Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Gear talk: Sleepy time

This is the first in a series of posts that will deal with our gear selections, new and stuff we've had for a while.  Although it's possible to take on an adventure like this for comparatively little money, our version involves some investment, not the least of which is arranging for a house sitter for four months and renting and driving a vehicle into back-of-beyond Canada--well, Jasper, anyway.  For others considering cycle touring, these posts will serve as a resource for making selections.  I have my biases, which will become clear soon enough, but my goal is always to give good information.

As the sub-title of the post suggests, this is about getting sleep, laying one's pedal-thrashed carcass down for a few hours of much needed regeneration before getting up and doing it all over again.  In this area, I will cut no corners, spare no expense, and deal with extra weight as necessary.  Having a comfortable platform for hanging out and sleeping is one of the most important considerations for me and Jodi.  If I don't sleep well, the whole experience starts to unravel--as do I.

My equipment has gone the standard evolutionary route, I suppose.   When I was quite young (early/mid-teens), I could sleep on those spongy, flesh-colored "insulite" foam pads, but by my late teens, those days were over.  Next began a decades-long relationship with the Thermarest corporation.  I've had 1" pads (too thin), and for years and years used the 1.5" model, usually 3/4 length so I had to put something under my heels to make the pads workable.  Finally, we said, and I quote: "Screw it!"  And went with the deluxe 2" "Camp Rest" model, complete with chair kit cover, for a lot of life in camp is not in the horizontal plane.  We sit to cook, eat, gawk at the sunset, so a comfortable chair is important, too.  With this setup, you are the King of Kings on his throne:

The Camp Rest and this chair kit were on my bike for my 2007 cross country ride.  In general, I was quite happy with it, but still, like a junkie, I craved more, thicker, softer, yummy sleepier! So we tried the Big Agnes line of air mattresses, a high-tech rework of the classic design:

These are light and comfortable, if a bit noisy to sleep on.  The down side?  The chairs are not the most sit-friendly, although these were okay.  The big problem with Big Agnes is production quality.  We've had three of these fail along the seems, resulting in very annoying leaks that left us with limp pads in the morning and the occasional refill in the middle of the night.  I cannot recommend this brand.  Sorry, Big Aggie, we love your tent (more on that in a later post), but we'll pass on the pad.

So my quest for the perfect pad was unfulfilled, the Grail illusive, the Sorcerer's Stone hidden.  Thanks to the glories of the Internet, I found--to date--the best sleeping system for my needs: Exped.  Below is a photo of the Exped Synmat 7 long:

This line of pads, designed by a Swiss wizard, has some very nice features.  The pads are almost 3" thick, have a soft-to-the-touch top fabric, and, get this, have their own built in pump system:

The pump is constructed of a one-way valve inside and to the left of the visible plastic valve.  Just pop the inlet valve, place hands as indicated, and start pushing.  My large pad 78 x 26" inflates in two minutes or less.  No light-headed staggering about after a day on the open road, and no damp air injected into the pad.  Here's a view showing how to inflate:


The pad also has an excellent chair sleeve that stays on the unit.  Here's a pic of the Exped next to my Camp Rest:

Here are the two pads rolled, side by side:

So what are the drawbacks?  One, $$$.  Two, weight.  The bulk doesn't bother me, and the cost isn't a big deal for me--about $150 at REI--because a good night's sleep is worth it.  So, how much does it weigh?  Ugh, about 4 lbs.!  This is not a lot more than the Camp Rest, but many weight-conscious hiker-bikers will find this a deal breaker. We're willing to haul some extra weight for the comfort of the perfect camp.  These are the best we've used, and we look forward to many nights in the wilds on these pads.  Check them out.  I think you'll be impressed.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Thinking about The Big One...

With the conclusion of Vision Quest 2012, my thoughts and actions related to human powered travel have turned to The Big One, the monster tour that lurks in our future, creeps into our thoughts, our dreams, our wallets.  Our goal, which I may have mentioned before, is to load Jodi, me, the hound Django, two trikes, a trailer, and touring gear into a one-way rental van and maroon ourselves in the wilds of Canada.  Then over the next four months we will struggle south, crossing, recrossing and crisscrossing the Continental Divide many times down to Silver City, New Mexico.  Then we will turn west and cross the Sonoran and Mojave deserts to get home.  Most of the route will be paved, but we've worked in a couple of significant dirt road passages through the Colorado Rockies, including one pass over 12,000 ft., which will be the high point of the tour for sure.  In 2007 when I did my solo cross country tour, the original plan had been to do it as a couple, but Jodi's career was heating up, and she had work to do.  Now we're taking this big leap together.  Based on my research so far and what I already know about the route, this may turn out to be the finest of all possible north American tours.  Don't get me wrong.  There are many beautiful parts of the country, but week upon week of corn and soy in the Midwest gets mighty old, and the climate in the East can quite challenging--humidity, hurricanes, you name it.  This tour (see map links below) will involve mountain touring for the majority of its length and then some fine desert riding for the last few weeks.   Unlike my cross country adventure, the bulk of the riding for this tour will be in remote, lightly populated areas, so much of the camping will be wild and free--our favorite.  We've been working on gear selection, mapping, logistics, and most of the entries in the coming weeks (with a few exceptions) will deal with preparations for this big tour.

We're veterans of this kind of trek, but we're still anxious, uncertain, keyed up, ready to go.  There's so much to do.  Some of the biggest concerns have already been worked out.  We've got a house sitter for the duration of the tour--hallelujah!  We've worked out a landscape maintenance guy.  We've put in the request for passport cards--for freakin' Canada, eh! Some of the bill paying still needs to be ironed out, although most of our financial stuff we already handle online.  Perhaps the biggest hassle will be arranging for proper doggie chow along the way.  It's not a good idea to shift and switch dog food, and it's often hard if not impossible to find small bags for a medium sized hound.  To solve this problem, I'm drinking 12 -packs of  excellent lager and ale!  Well, the brew has its own intrinsic value, of course, but the boxes that the bottled brew is packed in are going to serve as shipping containers for dog food and extra goodies for the human trike motors.  For the tour, for us, for our fine furry friend, no sacrifice is too great.  I must soldier on....  We'll pack each box with two weeks worth of kibbles, which weigh in at 6 lbs.  When we find we're getting close to running out, we'll have our house sitter or someone else drop ship another box general delivery to the next appropriate town on the route.

Here are some maps of the route.  Although some details may be out of whack, these cover much of the route:

Length: 3,323 miles, give or take.
Elevation gain: 184,000 ft., give or take.

As I said, DAMN!

The main routing question I need to answer at this point is navigating the wilds of Phoenix. Adventure Cycling takes a straight forward but very tedious approach by picking up Hwy 60.  We drove this section last winter--no freakin' thank you, freakin' thank you.  So I've got some homework to do.  The Phoenix basin as a vast array of bike paths, which we may use.  Or, as mapped here, there may be a workaround.  We have options, which is the main thing.

Time is critical on this tour.  We need to clear the highest passes before major snow but be in the deserts late enough so that we can ride without baking us or Django.   I think hitting the low desert starting in November should do the trick, and that's our aim.

Stay tuned for more developments, gear debates and analysis, the works!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Vision Quest: Synopsis and key info.

Now that the tour and narrative are complete, I wanted to put together a basic day-by-day data sheet in one place for people who want to repeat this tour.  It's one of the best that I've done, and if you're up for a pleasant two week challenge in the western USA, you can't do much better!

Here's an overview of the route (Click to be taken to interactive map with profiles, zoom features, etc.) :

The riding is all between 4,000 and 6,000 ft.  Much of it can be extremely hot in the summer, but water is generally available, so it's not like riding pure desert.  We did the ride from mid to late-May, which is an ideal time.  Fall, perhaps, would be even better, think mid-Sept. to mid-Oct.  No chance of bugs at that time of year, although some surface water at wild camps might not be available in the fall. Plan accordingly.

Logistics for Susanville:  As noted, we left our car at Big Sky Discount Self Storage, which was perfect.  Nice people, and I'm sure the rates for leaving a car there for a couple of weeks would be quite reasonable.  We got a free pass as support for our raising funds for wounded warriors.  Just west of the storage place is an RV park, well located next to full service groceries, pizza joint, Starbucks!  Your final miles will be on Johnstonville Rd (A27)., which will take you right to Big Sky Discount Self Storage.

Riding Days:

Day one: 53.5 miles/3330 ft. of climbing.  Great day--two passes.  The best camping is at Willow Creek, a National Forest Service spot.  If you can't make that or don't want to go so far, the north end of Eagle Lake also has a campgound not far off Rt. 139.  Willow Creek is MUCH nicer.  We found the water turned off in mid-May, so bring a filter for very early and late in the season.

Day two: 45.8 miles/1065 ft. of climbing.  A moderate day unless you hit headwinds or heat.  More classic riding.  Good supplies can be had in Adin at a nice country store.  Rumor has it you can camp in town somewhere, too, but Adin comes very early in the day on the schedule in laying out here.  Get water in Lookout or one of the ranches shortly thereafter because you are unlikely to find any in the National Forest.  We tanked up at the post office in Lookout where we had lunch.  We made it as far as Forest Service Rd. 84/Sand Flat--Pitt River Rd.  A short ride east landed us in a good--if mosquitoliscious--camp.  The bug level will vary from year to year.  We suspect that the light winter and early spring led to the bugs getting us at this time of year--but ya never know.

Day three:  20.4 miles/190 ft. of climbing.  This amounts to a virtual rest day, and riders can easily make it to the very nice campground in the Lava Beds National Monument.  HOWEVER, the Eagle's Nest RV Park offers showers, laundry and really friendly hosts.  There are no supplies available between Adin and Tulelake.  The owners of the RV park offered to pick up supplies for us!  Call ahead and give them some time, and I'm sure they'll help other riders.  These are great folks.  Shaded camping area for warm days.

Day four: 15 miles/805 ft. of climbing.  This is the short and beautiful run into the monument with a couple of good, solid climbs.  The visitor center has some basic snacks--mostly energy bars.  Campground is wonderful.  Stay there.  Cool caves to explore and great views.

Day five: 53.3 miles/1380 ft. of climbing.  Lots of flat riding across the Tule Lake basin on this day.  Buy supplied in Tulelake, or you can wait until Bonanza if you don't need or want fresh produce.  Although there are some ranches before the camping area, we watered up at the store in Bonanza.  Do the climb out of this little town and start the drop from the summit.  Keep your eyes peeled for a Forest Service road taking off to the right.  Push through some sandy sections to flat areas in the trees--nice!  NO water at camp.

Day six:  75.5 miles/3100 ft. of climbing.  This was one of our mega days, although not extreme by most touring standards.  In retrospect, it would have been nice to break it up.  Our long day took us all the way to Lakeview and camp/showers/etc. at the fairgrounds.  To break this run in two, you can resupply in Bly and dig into the big climb up Quartz Mtn. Pass.  On the way up, you begin to get close to a creek, which should be flowing every spring but looks like it might dry up in fall.  Keep this in mind and get some local intel if you go late season or plan on carrying water up from Bly.  About a mile or so from the summit, I spotted a dirt road that drops down and crosses back to the creek.  Looks like a fine camping area.  Staying somewhere in this region makes the run into Lakeview a pleasant jaunt.

Day seven: 57.7 miles/2365 ft. of climbing.  This was the day that took us to Adel.  A super fantastic day of bike touring!  But, as the narrative describes, the RV "park" in Adel blows.  My suggestion is to break the run to Lakeview into two days from Bonanza and make the run from Lakeview a bigger day, heading south about 8 or 9 miles beyond Adel to camp by the creek a little way beyond where the pavement turns to dirt.  So you'll have about a 67 mile day.  The road south of Adel is basically flat, so it's not a big deal, and you can pick up adult beverages for you fabulous camp by the creek.  Bring a filter for the creek water or pack from Adel.  There are some ranches along the road, too, including one right where the pavement ends, so you could get potable water there, too, I suppose.

Day eight: 60 miles/2560 ft. of climbing.  As noted in day seven, if you do the long run beyond Adel, this day will be only 51 miles.  Cedarville is the obvious objective for the day, although you can find alternate campsites along the way, especially along the dirt road.  We did cross a creek some miles in, so wild water is available.  Also, near the end, we passed some homes near the road.  This day is the dirt day, twenty miles of it on Twenty Mile Rd.--but super high quality dirt.  I wouldn't want very narrow tires, but conventional touring skins are fine.  I rode on Marathon Supreme 1.6" wide with virtually no tread.  I simply lowered the pressure a bit for extra bite and traction.  Camping in Cedarville is in the fairgrounds--showers, too!  Call ahead if you are going to get in late so people know what's up, although our late arrival didn't cause any problems.  Good groceries, hardware store, cafe, and library in Cedarville.  Limited days at the library.  Cafe has wifi.  A great place for a rest day.

Day nine: 71.4 miles/3575 ft. of climbing:  See the narrative for the problems we encountered, but I would have rather broken this section up.  My original plan, which still seems preferable, was to turn east at Likely and head about 4 to 5 miles into the National Forest, making a 45--50 mile day.  The Pit River flows through the area for water, or you can haul from the store in Likely.  It looks like a flat to downhill run to the Pit.  Alturas, the town to the north that you will pass through, is a full-service town.  No bike shop, but the True Value does have some bike parts.  I think there's an RV park in/near Alturas for camping there, if you prefer.  Note:  There are no supplies to be had after Likely until you get to Litchfield, which has a small country store, although it was for sale.  Business opportunity, anyone?

Day ten:  54.7 miles/793 ft. of climbing.  As I explain in the narrative, this day did not go as planned.  My preferred itinerary would be to camp outside Likely then, for this day, ride to a National Forest Service road and/or campground a short distance down from the last summit.  Keep your eyes open, and you'll see it on the left as you descend.  Clearly marked.  Lots of trees.  Get water in Ravendale from residents.  We ended up camping in Termo and pushing all the way to Susanville on this day.  Using my preferred itinerary, the final day would be in the 30 mile range and virtually no climbing--nice!  This would have given us more time to get some of the driving done as we had come from eight hours south. Ugh.

So, given my ideal schedule, this tour involves 12 days of riding, maybe 11 if you skip the RV park outside the monument.  Get out there and ride.  This loop is begging for some more action.

Vision Quest: The final day

Miles: 54.7
Climb: 793 ft.
Total miles for tour: 508

As the opening photo suggests, we awake to some hard frost, low 20's F., one of the coldest of the tour.  As always, I have problems processing the fact that the ride is down to its last day.  We try to get moving, but the cold slows us down.  The day begins innocently enough, flat, smooth fun, a lure to get us into the jaws of the trap we can't even see.  In Ravendale, just down the road, we find, of all things, an actual phone booth.  With the advent of cell phones, these are already quaint anachronisms.  I slip into the booth to change into my super hero outfit and find the phone mangled a bit--someone has tried to pry it open such that I can see some inner workings--but amazingly, I get a ring dial tone!  Hmmm...that "dial" word is quite the throwback, too.  Unlike my young companions, I have actually used phones with rotary dials.   What will my companions look on thirty years hence?  Richard and Kevin will be on tour and find a dusty, discarded old cell phone on the side of the road.  Richard: "Damn, remember when we used to use these?"  Kevin: "Yo, but the brain implants are so much better these days.  Can you imagine having to pull that junk out of your pocket and punch in numbers?  Still, kind of cute little gadget, huh?"

A moderate climb takes us out of the basin we've been working since yesterday afternoon.  Back into pinyon pine and juniper again, I look for a place to camp as I'd originally been planning.  Not far below the summit as we begin the last significant drop of the tour, we pass a National Forest Service road on the left, a sign indicated a campground.  Excellent.  If we ever come this way again, we'll load up with water in Ravendale then up and over the pass to this road.

I savor the easy miles at speed, the country opening wider and wider.  In a move impossible on a different kind of bike, I unhook my cleats and cross my legs, full-on lounge style.  Sometimes it's all about the bike.  We make steady work across a treeless plain below the pass and finally make a big right hook, the westward turn that will take us back to Susanville.  We eat lunch at a small market and take Johnsonville Rd. for the final stretch.  Post lunch, as we've encountered repeatedly on this tour, the ass-whuppin' begins.  Absolutely, terribly fierce winds come blasting out of the west and beat, beat, beat us to a staggering pulp.  We fight and fight and fight for 5 mph progress into the fangs of this headwind.  For a while, I try ear plugs to dampen the raging noise in my ears.  It's just brutal.  Under windless or light breezes, we could easily average 15 mph here, but if wishes were wind direction, all tours would have tailwinds.  We knuckle down and soldier on.  We do have a few compensations:

We're unsure as to how far the end really is even though we know we're getting closer.  After one turn, however, I see "Susanville, 2 1/2 Miles".  So that's it.  Even at it's worse, we've only got another half hour of this torture.  What I had expected to be a quiet road has actually had heavy traffic over the last few miles.  Not one but two major prisons seem to have let out a big shift of employees.  Truck after truck after truck motors by, mocking our crawling speed.  At least they give us plenty of room.  To our delight and relief, however, the RV storage place is closer than the 2 1/2 miles, so almost before we know it, we spot the business and know, at last, that our struggles have ended.  This tour is in the can.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Vision Quest: Day eleven

Miles: 71.4
Climb: 3575

More than we signed up for, but we are grateful for the extra fat helping of cycling goodness heaped on our plates.  The morning dawns grey and windy still, the mountains socked in.  Great, another battle royale with the elements.  What's that line about the honey badger?  Jeez.  However, we get lucky.  Once we get into the narrow folds of the mountains, we seem to hide from the wind, and our big climb to the pass goes smoothly.  No rain falls.

On the back side of the pass, we drop westward for miles, out into patchy sun and fantastic views:

In Alturas, after securing a set of three tubes of the proper size for the trailers at the True Value Hardware store (the only place with any bike gear on the whole tour except Susanville), we hit Starbucks, groceries for me, and turn south again.  Light traffic and wide open vistas along Hwy 395.  The shoulder isn't bad.  At the tiny "town" of Likely  (good store, no produce), I talk to Jodi on the cell.  It was our plan to head east for a few miles to camp beside the Pitt River in the National Forest, but Jodi informs me a serious storm is coming in, and if we take the additional day and a half I'm planning on to finish the tour, we'll be stuck in the middle of the storm--high winds, low snow level, flat out tough conditions.  When I discover that one of our team has NO rain gear and NO synthetic insulation only cotton (Richard!), I get worried.  Hypothermia is no joke, and with nearly freezing temps, driving rain, and high winds, we could easily find ourselves in a sticky situation.  We pow wow big time on our options.  If we push hard from Likely, we can make it to Susanville the next day, but it means logging nearly thirty more miles today, and it's already after 3PM.    I was really looking forward to the more leisurely pace, but the weather gods have pushed our hand, so we saddle up, put foot to pedal, and keep the mojo movin'.

After Sage Hen Summit--our last pass for the day--we bomb into a fine, wide-open basin.  During the drop, going perhaps 30 mph, my bike freaks out.  Suddenly, the rear end demands to go left, and I have to struggle and compensate by turning right.  A flat?  Huh?  I yell out "STOP!" and the peloton avoids a pile up.  My rear wheel has popped out of the dropout on the right side.  I've kept an eye on this problem in the past, but I hadn't checked it in days, and here I nearly paid a very dear price.  The bike is built with very shallow dropouts, and I've noticed a tendency for the wheel to slip forward.  Fortunately, all is well. The disc for the brake is not bent, and with my pit crew assisting, everything is up and running in only a few minutes.

We bottom out, tank up with water, and gun for glory across The Great Wide Open:

Camp arrives in the form of a flat patch near some electrical infrastructure of some sort near the dead zone of Termo--closed up businesses, boarded home, nothing but sage and dust and forgotten dreams.  For all its pseudo-industrial funk, it is an excellent camp, and we cook dinner, this trio of tired but satisfied riders.  I sip a good cheap red wine and smile into the stars and at my companions.  "I know I'm crazy," I say, "but I love this." The cheapo red, the camp beside the chain link fence, the stars overhead, the long, hard days pushing across wild country.  A great day, this.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Vision Quest: Day ten

Miles: Not many!
Climb: Zero, zip, nada

At last, a real rest day.  The wind blows hard all night, but we sleep through it.  We awake at our leisure, safe in the knowledge that for the first, last, and only day of this trek, we have no serious riding to do, no camp to break, no trailers to pack.  Bliss!  The air is fresh and bright, and it's good to be in the mountains in spring.  After lounging around camp a bit, we set off for town to lounge some more in a cafe, hit the library, confab with the locals.  Our short ride is immediately halted by a flat on Richard's bike.

Finally, off to the cafe:

Dig these greens (and reds and yellows...) :

The scene in the Surprise! Cafe:

Clouds moving in:

The frenetic metropolis of Cederville: 

Waves of rain come through, so we improvise our kitchen placement:

Obama is NOT a Kenyan!  He's a Mexican tortilla model:

Slow, relaxed, thoroughly enjoyable day of doing very little.  Exactly what the doctor ordered.  Tomorrow we will cross the mountains yet again to Alturas and pick up Hwy 395 for our last couple of days on the road.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Vision Quest: Day nine

Miles: 60
Climb: 2560
Ave. speed: 8.1 mph--double ugh.
Time: 7h 20min of pedaling--ugh, ugh, ugh

Huge day.  Big day. Pain, lurching hard day.  Wind, wind, more wind.  Headwinds, side winds, and, for variety, headwinds.  Today we crawl into our suffer boxes and whimper.  The fun starts early.  But it is a beautiful day, an awesome day, one worthy to have lived.

Four thirty AM and already I can see my hands.  Let's roll.  Out into the glories of Mosquitoville, Rat Hole RV Park, USA.  Never has man paid so much for so little.  Today will be our earliest start with many questions unanswered about the route ahead, chief among them twenty miles of dirt road--Twenty Mile Rd.  Aptly named, eh?  As we collect our gear and eat on the move, one of the Euro-cowpokes ambles over.  In his late 50's, several days' of beard, blue jeans, vest, boots with elaborate but suitably scuffed straps, he smiles and says "ah-llo" in a heavy Dutch accent.  He asks about our tour and says he is nearing the end of a two-week stay, an end he isn't looking forward to:  "I don't vant to tink about it."  He looks up at the mountains in early light.  Clearly a return to the dikes, windmills, and wooden clogs of Holland is something he cannot face without difficulty.  He speaks, too, of working on a ranch, a true "verking" vacation where this small band of Europeans do whatever the actual ranchers are doing that day--mending fence, branding, whatever.  For a fortnight, they live the dream of the American West.  We have our own dreams, including a firm brutalizing by the elements, part of the contract we signed with the universe when we set out on this adventure.  Time to rendezvous with destiny.

A handful of easy, cool, miles lulls us into thinking that perhaps the day won't be too bad.  About nine miles in, we hit the dirt road.  There, down by the creek, is a perfect campsite under trees.  Water, shade, quiet escape.  Next time, for sure, but don't forget a water filter.  This here's cattle country, and all manner of nasty bugs must inhabit the water, too.  We battle a brutal dirt and gravel headwall and find two trailer flats as we rest on the top.  Hmmmm...flats definitely make steep loose climbs a lot tougher!  In my brilliance, however, I discover that I've packed tubes for 20" inch tires not the 16" tires on the trailers.  Triple damn ugh!  Patch kit it is.  I sit down in the dirt and get to work because the honey badger don't give a crap.

The dirt track undulates through fabulous country, a cool cloudy sky making our labors easier to bear.  The road is a Cadillac dirt road--smooth and fast with hardly any washboard.  An antelope gallops across the route.  Hawks contest the wind.   At last we drop into Fort Bidwell and regain the blacktop, but the improved surface is countered by the fierce winds that we battle for hours all the way to Cedarville, our destination and home for a much needed rest day.  As we take a break during the tough final miles, a sweet woman and her wonderful dogs greet us.  She offers us water or the use of a restroom, which we don't need.  But then she offers fresh strawberries.  "Those," I say, "I will not refuse."  Chilled fresh berries--food of the GODS!  I start hammering them in uncontrollably, unconscious of my hunger or the speed of stuffing my face.  The woman says,"You might want to slow down.  You can get sick."  Oh, yes, of course.  Embarrassed and grateful for the advice, I step away from the tray and pet the dogs instead.  Refreshed, we volunteer for more beating on the road from the intense side winds.  My trailer tire is flat again.  Ugh.  We stop, and I can't find or hear the puncture in the howling wind.  Oh well, honey badger don't care!  It's a slow leak, so I put the tire and tube back together, pump it up, and carry on.

Finally, we arrive strung out and ready for camp.  We hit the grocery store for supplies and continue on to the fairgrounds, where I've read we can camp, but no one is in sight.  Oh well, let's find a place to set up.  The wind bends the tall trees.  Desperate for shelter, we pitch camp in the lee of an old Quonset hut and find refuge from the storm, a still, quiet corner of dirt where we cook and sleep the sleep of worked adventurers.  We'll deal with official permission to camp the next day.

Here are the pictures to help tell the story...

Breakfast on the road:

Top of the brutal climb where we fixed two flats on a couple of the trailers:

Top of yet another climb:

Back in our home state:

The last drop off the dirt to Fort Bidwell:

 The strawberry lady and her fine hounds:

Camp Refugio: