Monday, December 15, 2014

Desert Tour 2014: The Last Supper

We're preparing our last dinner before hitting the road: Veggie pizza with a side of lamb burgers!  The pizza is unique, however.  The crust is--fo' reelz--cauliflower, egg and goat cheese.  The topping is spinach, red onion and goat cheese.  Don't be fooled.  This stuff is awesome.  We'll be taking some leftovers on the road, too.  Eat up, velovolk!

Desert Tour: Countdown thoughts

Steel grey, 45 deg. F., cutting breeze, snow on the high country, this is no summer cycling tour.  We'll push through, of course, but it makes me want to shrink into the couch with a book, fire blazing, and wait for the spring--almost.  In truth, I love this season.  Rain, snow, wind, it doesn't matter, we get out every day, the lone freaks of the 'hood who hike and walk with Django no matter what.  The People's Republic of Tehachistan is easy to negotiate in the winter, unlike Buffalo, NY, with SEVEN FEET of snow in one storm this season. A really big storm for us would be seven inches.  Suit up, get out, nothing to lose but your sloth.   And that's the attitude we're bring to this tour, although I think we only have a couple of dour days we need to endure before conditions improve substantially.  Here's the forecast for Death Valley, which we'll be camping in and crossing from Thurs. through Monday, when we cycle out via Salsbury Pass:

Not bad, eh?  Here's the UHaul (a ten footer) loaded with the Greenspeed tandem and doggie trailer:

I contemplate often on how lucky we are to be healthy, to have the resources for such adventures.  This is an awesome life!  I'm excited to share a little of it with a handful of readers.  I've been inspired by many stories I've found online, and I like to do my part for others.  It's easy to get sucked into the parade of bad news that washes red across the Net, the TV, our own minds.  We can do virtually nothing about most of it, yet still we get pulled into the Dark Vortex.  To what benefit?  Better to read, plan, scheme about that next adventure.  Tomorrow at this time we'll be deep in it, slogging up the southern Inyo Mountains, or, if we're lucky, pitching camp, perhaps blessed by a glimpse or two of the mighty Sierras, weighted down at last by a mantel of heavy snow.  Eat well, hoist a flagon to the gods, for tomorrow, we ride!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Desert Tour 2014: The forecast

I know the thumbnail art makes the forecast look worse than what we are likely to encounter, but sheesh!  Tuesday is now a touch better, but Wednesday is worse.  The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh.  On the plus side, temps are pretty mild, although high thirties light rain is no joke, but since we'll be in the desert, continuous sheets of rain aren't likely nor predicted, art work be damned!  After the storm, as we settle into Death Valley, conditions are set to be just about perfect.  We've got good gear.  Looks like we'll need it.  The winds, praise Shiva/Wankan Tanka/Buddha/Jesus/etc., are predicted to be light.  That will make a huge difference.  Got to make sure all our waterproof systems are tight.  More packing and fretting today.  Tomorrow we get the UHaul and load for launch. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Desert Tour 2014: Cereal Killer and Food Stuffs

Mixin' up a big-ass brew of cereal for the road: fresh toasted organic oats, almond slivers and organic raisins.  I add whey powder and a greens mix (undenatured whey protein and Vital Scoop) for a solid shot of nutri-goodness in the morning that keeps this cyclo-psycho on the road.  Below are a few pics of other stuff, boxes, and freeze-dried goodies to keep us fueled on the remote sections.  Traveling on a heavily loaded tandem with doggie means we can't make the sometimes substantial distances between supply points, so we have to deal with "dry camps," places where there is nothing but creosote bushes and sand.  We have to carry backpacking style meals and water for sometimes many miles.  On the plus side, we get to spend the night in some unusual, beautiful places that, traveling more quickly, we'd just roll right by.

For meat--we're recovering vegans--we ended up purchasing--I kid you not--dog meat, i.e. meat for dogs.  Jodi found a source for organic, cooked, freeze-dried chicken and venison pet food.  The stuff is great!  She was unable to find equivalent "human" food, so what the heck?  We be dawgs anyway.  Bring it.  Woof!  Woof!

Desert Tour 2014

Above is the route that Jodi, Django, and I will be tackling in just a few days (click on the map for more detailed look via Ridewithgps).  As the rain comes down and snow blankets the mountains above 5,000 ft., there's no doubt winter is here regardless of the solstice.  It looks like the first days of riding will be cool and cloudy but with only a slight chance of rain--low about 30 deg. F., high about 44.  This will be a little unpleasant but not brutal.  We'll take not brutal, thank you.  We've got a bunch of chores to do to get finally ready.  We pick up the Uhaul on Monday; the riding starts on Tuesday morning after a 2.5 hour drive.  Let's hope for the best weather possible!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Gear talk: Tour coffee mug and coffee!

As my semester gasps its last gasp, I'm getting more involved in thinking and prepping for our coming epic tour through the Mojave.  Over the next few days, I hope to toss up a few posts about preparations, gear, the usual hubbub in getting on the road.  Our tour will involve 18 days of mostly very remote riding.

Jodi has been a wizard at collecting and putting together some awesome food options, which I'll post about later. Above is our coffee gear, super important for addicts on the road for a mid-winter tour.  The Mount Hagen Organic is a freeze-dried and therefore instant coffee that really tastes good--No Folgers/Nescafe poison for this crew, no siree.  Our usual dose is a 16 oz. mix of coffee and cream/half + half, with a shot of Ghirardelli for me.   The dosage could not be simpler: One heaping teaspoon cocoa, two heapers of coffee, and four heapers of the full-fat milk powder.  Working the mix with a fork into a paste helps eliminate any lumps. Then add the rest of the water to top off the mug--voilĂ , smokin' awesome coffee.

I've found perhaps the perfect touring mug in the GSI unit featured above.  This green one is Jodi's and has some refinements not found on my older generation.  My cup has a very thin neoprene tube while this one is completely covered, including the bottom, with a non-skid patch.  Unlike my older mug, this one has a strap/handle that makes it easier to hold, especially for small hands. The lid has an O-ring and flip-top closure--super tight and leak-proof.  This bad boy is non-toxic and checks in at about 3.5 oz. Hmmm...may have to replace mine!

Stay tuned for route map and other goodies.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Old guy shredding

Finally got a hero shot!  My sister-in-law, Karen, came with us to the High Desert for some climbing yesterday, so instead of the ubiquitous "butt shot," she could get a better perspective on the action.  I'm really pleased with this one.  We scrambled up into the high boulders and climbed "Tell Me A Story," which checks in at 10c, a pretty hard route for us.  I was especially pleased on this route to recover quickly from some very small holds.  I've had problems in the past with my fingers, and this climb took everything I had--but I shook out after the hard moves and felt fine.  Phew.  In the photo, I'm just past the hardest part and thrilling to some pretty good holds. Thanks for being a great shooter, Karen.  I'll remember these days when I'm schlepping around the nursing home.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Recent adventures, photos + gear talk

It's been some time since I've posted.  Being tangled up in life, work, and outings squeezed in where possible makes it easy to skip this rarely read blog, but I always enjoy throwing down a few words and recording our adventures if only to relive them myself.  We've been rock climbing again in the desert areas now that the temperatures have finally cooled.  We've got the tandem trike tricked out and ready to tour.  It's too bad work gets in the way of all the awesome things we've got planned.  Above and below are a few photos from recent outings to the Alabama Hills, a little piece of heaven for this rock scrambling couple.

We've been climbing pretty well this season, something we attribute to finally being consistent about training.  For those who understand climbing ratings, I was able to on-sight a short 5.10d, which is quite hard for us, although merely a warmup for truly hard climbers.  After 37 years in this climbing game, it feels good to be doing routes as hard as I could manage in my 20's.  Here's to good nutrition, good beer, and good training!

Below are some shots of the new Greenspeed tandem trike (GTT) in action on a recent hard training ride.  We're gearing up for a ride that will take us through most of the Mojave desert, north to south, Lone Pine, CA, through Death Valley, the Mojave National Preserve, and Joshua Tree National Park.  It's a tour we did years ago, and I've always considered it one of the great tours of North America and one of the best I've ever done.  To be enjoyed, it must be done late fall through very early spring.  The summers are dangerously hot.  A small number of lunatics do ride through the area in the summer, but that's too much suffering for this duo who, admittedly, enjoy a little suffering.

Of note to the gear heads will be the Smoky Mountain recumbent bags on both the front and rear seats.  These are well made and reasonably priced bags that add about 1,000 cu. in. of storage for each rider.  In the front I'll be storing, in addition to some personal kit, tools, tubes, spare parts, etc. for the tour.  Plenty of room for that and misc. personal stuff, windbreaker, etc.  On the rear of the GTT is a set of Easy Rider Lloonngg panniers.  These are totally waterproof with a roll top seal and liners.  These are not designed for use on trikes but rather for hanging underneath seats on two-wheeled recumbents.  Years ago, just to see how it would go, I threw a set of these on a previous GTT incarnation.  They seemed to fit okay, so this time, after looking at other options, I decided to order another set and see if we could really make them work.  It was something of a gamble, given we'd never loaded them up and taken a ride, but all the alternative panniers were A LOT heavier and at least $100 more expensive, so it seemed worth a try.  Ortlieb recumbent panniers run 3.5 lbs heavier; Arkel recumbent bags run 4.5 lbs. and $135 more.  Both of these options also have smaller capacities than the ERRC Lloonngg's.  We loaded them up and hit the road--success!  I did have to piece together a brace to make sure the bags are held clear of the derailleur because we did have some interference that affected shifting.  The brace you see keeps everything free and easy. I have a whole box of brackets and mounts from lights and reflectors I've had over the years.  It's handy to hold on to those nick-knacks.

Bracket to keep cable and derailleur clear:

 At the top of a 1,400 ft. climb fully loaded:

So I'm battling what is for now a mild infection, probably ebola, but I should be back in action soon.  No blood from the eyes or nipples yet.  I've got dishes to do, papers to grade, an adventure to plan, and a perfect autumn sun streaming through the windows. Life is good, eh?

Happy Thanksgiving, one and all.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Gear Talk: Trailer hitch by The Master

Above you see the work of master machinist, Mike Melvill.  He has been doing some very cool work for us to get the Greenspeed tandem up to speed.  We needed another hitch for the third rig, not knowing what vehicle we might use to tow The Hound around town.  Mike has been keen for some projects, and we have been the most fortunate recipients of his skill and generosity.  This beauty is milled from solid aircraft-grade aluminum.  It's only a couple of ounces heavier than the OEM unit featured below in comparison.  For all the beauty and strength, the couple of extra ounces are worth it, don't you think?  Schweeeet.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Gear Talk: Stoker controls

Featured above is the stoker-controlled rear brake.  This is awesome!  With three 200+mm rotors there is no mountain we cannot safely descend, unlike the two horror show 155 Hope hydraulics we had on our first tandem.  There were moments when I feared for our lives, gripping white-knuckled and praying they held.  Those days are SO over.  I await the completed bracket for mounting the left side front brake.  Machinist Mike came by a couple of days ago and walked off with one of the brakes to make sure it fit, so I'm optimistic our evil plans will succeed.

Below--the stoker's brake control center:

I think I first saw this on Micro Craig's back-to-back tandem trike, still a unique beast in the velo world as far as I know.  The lever is an in-line unit typically used on drop bars for touring riders to always have a brake handy.  Mounted on top is an old Dura Ace bar end shifter which now acts as a parking brake--oh so super slick, let me tell you what.  We pull to a stop--zzzip!--Jodi pulls back the lever and we is [sic] parked.  Ready to go, Hon?  Zoooop, back to neutral and away we go. 

Not featured in this post is the fact that the stoker also will control the "front" chain rings while I'll control the cassette.  She'll also have access to the computer--handy for navigation purposes.  Moving the chain ring shifting to the stoker's seat means that breaking the trike in two will only require disassembling the cassette shifter line, which has a tandem screw link, and the timing chain and couplers, of course.

So the new GTT is coming together.  Can't wait to set sail on her maiden voyage. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Gear Talk: Greenspeed tandem!

A few weeks ago, a couple of gigantic boxes arrived at our house.  Contained therein were the two halves of the magnificent beast featured above, the famed and rare Greenspeed tandem trike.  Several years ago, we sold one much like this--obviously a mistake given this purchase from a fellow in Florida.  I noticed this GTT advertised on Bentrideronline and saw it was set up almost exactly as our previous tandem, most notably having a rear disc brake for controlling our huge touring loads, which include about 55 lbs. of Django + trailer, and a Schlumpf Mtn. Drive for super low gearing, a unit that now runs about $800.

What needs to happen now is a series of tweaks: shorter cranks, a boom extension for the extra tall captain, some bar ends for resting hands and mirrors to see beyond panniers, and cable disc brakes.  The Magura Big hydraulic brakes are difficult to service and harder to adjust.  If something goes wrong in the middle of Death Valley, for example, we are S.O.L.  Boom extending and converting to cable disc brakes require some custom machining work, something I have zero skill, experience or tools to accomplish.  Enter a friend and super-talented pilot and machinist, Mike Melvill, the man who flew the first two private industry space flights to win the X-Prize, which just had it's tenth anniversary.  Mike is also a cyclist of considerable strength, so this project was right in his wheelhouse.

Some pics of machining the boom extension:

Below are some pics of the progress on the other changes.  One of my big concerns was getting the Avid BB7 brakes to fit since it turns out the company has changed the mounting brackets and gone to 200mm instead of the 203mm big rotors that have been the standard.  To my delight and surprise, the existing brackets on brakes that came setup for 160mm rotors fit perfectly!  I guess the Greenspeed boys didn't want to deal with extra mounting complications, although I'm probably just lucky.  The tough part now--and I'll update this post when it's done--is constructing the mounting bracket for the front left side brake.  This is where Mike will save my bacon because Avid does not make mirror image units. The left side must be mounted on top of the king pin.  The pic below of the front unit is of the right side.  The rear brake was not an issue.  Once I got the Avids installed and with some minor adjustments--bingo!  No rubbing of rotors as was the case for the Maguras, and now only a simple spin of the dial can adjust the brakes.  Pads pop in and out easily--no annoying cotter pin like the Maguras.  Happy trikers be we!

Below are the new short cranks expertly done by Mark Stonich:

So stay tuned for some updates on our progress.  The bracket for the front brake should be a wonder of craftsmanship, and I've got a cool mod for the rear brake in the works, too.

Get out and ride, folks.  Life be short.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Channeling Goran Kropp

For most of this week, we had planned to hit the rocks outside of Lone Pine, the famed Alabama Hills, one of our favorite destinations.  But as the hour for departure drew near, some sort of purely human powered lunacy seemed the better choice.  Jodi to the rescue:  Let's pedal from home as high up our local mountain as we can get then hike to the summit and back to the trikes and ride home!  We'd done this only once before, years before Django.  And the year before he dropped into our lives, we pedaled the road but went no further.  The distances are not great, but steepness and elevation gain make up for it.  All told we did maybe six miles of hiking with 2,000 feet of climbing and 17 miles of pedaling with 2,300 ft. of climbing.  The cycling involved some ouch! factor as grades close to the mountain topped 10% frequently, stretches of 13%, and one sustained pitch at 17--18%.  Ugh.  All praise Florian Schlumpf and his Mountain Drive.  That 2.5:1 bottom range made all the difference.  For those who know such things, my bottom gear is about 10 gear inches, Jodi's about 8.

The post title is inspired by my ultimate adventure hero, the super adventurer Goran Kropp, a man who pedaled a bike from Stockholm, Sweden, to Katmandu, Nepal, carrying all his high-altitude camping and climbing gear.  Once he'd pedaled as far as he could, he loaded up a pack with 150 lbs. of food and gear, slogged up to Everest and climbed it solo, without oxygen.  Then he hiked out and rode his bike home to Sweden.  Yeah, he was the baddest badass that ever wore the badge. That psycho Viking died too young on a fairly short rock climb in eastern Washington.  May the great Goran Kropp rest in peace.  Now only a handful of intrepid nutcases try similar outings, the goal being totally human powered for every phase of the journey.  Kropp went so far as to attempt to carry all his food from Katmandu into Everest for the climb, too, although he needed some extra calories when a first summit bid didn't work out.  I'll give him a pass on taking food offered by other teams on the mountain.  In our own VERY little way, we tasted a little Goran soup today.  No internal combustion engines were abused, used, or otherwise touched in today's little adventure.

We're safe back at home, worked but doing surprisingly well.  This bodes well for the coming Death Valley tour, Lone Pine to Vegas, in December.  More pics from the ride--hike--ride:

Me and my buddy and the mountain in the background just touching the clouds--what a great grand wonderful day!

Django:  Always the winner!