Monday, August 26, 2013

24 Hours in the Saddle - Make sure you're comfortable

Since our last tour was a "Best Of" bikepacking trip, we took our time and even played hookey by taking a canoe trip down the Kettle River.  Even so, in seven days we managed to spend 24 hours with our wheels turning which meant 24 hours of sitting on a bike seat and hands on the hand grips.  Feet locked into the pedals.

You can imagine how imperative it is to have a comfortable seat.  My cycling partner Roy prefers a traditional seat whereas I have my trusty Spiderflex which I have 20,000 kilometers of experience sitting on.  Everywhere I go, cyclists and passersby comment on it.  I was supposed to do some filming from my bike yesterday and the producer asked if my bike seat was a "Non - man ball crusher"?
What a new one looks like

But comfort while riding for long periods of time extends to the other components of your bike.  Take for instance the handlebars.  Mine are nice and wide and I've added extenders wrapped in foamy handlebar tape.  The handlebar extenders allow for numerous hand positions and I've mounted a mirror to the left side and a bike bell to the other.
A little extreme...
On the first day of riding when we rode to Grand Forks by climbing to the summit at Eholt, I found my left knee hurting and experimented with raising my seat a quarter of an inch (6.35 mm. for you metric types).  In this past year commuting to work each day and noticing a little tweak in the left knee, I never bothered to discover the reason.  But doing an estimated 16,200 pedal strokes to the top of that mountain, I could certainly feel more than just a "tweak".
When I'm teaching someone about bike mechanics, I always mention that it is important to make very small adjustments when working on a bike.  Quarter turns of knobs and screws will usually do the job.  So during the rest of the "Best Of" tour, my left knee never gave one hint of trouble.  Perhaps the small adjustment of 6.35 mm. was enough.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Making A Job - That's the Spirit!

Before mounting our bikes for the day and heading downhill and leaving Beaverdell for the flatter expanses of Rock Creek, we decided to have breakfast at a place recommended to us the night before.  A place called "It's Mom's".

Not having seen a restaurant at that end of Beaverdell, we didn't know what to expect.  To call it a shack might give you the wrong impression.  It was more like a booth that you might find a country fair.  One serving ice cream filled waffles or that sweet and salty popcorn everyone seems to like.

Behind the wooden structure a number of tents offered shade and a measure of privacy for diners seated at neatly set tables covered in checkered tablecloths and cutesy homemade napkin holders.
A couple of older guys that we recognized from the restaurant last night were joshing with “Mom” as they slurped their morning coffee and bullshitted the morning away.

“Mom” whose real name was Marge, offered us our own tent after taking our orders and explaining to us that she’d been in business for three years.  It would seem that there is not much chance for employment in Beaverdell so Marge made her own job – serving up simple meals and snacks for those who would care to pull off the highway and nosh.  An impressive act of self-determination - instead of pulling pogey and living off the government's generosity.

The simple breakfast of a cheese omelette, hash brown potatoes, toast and jam was washed down with strong black coffee and was a far sight more satisfying than the time Roy and I spooned oatmeal into our faces while standing on the road trying to stay warm on a cold Beaverdell morning a couple of years ago.

I was especially pleased to have a knife and fork in my possession for the rest of the trip since I had lost my $12.50 folding spork somewhere at one of our camps and had been wondering how I was going to eat for the rest of the bike trip.


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Paul Lautard and his Biker's Rest Stop

Last year when we stopped into the Cyclist's Rest Stop in Rhone, B.C., the place was vacant and the owner Paul Lautard was nowhere to be seen. It felt lonley without Paul's presence and the For Sale sign hanging out front was not encouraging.

This year, Roy and I had the good fortune to run into Paul just as we pulled into the Rest Stop on our way back to Rock Creek from Beaverdell. As soon as I could, I threw myself into the hammock that is suspended from the rafters of the shelter while Roy and Paul chatted at a nearby table.

Since it was 35+ degrees outside, the shade offered welcome relief and I didn't mind having to pick off black ants the size of Rice Krispie kernels as Paul related stories about the Kettle Valley Railway.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Everything Except the Sink

My daughter just came back from a weekend bicycle camping trip and told me many car and RV campers came up to her and expressed surprise at how a full camp can be set up when just riding a bike.

We had a similar experience in Grand Forks when we put up our camp there on our recent trip. With this being my eighth bikepacking trip and Roy's ninth, we think nothing of the fact that everything we need for camping is in each of our two saddlebags.Stoves, cutlery,swimsuits, shoes, rain gear, toiletries, food, fuel, water - not to mention night - time illumination and changes of clothes all fit on our bikes.

Camping heaven

While pushing in tent pegs with my stiff-soled cycling shoes, I glanced around the park and noticed a camper at a nearby site staring intently at Roy and I as we built our camp. Had we taken a spot she wanted? Were we too close to her campsite? Was she enjoying the sight of two Spandex clad males?

It wasn't until after we had quaffed some cold beer and began to prepare supper that the lady camper's husband, Holger came over to visit and to let us know that his wife Linda was impressed that the two of us could set up a comfortable camp that included such domestic touches as a clothesline with towels, socks and cycling gear already hung out to dry with only bikes for transportation.
Fully loaded
We must have proven to Holger that we were harmless since both his wife Linda and their son Carl came over to visit and Roy and I were able to show off some of our equipment (meaning I showed them my folding bowl and plate).  While we were going to ride to Christina Lake the next day, they were planning on riding their bikes to the summit at Eholt.  Since we had just come down from that very summit, we were able to give them some helpful advice on how to negotiate the sandy trail and also to expect to take three hours to reach the top.  Both Linda and Carl looked very fit so I guess that even though it would take Roy and I three hours to reach Eholt, the two of them, without all the camping gear could do it in much less time and come back to an already prepared camp.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Midway Peeps

The most likely spot for us to bicycle camp in Midway had a sign in bold letters which announced RESERVED FRIDAY BARRY. After some head scratching, Roy and I decided that the sign meant that we could camp here as long as we were gone by Friday afternoon. Our plans were to leave Midway on Friday morning and cycle the 70 kilometers to Beaverdell where we knew we could find  camping at a place called Zack's.

Not long after we had our tents set up and our Thermarests inflated (with sleeping bags on top fluffing up), a shiny red pickup pulled in just a few camp sites away from us. The two occupants quickly began to unload camping gear from the bed of the truck and it was then that we noticed that the vehicle was from Environment Canada.

Not every day do you see government employees camping. Oh sure, you see them in the lobbies of hotels and their government vehicles in the parking lot. But camping? Roughing it?

As part of their setting up camp, one came over to the water faucet near our camp and filled a large jerry can full of cold water and the other one sauntered over a while later, munching on a submarine sandwich stuffed with potato salad. This was Julien, a biologist with Environment Canada, working on a project to study the declining numbers of a particular woodpecker named after the explorer Lewis from Lewis and Clark fame.

We spent a happy evening chatting with Julien and discovering just how hard he and his partner were working every day outdoors in the elements studying these birds. They would leave camp by 3:30-4 am so that they could be at a woodpecker's nest to observe them as they left the nest to forage for food. They would haul a heavy camera through the woods to peek into nests high up in the trees and make detailed notes of the bird's every activity. The sun falling in the western sky was when they would pull into camp and set up their tents and discuss the day's results.

All their work was done in 35+ temperatures in direct sunlight surrounded by biting mosquitos and a host of other insects that would drive a less motivated person to distraction.
The man himself

Julien was attracted to our campsite since he is a cycling enthusiast himself and he wanted to know all about our trip. We could gleefully tell him that biting bugs were not a problem since the insects couldn't get a grip on us with the wind generated by our cycling whipping past our bodies and keeping those nasty critters at bay.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Coming Soon To This Blog

In the coming days you'll read about our recent adventures cycling the wilds of British Columbia.  You might read a story relating a canoeing incident or how we rode all day just to have a beer burger and fries for ten bucks.
Fine wines might have been consumed...

There may be a posting about the generosity of strangers and a particular bartender in Midway, B.C.  How about the older woman in Beaverdell who has created employment for herself?
This is what some of the trip looked like

Practical matters like chain wax versus chain oil might be discussed - stay tuned!