Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Right now my two friends and I are over five days and 270 miles into my first bike tour. It is going absolutely fantastic and I haven't sworn off the entire activity. So far we have had two encounters of note with some folks.

The first encounter was after our initial night which was spent camping at RB Winter state park. We were sitting around a picnic table already looking a bit in disarray when an older gentleman approached our table. He asked if he could make us some coffee or tea and we immediately accepted. He and his wife ended up also making us toast which they apparently serve with Cheez Wiz. I declined the condiment. The pair was from Newfoundland on a two month roadtrip of the mid Atlantic. They talked to us at length about different spots they should visit in PA and NY and places we should visit in Canada.

A couple of days later we were in some part of PA coal country in a town whose name I cannot remember. There we stopped at one of the worst gas stations ever. They didn't sell gas, they didnt have potable water, and their soda machines were sold out. After about a five minute stop, we prepared to resume riding. As Jeef just began to pedal his bike away an 80 year old couple came tearing up in the type of car 80 year olds drive. The man jumped out wearing no shoes and yelling "stop! stop!". Obviously we were a bit concerned but that was quickly dispelled. They explained that they were a family of bikers and had seen us ride by. They offered us dinner and a place to stay but unfortunately we still had about thirty miles to ride before we planned to stop. The woman had actually biked across the US at age 66! Overall they were very kind and encouraging.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Handlebar cam success

I wanted to be able to take some pictures and video of my trip along the way to share the experience with those who couldn't (or just plain wouldn't) join me.  I didn't exactly want to buy a helmet camera- although they can be very nice, I didn't want the added expense or weight.  I hit upon the idea of using my iPod touch that I will already be carrying.  It shoots HD quality video and can upload it to YouTube or Vimeo or whatever else I might want to do.

I was able to purchase a mounting attachment from a company called Ram Mounts that affixes the iPod to your handlebars.  The mount has a quick release feature and the device can be swiveled to several different positions. The issue for me was that the mount is intended for folks to be futzing with an iPod or iPhone so the mount holds the device close to the handlebars.  This is fine if the device is mounted upright- however a video shot from an iPod this way looks very tall and thin, so that's a little annoying.  If you have the device mounted sideways in order to get a landscape shot, the mount is too close to the bars and the handlebars obstruct the video.  So I created this really official aftermarket add on to hold the mount higher and further away using zip ties and some blue plastic tubing.  Oh yeah, that's classy!  Check out a resulting test video:

I posted the test video in a standard format, but I do have the ability to post them in high definition.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Looks like a plan. Smells like a plan. Might be a plan?

Some folks might take my continued presence in State College as a sign that I will never leave.  Many people look at my spindly legs covered in peeling sunburn, poison ivy boils and bug bites and wonder how I would ever expect to cycle my way out of town.  And some people shake their heads when they ask me "so what's your plan?" and receive a blank stare.  (For those of you who don't know me, I typically walk around with a blank stare regardless to intimidate mimes and evangelists who might otherwise stop me on the street.)

Well have no fear, there actually is something resembling a plan rattling around in my void reserved for a brain!  And I thought I would finally share it with those who might care to ruminate, elaborate, vacillate, or castigate about it.  Lest anyone think that I have been sitting around getting fat and lazy in the meantime, rest assured that I have been biking, climbing and running as well as adjusting to my new diet of catfood and dandelions.  Eric Durante and I did complete a successful excursion to Donation Rocks a week ago.  Although we only managed to get one pitch of climbing in before it began to rain, I think it still counts as cycl-climbing (not to be confused with pyscho-climbing).  I even managed to get my sorry self back up and over Pine Grove Mountain in the pouring, chilly rain.  But I digress...

My good friends, Jeff Carlson and Eric Durante, devised an intruiging bike tour through southeastern PA that enchains many PA microbreweries.  A map with the general route and waypoints can be viewed online.  Personally, I thought that this would be a splendid introduction to bicycle touring because not only will there be excellent daily goals to acheive (aka. make it to the next brewery before it closes) but I will be in the company of good friends.  Also, I can hopefully impart a bit more bicycle maintenance knowledge from Eric before we part ways.  The schedule for this foray is May 20th-30th.  We are still accepting applications for those who want to join.  Please write your name, favorite color, and a poem about beer and bicycles on a sheet cake and drop it off at Jeff's house.

Assuming that 1) I live through ten days of continuous cycling and 2) I haven't decided to saw my bike in half and open a hotdog stand, then I will strike out on the open road towards the wild, wild West.  The course that I am planning to take is PA, WV, OH, IN, IL, MO, NE, CO, and UT.  Of course along the way I will try to stop by as many friends' and family's places and stop at a few climbing destinations as well.  (If I don't manage to stop by your place, it isn't because I don't like you.  It's more the fact that a deviation in course that would add an hour or two by car can easily add two whole days to my trip.  You probably thought I was a jerk anyways...)  Once I arrive in the land of sandstone, Mormons and weak beer, I plan to go to Salt Lake City to attend the Summer Outdoor Retailer Show.  For those of you who don't know, OR is the biggest collection of outdoor gear manufacturers where retailers and sales reps join to look at new products.  Somehow I will sneak into the show, try to weasel free sock and granola bar samples and act professional enough that someone might offer me a job in the future (I'm not holding my breath).

Now, assuming that 1) I've lived through 60 odd days of cycling and 2) haven't been thrown in jail for indecency or trespassing at Outdoor Retailer, my former coworker, Jason Erdman, and I are going to drive up to either the Wind River Range (pic) or the Tetons in WY.  (Yes, I said 'drive'.  Sue me.)  The plan will be to engage in a week of alpine shenanigans.  The Winds are one of my all time favorite places on this earth and this would be my fifth trip there.  After this interlude, Jason is going to abandon me at some remote trailhead looking like a lost hungry puppy and drive back to SLC and catch a flight home.

Again, assuming that I haven't 1) been eaten by a mountain lion or succumbed to another fate or 2) sawn my bike in half and opened a hotdog stand in Pinedale, WY, I will continue on my travels.  My brother, Greg, is getting married in Columbus, OH on October 1st.  Therefore, I could just laze about out West and catch a train or plane there to make it on time.  But knowing how dumb I am, you wouldn't expect me to do that, right?  If I'm still holding together in one piece and I can make it work timewise, I am going to bike to Columbus.  The rough route is to ride WY, SD, IA, IL, IN, OH.

At that point, I will stop, saw my bike in half, open a hotdog stand, and get really, really, into collecting stamps.