I recently posted this image on the Facebook Bicycle Touring group, though by now you may end up seeing it elsewhere (Click on the image for full res):
And I thought I slept well
It was well received. But since it was, I want to come clean: it is a Photoshopped image. That is the easiest way to explain it. I actually used a piece of software called Gimp, but no one knows what you are talking about if you say you Gimped an image. I think most people suspect it was edited, but coming out with it is fun anyway. If you are like me, you might get curious about how these images are made, so I wanted to share a few notes about this image here.
This was a relatively simple composite. I found two images that I did not have to play with color, resolution, focus, or any of the hard stuff. I just did some scaling, blending and cloning to make it work. I could pick it apart, but once you know it was Gimped (I may start a new expression) and look closer, you will probably see all kind of things wrong with it. But first impressions are good, that is what counts
Image number one, taken from here, source image here, just in case the page changes.
It all started as a simple campsite
Image number 2, taken from here, source image here
Just add a little Kansas and voila!
This one went so well may do the occasional “fantasy cycling image” and post here in the future.
Yummmmm, dehydrated bikepacking food. Before I look at these beans in more detail it is probably worth talking a little about “why” dehydrated foods and some of your options. The pros of dehydrated foods are that they pack down small and they are lightweight since you are not carrying the water. And they keep for a long time. Dehydrated foods usually require boiling water to rehydrate them and these beans are no exception, so you have to carry some kitchen and cooking equipment and you have to filter or carry more water. The end result is that you get warm food though. You could bring along some sandwiches, for example, but they get nasty after a couple of days, and by the time you add up the weight and size, dehydrated starts to make sense. You can get complete dehydrated meals; there are a lot of well known brands. They offer a lot of variety and convenience, but they can get pretty pricey. You can also dehydrate food yourself. But there are limits to what you can do at home and it can be time consuming, especially at first as you get the hang of it. I like finding individual dehydrated items like eggs and potatoes. They are much less expensive than the complete meals and I feel like I am cooking and I have fun when I prepare them.
The golden package
I found these at the grocery store, which is handy. If they don’t have them at a grocer’s shelf near you, you can get them direct from the bean company themselves, as seen on the url on the label below.
I like that the ingredients list is short. I need to look up interestified though. I cannot help but compare these with a staple and favorite of mine:
And in this corner
Of course you make very different meals with potatoes, but variety is a good thing. These two have a lot of similarities. I will compare as I go. In terms of nutrition they are close, so close I did not bother showing the potato’s label, but the beans win big when it comes to protein. You get 7g per 6 servings or 42g total in that package of beans. The potatoes deliver 2g per 4 servings for a total of 8g protein. The only surprise there is that the potatoes did not have zero grams of protein. The beans weigh more, but I reckon you get about the same amount of food out of either package.
They look, um, different from what I expected
I dumped them into the pot out of curiosity before I prepared them. They are non uniform flakes of varying color. Curiouser and curiouser. One of the reasons I decided to try these is the traditional trail cooking technique is listed as one of the preparation options:
Double, double toil and trouble. Well, not really
Good old boiling. The next step should come as no surprise:
In they go
One downside of these vs. the potatoes is preparation. With the spuds you boil the water, add the flakes, mix, and you are done. With the frijoles you do the same, but you must then simmer for 5 minutes. So these will use a little more of your cooking fuel for preparation. And you will have to stir and take measures to keep them from sticking to the bottom of the pan. My teflon camp cookware will do the job though. When they are done they may look a little thin, but as they cool down to a temperature where you can eat them they get thicker. You can adjust the amount of water to make thicker or thinner beans.
The competitors, and finished beans.
You may not be able to add cheese or sauce on the trail, but if you can, go for it. How do they taste? They were excellent, I give them a thumbs up for flavor and texture. I admit to being a little shocked. Other family members swooped in and took some to make huevos rancheros and also gave them the seal of approval.
I cannot finish a review of refried beans as trail food without mentioning the elephant in the room. Ummm…digestive odor, let’s just say. Beans don’t have that affect on me so much. And if you are alone, no big deal, right? But if you are camping with a group, this may be a concern. Or it might be downright hilarious. Unless you are sharing a tent, then it may get old fast. I don’t know if burning through calories and food fast when you are hungry will make matters worse or not. There is only one way to find out. I am packing some of these on my next trip.
I continued the evolution of my local suburban wilderness loop today. I cannot recommend this version, however, due to numerous steep climbs. Next week I plan a variant of the reverse of this loop with a few mods, look for a ride report on that in the near future.
The theme for this ride is “signs”. Partway through the ride I realized how many signs I had encountered on this route. I found them to be pretty interesting once I started to pay attention to them. After a while a pattern and collective message began to appear. The route I took was through a series of interconnecting wilderness area that are being preserved as best as possible as development, civilization, sprawl, whatever you want to call it, grows around them. One important tool that land managers employ in their attempts to protect wilderness is the classic sign. Most of them are friendly and educational, but not always. They even be kind of funny sometimes.
Kudos to Bill!
I cannot tell you how much I love this sign. Bill wins my sign of the day award, he is a doer. He went through the right channels to do this, paid for these, installed them and maintains them himself. He also put his full name, email address and phone number on the sign in an effort to develop some community support for his efforts.
Yes, that is litter
This is the same can. It looks like not everyone can read, see, care, or whatever. For the record, I tossed the paper in the can after taking the pic.
Please stay to the right
I have never been able to figure out what this concrete basin thingy used to be. It looks like it was maybe meant to hold water?
A high spot
This is a good view of some of the area my ride took me through. Even though it is mostly developed there is a network of preserves running through it that make fun and interesting places to go mountain biking.
Hiding in plain sight
I first encountered this tent weeks ago when I started riding variations of this loop. The first time I went by I presumed it was a “stealth camp” of someone riding or hiking through. It would be a good spot for that. Stealth campers usually stay one night and leave at first light to avoid detection. This is a permanent residence. You can see a clothing scarecrow on the right, it is always there.
I must admit to enjoying showing off on this section of the ride. It drops into a (usually) busy intersection by way of a pretty steep descent so I put on a show for all the motorists stuck at the traffic light. I then make my way into the left turn lane and proceed under the freeway you see in the picture, where there is no bike lane so I pretty much claim the entire right lane. Once drivers see me drop in like that they tend to leave me a little extra room.
San Juan Creek movement
If you examine the lower left corner of the above pic you will see that the left side of the trail is gone. It dropped down a small cliff into the creek below, taking the wooden rails with it. That section of the trail is now closed, and the new upper tier is the route that I took.
A bridge to somewhere
This is a dedicated bike/pedestrian bridge that is part of the San Juan Capistrano bike lane system, as seen from a dedicated bike underpass that takes you under Rancho Viejo Road.
Still some rural left
The climb up from Rancho VIejo road affords views of the creek below, which is running in this wet season, right by this last outpost of rural residents.
A study in contrasts
More kudos to attempts to preserve some wilderness, even when they offer a great view of the 5 freeway and the “Shops at Mission Viejo” mall in the distance.
Welcome coverage in a treeless landscape
The hills here are treeless grasslands, probably because they used to be ranches. Cattle trails weave up the hillsides everywhere. This little shelter is a welcome rest stop. The irony of barbed wire and wilderness together is not lost on me.
I know it well
I did not know the Ortega choke point had an official name. I know it well. It is a very short section of Ortega highway that goes from 5 lanes to 2 then back to 5 around a blind curve. The bike lanes end because there is no room and shrubs and trees grow over the side of the road, making it extremely dangerous for bikes. I have looked into why it exists a few times and found no good explanation. It looks like there may be more information about it now, but I have not looked at it yet.
My pet peeve
Rant alert! I really wish we would stop calling this kind of trail a “bike trail”. If pedestrians have the right of way they are multi use trails at best, and glorified sidewalks at worst. I generally avoid them when riding my bike because mixing bikes and pedestrians on a trial like this is very dangerous in my experience. Most pedestrians cannot agree what side of the path to walk on, or walk all over the trail as if there were no lanes, all while being oblivious to cyclists. Some treat it like the road, where they should be on the left side. When “bike lanes” post rules, however, they all state pedestrians should be on the right. When I ride up behind a group of pedestrians they often scatter onto both sides of the trail, sometimes running back and forth as they try to figure out what to do, and some just freeze in the middle of the trail. What I would love to see is a bicycle only trail where pedestrians were not allowed. I don’t think anything like that exists in the US, and even if it did it would get ignored and used by pedestrians anyway. Bike lanes on the street work much better as long as they are wide enough. This is a very short trail for now and I have never seen another bike or pedestrian on it. It does help you get around the Ortega choke point, so it has that going for it.
I decided to try baby food as ride food. It is available in friendly packaging, is easy to digest, is affordable, and tastes like food. Not all of these packets are called baby food. Power Bars are still great, the reason there is not one in this picture is that I had already eaten the one I packed. I have an assortment to try and this is the first one I used. It worked great, no problems yet, I foresee these becoming ride staples.
This sign along the San Juan Creek is interesting. The creek is impassible in most places and those dangers are pretty much everywhere in local wildernesses, but telling people again can’t hurt I guess.
I must be missing something
Seriously, that is all there is to the pond. It is above creek level. When it gets full it would basically be a puddle. What could it do, jump out at you?
No, really, keep out
This trail crosses San Juan Creek, which was dry. It is only a few hundred feet long and there are several of these signs on both sides of the trail. I think you are supposed to stay on the trail, not real sure though. In fairness to those who posted the signs, the area is dangerous, the land is a mix of private and public, and the trail leads to horse stables so there are many kinds of trail users.
This tiny little “park” is little more than a grassy corner of an intersection with a separate sidewalk running through it. The sign informs you that it is a private park. But wait, there’s more…
Upon further inspection
This is the same “park”, with lots of rules and further clarification of its private status.
For those of you who have not seen those little posts sticking out of the top of the sign, they are there to keep birds from lighting on the sign and contributing their droppings to the dog dropping clean up station. More irony, no?
Signs are one way that urban riding differs from wilderness riding. If you pay attention you can learn a lot about your surroundings as you ride.
After much planning and anticipation I did another local overnighter tour/bikepack trip, this one staying overnight at Dixon Lake in Escondido, CA. Strava tells only part of the story, of course:
I completed the trip on the last two days of 2015, which might be symbolic somehow but I really can’t figure out how. Earlier this year I had done overnighters to Sycamore Canyon north of Los Angeles, O’Neill Regional Park in Orange County, and San Elijo State Beach in San Diego.
This trip started about 45 minutes from my home. One issue that you must face on an overnighter if you drive to the trailhead is where to leave the car. Many places that allow day parking are less excited about overnight parking. In this case I left my car at a commuter parking lot. At the end of the ride I returned to a ticket free windshield which made me happy.
Conditions for the ride were good, especially considering the time of year. San Diego in December is more hospitable than most parts of the world most times of the year. The weather for the ride was cool and there was a frost warning for that night. My 30 degree rated sleeping bag would get a good test. There had been some recent rain (which southern California desperately needs during this drought) so there were patches of mud to deal with, but overall trail conditions were excellent.
7 minutes into the ride. Not a good sign.
I timed it. 7 minutes into the ride and I got a flat. I have since ordered rim tape and plan to convert my big wagon wheels to tubeless ASAP.
12 minutes later…
When I got my second flat 17 minutes in (ride time) I at least had some company. Kelly, a member of the San Diego Randonneurs group, happened by and took some interest in my bike. I am actually a registered randonneur and I am familiar with the “sdrando” group although I have never ridden with them. You can too at this link: San Diego Randonneurs. While on the subject of flats/mechanicals, I got a total of 4 flats over the two days and a broken chain. I fixed them all trailside with parts I carry with me all the time. As always when bikepacking, one word: preparation.
The route, while suburban, was still fun and adventurous. I had only ridden short sections of it once or twice ever. I liked relying heavily on the GPS track that I had prepared carefully ahead of time even though I still made a few wrong turns and had to deviate from the course here and there.
As I got closer to my campsite I realized I was running behind schedule and I took some pavement options to speed things up. I will enjoy doing this route again this year with the route changes I have made and more daylight hours. Riding at this time of year the sun never gets high in the sky and gives me a perpetual feeling of running out of time. But in this case that was an accurate feeling. I have concluded that a bike headlight is a basic necessity for any bikepacking trip, even an overnighter. It was dark when I checked in at the ranger station, and darker still when I set up camp and finally made dinner.
Tasty camp food in the dark.
The meal looked better in person, trust me, and I was seriously hungry.
Dixon Lake is a civilized suburban campground. I got site 5 next to the shower/restroom. The showers were free, the hot water was plentiful and had no timer. But campsite fires are not allowed, only charcoal and stove fires, due to the drought/fire conditions. The fire restrictions were no problem for me. I had no time for a fire and I am terrible at starting campfires anyway. My site had a dedicated water spigot (maybe they all do), easy access trash cans, storage shelves, a picnic table and a fire ring. This particular site was well below the street level and you had to walk down some steps to get to it. It had the advantage of keeping car headlights out of your campsite at night and making the site feel more remote. The site was full of footprints of larger than average critters, including deer and coyotes. There are clearly a lot of coyotes in the area, a couple of packs had successful hunts during the night based on a yipping I heard. I have reached the point where a pack of hunting coyotes does not freak me out. I was even kind of hoping to get a visit from one during the night but I did not. Owls were also active in the area during the night.
The weatherman was not far off, overnight temps dipped into the low 30s. My new sleeping bag and ground pad worked a charm, I will do a review/write up of them in a future post I think. I took the advice of other blogs I have read and I prepared breakfast completely under my vestibule since it was so cold out. Everything I brought in from the vestibule to the tent filled my tiny shelter with steam and felt quite cozy. I am not much of a coffee drinker anymore, but the Starbuck’s Via I had that morning was quite memorable.
Unfortunately I took a long time to get up and around in the cold and got a late start. My route was an out and back and I altered my return route to hit more pavement and be faster, but I did it in such a way that I would allow myself to be on dirt trails in places I had missed the day before. I was glad it did, the singletrack around Lake Hodges was a lot of fun.
Stopping along the lakeshore singletrack
I don’t like ranking my outdoor experiences against each other, I enjoy them all. But I do have to make choices about what to do in the future. And this particular expedition is one I will repeat again, and soon.
In writing a blog about both bicycles and motorcycles I am going to have to deal with a severe limitation placed upon me by the English language. The word “bike”. I don’t know how we got to where we are with both groups using the term. I have not done an etymology on the word, but it seems to me that bicyclists must have used it first, since bicycles were around before motorcycles. But before I go any further I need to stop and lay some ground rules.
Bicyclists, particularly serious bicyclists, do not refer to themselves as bicyclists, and damn sure don’t refer to their vehicles as “bicycles”. Motorcyclists rarely use the terms “motorcyclist” and “motorcycle”. Let’s face it, they are just way too multi-syllabic. Both groups use the word bike and act like the other kind of bike does not exist. Which is particularly strange in the case of motorcyclists, who don’t like any comparison made between their motorized vehicles and pedal bikes. See how hard that is to do in one sentence and be clear about it?
SO, the upshot of all of this is that when I blog about motorcycles and bicycles in the same blog I am going to avoid using the term “bike”. I will be forced to use the other, longer words I mention above. Which will make the blog sound a little geeky now and then. Or a lot geeky sometimes. But I don’t see a way around it. If you have any suggestions or ideas on this quagmire, then please share them below. Until then it will be bicycle and motorcycle and no bike. Grrrrr….
Here goes a blog that is pretty much guaranteed to cater to no one. How many cyclists ride motorcycles? Probably a few, but let’s not stop there. How many roadies ride a fat bike? How about 29 plus riders that like bikepacking?
Forget boundaries, embrace eclecticism and hold on for the rides.
There are riders that care about the experience, the moment, the setting, the world and its people as they fly past, each beckoning us to stop, to savor, to engage.
Movement through the world can be poetry, a dance, a flow that we choreograph as best as we can by our preparation, altered by the unpredictability of our environment, and seasoned by our fortunes, be they good or bad.
Adventure can be found anywhere. It can be in every step of every day. It can be just down the street and in your own back yard.
It is not a place and neither is it defined by the outside world.
It is an attitude and a spirit and it is inside each of us, which puts us in the drivers seat, or more appropriately for this blog, at the handlebar.