Sunday, October 25, 2009

Our Correspondent in the Field

Postcards sent to "The Crazy Bikers" from Miss Kristina's Class

This past summer I ran a daycare class with twelve students between the ages of five to twelve. I spent eight hours every day tricking them into doing academics while they thought they were doing fun summer projects. The most successful of these projects was the letter writing we did with “Miss Kristina’s crazy biker friends.” When my kids heard about the Co-ops plan to ride their bicycles from Vancouver to Mexico they were flabbergasted. “That’s crazy, no one can do that,” they exclaimed. They did not believe someone could ride all that way. This question presented the first learning opportunity, “how many miles is that?” Ah ha! I had them. We used maps, learned a little geography, learned about scale and how to calculate distance all in the name of answering a question posed by the students themselves. The next questions, “What do they do for food?” “Do they get tired?” “What if their bike breaks?” I probably could have answered myself, but I saw an opportunity. I pulled out blank index cards and each student wrote a decorated postcard to the Co-op. This was a great activity, because they were practicing their writing, and they were excited about it. They weren’t answering a boring prompt, they were asking questions of some crazy guys they wanted to get to know.

Postcards from Miss Kristina's class, one addressed to the "crazy bikers"

I sent the postcards out, and about a week and a half later we not only had updates, but personal answers to each of the postcards my students sent. The kids were unbelievably excited to get letters written and addressed to them personally. Honestly, if I had known they would get this excited about getting mail I would have used an activity like this long ago. The great thing about writing to the “crazy biker guys” was that they were not only practicing writing, or learning how to write a letter, they were learning about a way to vacation that didn’t include driving hundreds of miles, or getting on an airplane. Bike touring is such a low impact way to see the country, and get in touch with nature, and they had never heard of it. It was no longer some abstract thing that no one in their right mind could do, it was an achievable adventure. They had direct interactions, through writing and a visit at the end of the summer, with people that had actually done it. I loved that my students were writing without me pulling their teeth to do it, but I also love that they learned about a different way to experience the outside. Someday they might have the opportunity to go on a bike tour, and they are much more likely to say “yes!” instead of “that’s crazy!”

(Miss Kristina)

Pannier Pork

Daniel and Kai keep an eye on the pork.

Pannier pork is one of the most delicious meals I've ever had. Kai and Hunter originated this recipe, but I love it's simplicity and great taste. As a warning, those with an aversion to leaving meat unrefrigerated* for several hours should give this one a pass.

Meat, either pork or beef has worked fine. Haven't tried chicken.
A marinade, preferably already prepared. Anything by Soy Vay is a good call.
At least two plastic bags.

Go to the nearest store on that day's rout. You want at least a few hours of riding between when you pick up the meat and when you cook it, so that it can warm up, jostle around, and get properly marinated.

Once you have the meat, unpack it and put it into the first plastic bag. Dump all the marinade in on top, press the air out of the bag and tie it closed. Now bag it again with the second plastic bag, and toss it into a pannier.

This brings the meat to room temperature which allows it to take up the marinade faster. Being in the pannier acts as a tenderizer as it bounces around. This results in a very flavorful, tender meat by the end of the ride. Grill it up as appropriate to the type and cut of meat you have, and enjoy!

*I think that the increased risk of food-borne illness is low, as the meat will be thoroughly cooked.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Hammock Camping

Kai Gets High

I'd heard about hammock camping before this trip, but it seemed like a reasonable solution for this trip. I really was disinclined to sleep in a tent with a bunch of other people, and carrying a 1-man is pretty light, but expensive. So, I went with a Byer "Traveler" hammock, which cost me about $20. Add in another $12 for rope, and $2.50 for a 2.5mil 9x12 drop cloth, and my entire shelter cost less than a decent sleeping bag.

Better yet, it worked really well. Hammocks are easy to put up, the drop cloth kept my very dry, and it all packed away inside a pot. The drop cloth went under my sleeping bag on the rack to protect it from water off my tire. I was never cold, almost always comfortable, and didn't worry about the condition of the ground.

The one thing about the Traveler hammock is that it uses cords on the ends, which ended up tangling and causing the hammock to lie oddly. So I cut them off, knotted the ends, and used that. I'm 6'1" and there was still enough length to just barely fit me. But the snugness was good, and my sleep quality went back up.

The other downside is that there are times when there aren't trees available. I just threw down a ground cloth, put my sleeping bag on that and slept. If there was a wind or a chance of rain I put up the drop cloth, using my bike as a support. This works well unless there is a significant amount of rain, as it provides no protection from runoff.

Going to ground.

Overall I think I was more comfortable and dryer than the tent campers. I certainly enjoyed the freedom of having a hammock, and feel that the benefits outweigh the (very few) downsides.

Kai and Hunter also used hammocks; Kai going for one slightly more complex than mine, and Hunter rocking a Hennessy. Both seemed to also have excellent experiences with their hammocks.


Soma Double Cross: not really a touring bike.

I built up a Double Cross shortly before the tour, and since it was the closest thing to a touring bike I owned, I toured on it. Tossed a slimline Axiom rack on the back, and tried for some front panniers, but it just wasn't a good idea. The proximity of the bags to the rotor made me nervous. The rear rack required a bit of cleverness to mount, since it's a taller frame, a smaller rack, and the bike has pretty short chain stays. Once on, it didn't give me any trouble.

The chain stay length on the other hand became a reoccurring issue, not helped by the fact that I have pretty large feet, and long cranks. By moving the bags all the way back things worked out ok, but that put the entirety of my load on or behind the rear axle. Not exactly ideal, considering that the bike is pretty heavily rear loaded to start with.

That said, the handling wasn't terribly affected by this, and in actual use the main problem was a higher rate of rear punctures, and faster wear on the rear tire.

The short chain stays were nice in that the bike remained tight even when loaded, and shimmy or speed wobbles were never a major concern. If credit-card touring this frame would do nicely, as it's light enough to scoot up hills, but still stiff. Using a fork with eyelets for front panniers would help to even everything out weight wise.

Overall, the Double Cross worked well as an improvised touring bike, and I have no desire to swap it out for a more touring specific bike. That said, if you really want a touring specific frame, you might avoid the Double Cross.

(It's a cross bike, duh.)


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Pacific Coast Corn

The corn got eaten so fast that I lack a picture of it.

Corn on the cob, with a hint of the North Pacific. Sweet and salty, it goes great with some Pannier Pork and some Summer Grifter IPA. (My review.) John (up top) doesn't even like corn, and he liked this.

Corn in the husks. However much you want to eat. Buy local.
The ocean. We use the North Pacific, as it's not as filled with terrible stuff as the water near SoCal is. Recommend Humboldt/Mendocino county or farther north.
A plastic bag, big enough to get all your corn in.
A beach, or a cliff and a little ingenuity.

Take the corn, leave the husk on. Put it in a bag, put the whole thing in the ocean. Let it soak for a good long while, at least 20 minutes. Do this in such a way as to minimize the sand in the corn. (Don't just throw it into the surf.) While the corn is soaking, get a good fire going, let it go to coal, and put the coals under the grate. Throw the corn on top of the grate, and let it cook till it's done, turning occasionally. Pull off the grate, husk, and eat. In that order. Add lime to taste.


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Coop Cabbage

No image, ate it all.

Cabbage is nutrient poor, bulky, and generally unappetizing. Why eat cabbage? It has fiber, it's cheap, and readily available. This recipe makes even this awkward vegetable a tasty treat. By cooking it slowly, the starch in the cabbages breaks down, making it sweeter, and everything tastes better with a liberal dose of olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Cabbage. You'll have to cover these with a fire, so keep that in mind. You don't necessarily want to have to make a roaring bonfire just to cook some cabbages.
Olive oil.
Sriracha, or other awesome hot sauce.

Take a cabbage, rub it liberally with olive oil, salt and pepper. Wrap in tinfoil, preferably several layers as it will be rolled around in a fire, which tends to cause the outer layer to become punctured. Place into the fire, ideally covering the entire cabbage with hot coals. Let it sit until soft to the poke.

Remove from the fire, quarter and eat. Add hot sauce to taste, and more salt and pepper if needed.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Finish! Mexican border, 2000 miles, 43 days. Burrito and beer time!
from txt (SteveJo)
1 2 3 4 i love the marine corp
from txt (SteveJo)
Super sprint to catch the train north. heading home after 2000 miles biked over 43 days.
from txt (Robert)
San clemente st park. need new rear tyre, sidewall slashed by huge chunk of glass. on the upside, super flat so we can realy haul.
from txt (Robert)
Going behind the orange curtain.
from txt (SteveJo)

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Were devoured whole by bugs all night at Sycamore Canyon unfortunately.
from txt (SteveJo)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

@ in-n-out in ventura. will hit border sat afternoon.
from txt (Robert)

Monday, August 3, 2009

@ refugio st park. nice hiker-biker site, right next to the beach.
from txt (Robert)

Sunday, August 2, 2009

In santa maria!
from txt (Robert)