever you want to call a Lefty fork… prong… pokey thing.

Here is the method for field truing a badly bent wheel in the field. (Some NSFW language and themes)

Skip to 1:50 for the fun part….

Yeah, like a boss!

I managed to get it straight enough to continue the ride… another 10 miles. :) But, it is basically trashed at this point. I’m going to have to rebuild it with a new rim. Hopefully, I can re-use the spokes, and I’m going to need new spoke nipples.

Today’s Ride:

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Latest car project

Owning a high mileage Audi is a bit like owning a 100 year old house. Stuff is constantly breaking, and needs updating… but you do it because you love where you live.

My front end control arms have been groaning since soon after I got the car. When my car was under an aftermarket warranty, I brought it to (and I’m going to name names) AVS in Berkeley. I used to work with the owner way back in the day of German Auto Salvage, so I figured that the owner would not hose me. I was wrong.

After paying an extra $700 to have them put in a new German made steering rack (cause the warranty company would only pay for a cheap Chinese made remanufactured one) and they would not do the job unless they could put in a German made original Audi rack, and after three weeks of waiting to make an appointment and being blown off (and the clock running out on my warranty), they finally replaced my steering rack…. and the fricking thing still groans…. and now I’m out of warranty. Grrrrr….. While they had it, they replaced my upper control arms and tie rod ends, but not the lowers.

Fast forward a year, and now a wheel bearing is failing. Being a bit on the broke side, and after gaining some confidence on how the job is done, I decide to tackle the bearing myself. Oh, while I’m at it, I’ll do the last 4 lower control arms… you know, as long as I have it apart anyway. Turns out that the price of just the lower 4 control arms individually is the same price as a complete front end kit, so I order the kit.

This is the kit:

Jumpin’ Geebus on a pogo stick, this thing has a lot of parts. What am I getting myself into? Okay, I’m only doing the lower four control arms, some of the hardware, maybe the sway bar links if the ones in there are bad. I’ll either fence the unused arms or save them for if (when) they fail again.

Just checking in

Dang.. I kinda forgot about this page. Forgive me, followers (if any actually exist).

In the last few years:

My older kid got sick with Wilm’s tumor, a year of rough times for everybody, now all better.

Current bike stable:

Titus RacerX29er with Lefty
Singular Swift 29er Singlespeed
Access XCL29er hardtail, geared
PlanetX Kaffenback CX/Touring/Road bike
Giant Yukon with pannier racks for a city bike.

I recently discovered the Dimond (yes, that is spelt correctlee) Canyon trail system, like 6 blocks from my house. There is a tight winding singletrack trail that snakes up overlooking Sausal Creek, crosses it twice (on bridges, of sorts… no wet feet there) and goes up nearly impossible tight uphill switchbacks, up and down flights of stairs. Good techy fun. At the top, it meets up with paved roads near Highway 13. It’s easy to go across and then do a loop of Joaquin Miller Park, Redood Park, Lake Chabot, Tilden, wherever I have the time and energy to continue my slog.

I don’t know why I haven’t been riding the crud out of this years ago. I mean, Geez! I’ve been living in this town like 11 years.

Here is a rest break I took at Bishop’s Walk:

thinking of bike camping

This may be a totally half baked idea, but I started looking at the light camping gear I have collected, and my bike with all the pannier racks on it. Hmmmm……

Seems to me that it would not be that hard to strip my camping gear down to the bare essentials, strap it to my bike and ride off to Lake Chabot or something for an overnight. See how it goes. If I work my system out well enough, I can try taking BART (the local commuter train) to San Francisco, ride across the Golden Gate bridge to Marin, and ride out to West Marin and camp out there. I figure it would be around 40 miles of actual riding, and would probably take me a good 6 hours of riding time. Camp, and come back the next day.

So here is my gear list so far:

Bike – my Giant Yukon with a rigid fork. Currently has slicks, but would need bigger mountain tires. V-brakes will be scary with a heavy load down a steep descent, but I’m not going for speed.

Water bottles

Saddle bag

Helmet

Gloves

Gear straps

Bike tools

Duct tape

Multitool

Tire repair stuff

Pocket knife

Sleeping bag

Sleep pad

Tent

Tent stakes

Stake hammer

Camping saw

Cookware

Stove

Fuel

Spark/lighter

Pots, pans, bowls

Utensils

Camp soap, brush

Water filter

Toiletries

TP

Tooth brush

Tooth paste

Deodorant?

First aid kit

Clothes

Shorts

Jersey

Socks

Long sleeve shirt

Warm pants

Jacket

Knit cap

Again, this is pretty half baked. I already started to strap stuff to the racks to see if it will fit, get an idea of my load balance, like that. So far, I got my tiny sleeping bag and a foam pad strapped to my front racks, the pannier bags in back, my tent on top of the rear rack, one pannier half full with the cookware and jacket. I still have one and a half rear pannier bags to fill, plus I’ll probably take either my Camelbak for some more space, or a bigger backpack, and put a Camelbak bladder in there. I might take it out for a few local light rides, say at China Camp or Lake Chabot to see how it handles, see if stuff shakes off the racks, shifts, check for foot, heel, leg and hand clearance. that sort of thing.

Just out of curiosity, I checked with the rangers at China Camp today about camping fees. They charge $25 a night if you drive in, but $3 a night if you walk or bike in. Sweet!

While thinking about this, I was getting all ready to make a penny stove. This guy came up with a way to cut up a couple of Heineken beer cans (the ones that look like little kegs) to make a small compact lightweight stove that can boil a few cups of water in 5 minutes. It can run on Everclear grain alcohol, which can also serve as a disinfectant if I cut myself badly… and of course, get a bit drunk on it (that is, if I can tolerate drinking what tastes like camping stove fuel).

Alternatively, the penny stove can run on 99% isopropyl rubbing alcohol, but that makes an invisible flame, which is kind of dangerous.

It’s a very elegant design. Cheap, weighs nothing, takes 20 minutes to make one… plus you have to drink beer to get the empty cans. Downside is Heineken is kinda watery beer… the Budweiser of Europe.

Then, I remembered that my mom gave me all of her camping gear. I went through that and found a sweet compact white gas stove that includes pots and pans, all in a tiny kit. Sweet! Also in there was a pump water filter and other goodies.

This may never actually happen, but it would be great if I could pull it off.

back from denmark

Okay, I’m lazy. We’ve actually been back for weeks, and I really don’t know what to write about it. 

We were sick the entire frickin’ trip. On top of that, Denmark is one really expen$ive country to visit. We ended up cheaping out so much of our time there, I think it ate into the amount of fun we had… worrying about every Krone. 

So I just thought I would share some interesting observations of our time there. 

Yeah, the Krone… about that… Denmark is too cool for even the Euro. I guess they don’t wanna slum it with those cheap ass ghetto countries like Germany and France. 

There are taxes on everything, even the taxes, it seems. Our hosts told me a VW Golf would cost nearly $80,000 dollars when you include the taxes. The same car (the US version, called the Rabbit) sells for around $20,000 with taxes. 

They have some unreal bridge tolls. The Zealand (the island home to Copenhagen) to Sweden bridge toll is $50… each way. The Zealand to Fyn ‘Big Belt’ bridge was $40 each way. For a country that is pretty heavily socialist, they don’t fuck around. 

We got a Whopper combo at Burger King the fourth day we were there. $11

Denmark TV has an equivelant show to the ‘Cops‘. The first story was about a guy who left his wallet on the roof of his car when he drove off, and the cops were trying to help him find it. No shit. Really.

Our hosts told us that there is hardly any crime in Denmark, but many crimes go unsolved. They said if your house got robbed, there would be about a 6% chance the perps would be caught. But it rarely happens, so that is not a big deal. 

I spent $125 on 3/4 of a tank of gas for the rental car, twice. 

Most of the beer there was of the 3% alcohol by volume type. I felt like I was in Utah where beer by law has to be less than 3.2%. Making love in a canoe, as MPFC says. I made some off the cuff comments to our hosts (which was very rude of me, and I feel badly about it. I apologize again) and they made it a point to get some harder 6-8% ale kinda stuff. I’m a bad, bad guest. 

In our last visit to Germany, we found the biggest downside of a nationalized health care system: You have to see a doctor before you can get meds that are commonly sold over the counter here. This time around, we brought the ‘mighty bag of drugs’ with us… mostly chocked full of stuff like antihistimenes, decongestants, Afrin, Tums, Zantac stuff like that. The MBoD proved no match to the even mightier bubonic chronic west nile freakish mold that festered in the walls of our rental beach house. I think I heard the mold chuckling at us in the middle of the night. 

I never got to ride a bike in Denmark, which I think might qualify as the most bike friendly country on the planet. There are dedicated off-street bike lanes everywhere. It also may be the flattest country. The high point is like 400 feet above sea level. My regular workout ride at China Camp peaks up around 1200 feet, and CC is considered the bunny slopes in the mountain biking community.

Our hosts told me that if there is a bike/car accident, the car driver is always considered to be at fault. I guess that way, the car drivers are extra credit sure to give the cyclists every right of way, and a wide berth. 

People actually leave their bikes unlocked in their driveways… and they are actually still there the next day. I even saw a bike with a Burley trailer left unlocked outside somebody’s house in plain view in Sweden. Most of the city bikes there have a cheesy lock that basically just simple clamps around the rear wheel…. and that’s all that is keeping the bike from eloping. There were hundreds of bikes left just like this outside the subway terminal in Copenhagen. If you left a halfway decent bike locked up outside a BART station, it would be stripped to the frame before your work day was done, if it was even still there.  

Denmark is a very beautiful country. Green everywhere. Oceans of wheat, mustard flowers and oats as far as the eye can see. The weather was stellar the whole time we were there. 

One of our hosts was Icelandic. He told us that the Icelandic government requires that all children born in Iceland have an Icelandic Patronymic style name. That is, you take your father’s first name in your last name. For instance, Lars’ son will be named Firstname Larsen or daughter will be named Firstname Larsdóttir. Keep in mind, this is the frickin’ law

Also, we were talking of Icelandic history, and how they gained independence from Denmark. At the time, Denmark was occupied by Nazi Germany. Iceland broke off and got away with it because Denmark obviously had bigger worries at that time. I should probably read more about the details on that, but like I said earlier, I’m lazy. 

They LOVE Hans Christen Andersen there. Judging by how deeply they are steeped in him, you would think Denmark contributed nothing more to world culture except HCA. 

The sun starts setting around 8 PM this time of year, and doesn’t finish going down until about 10 PM. Then, it comes back up around 3 AM and rises at 5. 

There are really big windmills dotting the horizon everywhere, just doing their little thai-chi like dance. It really is hard to realize how big and majestic they are unless you stand right next to them. They are pretty close to dead quiet unless you are standing right underneath one. 

There were no naked people on the public beaches we visited.

The tyke blew out his diaper four times on the plane ride back, but slept most of the way. 

Air France doesn’t edit their movies for cuss words, content, or nudity. Haught! Downside is they show a lot of crap. ‘Jumper’ has to be the worst movie I have seen in years. You thought Hayden Christiansen sucked in the Star Wars movies, you ain’t seen nothin’. I couldn’t tell if my ears were popping from the ascent, or the deep, relentless suckage of the movie. 

We got turned back around from our jet lag really quickly… both ways!

I had a good time on this trip. Of course, it could have been better if we weren’t sick. But feel fortunate to be able to see such a beautiful country.