Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Wander Around Washington -- Stuff that works

I wrote up a list of what I took with me on my recent "Wander Around Washington" tour (you can see the list here) and I thought it might be useful to spend a little time commenting on some things that worked out well on the trip. This isn't necessarily an exhaustive list, just some things that I'm thinking about as I look back over the list and back on the trip.

First off, the bike itself, an old Gary Fisher HooKooEKoo, worked great. With the front and rear baskets the load might have looked a little odd, but the bike was rock solid, ride all day comfortable. At one point I took my hands off the bars while descending from Washington Pass at 30 mph. The bike tracks great.

The WTB Rocket V is the very same saddle I rode on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Race and it's still a great saddle. This particular saddle is a little cracked and worn so it's been patched in a couple of places with duct tape and I covered the whole thing with an old lycra armwarmer but it is still going strong.

The Ergon grips are great. No hand numbness or other discomfort. One interesting side benefit of the Ergons is that I can rest my forearms on the grips and stretch out in aerobar fashion if I want.

My bike has Schwalbe Marathon XR tires and they are great. Yeah, they are kinda slow but so am I. I had no punctures or other mechanical problems on this trip, although I do think a bit of tackweed may be embedded in one of my tires, I've got a very slow leak so I'm adding air every few days. I'll have to get to the bottom of that.

I'm pretty much sold on flat pedals with no foot retention for touring. No foot issue, I never once felt "oh, I wish I could pull up" and it's great riding in perfectly normal shoes for walking around.

By the way, I'll never pass for "normal" but for basically all of this trip I adopted what Grant Petersen calls "dressing like Homer Price." Shirts with buttons, either long or short sleeve. I wore cycling shorts under my REI Sahara convertible pants. As for clothes in general, I took maybe a bit too much. I could've gotten by with one less pair of socks. I did wind up using my warm stuff when I was near Mount St. Helens, so I was glad I had it with me.

For things like socks, shorts and my shirt, I adopted a wear one/wash one strategy. I did use a washing machine a couple of times but mostly would wash stuff in a sink and then hang it from bungees on the rear basket to dry.

By the way, Dr. Bronner's 18-in-1 Hemp Peppermint Pure-Castile soap totally rocks. I washed my clothes with it, I washed me with it, I shaved with it. I might not have been totally minty fresh but I never got thrown out of any place either. Plus, if I ever get busted on some bogus drug charges (and in my case they would be bogus unless they've outlawed caffeine and chocolate when I wasn't looking), I figure the Dr. Bronner folks will come to bat for me.

My techno gadgets in general worked well. The Nokia N800 and folding keyboard worked great. I used the computer for everything, typing notes, reviewing photos and storing, email, writing blog entries, as an MP3 player and as a general web browser to find local info. The Nokia picked up wifi signals in all kinds of places. There are lots and lots of places like motels, libraries and coffee shops that have free wifi. My lack of time kept me from making more use of the device but finding connections was never much of a problem.

NiMH batteries and the little AC chargers worked well. I did use the solar charger a bit for the Nokia and the single AA charger once to top it out when I was camped near Mount St. Helens, but in general I was able to keep my batteries charged up from AC outlets.

I kept all the really valuable stuff like the electronics in my Camelbak. When riding, that rode in the rear basket, when parked, the Camelbak stayed with me. This system worked really well.

My Pencam worked pretty well until I killed it (broke the shutter button). The more expensive camera takes better pictures an is probably more robust. The pencam did get me used to taking lots of pictures and I think that's the key thing: take lots of pictures and toss out the ones that don't work. Don't get too distracted by the camera, just shoot a bunch in the moment and sort things out later.

My camping gear worked great. The bivy plus sleeping bag plus tarp combo is very versatile. The thermos plus Kelly Kettle combo is a real winner. I didn't use it much on this trip but it's just so great to be able to make coffee or tea out in the sticks.

Finally, I've got to say that the front rack with a basket is great for holding snacks and a map. Peanut M&Ms are one of the best travel foods for me and having a big bag of those in the front basket makes it pretty easy to crank out the miles.

Keep 'em rolling,



Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post, Kent. I linked to every one of your posts during this trip at, and would love to set up a podcast interview when you get a chance. Relax and enjoy!

Peter McKay said...

Hi Kent,

You are living the dream -- having a job that pays you to ride your bicycle around the state. Wow! Anita and I enjoy your blog!


Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed reading trip log and this was a great way to top it off. Thanks for posting.

Anonymous said...


Great trip descriptions and gear information. Once again this is great for us beginners, especially seeing how you more with less. Excellent.

Tai-po said...

Reading about your adventures has been like reading a modern cycling version of Tom Sawyers. Thanks for making the trip and taking the time to keep us all posted!

Anonymous said...

Could you please let us know what solar charger you are using? Thanks!