AN ECLECTIC RESOURCE FOR DEATH VALLEY KNOWLEDGE, ODDITIES, STORIES, and MOVIES

The Death Valley Tricycle Expedition

This page details the months leading up to the tricycle journey from the Oregon coast to, and around, Death Valley in 2009. To read blog posts about the expedition itself, click HERE. To read Steve’s personal day to day accounting of the expedition, click HERE. To visit the new blog, Trike Asylum, click HERE.


Telescope Peak contrasts with Badwater Basin, 11,331 feet below

Telescope Peak contrasts with Badwater Basin, 11,331 feet below

Badwater Title

Well folks, The Old Trailmaster has finally gone over the deep end, probably too many brain cells lost to severe dehydration over the years as he wandered through the deserts of the American southwest. Actually, the old rascal has never felt better (though, isn’t that what all lost souls claim?). In any event, this page is dedicated to revealing the latest plans, which include a bizarre journey to Badwater Basin in Death Valley … on a tricycle! Of course, you know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men.

I’m coming back to Death Valley again for my 2009 visit … it will just take me a while to get there this time!

All the way to Death Valley?

All the way to Death Valley?

During the first week of October 2009, I will be leaving the central Oregon coast on a three-wheel, human-powered, highly sophisticated, British-engineered and built recumbent tricycle (actual photo follows below – pay absolutely no attention to the red & white delta trike pictured above, unless you’re only 5 years old and want to go out to play), with a small trailer in tow. The objective will be 902 miles southeast, the lowest walkable land in North America. This epic saga will  rise from obscurity at sea level, cross high mountain ranges, and come to a half-way point 282 feet below sea level. A tour of the national park’s main roads and attractions will then be commenced, followed by a presentation at the 60th annual Death Valley 49ers encampment in Stovepipe Wells.

By November 8th at the latest, this rogue triker will be high-tailing it back to the coast, hoping to make it over the forested Cascade Range prior to any serious snow … human-powered tricycles apparently don’t do so well in white precipitation with only one-wheel drive!

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ONLY THOSE WHO RISK GOING TOO FAR …

WILL DISCOVER HOW FAR THEY CAN GO!

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BACKGROUND INFORMATION: Badwater Basin’s lowest point is 282 feet below sea level. It is the lowest walkable land in North America (the lowest walkable land in the Western Hemisphere is Laguna Del Carbon in Argentina, at 344 feet below sea level). In the early twentieth century, one vocal and well-publicized preacher is said to have proclaimed Badwater Basin the literal roof of religious hell, and insisted that the wails of the damned could be heard radiating from below the sweltering salt flat. In reality, all that is beneath the expansive white playa is approximately 10,000 feet of earthen debris that has washed down from the adjacent mountains over the eons, filling Death Valley – below that is bedrock. To the west of Badwater is Telescope Peak, 11,331 feet higher in elevation, a vertical distance that exceeds the depth of the Grand Canyon by more than a factor of two. Temperatures have reached 136 degrees Fahrenheit during July in Badwater Basin, with some reports over the years claiming upwards of 140 and more. This lowly landscape is likely the hottest place on planet Earth. The commonly quoted record of 134 degrees from 1913 was apparently obtained from an instrument at Furnace Creek, where temperatures can be up to four degrees cooler than Badwater. Late autumn is a  pleasant time to visit, when the sun has lost some of its sting!

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Three days before Christmas 2008, I sold my final petroleum-powered vehicle, a 2005 Nissan Xterra that had adeptly transported me over most of the rugged backcountry roads in the Death Valley territory. Other than my outback odysseys however, the rig mostly sat and collected spider webs and dust in the garage, so I was paying insurance premiums on a 4400 pound car with a battery that died several times from lack of use. As we all know, automobiles are akin to a black hole into which one continually pours large sums of perfectly good hard-earned cash that could have been used to support other aspects of life, perhaps things that did not require rapid transport over paved highway systems.

Maybe there was a better way for me, one that did not  incessantly demand expensive upkeep … a manner of transport that was cheap, self-repairable, did not necessitate lining the pockets of insurance companies, required no driver license, and would allow me to dash right on by gasoline stations and keep my minimal money in my own wallet.

The radiance of enlightenment had shone its brilliant beam upon my spirit back in the spring of ’08, when my long-debated search for non-petroleum vehicles finally began in earnest. Being the health, fitness, and longevity maverick that I am, a little voice deep inside advised me to find a transportation mode that actually added to my functional years here on Earth, rather than an iron behemoth that did nothing other than get me to my destination faster while spoiling the air in my wake.

As a naturalist at heart from my earliest years, after 4.3 decades as an automobile operator my path finally took the paradigm of human power to the next level … I had been walking and hiking long distances since childhood, and now I would be driving using my own body in place of the ubiquitous internal combustion engine. Where fossil fuels had powered my transport in the past, granola and beans would now become my power source.

Ahh, simplicity. Slow yes, but steady. So what if it takes me two to three weeks to arrive in Death Valley National Park this year? Seeing the countryside for that 902 miles from a new cockpit only nine inches from the ground is surely going to be a life-altering experience. Then, there’s the mileage of touring DVNP, followed by the return trek consisting of 900 more. That’s a long way on pedal power … better get a lot of supplies!

But, what about all that gear that I used to stuff in my prior four wheel drive rigs? Being that the vehicle had abundant storage capacity and drove just as easily whether loaded to the gills or not, my habit was to bring everything but the kitchen sink … just in case I broke down in the most remote regions of this secluded national park.

My old man had driven into my head since childhood the need to be prepared for any worst-case scenario. Crack the oil pan on a rock? No problem! I had the means to repair on the spot and perform a complete oil change on the most rugged of backroads … never mind that a few quarts of black gold had oozed all over the formerly pristine earthen soil. Of course, this nasty event never occurred to any of my vehicles in the 36 years I had been exploring the wide-open expanses here, so why did I spend so much of my life lugging the extra weight all over creation? Time to rethink my gear needs, especially now that I’ll be on a minimal tricycle with a small trailer!

Challenge! That’s what life is all about. There’s nothing like a daunting challenge to keep one feeling alive and full of purpose. Currently, I’m stepping up to that challenge with only a few weeks to go until launch date. Four panniers are now strapped on the trike, and the trailer cargo container is ready to load. A 24 tooth front chain ring has replaced the small 30 that came with the steed. On the rear is an 11-34 sprocket set … low gearing for getting the rig over mountain passes that seem to go on forever (at least from a cyclist’s point of view). Twenty-seven speeds that cover the gamut from high-speed cruising to low-end mountain scrambling ought to do the trick, or at least make things as bearable as possible during the days and weeks that I’ll be on the road.

Challenge! Finding a place to rest my weary head each evening is not something that can be planned too well in advance if you’re not in a high-speed automobile, where it is possible to calculate with a fair amount of precision where you’ll be come dinner time. On a trike, even small hills that are never noticed in a car will reduce overall forward motion from 15 miles per hour to five. Setting up camp and tent sort of falls wherever luck would have it. Sometimes it may be a nice campground where shower and laundry can be found, while other times it will be primitively down some nondescript dirt side road out in the middle of nowhere. For The Old Trailmaster, hotels and motels are never an option. Doing an overland journey on the cheap causes one to rethink many things. Actually, even when I had my 4wd rigs, I still camped primitively … just the way I’ve always been.

Challenge! Water is heavy if you’re hauling it with leg power supplying the motion. But with a few stretches upwards of 100 miles with no market or town, through the middle of desert terrain no less, what’s a poor chap like me to do? Gotta’ have it, else dry up and die. Yet to bring two or more gallons is a drawback at 8.6 pounds per gallon. Will the weight of the extra water cause me to work so hard pedaling that the extra work will consume the extra water that I was bringing to get me through? How much is enough? Do I chance running out, where only the sagebrush and horny toads live? Nineteenth century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche is popularly believed to have said, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” I will err on the side of survival. Guess I’ll be pretty strong by the time I reach Badwater this year.

282 feet below sea level - lowest walkable land in North America (photo by Thomas Grimes)

282 feet below sea level – lowest walkable land in North America (photo by Thomas Grimes)

Based on 50 mile days, the leg of the expedition from Oregon to Badwater would consume approximately 18 days. Some bicyclists grind out 75 to 100 mile days, but they are usually riding from town to town on main thoroughfares, with plenty of markets along the way, so their gear load is minimal to darn near non-existent. I figure some terrain will allow for high mileage days, while others may reduce things to a crawl.

I’m allowing extra time because I just want to enjoy the journey and natural world as I go. What’s the use of being in a hurry? That kind of motivation is just a holdover from our culture’s “hurry up regardless of the consequences” attitude. If I was in a hurry, I would not have sold my truck and then purchased a trike! The destination is not what it’s all about (and neither is the Hokey Pokey), so might as well settle in and take each day and hill as it comes.

So, you may be asking yourself right now, why is this guy planning such an expedition in the first place. He’s only going to be killed by a cell-phone-ear motorist, or accosted by hoodlums in the bushes, or blow out his knees attempting to cross the mountains. Well, for a little insight as to how I think, check out some of my notable quotations on the “About” page of this DVJ weblog. In the meantime, here are twelve thoughts to start things off (in no particular order):

1) I love the Death Valley territory, and still wish to visit even though I no longer own a car.

2) I value the air I breathe, and choose not to poison it anymore.

3) I want to write a third Death Valley book based on riding a tricycle to the park.

4) I wish to accept the Death Valley 49ers invitation to speak in November.

5) I want to draw public awareness to non-petroleum based vehicular transportation.

6) I like the challenge of something totally foreign to the masses of society.

7) I want to visit with my Death Valley friends who wish to congregate for some good times.

8) I want to say thanks to the National Park Service for their help with my second book.

9) I want to strengthen my body and live to 125 years by human-power.

10) I can’t get enough of the wild wide open spaces of Earth’s remotest landscapes.

11) I like the adrenalin surge of a trike … like piloting a Ferrari, only more fun.

12) The freedom felt while cruising the wild country on a trike is absolutely unparalled.

Of course, since I have established this virtual podium, from which I speak to you on a regular basis, you can bet that updates will appear here from time to time. My original thought was to purchase one of the new 6×9 inch netbook computers with wireless connection capability for $229.95,  and get the latest out on the DVJ whenever the opportunity allows on the trail, but there are two reasons I decided against that.

First, I need what little money I have left for expedition food, not a computer. And second, I don’t wish to be tied down to any responsibility out there, other than to just keep myself alive and flourishing during the anticipated seven weeks of the expedition. Hence, here is how things will go concerning The Death Valley Journal:

During October and much of November, any posts that occur here will be automatically generated to appear on each successive day, either from myself or contributor David A. Wright. I can set this up in advance, prior to my departure. Once in Death Valley National Park (assuming I make it that far), I have the hunch that someone (or several someones) will offer me use of their computer(s) so that I can get in a little post or two about how things are progressing.

(Follow the expedition at: http://badwater.wordpress.com)

That’s the plan today, and hopefully it will all work out. The last thing I really want to be doing while riding a trike this distance is stopping in wireless motel parking lots or regional libraries to take time out to write from a laptop. I like writing, and knowing me, I would get stuck blurting out all the latest details of getting a speeding ticket, or getting run over by a semi, or running out of water in the Black Rock Desert near Gerlach, Nevada. I want to be riding, not typing!

From time to time, I may add to this meandering dribble you are now reading before I take off for the great unknown, and I will certainly do so upon my return. However, to learn how things really turned out, and to get all the daily details of getting to Badwater and back on a trike, along with what it’s like to tour the park nine inches from the ground, my subsequent book should fit the bill (and allow photos to paint a vivid image in your mind).

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THE RIDE:

Recumbent Tricycle

ICE Qnt Recumbent Tricycle

This trike was designed, engineered, and built in England by a company called Inspired Cycle Engineering (ICE). The model is a Qnt tadpole trike. I will be towing a Burley flatbed trailer with a Rubbermaid Action Packer 35 gallon cargo trunk secured to it. The trike will also have four panniers and a small trunk attached to the rear wheel area. By the way, this trike has rear suspension, so it smoothes out the road irregularities quite well.

For a photo of what it will look like after the first 902 miles of this 2500 mile expedition, travel to Badwater Basin in your air-conditioned sedan sometime in mid to late October with your digital camera! If that doesn’t work for you, the book will be available late summer 2010.

(How’s that for a shameless, self-serving sales pitch?)

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EDITOR’S NOTE: A significant portion of this expedition will be shadowed by a member of the Carson City Sheriff’s Department because the trike is so darn fast (the Q stands for Quick), that they want to make sure I don’t break any Nevada speed laws (do they even have speed limits in Nevada?).

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Okay, it’s about time I included a few updated photographs of the Q so that you can see how things are progressing. These pics were shot on Friday, July 17, and reveal a clean and so-far undamaged rig, nearly ready to hit the road. Of course, by the time it reaches Death Valley’s Badwater Basin (hopefully with me still on it), I suspect quite a bit of earthen debris and road grime might be obscuring the present appearance of bright and sparkly (especially since about 50 miles of the route will be on dirt roads in Death Valley National Park’s northern extreme). Then, once the Q has toured a few more miles of two-track dirt roads in the Greenwater Valley, and then sped along another 902 miles back to the coast, well … it will certainly be time to take a bath!

First though, here is a photo of the Icemen, helpful and happy chaps over there in England who work hard to produce the world’s finest recumbent trikes. They call themselves the Icemen because the company is named Inspired Cycle Engineering, or ICE for short.

The ICEmen

The ICEmen

Visit these fine folks at: http://ice.hpv.co.uk/

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Next up, I want to pop in a photo of a great company in Stevens Point, Wisconsin called Hostel Shoppe Recumbents. I have purchased quite a bit of my expedition gear from theses wonderful and helpful folks, and can say without hesitation that they know their stuff and can help even a novice recumbent cyclist. Ask for Jessie Bostic if you happen to call for anything related to cycling.

Hostel Shoppe Recumbents

Hostel Shoppe Recumbent store, Wisconsin

Visit Jessie and her cohorts at: http://www.hostelshoppe.com/

Jessie ... the one to call with your cycling questions and orders

Jessie, happy & helpful

One more thought regarding Hostel Shoppe … if you need intricate technical advice about your bike or trike, please ask for Adam Aufdermauer, a young fellow who clearly knows the “ins & outs” of cycling. Later on this page, I discuss a little gearing issue that crept upon me during a recent 30-mile shakedown ride. Well, Adam took loads of time to listen to what happened, and then worked with me in a non-hurried fashion to explore several workable solutions. One of his suggestions was superior to my current setup, and I will be following it soon! Thanks Adam, for making me feel like your only goal in life was helping solve my dilemma. I clearly appreciate your assistance, and it’s a great feeling to know the problem is solved now, before I launch for distant Death Valley.

By the way,  Adam will be leaving for his own long-distance odyssey the first part of August 2009, as he rides his mountain bike along the Continental Divide of the United States, from the Canadian border south to Albuquerque, New Mexico! Now, THAT’S a wild ride!

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All right, so what is The Old Trailmaster actually going to ride to Death Valley National Park this autumn? Remember, this is a guy with a significant cycle-logical disorder that has profoundly affected his rational thinking, so there’s no helping him if you think he’s nuts, or as some have said, “a crazy guy on a trike!” He is going to make this trip (or die trying) for the same reasons that a select few people on Earth choose to climb Everest (among other reasons, of course). Here is the ICE Qnt with its Burley trailer:

the Other side

the Q loaded

Trike 4

the Qnt … More fun than a Ferrari (even with trailer & panniers)

THE PLAN: Leave the Oregon coast on Thursday morning, October 01, 2009. Ride 902 miles to Badwater Basin, camping primitively and in campgrounds along the way. Tour portions of Death Valley National Park, hopefully the Greenwater Valley road from the south to Dante’s View (how many total many miles depends on my ability and spirit). Appear as guest speaker on November 6th, at the Author’s Breakfast during the Death Valley 49ers five-day encampment. Visit with any Death Valley friends and enthusiasts who would like to hang out and have a great time relaxing. Return to Oregon, outsmarting any early winter snows that might try to get the better of my human-powered situation. Actually, if this past November is any indication, it would be unproblematic, but if the ski resorts get their Thanksgiving prayers answered, then the white stuff could dump heavily, thereby causing me to hunker-down in my all-season REI Arete tent until the sun returns and the snow plows make the road driveable for a 1wd trike. If all goes as envisioned, I should be safely back home by the last day of November, making this a two month expedition.

(Read about the actual expedition at: http://badwater.wordpress.com)

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THE EXPERT AT ANYTHING WAS ONCE A BEGINNER

The Shakedown Trips Commence

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Having some unforeseen mechanical malfunction occur as a result of a novice triker’s shop tinkering is not a desired event, especially if you’re out on a stretch of remote desert road with the nearest town 43 miles distant and practically no vehicular traffic to offer assistance. To avoid this unhappy consequence of my own ignorance, part of my learning curve involves shakedown rides with fellow cyclists close to home, to discover if I have made any errant moves in my eager need to learn all about how the Q works.

My learning curve is becoming more gradual in its ascent towards enlightenment, with only ten weeks remaining to get my act together. As I engage in this wonderful metamorphosis from auto driver to trike pilot, I keep repeating to myself that the expert at anything was once a beginner. By November 30, 2009, I hope to have shed all semblance of a greenhorn ICE tricycle owner, and be counted among the ranks of the newest experts … after all, upon completion of this expedition (eight weeks and over 2000 miles), I would sure think that I’d be pretty well adept at this mode of human-powered transportation.

During the past few weeks, I’ve been gradually taking longer and more challenging rides, first through the residential neighborhoods, then on busy streets, and finally out on the infamous coast highway, overloaded with tens of thousands of gawking tourists in motorhomes, thirsting to see the Pacific Ocean. Today, I teamed with two friends (bicyclists, who watch the ground while I’m enjoying the trees, sky, and birds from my recumbent cockpit on the trike) for a 30 mile ride through the forested mountains. Mountains mean hills … some that seem pretty steep and endless.

Well, after three hours of spinning over hill and dale, I came to some realizations. First, after having lengthened the boom to accommodate my height, the chain is now too short. This appears to be causing a phenomenon where the chain is hesitant to change to the next lower geared chain ring, perhaps made worse by the fact that I installed a 24 tooth ring for ultra low geared hill climbs while under load with my trailer. They say that there should not be more than a 14 tooth difference between adjacent chain rings – I think I now have an 18 tooth difference with the middle ring. Anyway, whether I know what I’m talking about or not, the shifting of the front chain rings works fine on flat ground, but balks on hills under load. My friends will help me get all this sorted out and fixed prior to launch in October.

What all this meant on today’s shakedown ride was that while my two buddies were happily pedaling up the steep hills in their lowest gears on their two-wheeled bicycles with skinny, no-back-support seats, I was beginning to lag a bit because I had to remain in the mid-range of my gearing … wow, were my thighs ever burning! Lessons are best learned under controlled conditions. Lesson learned!

Another chain anomaly occurred a few days ago when I realized that the chain would fail to fully engage on the largest rear sprocket. It kept flipping off, back onto the sprocket below, causing a jerky power-no power response on small hills. Come to find out that the last time I installed the rear wheel, I did not get the rear axle perfectly straight and fully inserted into one of the drop-outs. After checking my work a little better, the fix has eliminated the problem.

All these abnormal events I describe here are probably easily avoided by expert trike enthusiasts, but since I am still classified in a lesser experienced category, I encounter a few glitches along the way. There is no better way to learn than to repair self-committed blunders. An expedition of this magnitude depends heavily upon self-reliance, so getting into the mechanics of the trike at home, making mistakes, learning why, and fixing them is the best manner in which to prepare for the lonely open road. Out there, it better be right!

I also wish to thank my new cycling buddies, who have been exceptionally helpful to me during this time (without their encouragement, who knows if I’d be moving along as well as I am so far). They are all great people. Okay … today I rode with Terry Butler and Dave Beck. Terry and I have taken a couple rides together so far. He is a retired university professor who rides a Trek bike, and provides me hours of positive mental stimulation. The other guy, Dave, rides a sophisticated, dual suspended, bike on three 25-mile trips per week, and seemed to enjoy the triple-rig ride. Terry and Dave are very cranial, scholarly types who make good conversationalists about the world’s woes.

Matt Jensen was the first fellow I encountered after I had spent many months studying recumbent trikes. As I was taking an eight mile walk one day, I looked up and saw a Catrike 700 quickly approaching. Wow, I thought, there is a trike in person right in front of my very eyes. This was unusual because in this little village where I live, trikes are non-existent, or so I thought. In any event, I flagged him down, talked his head off for a couple of hours, and learned a whole heap about trikes in the bargain. Then, there’s Norm Nieberlein, another local who put his ICE Qnt for sale on the Bent Rider forum one day, and promptly sold it the next morning … to me! Last but not least is Joseph Faber, a neighbor of many years who used to ride long-bike recumbents coast to coast, but now only dreams. All these guys have been great.

Oh, and by the way, the chaps over in England are all pretty helpful too! They not only make these quality steeds, but they offer up some of the best advice to riders of their products. Thanks especially to John Olson, who has gone out of his way to make sure I get the scoop on what I need and how to do it. Being that he resides outside of the United States, I use email to contact him, as my phone plan doesn’t cut any slack for international calls. The ICEmen know their stuff.

Enough writing for tonight! My quadriceps and glutes are totally wasted from today’s hill climbs in mid-range gears, so I want to go lie down and zonk out! The next ride can wait a few days.

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FREE ON THREE

It’s Sunday. I slept in uncharacteristically late, until around 7:30 (very late for an early riser like me anyway, a guy who usually awakens around 5:30, full of vigor after 8-10 hours of sleep). It felt good to lie there and not think about standing (which would have initiated a muscular response from my quadricepts and glutes), and also reflect upon yesterday’s trike shakedown trek. Finally, I arose and ventered outside before the typical coastal winds commence when the land warms.

At a local weekend outdoor market, where an eclectic array of vendors pitch tent covered roofs under which they display their wares, I discovered an interesting item I just had to have. It isn’t often that I shell out money at these types of markets, but today was different. I found myself there because I needed to walk a couple of miles to ease the soreness in my quads from yesterday’s ride. Near the end of tents was a fellow with a white beard selling various types of flags, patches, and other alternative message do-dads.

What caught my eye was a small patch, the kind that one would sew onto clothing. It was geared for riders of Harley-Davidson motorcycles, or so I deduced, as it was the orange eagle of traditional Harley fashion. The words sealed the deal for me: FREE ON THREE, and then below: TRIKE. I had to have it because when I’m out cruising the world on my Q, freedom is a key aspect of my feelings … free from cares and worries, free from over-civilized crowds, and free from petroleum-powered addictions. My trike may not have a Harley powerplant, but it’s a trike nonetheless, and I am clearly free on three (wheels, that is).

The heavy-set fellow who sold it to me was the typical stereotype Harley guy, and he asked me if I had a trike. I told him that I did, but it was a human-powered trike without a Harley engine. He said that’s cool, a trike is a trike, and the freedom that comes with them is great. He wished me well, and off I went. Here is a photo of the patch, which WILL make it onto my Q somewhere (panniers or mesh seat):

THE Ultimate Trike Patch!

the Ultimate Trike Patch!

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THE ROAD AHEAD

(or … What’s between me and Badwater?)

The Death Valley Tricycle Expedition will be following a route that intentionally avoids large cities and towns full of automobile traffic. Having not worried about this avoidance so much in the past (when I was still one of the automobile fold), I am not familiar with a few of the extremely remote roadways parts of the expedition will be utilizing. Pedaling along with my rear only nine inches from the pavement is more enjoyable when 2,000-6,000 pound cars and trucks are not conjested all around me, not only from the standpoint of avoiding being run over by one, but also seeing as how my nose is only slightly higher than most exhaust pipes (which, by the way, exit on the shoulder-side of the road, precisely where I’ll be breathing).

Jack Freer to the rescue! Now here’s a guy who is proving to be one heck of a helpful friend as this expedition approaches zero-hour. As you may know from reading other areas of this blog, Jack makes his home in western Nevada, has a Jeep, and loves going out to explore the backcountry. Well, this fine gent has seen fit to drive one of the loneliest portions of the expedition route ahead of time, and report back to me what I will find there. This is incredibly helpful when planning for re-stocking essential supplies, such as food and water!

Just to give you the idea, here are some excerpts from a road and town report that he recently forwarded to me … now that’s valuable help:

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Yerrington. Full services with cell coverage.

Schurz. 21 miles from Yerrington. “Four Seasons” market on the left. This is all through Indian reservation land … very sparse. I did not see anything that might cause problems. As you approach Schurz you will see a run down housing area to your left just before the intersection. I would not venture in to that area. Stay on the highway and the market is beyond it past the intersection on the left side of the road.

Most of this area is posted at 70 mph. There can be truck traffic. Lots of trucks on Hwy. 95. I also noticed that on the paved shoulder, from the white fog line to the dirt, they have cut undulations in to the pavement to warm motorists they are drifting. Hopefully the wheel base is such on your trike that you can straddle those. Otherwise, all those miles of jarring could make your brain gel.

Several miles from Schurz is Walker Lake. There are BLM day camp sites along the left hand side of the road. I did not check out the sites as there was not a sole in any of them. But I did see restrooms so if they are open you should be able to get water there if needed. But most of those sites are down a steep dirt road so it could be a pain getting back up to the highway.

(more information about Walker Lake HERE)

I also noticed that some parts of Hwy. 95 along the lake are narrow with very little to no shoulder.

Hawthorne. 28 miles from Schurz. Full service Army depot town with cell coverage. Watch out for the explosive laden trucks!

14 miles out of Hawthorne you will see a stand of several old buildings on the east side of a rise. It is the old site of Kinkaid. I took some photos and will have them for you after I get the roll processed.

Luning. 20 miles from Hawthorne. There is a rest area on the left under large trees. Restroom and water available. Cell coverage too. No other services.

7 miles down the road from Luning and 3 miles before Mina is the Water Hole bar.

Mina. 13 miles from Luning. Here you have your choice of Socorro’s Burger Hut, the Desert Lobster Cafe open 5 am to 5 pm, the Hardrock Market and on the left side of the road at the south end of the town is Sunrise Valley RV Park. This is also the last outpost of civilization for the next 60 miles. And I almost forgot to mention, they have one of those girl ranches there. You know, the kind of place where the trailers are all painted white and the ladies are painted up inside. There was only one beat up Suburban parked out front.

8 miles south of Mina is the Hwy. 360 turnoff. Marked as Tonopah Junction on my map. No services.

20 miles down the road takes you to the intersection of Hwy 360 and Hwy 6. Marked on the map as Basalt. No services.

4 miles east on Hwy 6 take you to the intersection of Hwy 264. No services.

20 miles down Hwy 264 brings you to the small shady spot of Dyer. No cell service but there is a payphone in front of the Dyer Market and Gas. Market is well stocked. Restroom available. But note the plastic ivy plant in the urinal. Boonies Restaurant is across the street.

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Thanks Jack! I look forward to finding you and your Jeep out there somewhere!

Walker Lake, Nevada - on the expedition route

Walker Lake, Nevada – on the expedition route

(Read about the actual expedition at: http://badwater.wordpress.com)

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Took a seven mile walk today so as to keep the blood flowing through my legs. The severe soreness has subsided finally (after Saturday’s mountain climbs), and all should be normal by tomorrow. I’m not dead yet, so maybe all this will have a beneficial effect on my longevity quest! One thing about a recumbent trike: from that cockpit, you see the world from a whole new perspective. Instead of being isolated from nature inside the steel and glass of a car, you feel like part of nature … up close and personal (until an 18 wheeler whizzes by at 70 miles per hour). Glad the expedition route will be on the loneliest roads known to humans!

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THE ROUTE

Remote, Rural, and Reclusive

(902 miles from Oregon coast to Badwater)

1)    Begin central coast on Thursday morning, October 01, 2009)

2)    South on Oregon Coast Highway 101

3)    East (L) at Reedsport, onto Hwy 38, towards Elkton

4)    South (R) at Elkton, onto Hwy 138, towards Sutherlin

5)    South (R) at Sutherlin, paralleling Interstate 5 on the east side, towards Roseburg

6)    East (L, just south of Wilbur) onto Road 200 (North Bank Rd), towards Hwy 138

7)    East (L) onto Hwy 138, through Glide, towards Diamond and Crater Lakes

8)   South (R) at Snopark, through Crater Lake National Park on Crater Lake Road

9)    Southeast onto Hwy 62, towards Chiloquin

10)  South near Fort Klamath on Hwy 34 towards Rocky Point (NW end of Upper Klamath Lake)

11)  Southeast on Hwy 140 (just south of Rocky Point), towards Klamath Falls

12)  East to Altamont , which is east of Klamath Falls

13)  South on Hwy 39 (Klamath Falls Main Hwy)

14)  Southeast on Hwy 139 (Hatfield Hwy) just east of Merrill 2 miles, towards California border

14)  Cross border at Hatfield, and continue south on Hwy 139, towards Tulelake and Canby

15)  East/Northeast (L) at Canby, onto Hwy 299, towards Alturas

16)  Northeast (L) at Alturas on Hwy 395/299 (acquire much water!)

17)  East (R) on Hwy 299 (6 miles north of Alturas) towards Cedarville

18)  South (R) at Cedarville onto Hwy 1, past Middle Alkali Lake, Eagleville, and Lower Alkali Lake

19)  Cross into Nevada, heading towards Gerlach (82 remote miles from Cedarville) on Hwy 447

20)  Continue on Hwy 447, through Empire and Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation, to Nixon

21)  South at Wadsworth and Fernley (under I-80) on Hwy 95 ALT, through Silver Springs and Wabuska

22)  East (L) at Yerrington on Hwy 95 ALT, towards Schurz, through Walker River Indian Reservation

23)  South (R) at Schurz, onto Hwy 95, past Walker Lake, towards Hawthorne

24)  Continue on Hwy 95 at Hawthorne (acquire much water!), through Luning and Mina

25)  Southwest onto Hwy 360 (about 7 miles south of Mina)

26)  East (L) at Basalt, onto Hwy 6/264

27)  Southeast (R) on Hwy 264, 5 miles out from Basalt, towards Dyer

28)  Cross border into California, 6 miles south of Dyer (Hwy becomes 266/168)

29)  South (R) onto Hwy 168, (at Hwy 168/266 intersection), traveling about 1 mile to next entry

30)  East (L) at Eureka Valley dirt road (Oasis Road), towards DVNP

31)  South (R), not far south of windmill, on the Eureka Valley Road

32)  Southwest (R) on Eureka Valley Road at Cucomungo Canyon intersection (7 miles to BP/DV Road)

33)  Southeast (L) onto Big Pine/Death Valley Road,  through Hanging Rock Canyon

34)  Southeast (R) at Crankshaft Crossing, towards Ubehebe Crater (back on pavement) and Mesquite Springs Campground

35)  South on the Scotty’s Castle road, through Furnace Creek, and on to Badwater Basin

TOUR DEATH VALLEY AS TIME AND RESOURCES ALLOW

200-500 miles (Greenwater Valley, Dante’s View, and other locales)

(Author’s Breakfast: Stovepipe Wells on Friday, November 6, 2009 @ 8:00 AM)

To Oregon Coast (from Death Valley) 940 miles:

Reverse route on return trip, except for potential modifications to circumvent any early mountain pass snow conditions (may avoid Crater Lake by using Highway 97 as a work-around). Also may exit DVNP through Scotty’s Canyon to avoid dirt road in northern portion of park. Anticipated return date: November 30, 2009. By expedition’s end, more than 2,000 miles will have been traveled during this journey without the use of petroleum fuel products.

* * * * * * *

“If you can lift your vehicle, you truly are part of the solution!”

* * * * * * *

Here are a few photographs that Jack Freer took on his late-July recon mission, so that I would have some insight about a small portion of the desert country though which I shall be traveling:

Kinkaid, Nevada ghost town

Kinkaid, Nevada ghost town

Rock House, just south of Tonopah Junction

Rock House, just south of Tonopah Junction

Keep in mind that there will be many miles of high mountain territory also, in addition to the desert landscapes. From dry and warm temperatures to damp and cool realms, this expedition will get a sampling of whatever can be imagined … maybe even snow or a blizzard if an early winter hits the Cascades in November! Ahh, the allure of adventure is a tempting siren’s song …

_____________________________

HOBO WISDOM

(or … what I learned from Dan Price)

Hobo Dan & his TerraTrike

Hobo Dan & his TerraTrike

I like doing things a bit different from the crowds always have and always will. If everybody else is doing it, then there’s a good chance I’m not. Sure, I am but one of a relatively minor subset of the human population who is interested in doing my part to clean up the air and preserve the natural world, but of that environmentally sensitive group of folks world-wide, how many choose a tricycle as their mode of transportation? My guess is not many.

The popular American trend now seems to be the Toyota Prius or Mercedes Smart Car, both of which may be better options than traditional internal combustion engine vehicles, but these choices still do nothing to extend one’s lifespan through exercise. In both cars, you still sit passively in a seat as you are propelled quickly across the landscape … and both still produce those nasty toxic particulates that ruin our lungs. I have even heard a few times that the initial production of the Prius is so environmentally destructive that the car may not be all it’s cracked up to be after all. For me, it’s all academic.

With a trike, there’s clearly no debate about emissions. Yes, fossil fuels were used in the production of materials contained therein, and the transport of the finished product to the purchaser, but at least it mostly stops there (compared to the auto). Once on the road, the trike makes up for its minimal initial negative aspects. I somewhat mitigated that issue by acquiring my Q second-hand, rather than “consuming” a new one hot off the production line. Still, I digress in this monolog, as I have not yet spoken to the title of this little piece of journalistic babbling.

There’s a really cool guy in the far northeastern corner of Oregon who lives underground in a small hobbit-like house. I learned about him a couple of years back when my desire to return to a simple manner of existence brought me to the TerraTrike website, upon which I found a video called “Part of the Solution.” It was a fascinating ten-minute documentary on a maverick of a man who is an artist and writer … a fellow who is a self-proclaimed hobo.

Dan Price lives on two acres just outside of Joseph, Oregon, at the foot of majestic snow-capped peaks that remind me of my old stompin’ grounds in the Colorado Rocky Mountain high country. He doesn’t own the land. He just rents it for 100 bucks per year from some incredible people who share his vision of simplicity and naturalism. For the past 20 years, Dan has been keeping track of his life in a regular publication he calls the Moonlight Chronicles, where he has written what his life is like, and illustrated it all with his own hand-drawn masterpieces. Anyone can subscribe to Dan’s engaging chronicles, a highly recommended direction if you wish to learn how to do it yourself, while helping to sustain Dan in his worthy goal of being self-sufficient and living with the land in a non-destructive way. This man is not what our government labels a “consumer” … rather, he is a minimalistic naturalist, trying at every turn to not contribute to the problems that massive numbers of humans regularly do.

Hobo House

Hobo House

So, you may well be asking right now, after reading five paragraphs that seem to incongruously weave in and out of the trike topic of this page, what all this has to do with what I learned about my tricycle expedition. Well, Dan Price, in his passion for the abandonment of automobiles, acquired a tricycle in 2002 and set out on a trek that is absolutely mind-boggling to all the normal people of the country.

He pedaled a human-powered recumbent trike from northeastern Oregon to Portland, and then headed south into California. When he arrived at the southern end of that state, he then turned left, and traveled across the entire southern portion of the United States, through such places as Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. He even hit the Marti Gras on the way. Eventually, this iron man arrived in Florida, rode to its southern tip past the alligators, and then out to the end of all those bridges they call the Keys! Gee, that’s approaching 5,000 miles … and on a tricycle no less!

Surely, this soft-spoken gentleman knows something about trike travel, my sharp-witted mind told me, so perhaps it might be a good idea to contact him and learn a thing or two for my trip. And so, I sent him a letter using the post office. That was the only contact information I could find for Dan online. I laid out my plans in the two-page dispatch, and even asked if he might be interested in accompanying me on my maiden trike voyage of discovery.

Turns out that Dan has a lot of family affairs and matters that need tending to this fall, so he graciously declined the partnership offer, but he did actually offer up some advice, and even left a nice message on my answering machine one afternoon while I was out. Dan doesn’t have a land-line telephone, instead opting to use a prepaid cellular option that is supported by his choice of non-traditional living arrangements. Imagine the glee that flooded over me when I heard his familiar voice on the machine … I called him back that evening. Heck, for a naturalist like myself, being honored by a call from Hobo Dan was better than hearing from a politician or celebrity.

Realizing that I was using up his cellular minutes, I wasted no time getting into the heart of the matter, but he didn’t seem to mind that the clock was ticking. Hobo Dan is one laid-back rascal who takes a different view of things, and I found out he is very willing to help others who aspire to his lifestyle and mode of transportation.

Inside the underground haven!

Inside the underground haven!

The type of route that Dan Price followed on his trike trek differs greatly from the route that I will be following just eight weeks from right now. He traveled some of the busiest stretches of road imaginable, through the largest cities imaginable, with the most enormous populations of humans imaginable. My path will take me on what would be considered a stealth route by comparison, on the loneliest stretches of road conceivable, through the fewest little towns conceivable, with the least amount of human beings conceivable. His greatest challenge was not being struck by automobiles. My greatest challenge is finding help if I get into trouble, or finding water if I run out.

Paramount among Hobo Dan’s messages to me was this one: Always be HIGHLY visible at all times while riding on paved roadways! The reason cars usually hit cyclists is because the drivers often don’t really know the cyclist is there. So many cyclists wear normal clothing, have no flagging, and simply dart here and there, being in places where automobile operators don’t expect them. Visibility is especially important on a recumbent tricycle, where the height of the cyclist’s rear end is only a few measly inches off the asphalt. Your eyeballs are just about at headlight height on a traditional sedan. How can drivers see you?

Well, the answers come in unusual displays. Dan started his trip with little triking experience, but he quickly learned once out on the road that he best do something to get motorists’ attention! He started adding brightly colored ribbon and flagging to his flagpole as quickly as he could collect miscellaneous pieces of the stuff from the shoulder of his roadbed. In the large cities through which he passed, he sometimes had to hold out his cap in his left hand, to warn unenlightened motorists that they were getting WAY too close to his living body. Fortunately for Dan, he still has his left arm.

I listened and learned. On my Q, I have a seven-foot dayglow lime-green fiberglass flagpole, which begins its upward ascent about three feet off the deck, mounted to the rear of my seat. That’s a whopping ten feet of flexible pole, onto which I will have attached eye-catching flagging in bright and dayglow colors. To be extra safe, I also have one of these flagpoles mounted to my trailer, but it only reaches about eight feet into the sky. Then, on the rear and sides of the trailer (the first piece of my equipment drivers will see), I have affixed several reflective devices and tape strips to further shout: “A human is down here, and please be careful when you pass!” Near the bottom of the trike pole will be a ten-LED light array, flashing brightly even in the sunlit desert, and also a high-powered headlight for travel in tunnels, fog, rain, or snow.

Yes, Dan Price has reinforced the prime notion of many cyclists, and that is the key to surviving the insanity of crazy cell-phone-talking drivers is to be seen. Of course, a tricycle has a big advantage over the bicycle, in that it is so unusual that most folks really slow down to see what type of contraption they are passing! The majority of people have never seen one of these things, and are VERY curious. Many believe the operator to be handicapped, and give an even wider berth when passing. And a recumbent trike, being so very low to the ground, appears much wider than a traditional bike, even though in reality it is only marginally so. My Q has a tire track width of just over 27 inches – compare that measurement to the width of a guy on a bike. This narrow profile comes in handy when traveling many roads in this country that are not friendly to cyclists. Narrow shoulders allow my Q passage, albeit sometimes in the grit and junk that is rarely cleaned off the side of roadways.

On a political rant, if the governments of our municipalities, states, and country really want the citizenry to adopt new environmentally-friendly transportation paradigms, it would certainly be an appropriate gesture if they spent some of the money in their dwindling treasuries and devoted it to cycling lanes that truly offered a modicum of protection from traffic. For a cyclist, it is abundantly clear that there is little to no governmental support of human-powered transport. Next time you’re whizzing along the highway, just imagine riding a trike or bike to your right … would you feel comfortable doing it? Likely not. That’s one of several reasons I opt to wear a helmet that has brought me no end of teasing from seasoned cyclists who have adopted the philosophy: “What’s the use? You’re toast anyway if a car hits you!” Well, it’s also nice if I run off the side of a steep roadbank, want to keep my head warm in snowy cold weather, or retain a dry hairdo in a downpour. Not only that, but my helmet minimizes the annoying sound of tires screaming by at 70 miles per hour.

I purchased Hobo Dan’s Moonlight Chronicles where he wrote about the trike trip he took. The three chronicles are a fun and engaging read, and the drawings and photographs are interesting. In his writing, he vividly paints an absolutely realistic picture of what it’s like to ride a recumbent trike nearly 5,000 miles across the United States’ most busy locales. It was enough to almost dissuade me from proceeding … almost. But then, I thought about my route, and realized that there were some very real and striking differences. Even so, I then sat down and further modified the path I will take, putting me even farther out beyond the grip of civilization, into regions most folks would consider off the grid of reasonable cycling. Yeah, Hobo Dan had an impact! Heck, about 50 miles of my route to Badwater Basin will be on dirt roads, so I took his advice seriously.

Dan is a nice guy, always willing to help a fellow dreamer! Thanks Dan … may your life be one filled with nothing but the joys of nature. Let me know if you change your mind about spending eight weeks of autumn 2009 out on the triking trail once again!

——————–

Editor’s Note: Dan has published a few books, most noteworthy among them being RADICAL SIMPLICITY, where he tells how he freed himself from the societal machine. Here is what he has to say about it on his website:

“Finally! After spending 15 years trying to edit and simplify his life to the nth degree, d. price sat down long enough to write a big book all about the whole amazing experience. In those years Price went from living in a 6-room Antebellum Kentucky mansion to a cabin, a flophouse room, a 16ft tipi, a burlap hut, mountain tents, 6×10 shed and now on an 8ft circular underground room. The book is 170 pages, two-color and filled with stories, photos and sketches and many practical tips for living a simpler life. Published by Running Press.”

Support a hobo … buy the book and learn how you too might be able to find a simpler life, which of course, means getting a tricycle of your own! Go HERE to learn more.

_____________________________

SEEKING FURTHER KNOWLEDGE

(or … what I learned from Jeremy & Stephanie)

Recently, I had the good fortune to meet Jeremy and Stephanie Bradshaw, a happy couple from Sitka, Alaska. They may not have seen our meeting as quite so fortunate however, as I consumed a great deal of their afternoon asking a million and one questions while they were attempting to do a laundry and set camp for a night on their long tricycle journey down the Pacific coast.

While at the bicycle shop in Newport, Oregon, I noticed two Catrikes parked out front (an Expedition and a Pocket). As I was speaking to one of the proprietors of the store (Daniella, wife of Elliott, and cousin of Matt Jensen mentioned earlier on this page), I queried about who owned the trikes, whereupon Daniella pointed to Jeremy, who was just coming in the door. With great enthusiasm, I boldly stepped forward and introduced myself to the man, asking his itinerary. He and Stephanie were riding from the Tri-Cities area of Washington down into central California to visit grandma. They called their journey “Over the River and through the Woods”, leaving one to mentally fill in the rest of the song, “to grandmother’s house we go.”

Jeremy & Stephanie's Gear

Jeremy & Stephanie’s Gear

Well, it wasn’t long before I informed Jeremy that I was soon to embark on an expedition of my own, and then I immediately dove into my never-ending stream of questioning. After a few minutes, I met his partner on the trip, Stephanie, who was relaxing for a bit while the laundry next door was in progress. I suppose nearly everyone enjoys the dynamic when asked about their personal endeavors, so I was able to acquire much needed information about the “how to” aspects of long overland trike tours. Jeremy and Stephanie were both exceptionally helpful in sharing with me, even though the sun was sinking lower towards the ocean, and they had to get to their campground, several miles south of town.

They have a journal posted online that tells of their trip, along with many photographs (some of which I have included in this posting). From their journal comes the following information about how these two motivated explorers prepared for their trek:

“For our everyday physical activity I walk to the local coffee house every morning (3 miles round trip), Steph rides her mt. bike to school every day(6 mile round trip), and at least three days a week I ride my mt. bike to meet her for coffee after she is done with school. When the snow has allowed the opportunity we have gone snowshoeing. We either walk or ride our bikes for most errands and activities outside of our routine. As mentioned elsewhere we are really trying to break our dependency on our car. Our actual efforts to prepare physically for the bike trip consist of riding my Expedition on an indoor trainer at least three days a week. I ride for an hour most times, with the occasional two hour go. Those initial rides were a distance of 9-11 miles, and after a couple of weeks of triking my hour distances are up to 11-15 miles. I try to get a 20+ mile ride in once a week, with plans to increase that longer distance ride each week or two. Steph started with riding 6.5 miles three days a week on the trike in addition to her daily commuting ride. Steph is good about stretching after her triking, and I really need to start a stretching routine myself. We both know that it will be a necessary habit for us on the trip. It is our intention to increase our riding time, stamina, and distance consistently over the next several months until we can comfortably ride 30+ miles indoors. Once Steph’s summer break begins we will start doing several longer day rides on the road, and take two overnight shakedown rides of at least 50 miles each way fully loaded.”

Jeremy and Stephanie have returned to Alaska. Their accomplishments have further motivated me regarding my own odyssey, and further driven home the point that trips like these are not impossible, despite the advice given by most “normal” people about the dangers and absurdity of attempting such an experience. It is by speaking personally with fine folks like these that I realize my goals are attainable with common sense and reasonable prudence steering my course.

Jeremy training on his Catrike Expedition

Jeremy training on his Catrike Expedition

Stephanie riding her miniature Catrike Pocket

Stephanie riding her miniature Catrike Pocket

Click HERE to read about Jeremy and Stephanie’s complete west coast tour, with all the details of how they ate Nilla Wafers out of an unopened box found on the shoulder of Highway 101. There are also plenty of great photographs to view (along with an abundance of terrific trike trek tribulations)!

_________________________

DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT

(Assistance Update – July 30, 2009)

Thanks are in order for Erik Taylor, Outdoor Recreation Planner for the Roseburg District Office of the BLM. Located in Glide, Oregon, a tiny mountain town on the western fringe of the Cascade Range, Erik was sitting in his office eating lunch the day I walked in to learn about area camping. The Glide Bureau of Land Management office is located in a cute and quaint little log cabin, shaded by massive evergreen trees. The shade felt great that day, as outdoor temperatures were about to break past 100 degrees Fahrenheit!

I explained to Erik, a handsome, lean, and muscular young fellow who is into hiking big-time, about my upcoming journey through his land, and inquired about the best place to stay for night #2. Susan Creek campground was the answer, a locale about 119 miles distant from my point of origination. Depending on where I would stay the first night out, it would either be a 61 mile second day, or one of 47 miles. Susan Creek has nice bathrooms and showers, picturesque campsites, and a large ice-cold river running along its southern border. Susan Creek Falls are a short hike from the camp area. The entire region from here east is absolutely spectacular, and makes for memorable trike riding!

On this scorching day, one that rivaled Death Valley’s heat, I was out scouting the first two days of my exact route ahead of time to give me a “heads up” on what to expect the first 100-150 miles with regards to roadway conditions and sleeping locations. The plan was to drive all the way to Diamond Lake (the car was not mine, by the way, because I no longer own one), but Erik advised me that Highway 138 through the Cascades was on fire, with no containment yet in sight … the road was closed at Susan Creek. Well, at least I pretty much had figured out my first two days worth of triking, where to stop for lunch and bathroom breaks, and where to bed down once I get so dog-gone tired that additional pedaling is out of the question.

So, a hearty thanks is hereby extended to Sir Erik of Glide for his valuable advice and assistance! As you well know by now, I need all the help I can get (oh yeah). Sure hope those wildfires are out by October!

_________________________

SCOTT CHRISTOPHERSEN TO THE RESCUE

(or … how yours truly was bailed out of his mechanical ineptitude)

Correct trike gearing for the challenge that looms ahead is clearly essential! Attempting to ascend high and steep mountain ranges pulling a trailer (a combined weight of roughly 300-350 pounds) with high-speed flatland gearing is asking for a tough go of things. My ICE Qnt came with chain rings of 30-42-52 teeth, and a low gear of 30 teeth is not appropriate for what I am about to do. I had to change something!

Being a “do it yourself” type of guy, I am opting to perform as much mechanical surgery on my trike as I am able. It’s a learning process to be sure, but if one compares the vehicle to an automobile, then the magnitude becomes bearable on the learning curve. I figure that with my advanced and oversized humanoid brain, I ought to be able to figure this trike out enough that anything can break en route, and hopefully I’ll be able to fix it. Heck, where I’m headed, through the most remote of desert hinterlands, I better darn well have a working knowledge of what I’m pedaling down the road … no bike shops out there to bail me out!

As you may have read and remembered from earlier on this page, I changed the inner chain ring to one with 24 teeth, replacing the 30-tooth stock ring. Well, it was too big of a jump to the middle chain ring, and it didn’t work properly under load on a hill. Checking out all potential options with the experts as Hostel Shoppe Recumbents in Wisconsin, we soon realized that I needed to obtain a new crank set. For technical reasons, I also had to acquire a new bottom bracket. So, out came the Italian Campagnolo gear, and in went the new Sugino XD-600 24-36-50 crank.

Doing this kind of work with no previous cycle mechanic experience, I was daunted, but being the persistent fellow that I am, I did not give up (although I wanted to). When I ran into issues, I worked with head mechanic Scott Christophersen, who, with a patience and kindness nearly unheard-of nowadays, guided me during the course of several calls through the process. Scott would give instructions, I would write them down, and then it was off to the garage to implement the newest gems of wisdom.

He got me through it so far, and now I’m at the point of fine-tuning the front derailleur so that the new setup will shift smoothly with no glitches (of course, I have been advised by trike friend Alex that the derailleur may be the problem, so I am open to replacing it if necessary – see comment below). Believe me, this is an art! With any luck, and a lot of help from Scott, Matt Jensen, and others, I should have this under control shortly … stay tuned for the next episode of: “I’m a writer Jim, not a mechanic!” (my humble apologies to Bones, Captain James T. Kirk, and the crew of the Federation Starship Enterprise)

______________________

AUGUST 10, 2009 UPDATE

(or … Great people these cyclists!)

The light at the end of the mechanical tunnel is beginning to reveal itself, and today for the first time in a while, a smile has once again crept over my formerly-perplexed face. After a few note-taking conversations with Scott Christophersen at Hostel Shoppe during the course of a few days, and some enlightening thoughts from helpful members of the popular recumbent internet forum, bentrideronline, things are starting to make some sense. Dana Lieberman, proprietor of Bent Up Cycles in Van Nuys, California (bentupcycles.com), for example, mentioned that I was probably routing my front shifter cable incorrectly … turns out he was right! Other forum members, with humorous sounding monikers like “Squeaker” also offered up a few tips to ease my transition into mechanic’s school. Interestingly, Dana toured portions of Death Valley not too long ago on his trike, along with a few of his friends (click HERE for that story about 14 wheels, five riders, and a dog).

Wild Trikers - Dana & friends at Badwater

Wild Trikers – Dana & friends at Badwater

So, a big thanks go out to Dana, Squeaker, Cameroni79, Tooslow, and byegad for taking the time to help out this trikin’ newbie. To read for yourself what these great guys are talking about, click your mouse HERE.

Today, I tackled the dreaded “chain lengthening” task, something akin to Hercules’ cleaning of the Aegean Stables in Greek mythology. After obtaining a SRAM master link from a local bike shop, and with Scott’s instructions in hand, I got down and dirty … literally. Seated on a small stool only about ten inches tall, and working with a lubricated chain, my hands were black in seconds. In minutes, I had the chain apart, and not too long thereafter, had installed 3 inches of additional chain, and had it all reconnected without any major mental distress! Now, it was long enough to encircle both the large rear sprocket and the large front chain ring simultaneously, a prudent thing just in case that combination ever occurred for some odd reason, even though it is never really used in routine cycling. Now, just a bit more fine tuning of the front derailleur and this Q should be ready to hit the road once again.

Hopefully, by tomorrow sometime, my drivetrain woes will be over! Heck, the way I see it, trikes are really pretty simple and straightforward for the most part, with the drivetrain being the most complicated and potentially problematic aspect of this human-powered vehicle. If I am competent at solving these chain and shifting issues, then it will be a good feeling once I’m out on the lonely open stretches of desert, far out of reach of any cycling assistance. Of course, if I had a satellite telephone, I could just call up Scott or Dana from anywhere, and get all the assistance I need! Wow, what a concept.

__________________________

OTHER ASSORTED PREP DETAILS

(or … What have I gotten myself into?)

I could have approached this expedition in a totally different manner, one that would have been as quiet and hidden as my stealth camps will be out on the road. I could have kept my mouth shut and my keyboard off, thereby notifying virtually no one ahead of time about my plans. That way, if I experienced a last-minute change of heart, no one would have been any the wiser. Of course, had I followed that model of preparation, I would have been totally way out on my own.

Okay, I must admit, there are selfish reasons behind my chosen course of going public with my insanity. For one, getting any publicity one can is always good if one is attempting to sell something, and since I am trying hard to scrape together some ongoing retirement income, book royalties will hopefully play a small, but welcomed, role. Being the adventurous maverick that I am, my life has been one of career adjustments every now and then, so that I would not miss out on something that I might have wished I had tried come retirement. The downside to this ideology is that a huge financial nest egg at 65 is not forthcoming, so now I scramble to make up for it.

But that’s okay though, because my view of human longevity differs greatly from that of the traditional person who believes that work is over at 65, and death is imminent at this country’s average age of 75. I look to known facts and science for my direction, and therefore know that a recorded maximum age of 122 was attained by a woman in France. If we use that as a benchmark, which I do, then our midlife point is age 61. This indicates, to me at least, that if I play my cards right, there are 23,360 more days coming my way … that’s a considerable period in which I can have a lot of fun. I’m not even half-way done! Adventure, here I come …

Instead of getting ready to hang things up and spend my days in an assisted living facility, I eagerly sprint the other direction entirely, ramping up my activities and achievement in ways that will further serve to keep me vital and fully functional. Riding a trike is one significant choice to put my plans on the fast-track to success. Driving a car does just the opposite. A lot of folks who know me truly think that I have lost my mind (maybe you do too?), but I offer for your consideration that this expedition is indicative that perhaps my mind is making better decisions than it ever has! Yes, a Kenworth may flatten my trike and me out there somewhere, but at least I was having the time of my life up to that point. This reminds me of a notable declaration made by 26th president of this country, Teddy Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

That statement became tacked to my wall while I was in high school, back in the sixties. It has served to motivate me for a long time now. Not only has it never lost its power for me, it has intensified in serving as a driving force when self-doubt and trepidation have attempted to get the better of me.

Why would I have had a change of heart about this Death Valley tricycle expedition? One word … fear! Fear is what lurks below the surface for most all human beings. We are terrified of pain, embarrassment, and death. We create elaborate philosophies about life and why we shouldn’t be afraid, but, truth be revealed, we are anyway. As a collective, humans remain profoundly stifled by fears, most of which are unfounded. Too many folks never reach their potential, or live the incredible life they could have if only they had …

If only they had! Had what? Toured that far-off land they always dreamed about seeing? Taken a chance on love again after years of disappointment? Climbed that mountain while they were still fit enough to reach the summit? Tried an exciting new career offer, even though it meant a reduction in retirement benefits? Chosen a human-powered vehicle to lead the way into a new and cleaner future?

Interestingly, another president by the name of Roosevelt offered some engaging and accurate words in his first inaugural address. Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR), the 32nd president, offered these thoughts about the nation, but they are every bit as relevant to individuals:

“So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

Retreat is often the safest course of action. I have repeatedly been invited to retreat from this expedition, even strongly encouraged by well-intentioned individuals, yet, through things like acquiring knowledge of what I will face, I rally myself and advance into the unknown.

Well, I’m wandering far afield perhaps, but at times, my active mind just seems to spew forth all sorts of ubiquitous thoughts. I could just go on typing on this ideological bent for hours, yet perhaps it is best to return to the more tangible world of an overland trike odyssey to a faraway land. After all, that’s why you’re reading this page, right? This post is subtitled, “what have I gotten myself into?”, which tends to lead to this sort of talk for me.

Preparation is the key to achieving success with most life endeavors. The greater the prep, the greater the chance of making a go of it. This trip requires preparation on numerous levels, some of which may not be so obvious to the casual observer, but become obvious once planning is underway for a set commencement date. What do I eat? Where do I get my food? What do I wear? How do I shelter myself at night? How do I prepare my mind? How do I prepare my body physically? What emergency equipment do I need? Is the tricycle ready and up to snuff? Do I have room for what I envision I must bring? How do I get help if something really goes wrong? How do I promote the adventure to others? Will a book about the trip sell? Is all the negative advice I’m getting really a concern? Am I doing the right thing? What is right?

What do I eat? Where do I get my food? Those are tough ones, as cargo room on my trike and trailer is most assuredly at a premium. If I were traveling through towns every day, as many cyclists do, this might be an easy answer, as markets and restaurants are readily available. Or, if I were on a supported trek, with a follow-up van, when I needed nourishment, it would be readily at hand. As it turns out, I am not supported, nor will I be passing through many towns. Portions of this trip will not see a food source for up to two days, so self-containment is essential, especially when burning calories will be occurring at an astounding rate. If that isn’t bad enough, I happen to be one of those “health nut” type of guys, and a rather extreme one at that. My diet, as part of my longevity paradigm, is not even on the typical person’s radar screen, so finding what I want can be nearly impossible in Podunk, USA (no slur intended, as I love little towns). My friend Matt Jensen advised me a month ago: “You’ll be giving up that vegan health shit in short order! You’ll eat whatever you can find!” Matt doesn’t know me that well yet … I’ll find a way.

What do I wear? Believe it or not, this has presented one of my greatest mental challenges, and I think twice about every choice I make (heck, I think ten times twice). Do I wear the traditional cycling jerseys so popular with a large number of distance bikers? Jerseys are easy to launder, dry very quickly, store in a small stuffed area, and are very lightweight. All these things are huge advantages while on an extended overland journey! Or, do I wear my traditional cotton garb, remaining true to the outdoorsy type of guy that I am, and not worry that it would take forever to dry if I wash it in a stream? Seems like our society teaches us that getting wet is something to be avoided. Does it matter if my clothes are damp when I put them on, as long as they are clean? Won’t they dry well in the outdoor air and sunshine as I crank along down the highway? And what about clothing warmth? A jersey likely won’t do much good in cold rain or snow, which is possible on my return trip. The only way to really answer this question is to just wear my normal stuff on this trip, look the way I always look, and see how it goes. If it turns out to be a complete disaster, then I’ll think about a change for my next long-distance ride.

My shoes have also been a point of contention. I have Shimano cycling sandals with SPD binding mechanisms that allow me to click into my pedals, and these are my top choice as long as the weather is appropriate. I will wear a thick sock with the sandal, either cotton or a wool blend (very comfortable). What if it rains though? I have a pair of traditional low-top hiking boots that are completely waterproof, and those, along with a set of gators, will take care of my foot area. On the flip side of my SPD pedals are Power Grips, that allow me to pedal with traditional shoes.

How do I shelter myself at night? This one was not too difficult to figure out, as I am not one to use motels. This leaves pitching a tent, something that I have done for years. My overnight camping will not vary much from what it has ever been, except that this time I have purchased a lightweight all-season two-person tent from REI … pricey, but considering that I’ll be living in it for around 60 nights this trip, well worth the investment, especially if it rains or snows. It says two-person, but in reality, it makes a perfect one-person tent, with room for panniers and supplies inside. Plus, since I’ll be keeping a daily journal, this tent gives me room to actually write in some semblance of comfort. My intent is to camp primitively most of the time, likely down some dirt side road I find in a secluded spot, where others are not likely to take exception to my presence. Now and then, I will pull into a campground to take a shower or do a laundry, although cleaning my body and clothes can also be done in streams, which would be more fun. Campgrounds drain my wallet, whereas primitive stealth camping is fee-free. When money is tight, having blown my wad on all this sophisticated triking gear, every little penny counts!

How do I prepare my mind? This has proven a challenge. Not because I doubt my psychological abilities to spend two months on the road and in a tent, but due to an abundance of “what if” scenarios thrown at me whenever someone learns of my intent. Well-meaning friends and family, in their desire to see me remain intact and viable, are worried about my safety. What if you get hit by a car? What if your trike breaks down in the middle of nowhere? What if you are the victim of criminals and thieves? What if you get lost? What if it snows and you freeze to death? What if you can’t get back over the mountain passes in November? These are all aspects that I have seriously considered and prepared for in the past weeks, and it is prudent to be ready for these potential eventualities of course. But to dwell on them nonstop begins to erode one’s confidence eventually. With enough negative input, pretty soon a person can begin to actually doubt his own abilities and confidence. This is why talking with fellow cyclists who have ridden tens of thousands of miles is a necessary thing for me. Normal people do what I am about to do. Yes, this is within my grasp! If every possible objection must first be overcome in any given task at hand, no one would ever do anything. What is better? To remain home inside the safety of the walls, sheltered and fed, but essentially a prisoner to modern ways of living? Or to follow your personal call into the wild, go where others dare not, and live a life of adventure and excitement? A life where there are no regrets when it comes time to check out!

My friend Matt Jensen, who has helped me immensely in my first baby trike steps, has ridden across large portions of the world, in excess of 100,000 miles, and he is still doing it. He loves it, and he often goes solo, with minimal gear, and maximal motivation. He motivates me, as do countless others with whom I speak, and of whom I read. What-ifs have their place, but we cannot allow them to shackle us to a life of mediocrity. Life is not a dress rehearsal. We only get once go at it! I choose to shake off the bonds of the status quo and make my own path. This has always been my way. It has not led to great financial wealth or status, but these things are not important to me. My father passed away at 57, four years short of life’s halfway point; he was successful, well-known, and relatively wealthy, but what did it get him? I am now older than he ever was, so it is apparent that our personal choices determine how long we last, how functional we are, and how enjoyable our time here on Earth turns out to be.

How do I prepare my body physically? Well, riding my new vehicle all around the local area in the weeks leading up to my departure is a great way to start. Cyclists have strongly advised me that this is absolutely necessary for success. But then, I read in Adventure Cyclist Magazine about Noel and Mary Harroff, a normal 49 year old couple, who pedaled a tandem recumbent bicycle in 2008 from their home in Edmonton, Canada to Durango, Colorado, a total distance of roughly 2600 miles through the Canadian and American Rocky Mountains. Husband Noel stated: “We are not athletes, and we’re of the opinion that you do not have to train for a tour. Your body will start getting used to everything after day five or so. Mary and I are proof that bicycle touring can be accomplished –and enjoyed!– by two healthy 49-year-olds.” Everyone has an opinion. This is not a hard question for me to answer, as my life has revolved around health and fitness from the get-go as a child. For over 40 years, I have trained regularly with weights and resistance, as well as engaged in outdoor activities involving thousands of miles of walking, hiking, and backpacking. Growing up, my parents always encouraged me in my extreme love of hiking. Remaining active is just a part of my essence, and I feel confident that I can make the journey physically.

A healthy body allows for a long adventurous life!

A healthy body allows for a long adventurous life!

What emergency equipment do I need? This is not a stumbling block for me, as I have been a primitive camper for my entire life, beginning when just a child, and spending the nights out in the Mojave Desert with my dad on cots and sleeping bags under the stars. Survival and emergency gear have always been an essential aspect of my wilderness experiences, so this comes naturally for me. What I bring along is what I have always brought along, with the only variance being space restrictions on a trike with a small trailer. This requires me to compact my cargo in a few ways, perhaps not bringing redundant back-up supplies, and also bringing miniature versions of larger things that posed no space problem in an automobile. Instead of a larger and heavier tent, I now have a smaller and lighter tent – same equipment, but resized. Instead of five books on survival by different authors, I will bring a plastic foldable wilderness survival brochure that weighs practically nothing and takes up virtually no space. My backpacking experience also comes in handy, and with the trike, I will actually have more room. Other items like fire-starter devices, solar still, first aid kit, tools, and such are modified to fit in the room I have.

Is the tricycle ready and up to snuff? When I purchased it several months ago, it was working perfectly, with stock factory gearing. The ICE Qnt is a wonderfully exciting vehicle that is always a complete joy to ride. The recent issues I have described elsewhere on this page have absolutely nothing to do with anything wrong about the trike itself. I just wanted gearing that was better suited for my particular needs, which are much different than most cyclists’ needs. Couple this with the fact that I prefer to do my own wrenching in my own garage, and of course there is going to be a learning curve while I come up to speed with how a tricycle functions. Preparing the trike myself allows me to become intimately involved with how it goes together and works, so if something runs foul in the field, I will hopefully have a solid knowledge of what I need to do to repair it. Allowing a shop to work on it while I simply watch is not the same thing, assuming that the mechanic would even want me staring over his shoulder in the first place. I am being advised well on the extra equipment pieces I need to keep in my trailer … you know, those indispensable items that would be used to make field repairs. These are things like extra chain master links, extra chain, a chain tool, a complete set of hex wrenches, spare inner tubes, and a spare tire. The list goes on, and fortunately these items take up little space compared to what is necessary for savvy automobile drivers. Yes, the trike will be up to snuff when I pull out on day one.

Do I have room for what I envision I must bring? The key word is envision. Being the kind of guy who has always brought everything but the kitchen sink, an artifact of dear old dad’s methodology, I must now have a new vision of what is necessary. I absolutely welcome the challenge of getting the essentials of my experience into the little space I have. It proves to be highly stimulating intellectual exercise that grows new brain connections, further allowing me to avoid this country’s scourge of mental degradation typical in so much of the aging population. According to Matt Jensen, the bicycle and trike minimalist extraordinaire, I have way more room than I’ll really need! I was going to acquire the smaller single-wheel BOB trailer, but after the ICE company advised that is not a good thing to do with a trike having rear swinging arms for suspension (stability issue), I opted for my current Burley flatbed trailer. As things are shaping up, I now believe I will have the room necessary. Part of my extra needed room over what Matt does is that I will be wearing my standard backcountry clothing, which takes up considerably more volume than jerseys and traditional trike garb. Everyone has advised me that I will find things that will prove to be unnecessary, and that next trip, further modifications will be made. This is the fine tuning that separates experienced cyclists from the greenhorns such as myself.

How do I get help if something really goes wrong? Well, chances are that nothing will go really wrong, but just in case, this must be considered. Based on a lifetime of backcountry treks of all kinds, my experience has shown me that proper preparation almost always allows a safe return. I am preparing as well as I can, gathering the wisdom and advice of many others who have done this kind of cycling for many years. If Matt, or another experienced triker, accompanies me on this journey, that will further increase the chances of success. Most of the expedition will be on paved roadways, so if the unfixable breakdown or other catastrophic event occurs, I will be able to hail a passing motorist if nothing else. A borrowed cellular telephone will also be part of my arsenal of safety gear, and coverage is available through much of my route. In southern Nevada, into Death Valley National Park, touring the park, and out north again on the return trip through portions of Nevada, my friend Jack Freer will be with me in his Jeep. During these portions of the trip, I do not even worry. Jack has a recently-acquired satellite telephone too, so things are covered. Jack is about to retire from law enforcement work, I already left that field a while back, so with a considerable amount of emergency scenario experience under my belt, I figure that my mind will come up with a solution to fit most any problem (or so I hope … what if?)

How do I promote the adventure to others? Why even do so? Well, as stated elsewhere, I am attempting to prepare for some added “retirement” type income for my future years. Although, you may have already deduced that retirement is not my style. Anyway, the more folks know about my bizarre stunts (stunts to many, but a way of life to me), the greater my chances of marketing a book or two about my exploits. I will be writing another Death Valley oriented book as a result of this two-month journey, including many photographs of what I experience along the way. While I can now only imagine what it will be like to travel more than 2000 miles on a trike, by this winter, I will be well seasoned, and be writing from an experiential point of view to assist others who may wish to tour long distances.

My last book about this national park is doing well so far, and it has been the impetus behind my invitation to speak at the 60th annual Death Valley 49ers encampment this November, so by having my dusty trike and trailer at the podium with me as I speak to an outdoor audience, I will be generating a buzz about the upcoming book. The weblog that you are now visiting is likewise becoming fairly popular, so getting the word out about the adventure is now happening quickly. How could I ever live without the internet now? Seems indispensable, but eventually I prefer to move away from it as much as I am able. Maybe someone will want to purchase the DVJ eventually, and I can just fade into the wild country that has always been an integral part of my existence.

Will a book about the trip sell? I don’t really know, but that’s not the main reason I will be writing it. I want to document this odyssey for myself and others who find it fascinating. Perhaps the modest reader following I now enjoy will come along with the next book simply because they like the way I think, or are curious what it takes to do something like this, or because they want to live vicariously through my adventures. In this next book, the chances are high that I will delve into some ideological and environmental aspects of life, making the book somewhat opinionated in its slant, yet that will be fun. It may shut some folks down who wish to remain happy in their own world paradigm as constructed by political and religious structures, but I believe that open-minded thinkers may enjoy the wild ride. Even these words I’m typing right now are infusing a sense of intrigue in some folks, and perhaps that’s enough to get them to ante up the cash for the next volume to come out of my head.

Is all the negative advice I’m getting really a concern? Sure. Is it as bad as some folks believe it is? I think not. I am also receiving loads of positive advice, now that more people are learning about my trip. This is a good thing, as my spirit is being uplifted and I am looking forward to taking the first steps towards my goals, or in this case, the first pedal strokes. I cannot be chained by a world that is so fearful of other cultures and different people that they remain behind elaborate ideologic walls to forever avoid any perceived harm. There’s a lot out there to see and do. My way of seeing and doing it is very different from the norm. After all, who wants to be normal?

Am I doing the right thing? What is right? I do not see the world in black and white as so many do. There is no right and wrong thing here. Should I be working a 9 to 5 career job just to earn a lot of money, get the best medical insurance, and have a huge retirement income at age 60? Well, I tried that type of thing for about thirty years once, and while it worked for me for a time, that time is gone. My time is passing, and I will take an active role in how it passes. There may not be a tomorrow for me, so I best live today with that in mind. Live in the now, as many philosophers insist. It is hard to live in the now. Think about it … most of us spend most of our time either worrying about what will happen in the future, or being drowned by a past that we use to justify our condition. The past is over! The future is not here. When I find myself soaked in the worry of what might be, I immediately stop that direction of my thought and consider the wonderful moment that I am now living. I think about my health, the clean air I am breathing, and how happy I am choosing my own path through life. We become what we dream. Dream well, and leave the mundane and expected, rethinking all that was taught to us as children.

Own a car simply because that is what my culture does at this point in history? Not any more. I’ll take the Q.

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TOO LATE IN RIDING SEASON?

(thoughts about late-fall return)

Generally speaking, cyclists choose the warm and mild months of late spring, summer, and early fall to take their cross-country tours. These are the times of carefree travel through the magnificent landscapes that  are so prevalent once one leaves the confines of our social fortresses of safety … those hives of activity called cities. The Death Valley Tricycle Expedition is defying this conventional trend however, and will be unfolding during an annual period of typically transitional weather.

Riding a one-wheel-drive trike over high northern mountain passes in late November could prove an attention-grabbing adventure in itself. Oregon’s Cascade Range is known to receive heavy wet snow storms during the winter months, to great depths that require plows to keep the highways open. Some years, the snows don’t seriously blanket the rugged volcanic sentinels until late December, as was the case this past winter of 2008-09. The ski bums were not pleased. Other years, likely the result of entrepreneurs’ persistent pleading prayers to the blizzard goddess, bring an early November onslaught of thick white precipitate, allowing skiers to whiz down their precipitous mountain slopes with utter glee.

During years that I skied often while living in the high country around Telluride and Crested Butte, Colorado, I too was excited to see November blizzards. There was no worry about dragging the skis across and occasional exposed rock because the thick pack was sufficient to rise above stone level. If I were coming over the imposing Cascades on Telemark skis, I’d be all set, but alas, this is not the Death Valley Ski Expedition (although skiing in the national park is done every year on the ridgelines of the Panamint Mountains).

A single narrow drive-tire in snow is not a desirable thing. If Murphy’s Law doesn’t kick in, I should sail (or pedal, as the case may be) right back over the summits without delay. Even if snows have hit, if the particular day of my passage is sunny, and the roads already cleared by snow plows, then it will be a winter wonderland of eye stimulation. If, on the other hand, the blizzard goddess strikes me mid-ascent, then it may require a stealth camp along side the road in my five-pound REI Arete all-season tent until things clear up … time to hunker down and enjoy the contrast to what I had just known in Death Valley.

The first leg of the trip from the Oregon coast to Death Valley will occur during the first to mid of October, and should be clear travel all the way. The second leg, a tour of various locales within the park, will likely be a pleasant cruise of 70 degree days. Yet the final leg of this trek, returning me to my stompin’ grounds, is where the unknown lurks. Why am I leaving for home so late? Why not move it all up a month to play it safe?

Well, as circumstances would have it, on the seventh of May 2009, I received a communiqué from Jim Graves of the Death Valley 49ers Organization, a non-profit group dedicated to preserving the history of the Death Valley territory. Every year, this group sponsors a five-day encampment that draws thousands of Death Valley enthusiasts from hither and yon. Jim wanted to know if I would be interested in giving a presentation to attendees at the Author’s Breakfast to be held in Stovepipe Wells on November 6th. This offer came on the heels of the March publication of my latest Death Valley book (Death Valley Book Of Knowledge). Normally, this would have presented no problem for me, as I could simply drive down there in one long day.

The hitch was that I sold my final petroleum-powered vehicle on December 22, 2008, as my Christmas present to the life-giving planet on which I exist. So, with my new transportation not yet acquired, I was on foot. Feet don’t get one over 900 miles very quickly, and would have required seven to ten weeks one-way, putting me squarely in the middle of winter’s white wrath on the return trip. Enter the ICE Q, my ticket to Stovepipe this year. Under favorable circumstances, it could be possible to make the trip south in about 18 days, with an 18 day turnaround trek. That’s just a little over one month’s time.

The determining factor though is the date on which my presentation falls. I talk on a Friday, engage in some various activities on Saturday, and then leave either Sunday the 8th or Monday the 9th. Thus, the snow-clock starts ticking then. If all is non-problematic with my trike and body, and I make good time, I will be crossing the Cascades’ towering pinnacles early the third week of November. Folks have advised me to consult long-range weather forecasts to give an idea ahead of time. I prefer not to do that. I like taking my life and planet one day at a time, as things come along. It’s all part of my adventure while here. I am learning to live in the here and now, not letting worry over what might be tomorrow bother me.

Moreover, the greater the hardship encountered on this expedition, the stronger my character and body will become, and the more engaging the next book will be. If every diary entry is just another day of sunny perfect weather with no problems, readers might yawn off to sleep mid chapter … can’t let that happen, right? High adventure is what everyone seeks, at least vicariously, so a bout of snow will deliver a new slant to a trike rider’s struggle. Even though friends and family worry about this potential eventuality, I strangely welcome it, as yet another wild portion of my already nonconforming life.

Not all who wander are lost … but some are!

A trike in Death valley!

A trike in Death valley … from Dana Lieberman’s February 2006 expedition of 133 miles in four days – This is Neal’s Greenspeed GTO, with the awesome Panamint Range in the background

______________________

GREENHORN GEARHEAD CONTEMPLATION

August 22, 2009 Update

I’ve been away from my technology gizmo for a while (aka: the laptop), attending memorial service activities with family members, thus the ten-day time lag since my last entry on this ever-expanding trike page. Returning late last night, I hit the sack immediately, slept in longer this morning than usual, worked out upon arising, and then inhaled an oatmeal brunch. The skies are blue, with a few white wisps of clouds hovering about, and a slight breeze tickles the trees while drifting into my nearby window. Outside temperature feels like the mid sixties.

Nice day to ponder gear for the expedition.

Some folks obtain great satisfaction in sharing gear notes with fellow participants in their particular sport or activity. I have found this pursuit to be fun also, yet for this trek, one that clearly ranks me as a greenhorn, gear considerations have taken on a whole new meaning … one of serious tone. Once out on the vast expanses of lonely landscapes, the gear better be right, as changes are not readily forthcoming, and there’s no one around to help.

For many years, I windsurfed every chance I got. On a slick device resembling a surf board, a large sail and boom was mounted on a mast, and when the wind cranked across the lake, or on the Columbia River Gorge, it was a pure adrenalin rush. Only the blustery weather propelled me at lightning speed across the top of the water, skimming off waves and swells. This was the king of all gearhead sports … everyone on the beach talked continually about their gear, what was optimal for the current conditions, and delighted in making adjustments to eek out that last little bit of speed or attain another few inches on the jumps. And if a less-than-optimal gear choice made for slower or less efficient sailing, a quick dock on shore allowed for a change. Extra gear sat there waiting to be used, and other sailors were happy to offer assistance.

The Death Valley Tricycle Expedition is different. There will be no nearby shore on which to rest while upgrades or changes are made. Whatever is contained onboard the trike and trailer is pretty much what will be at my disposal. With this route taking the least inhabited realms possible, finding bicycle shops or businesses that would have such cycling-oriented items will prove a daunting task. So, over and over I rethink what I have, what I need to get, and how I will be storing it all.

Today’s update, like all the others, consists of random thoughts flowing through my skull (an empty container according to one friend of mine). Over the rear wheel of the Q is a well-built rack that is a custom fit to the trike frame, allowing the rear swing arms to articulate on bumps. On top of this rack, I have an Otivia cargo cache trunk, a $99 container that resembles something made by Yakima or Thule, only much smaller of course, since it is on a trike rather than a car. It is lockable, and is 18 inches long, 13 inches wide, and about 8 inches high. It weighs just under three pounds, and provides a fair amount of storage capability right behind my head.

Below the cargo trunk on each side of the rear wheel is a set of red Arkel GT-54 panniers from Canada. The inside storage volume is approximately 54 liters. Many cycling companies rate their gear containers in liters and/or cubic inches. To get an idea of a liter, imagine one of those large plastic Nalgene water bottles … now put fifty-four of them together, and that is roughly the cargo area of the GT-54s. Of course, this is not entirely accurate, as the space in between the curved bottles is not taken into account – so, just imagine cubed Nalgenes instead. A liter is pretty close to a quart, which lets us stretch this imaginary exercise to envision somewhere in the neighborhood of 13 gallons.

Mathematics aside, the $350 Arkels are made of a tough woven cordura material, and have a fully integrated waterproof lining to keep my clothing and other items dry inside. The also have waterproof covers that slip on the outsides for double the protection in the event of occasional downpours. From what I understand, Arkel panniers are among the best you can buy. I was lucky in my acquisition of these panniers, as I picked them up second-hand from my good friend Matt, who had never used them, thereby saving me a few bucks in the process.

Attached to the rear of my trike’s recumbent seat is a set of black Radical Trice side pods, two more panniers that add 24 more liters to my capacity. These nifty and good-looking cargo bags lighten the wallet by $122, but are well worth the cost. Being immediately behind the seat, with the zippers beginning their run about butt level, they make for convenient places to store some things that need to be readily accessible. I’ve heard complaints about how the zippers zip from bottom to top, meaning that you have to stuff things up from the bottom, and when they are opened, there is a tendency for the contents to want to spill out as they conform to the law of gravity. Well, I have not encountered this issue, perhaps due to the fact that my seatback, upon which the pods rest, is only 37 degrees off horizontal, so the zippers are much closer to flat than angled. If the Q‘s seat was set at a higher angle, say around 45 degrees, then this would be different.

Among these five cargo containers, I reckon I have about 90 liters of capacity. The Arkels and Radicals all have highly reflective material sewn onto them at key locations. The Otivia trunk is black plastic, and to it, I have adhered a few reflective strips. This is really quite a bit of storage, and likely enough for some absolute minimalist cyclists, but I have chosen to lug along a few extra liter’s worth of volume behind the trike.

Bringing up the rear is a $300 Burley flatbed trailer (which I got on special, seeing as how it was the final 2008 model), with two 20 inch wheels providing near frictionless rolling. Atop the bed, I have a $64.99 Rubbermaid 35 gallon ActionPacker trunk … whoa, this company is now talking in gallons instead of liters or cubic inches. Everywhere in life it seems we must be making mental recalculations to compare things! In my simplistic and non-precise way of determining a comparison, this roughly is equivalent to 140 liters (close enough for my needs). All these numbers are really just academic anyway, as the bottom line is how much stuff you can pack into the space. We just do numbers because of our propensity to impress other gearheads. For any reader so inclined, just leave a comment below and let us all know precisely how many liters the Rubbermaid is. Heck, why stop there? Go ahead and convert it all into cubic inches too! Gearheads know no boundaries.

The Rubbermaid trunk is 35 inches long, 21 inches high, and 17 inches wide. It fits on the Burley flatbed like it was made for it. Now, adding up all this storage, we come upon a number that is somewhere in the neighborhood of 230 liters, which, by many cyclists’ standards, is way too much for a long distance tour. One reason that I have opted for this additional capacity is because of my need to have an ample supply of water during certain seemingly-endless stretches of the trip that are otherwise dry and waterless. Water is heavy and takes up a lot of space, but without it, the expedition comes to an end. Am I overdoing it? Guess I’ll find out 2000 miles from now.

On the trailer and trike, I have two 7-foot Rip Rod dayglow lime green fiberglass flagpoles, both five-sixteenths of an inch in diameter. To these flexible poles are affixed a variety of flags, the sole purpose of which is to provide high visibility for motorists who don’t expect adults to be pedaling along the highways only nine inches off the asphalt on tricycles. My mode of operation has always been opposed to being visible. All my life, up until this trike trek, I have gone to great measure to remain invisible in the natural world, choosing earth tone colors in all things, and never adding any visibility devices. I wanted to blend in, not stand out! Now however, with the ever-present dangers of multiple-tonnage automobiles, trucks, and motorhomes screaming by, I have had an attitude adjustment (at least where my vehicle is concerned). I will still disappear whenever on foot.

I have added a number of additional reflective strips to the Rubbermaid ActionPacker, which includes an Aardvark safety triangle. It is a 3M reflective material shaped like those warning placards you see on farm equipment. The perimeter is dayglow lime green, and the interior triangle is bright orange as seen on road workers’ reflective vests.

Further making myself a visual spectacle for passing automobile drivers and passengers, I have added a $61.00 Cateye EL-530 headlight, which produces over 1500 candlepower from a single super-bright LED bulb. It is supposed to run for more than 90 hours on the four AA batteries. For visibility to the rear, I have added a $42.00 Cateye LD1100 tail light. It has ten blindingly-bright LED bulbs that can operate in a variety of modes, from constant to flashing, and reportedly runs for nearly 100 hours on flash mode. In inclement weather, the headlight will sure come in handy for oncoming motorists, and the tail light will likely be used even on sunny days. Both of these devices I am installing on a custom-built metal tube that will come from my left seat tube, thereby placing the operating switches in easy reach of my left hand while traveling.

When I bought the ICE Q from Norm back in May, it had a $51.00 Cateye computer attached. This device offered the rider data like current speed, average speed, distance traveled, etcetera. Pretty nifty, I thought. But then, there is this inherent “natural world” guy that resides within me, and who insists that all this technology has to stop somewhere! Thus, in one of my more impulsive moments, I removed this pricey little device and passed it on gratis to another local triker who was just starting out in the three-wheeled world to improve his health. I figured he would love to have it. Now, the Q is computer-less, and it weighs a trivial fraction of an ounce less (big deal, considering all the other heavy gear I’m toting along). I want to be concentrating on nature as I ride, not be concerned with how fast and far I’ve traveled. Guess I’ll see if this was a mistake.

I could have a flat tire on this trip. Being the proletarian gearhead that I am, I deduced that perhaps an air pump might prove useful in such a circumstance! After dispatching another $40.00 from my dwindling wallet, I was now the proud owner of a Topeak Road Morph pump with built-in gauge. I have used this pump at home in the garage to inflate nine tires so far, so I know it works. It is not as convenient as a regular full-size tire pump, but it gets the job done in short order. The inline gauge is not precise in its reading, showing increases in irregular bursts, but for repairs on the road, it passes muster.

If I rely on advertising and advice, it is unlikely that I will experience a flat tire on this trip (anyone laughing his head off out there?). Why do I say this? Well, because I have gone overboard on my precautions. Here is my setup:

On the trike are three Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires, with extreme level SmartGuard in the tread area. This is exceptionally thick material that is designed to prevent flats. Each tire costs $56.00, and I have one spare just in case all the hype is just that. Yet, I am placing my trust in the tire … more or less. In addition, I have placed $9.00 Earthguard tire liners between the inside of each tire and the tube, which adds yet another level of thick puncture-resistant space-age material between the tube and disaster. Everyone said I didn’t need the Earthguards with the Marathon Plus tires, but I, being the over-prepared nut that I am, did it anyway. Of course, I didn’t stop there either! Each tire has an $11 thorn-proof Q-Tube inside, a special tube that is highly puncture resistant compared to normal inner tubes. Q-Tubes have 4mm of wall thickness in the tread area, and 2mm of wall thickness in the rim area. My tire setup is likely the heaviest of any cyclist known to man. At least the trike still rolls effortlessly!

So, each tire essentially runs $76 … more expensive than what some folks run on their automobiles! The way I see things, it’s money well spent if I don’t need to spend the time and effort of repairing or changing tires and tubes en route. The Burley trailer has two Kenda Kwest tires that came stock. I left them in place because the trailer will be much lighter than my trike, so I figure it will be okay. The Kenda tires have special technology built in to resist punctures, but not to the level of the Schwalbe tires. Inside the Kendas, I have placed Earthguards and Q-Tubes, for added peace of mind.

Now, you know why I have had so much practice changing tires! At least I am well versed in this little unpleasant chore should the need arise out on the road somewhere beyond the grasps of civilization. Also in my tire arsenal is a Park tire and tube repair kit, which includes three plastic tire levers and some patches.

To keep the chain properly greased, I have chosen Finish Line pro-road chain lubricant. It’s pricey, at ten bucks or more per bottle, but has come highly recommended. I also have a spare SRAM powerlink connector to make chain repairs a job capable by my bare hands in the middle of proverbial nowhere. These little life-savers cost only $5.00, so maybe I’ll buy another.

Okay, that’s enough gearhead talk today! My brain gears are overheating from churning out so many nouns, verbs, and adjectives, so I best get this uploaded to give everyone something new to read. Talk at ya’ later!

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CRANKIN’ UP THE NORTH FORK

(or … Back in the Saddle Again)

August 25, 2009

The Q is shifting well again and the new 24-36-50 chain rings are more in tune with my touring needs. The new crank arms are 152 mm, rather than the 170 mm Campagnolo gear I was running before, and this seems to be better because when each leg is about to start its power stroke (knee closest to my chest), the knee is about an inch farther away. This is a power advantage, as the musculature is stronger as a muscle approaches full contraction. This also means more revolutions of the pedals in any given distance, but the difference is not discernable to me.

This past Sunday (August 23), I took my first ride since the trike became fully functional again. Matt Jensen stopped by late Saturday afternoon and put the final adjusting touches on my front derailleur so that it was up to snuff. I had it close, but Matt’s experience with bikes and trikes dialed it in even better. He just returned from a 3,000 mile journey on his Titanium Rush recumbent bicycle: from the central Oregon coast to the Canadian border region, back through Oregon on Highway 101 all the way to the Mexican border, and then up to Oregon to finish the trip. Wow!

At 9:00 AM Sunday morning, I left a message on Matt’s answering machine, saying that I was itching to pilot the Q up the North Fork road, a meandering two-lane piece of pavement that follows a gorgeous river valley up into the Coastal Range, past farmer’s and rancher’s fields and through old growth evergreen forests. This road starts only about a mile from where I live, so it is an obvious choice for a wonderful trike ride. By 10:30 the sunny day was getting warmer, and I couldn’t contain my desire any longer … so I placed a sticky note at the front door that read: “Matt – North Fork – 10:45 – departure” and took off on my own.

I figured that if this free-spirited guy happened to come a knockin’ at random, as he often does, he would see the note and follow in hot pursuit. He has a Catrike 700, which is faster than my Q (according to some) and perhaps at the very least, I would meet him partway back on my return trip if he wasn’t able to catch up with me going up into the mountains. Then, off I went for my first ride with the new gearing.

The day was absolutely perfect for cycling … slight breeze, about 68 degrees, blue sky with a few light clouds, and practically no traffic! The North Fork road sees little automobile traffic anyway, but being that it was Sunday morning, and many folks were engaged in seeking divine wisdom through prayer in local houses of worship, it was as though other people didn’t even exist. Of course, later in the day when I returned down river, there were a few more cars, as folks were out for their Sunday drives.

Cows and horses appeared puzzled and curious as I passed by their pastures. On many occasions while in the lower reaches of the valley, they would turn their heads, watch me approach, and then follow with their sight as I eased past their locale. What is that thing? Those critters don’t see too many trikes whizzing by, I reckon! One horse on the return trip was somewhat frightened by my appearance, nervously jumping around and about to run, but he stayed his ground out of curiosity and watched my silent passage. I say “hi” and wave to every one of them. Gee, if they are interested in what I’m doing, it’s the least I can do in return, right?

The North Fork road begins its mileage markers right near town, so even though I no longer have a cycling computer reporting my progress to me, these little signs kept me informed mile by mile of my traveled distance. The Q felt great and I felt strong, so I maintained a somewhat aggressive pace, not racing by any means, but neither a leisurely cadence. I had no trailer in tow, or any of my four panniers, so my weight was minimal. Only the small plastic cargo trunk behind my head was on the trike, with a few essential items: two bananas, six Clif bars, tire pump, spare tube, tire repair kit, emergency tool pack, and a light wind breaker. I also experimented around with getting extra power on each stroke by pulling back with each leg after it reached the far point of the stroke, figuring that I’d work both the front and rear musculature of the legs that way.

Around mile marker 12, the North Fork road becomes the Upper North Fork road, and the mileage markers commence with the number 1 again. This necessitated adding the new numbers to 12 to know my total distance out. I also had to add a mile for the distance from the house to the North Fork road. The road is now narrower, has no center stripe, and very rural in its appearance. At marker 3, roughly 16 miles from the garage, I came upon a river crossing, and since it was heavily shaded by the surrounding forest, and since I was getting hungry, I stopped to eat a banana and three bars while I listened to the river flow by.

All was well … up until mile 17 or so. Ever so slightly, I began to feel an repetetive stress issue developing in my left leg. The right leg felt fine. A minimal discomfort began manifesting itself to the rear and outside of the left knee, essentially on the outer rear of the leg. It originated from my outer biceps femoris (hamstring) muscle and continued down the connective tissue that can easily be felt while seated. As the sensation intensified over the next mile, more on slight inclines, I thought that perhaps I should turn around, just in case it was an injury developing that might make my return trip challenging. Well, I wanted to do about 50 miles, so I pressed on, keeping a close tab on the situation. This was not a constant discomfort, as it would ease off on the flat or downhills. On the uphill portions, I would place the majority of the workload on my right leg, resting the left as much as possible.

Eventually, the Upper North Fork road also ends, becoming the Big Creek road. Now the road really gets narrow and washed out at places, although it is still paved. Realizing that proceeding farther might not be wise due to this potential injury, I parked the trike and slowly arose from the recumbent cockpit. I made sure the parking brakes were securely locked due to the hill where I parked, and then proceeded to walk around a bit.

While walking, the discomfort became minimal, and eventually disappeared. After taking in the magnificent natural world for about 20 minutes, listening and watching the small river below, I headed down the road for home, now about 20 miles distant. I didn’t make my 50 miles today, but 40 would be a decent training ride, so I was not too disappointed. At some point on one of the return uphill portions of this scenic trek, the repetitive stress issue that was affecting my left leg began to appear in the same place on my right. This was good news to me! Several decades of experience have shown me that if a muscular discomfort occurs on both sides of the body, it is likely not an injury, but rather an over-use soreness that is the result of aggressive muscle and connective tissue work. Now, the right leg needed favoring for a while, as the left was feeling better. Clearly though, I didn’t want this type of thing to happen once I set out for Badwater Basin in Death Valley.

All my life, I have been a traveler of the wild places of our planet. I have met many animals in my journeys. Of all the creatures I have come across during the decades, only one has routinely proven aggressive towards me. I have met bears, bobcats, moose, elk, deer, tarantulas, and scorpions, and not been frightened by any of them. In fact, once a bobcat walked into my camp and spread out on the ground only a few feet away, willingly visiting a while, as there wasn’t another human for many miles. My experience shows animals to fear me more than I would fear them. I have not yet knowingly been in close proximity to a cougar, so I cannot speak to that animal, but at age 58, neither have I been confronted by one even though I have spent years in very remote and wild places. Only domesticated dogs have aggressed against me, time and again through the years … dogs that other humans keep as a pets. If I had a Ben Franklin for every time a dog owner said, “Don’t worry, he won’t bite.”, I’d be a very wealthy man right now.

After hearing many horror stories about dangerous aggressive canines towards bicyclists, I was initially kind of spooked on my trike, being that I sit about eye level to a large dog. What I have found out so far is that the trike presents an unidentifiable object to these dogs, and they have so far not come any closer than about 6 feet to me while I am riding. In fact, if I turn the trike and ride towards them, so far they have all run away! Perhaps this is not fool-proof, but at least I have noticed a definite trend to date. These “pets” that come attacking pedestrians, bicyclists, and sometimes even cars are so mentallly confounded by my appearance on this weird vehicle that they seem forced to reconsider whether it is in their best interests to continue their aggression towards me.

The North Fork road doesn’t have much in the way of waysides for folks who might have to lighten their load a little through liquid depletion. In other words, when one has to take a pee, the forest must suffice! Having freely engaged in sipping from my Camelbak water hydration system during the trip, I found myself occasionally facing this concern. Closing in on the final miles, my remembrance was that Bender’s Landing day-use boat dock was about 6 miles from town. As each mile passed, and the urge strenghtened, I realized that I couldn’t wait any longer, so I finally found an old overgrown dirt road, pulled off, and did the deed out of sight of the pavement.

At least now I could enjoy the final few miles again … except for my over-use issue that was now affecting both legs to the point that I had to pedal slowly, easily, and coast whenever possible. No more  high gears and high speeds for this wasted triker! Oh, and I might mention that a slight irritation was grabbing my attention where my spine interfaces with the mesh recumbent seat, just above the lumbar support region. To avoid a possible blister, I consciously arched my back a little more. Not only that, but for a period near the end, the bottoms of my feet , where they push against the pedals, were feeling uncomfortable too, further accentuating the need to take it as easy as I could. Heck, at this point, I would have been better off walking, except that it would take me a whole lot longer to get back at 3 miles per hour instead of 8.

The final short but steep hill on which my house sits loomed as an impossible task before me. I just put the trike in its lowest possible gearing configuration and ground out the final few agonizing yards. Arising from the trike’s ultra-low seat was not a happy moment, but one where I felt like a man 50 years older than myself. It was a slow process, aided by anything I could grasp or lean against. A video of this would have been one funny thing to see … I wish someone had been there to film it!

So, what in the world have I learned from this 40 mile ride? Well, several things actually: Having not ridden the trike for about three weeks due to outside circumstances over which I had little control, I was probably too aggressive for the first trip back. A relaxed 20 mile trip would have been just right. Sometimes my impatience and passion serve to propel me into situations that require me to rethink my supposed wisdom. The legs have cleared up entirely now, about 48 hours after the fact, again indicative of an extreme over-use musculature situation.

Walking up and down the stairs in the house was pure agony for a few times, but with rest, quickly cleared. I have to figure out something to keep from getting a blister on the seat mid-spine … perhaps by adjusting the tension of the mesh seat straps somewhat. This leg discomfort did not occur on that 30 mile ride I wrote about earlier, even though that was even more strenuous than this recent 40 mile ride due to the very steep hills. My new crank set is slightly wider, so I have to determine if that could have caused anything (my feet were locked onto the pedals with an SPD binding – something akin to downhill skis). Perhaps I need to adjust the angle somewhat, but I don’t know for sure.

At least today as I write this (Tuesday the 25th), all feels great, and I am about ready for another training ride. I have a new strategy however: I will take a series of shorter trips, perhaps in the 10-20 mile range, for the next few days, to give my body a little longer to adapt to the nuances of being a trike pilot. I have been told that it requires about 6 weeks for complete adaptation, and since I’ve been spending so much time in other trip preparations, my time in the cockpit has thus far been fairly minimal. These final four weeks however, will see that change rather dramatically! Time to get serious …

Oh, by the way, I learned that whenever I try a new riding style, like using my hamstrings to forcefully return the pedal back towards me on the second half of the power stroke, to do so gradually. My enthusiasm on this last ride led to the severe soreness, a momentary fear that an injury had occurred, and to me wondering if I’m getting too old for this sort of activity. Nah!! Too old? Keep working the body, eating right, and get plenty of sleep each night … stay vital regardless of what the chronological years might suggest (according to the traditional American paradigm at least).

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FABRICATION OF A NEW TRIKE PART

(or … what to do when there’s no such thing)

Sometimes, when attempting to get just what you want, you realize that nobody else has developed a particular part to accomplish a particular task. This is the situation in which I found myself the past few weeks. I needed to mount my headlight, taillight, and flagpole to the Q in a manner consistent with my unique (and weird) ways of doing things. I was spending way too much time trying to figure this out!

I looked at the mounting solutions available commercially through Hostel Shoppe, which are actually quite a few. I was impressed with all the novel ways to get a headlight on a trike. Taillight mountings were not so numerous, and the tradition thing to do is attach the taillight to the rear rack. My rear rack is partially obscured by my trailer (when viewed from an auto behind the trike), so putting the light there didn’t seem that great of an idea. Flagpole mounting is often accomplished by sliding the pole into a seat tube, with the resultant rake of about 37 degrees from horizontal keeping the flag lower than what I wished to see.

All these things come under the general heading of VISIBILITY, something that is critical for any trike pilot to consider. When your eyeballs are about headlight level on a car, there better be something sticking up higher to get the driver’s attention. So, the assignment I’ve been working on for quite a few days now is how to make all this happen without spending a fortune on new gadgets and mounting hardware. The headlight solution through Hostel Shoppe would have run about 21 bucks, with an additional 7 or so for shipping. That’s close to $30, and it just answers the headlight problem. Being the maverick type of chap that I am, my mind said: “Hey Stevie, design a simple and inexpensive part that does everything!”

So I did.

After significant time studying the trike from all angles, and contemplating many ideas from the traditional to the whacky, the “ah ha” moment finally broke through to all my mentally-challenged brain cells. I would design an uncomplicated aluminum tube that would extend up from the left recumbent seat tube, and then turn to a vertical position. This tube would allow me to attach the Cateye headlight and taillight, while also providing the perfect place into which I could slide my flagpole for plenty of height.

With much enthusiasm and motivation, I drew up the plans and rode the Q up to the local welding shop. After consulting with Mark and Jude, who both doubted my sanity when I explained I’m riding to Death Valley and back, they agreed to fabricate my marvelous invention for a meager $30! That’s great, I thought, and I went home pleased.

After about 3 weeks (my job was probably last in line), I picked up the new tube, a one-of-a-kind object that no one else on this planet has. Well, after figuring out a set screw to keep it from rotating, and then painting it black, into the seat frame it went. Essentially, it’s an inch outside diameter tube, 12 inches long on the vertical portion, with a 2 inch bend to meet up with the seat angle, and then a necked-down 13/16ths tube of 5 inches that inserts into the hollow seat tube frame. Onto this tube mounts both lights, in close proximity to my head, with the flagpole rising from the top. I had to cut 12 inches off the 7-foot pole, because it was 9 feet high when in the tube. Not that that’s a bad thing, but I want to be able to enter and exit the garage, which has a 9-foot ceiling, without dragging the tip of the pole on the 8-foot garage door and tearing up the flags over time. The height of the taillight now is the same as a car’s rear lights, which adds to my visibility from behind.

Here is what it all looks like:

The New Q Invention

The New & Bizarre, Totally Tubular Q Invention … it looks better with the four panniers installed!

The really convenient aspect of this new fabrication is that it allows me to activate both lights simply by reaching up to the left of my head. If, for example, I find myself in a foggy condition or tunnel, it’s an easy task to just flick on the headlight … no leaning way forward to reach the switch if the light had been mounted to the derailleur post as many tricyclists do. Most trikes I’ve seen that have taillights, have them mounted over the rear wheel. Well, that would necessitate stopping and exiting the cockpit to turn it on or off. With this new setup, all can be taken care of quickly while riding, as conditions dictate. And the ten red LED lights to the rear have multiple variations of display, from solid to wild flashing modes, so I can choose on the go. Pretty cool (or at least it seems so in my mind). Okay, enough of this … onward to some other obscure topic as soon as I can think of it.

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WORLD’S LARGEST TRICYCLE

I simply couldn’t resist including a photo of a really bizarre trike, one that I would love to have (if I had the money to sink into such a contraption). This vehicle was apparently at one of the Burning Man encampments in the Black Rock Desert, near Gerlach, Nevada. This massive gathtering of alternative thinkers occurs each September, and will stretch the imagination of anyone who reads about it. My route to Death Valley passes right by this remote desert locale, but by the time I ride through the area, the 2009 gathering will be finished, according to a Washoe County Sheriff‘s officer to whom I spoke about a month ago.

All rigth then, there is the photograph. Imagine riding on THIS trike!

The Ultimate Desert Tricycle

The Ultimate Desert Tricycle

Click HERE to see the full size photograph. I put a miniature version on here so the page loads faster for folks on dialup internet service. Notice the two bicycles hanging from the rear of this huge trike. I do like the canopy, and I wouldn’t have to worry about being accosted by nocturnal predators if I slept in that cockpit each night!

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The Q Meets 700

August 31, 2009

It was time to test a new pair of shoes. Suspecting that the weather on the Death Valley Tricycle Expedition may not always be sunny, I acquired a pair of Hi-Tec waterproof leather hiking shoes a while back to cover my feet while pedaling during bouts of heavenly showers or mountain snows. The shoes are comfortable, very pliable, and one size larger than my traditional shoes of the past. At my advanced age, the two feet I call my own must have spread out over the years, enough so that I require a larger toe box in a shoe to remain comfortable. Combine that with the fact that for the past five years or so, I’ve been living in open-toed sandals, and you have a guy who loves for his toes to breathe as much as his lungs.

On all my rides so far, I have worn the Shimano open-toe sandals, the ones that click into the binding mechanism of the pedals to keep my feet where they belong during the ride. Unlike a traditional bicycle, where your feet are on top of the pedals, a recumbent trike has the feet behind the pedals, so to keep them there requires a binding of some sort … either that or spend hours each day consciously holding your feet up (not a good solution). I like the Shimano setup a lot, and the freedom it offers my toes, yet I want more than one solution. So, on the other side of the pedals are flexible rubber grips that hold conventional shoes in place, and I needed to test them for a few miles.

Monday, August 31st provided me that assessment time, and I even talked my friend Matt Jensen into coming along for the jaunt. The day was sunny and warm, a day when the sandals would have normally been worn.

Matt Jensen, 700 Pilot

Matt Jensen, 700 Pilot

Matt has the Florida-made Catrike 700, an all-out speed trike, built for the sole purpose of smoking the cycling competition. I have the British-engineered Q, a quick trike built for going fast and also touring in comfort. The 700 is all aluminum to keep it rigid and light so that all the pedaling power is transferred to the asphalt for maximum speed. The Q is a combination of aluminum and chrome-moly steel to allow for lightness and comfort combined. The 700 has no suspension, a situation that can make for jarring rides depending on the roadbed. The Q has a special plastic elastomer and rear swing-arms that allow for a relatively cushy ride on the same roads that make the 700’s rider have a vibrating voice while he’s talking. The 700 has very thin tires for minimum rolling resistance and top speed. The Q (after my upgrade) has thick tires for long haul touring and comfort. The 700 has 16 inch front wheels and a large diameter 700-C rear wheel for higher top-end. The Q has 20 inch front wheels, and a 20 inch rear wheel, which allows for better lower-end pulling power (you can get a 26 inch rear-wheeled Q with no suspension for faster speeds if that is important).

When Matt and I would coast on downgrades, the 700 would slowly pull away from me, a result of the lower rolling resistance, more rigid frame, and lighter overall weight. On the flip side, on the rougher road surfaces, I was comfortable, while Matt was getting the free vibration treatment. Life is a series of compromises, it seems!

After riding around the neighborhood for about 20 minutes fine-tuning my front derailleur, Matt came down the street, sipping on some espresso concoction that he had just picked up a few blocks away at the caffeine sales company. On his 700, his front profile is nearly non-existent, as he sits only about 4 inches off the ground on a 27 degree recumbent seat. He looks very cool on the rig. You can just tell that the 700 is screaming “go fast” to its rider. On my Q, I sit about 9 inches off the ground on a 37 degree recumbent seat. And yes, with my ego in full gear, I probably look very cool too! Even though my large front chain ring has been reduced to 50 teeth, the top-end is still quite a thrill ride.

The 700 gearing is based on top speed, and so was mine on the Q prior to me changing the front and rear gearing for better mountain pulling power with a trailer in tow. But all this tech-talk aside, Matt and I weren’t out to compete this day, but rather to have a great time riding trikes through beautiful natural-world scenery, having fun chatting as we often rode side by side on the paved backroads with few autos, and feel the complete freedom that comes with this mode of human transportation.

We took off from my abode a little after 11:00 AM, successfully found our way through the town traffic, and about a mile later on the North Fork road, heading northeast. Although we discussed another route, I wanted to try the North Fork again to compare it to the recent ride I took up there … the one that caused me extreme over-use soreness not too long ago. I wished to see if my body had further adapted to the recumbent trike bio-dynamic that requires a certain amount of time in the cockpit before full riding pleasure can be achieved. I also wanted to see what difference the hiking shoes made on the same ride, as last time I wore the Shimano sandals.

Much to my chagrin, only about two miles out, I began to feel the same uncomfortable sensation in my outer rear left leg that gave me trouble last week! I couldn’t believe it, as we were taking it easy, and all week I had been fine. This was really starting to annoy me, because my endurance is never an issue, and I hate to be stopped by something like this. Barring any injury or repetitive stress issue, I can ride indefinitely as long as I’m fed on schedule. So, here I am concentrating on this thing again, feeling very bummed out as we pedaled along. Surprisingly, within the next mile, it eased up, and eventually became a non-issue. Okay, maybe there was hope for me after all.

As we rode farther up into the mountains through the pasture land of the river valley, we kept our steeds side by side unless the sound of a petroleum-puffer could be heard, or if either of us saw one in our rear view mirrors. In that case, one of us would fall back and it was single file to let the two-ton steel behemoths pass on by our 35 pound cycles. Funny, there was usually just one human inside each monster, and there was one human on each of our trikes. So here we have three humans in close proximity, all heading up the North Fork, two of whom are athletically pedaling and producing zero emissions, and the other of whom is passively sitting and poisoning the air that Matt and I have to breathe from the tailpipe. It is truly amazing how seeing life from a trike cockpit has certainly emphasized aspects of human existence that I have always understood, but now see dramatically for the first time.

World's Fastest Trike

Catrike 700 – World’s Fastest Production Trike?

Matt is a very helpful fellow, and as he watched me ride, he would offer helpful hints to better my quality of riding. It was great, like having a personal trike tutor right along side … in fact, that was exactly what was happening! Gee, I should be paying this guy for all his excellent riding advice, knowledge that he has learned from over 100,000 miles of cycle touring over the years, not only in the United States, but also in locales such as the interior of Australia. Talk about lonely regions! That outback is really out back!

Well, we weren’t quite so far off the grid, but the North Fork leads to a fantastic feeling of solitude and peace.

One thing I learned is to “spin” more rather than doing a slower and more difficult pedaling in higher gears. By keeping the gearing on the low side rather than the high side, less stress is transferred into my body, less energy is used to move a given distance, and fewer calories need be consumed during any given time frame. It’s akin to taking a nice stroll through town versus running at full speed. One leaves you relaxed and ready for more, the other wipes you out, has potential for injury, and leaves you tired at the end. Applied to my upcoming long-distance trek to Death Valley, this knowledge will be useful to keep me going eight hours each day, and allow me to get up the following morning and do it all again, with a positive attitude and no injury. An injury is the nemesis of any ultra-long cycling trip, and can stop you cold in your tracks. This tip alone was worth having Matt on the ride, but the camaraderie that existed between us was really what it was all about.

Triking with others is a blast. In fact, I just found out in this morning’s email that Dave Olson, a fellow who has been contemplating joining my expedition for a portion of the trip, is now seriously considering doing so, hooking up at Silver Springs, Nevada, and then bidding adieu at Schurz, Nevada. Dave may be showing up with some triking friends of his who ride a tandem trike. It should be quite fun to have company for those 60 miles or so. Maybe if they are having enough fun, they might even consider riding farther. Heck, if I can do a good sell-job, just maybe I could talk them into riding to the national park. Only time will tell, but this development is exciting to me. Dave is about nine years older than me, and has ridden his Catrike Expedition cross country on very long treks, so he is surely up to the task.

Dave on the right with cell phone, and his Catrike Expedition in front

Dave on the right with cell phone, and his Catrike Expedition in front

Getting back to Matt, he also suggested adjusting the binding mechanism on my pedals to allow for more movement when wearing my Shimano cycling sandals. Currently, I have them adjusted quite tightly, and I will change this today. He talked about keeping a relaxed grip on the steering handles, something that I had already figured out. We chatted about head-rest placement: He likes his farther forward, while I prefer mine farther aft. Since I wear a thick helmet, my head makes contact sooner. I like mine back farther also because on smooth roads, I enjoy leaning my head back some, which further accentuates the easy-chair feeling of a recumbent trike.

Speaking of easy-chairs, we passed a road crew doing some repaving, and one lady flagger asked us as we passed if it was hard to ride one of those things. Matt happily responded something along the lines of: “The most difficult thing is not falling asleep from the comfortable seating position.” That put a smile on everyone’s face.

Well, the bottom line was that I rode the North Fork again, the same 40 miles that wasted my legs about nine days prior, and I arrived back in town still able to pedal and smile. I refrained from cranking out top-end speed during this trip except for one time when I couldn’t resist giving Matt and his fast 700 a run for the money. On the return from our farthest point out, a slight downgrade presented itself, with a few mild curves, and about a quarter mile in length. Without saying a word, I silently shifted into high gear front and rear, felt the resistance of the pedals that only pure muscle power can overcome, and gleefully began to wield some serious quadricep energy! It was extraordinarily satisfying to be able to really pick up the speed so quickly on the Q, and for a moment, Matt began to fade in my rearview mirror …

for a moment.

Now mind you, Matt is the embodiment of a unique ideology of life, one that I find fascinating, and one where the ego plays a minimal part compared to traditional Americana. Yet I can’t help but ponder that just maybe my impetuous adrenaline-based need for speed somehow ignited his need for competition, clearly an ego-based phenomenon, and the expected response immediately followed. In the split second that Matt’s eyeballs relayed the image to his brain that I was attempting to place some serious distance between our trikes, he took action to quickly reduce that distance back to what it was. It wasn’t long at all before that small 700 in my rearview mirrors became a quite large fire-breathing speed machine drafting my rear tire!

The 700 about to pass!

The 700 about to pass!

On his 700, Matt sits a few inches lower than I do on the Q. His seatback is also 10 degrees less off the horizontal than mine, so his profile is smaller. So in the mirrors, I saw the bottoms of his sandals, with his head sticking up over the top of them. It was an inspiring sight, one that further cements the fun to be had on a trike. I’m not a speed demon by any stretch of the imagination anymore (used to be with cars and motorcycles when in my twenties), but this was just pure untainted heart-pounding pleasure! One thing else I think I saw in that mirror was a big grin. Of course, Matt being the gentleman that he is, that 700 stayed mere inches off my tail to the left, his front 16 inch tires now even with my rear 20 inch wheel, but he remained content to hold that position, as if to let me know: “Yeah man, I’m here, and I could pass at any moment, but I don’t want to discourage you too much.” All I can say is that it was a blast!

700 with Q

700 with Q

Oh, and the hiking shoes I wore worked just fine. The Power-Grips held the feet firmly in place, yet allowed sufficient movement to not stress any joint connective tissue. In fact, the slight toe tingling and occasional numbness that has occurred in the Shimano sandals on prior rides did not occur with these shoes. I am told that this sensation eventually goes away as the body adapts to the new demands, so either that has happened, or the shoes made a difference. I will wear the sandals again on my next ride, and then determine if I am finally adapting, or the sandal attachment to the binding needs to be altered some.

This is one big experiment, where only multiple pre-trip rides will iron out all the bugs in the ointment. Best to get it all squared away now, while I have the tools and time to fix things, than run into a problem “out there” in the great expanses of the ultra-rural northwest and southwest. On this ride, I also learned that I need to rethink the pants I will be wearing, as the safari cargo pockets on the ones I have are rubbing on the outside of each thigh, leaving red irritated skin for a couple of days. This hasn’t caused me any notice during the ride, and it does not hurt at all, but after several hundred miles, who knows how bad it could get. So, I guess it’s time to direct a little more cash towards the next great idea in clothing. Ugh, there’s always something needing solving!

After this ride, I could actually take the stairs in the house two at a time, which is my typical way of ascending to the second floor. My body was still functioning on all its cylinders (oops, wrong comparison paradigm, considering my move away from motor-driven vehicles). Perhaps I should now say, my body is functioning on both pedals! After that first North Fork ride a week ago, getting up the stairs was a very slow and painful process, allowing me to realize what it must be like to have a severe walking disability.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention the blackberries! The Oregon countryside is loaded with blackberry plants everywhere it seems. The vines are also loaded with serious thorns, so harvesting blackberries is usually done with care. During this ride, Matt and I made a few stops at select locations where the plants were heavily laden with the delicious plump fruits, which simply necessitated parking the trikes along side the roadway, walking about two steps, and gently pulling the ripe and tasty blackberries from their vines. Yes, they were most excellent! This activity is a common sight when traveling on rural backroads in the Oregon mountains.

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TWENTY SIX DAYS TO LAUNCH

Random Reflections to Zero Hour

Gosh, it just seems like yesterday since I got the Q and thought I had all the time in the world to prepare for this journey. Days pass, then weeks, and finally months. Now, little more than three weeks separate me from the great unknown, an experience like I’ve never had before. Feelings swirl within my mind, mixed to be sure, from the typical worries induced by a fear-based existence that is drilled into our heads since childhood, to sensations of pure joy and excitement. Taking back one’s power as an individual to do as the spirit needs often presents challenges to the psyche, yet for those who can stay the course and forge ahead in an endeavor of personal passion, the rewards can be substantial.

The thoughts that mingle in my mind are seemingly endless, and attempting to capture them all is an exercise in futility. I’ve resorted to lists in order to not miss even the tiniest details needed to be fully prepared. It’s a lot like my trips in the former gasoline-imbibing SUV that I used to own, where supplies and knowledge were paramount to a successful trip and return. Yet with the trike, the challenges are far greater, as space is an extreme issue compared to a car, and using the body as the engine of forward movement demands special considerations never considered by auto drivers. A person with a sprained and swollen ankle can still drive a car, but what about a trike?

Something I have not yet done, but I feel compelled to do, is thank my mom. Known in the Mojave environs as Desert Gypsy, she’s a grand old gal who is also a Death Valley old-timer. If it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t be in this situation at all. Aside from the obvious existence of me as a human on Earth being dependent upon mom and the old man, the gypsy has also played a hand in making my current situation and this expedition possible. Call it the “Bank of Mom” if you will, a financial backing source where initial funding for the trike and gear commenced back in May of this year. Having faith in my dream to attend the Death Valley 49ers encampment to speak about my books, Teakettle Mama (her other moniker) fronted cash using my future book royalties as collateral. She is going to be attending the Author’s Breakfast at Stovepipe Wells on November 6th. She and my dad first visited Death Valley on a Harley in 1947.

1955 - Sitting on mom's lap when I was 4 years old at Mushroom Rock in Death Valley

1955 – Sitting on mom’s lap when I was only 4 years old at Mushroom Rock in Death Valley

Soon to be entering my seventh decade, creature comforts are important to me. Of course, being comfortable for such a long haul while pedaling for sixty days is critical for anyone with skin, bones, and muscle. If some minor irritation manifests itself on local rides, what will it develop into after days and weeks in the cockpit? Now, just to be clear about the 7th decade statement, how many of you thought that means I’m closing the gap on 70 years of age? That’s what it sounds like logically, right? Well, just as mathematically when you’re 58 years old, you’re really in your 59th year, when you’re in your sixth decade, you’re in your fifties. Okay, enough of that idle chatter that may well be insulting to everyone’s intelligence …

Back to creature comforts! Recumbent seating is something that takes adaptation and adjustment. It is truly comfortable to sit reclined, 37 degrees off the horizontal, in a mesh seat. The fabric gives just enough to mold to the back, ensuring a cushy rest while pedaling up killer hills. And the fact that it’s mesh allows for ample air circulation to keep your backside cool, unlike in a car where one begins sweating in hot weather. These seats need minor adjustments for maximum comfort however. There are straps that hold the fabric to the seat frame, and the tighter the straps are pulled, the firmer the seat will feel.

On recent rides, I’ve noticed a slight irritation on one of my 33 spinal vertebrae, which is leading to tender skin, something akin to a hiker’s boot pain. The vertebra is located in the area we would consider the high lumbar region. At first, I wondered if my spine touching the tension strap was causing the issue, so I tightened the strap for a ride, which led to the conclusion that it was the other way around. By loosening the strap, it has allowed for a softer and more form-fitting feel, which has reduced the sensation significantly. Just in case I still have issues on the road, I am bringing some mole skin for any irritation that could potentially hamper my riding ability. Hopefully, I’ll have it figured out in the next 26 days, fine tuned to perfection!

There are five tires on my rig, three on the Q and two on the trailer. All five tires are the exact same size: 20 x 1.75 inches. This is a good thing as I see it, because it means that I only have to carry one size of spare tube and one size of spare tire. I know of folks who have three tire sizes with which they must contend. For example, a rider of a Catrike Expedition pulling a BOB (beast of burden) trailer must have emergency supplies for three tires sizes, which means three sizes of spare tubes and three sizes of spare tires, to be fully prepared. The trike has 20 inch wheels in front, a 26 inch wheel behind the cockpit, and a 16 inch wheel on the trailer.

My toes have been tingling and occasionally going somewhat numb. I am told this is common with greenhorn recumbent trikers, and that it will pass once the body adapts. This happened quite noticeably on my first long ride, where I was wearing my Shimano SPD sandals. On that first ride of 30 miles, I went to stand up at one rest stop and darn near fell over on the side of the road, grabbing the trike quickly to remain upright, and happy that my two bicycle buddies (Terry Butler and Dave Beck) happened to be looking the other way. It is amazing to realize that our ten toes keep us vertical.

This toe concern is indeed minimizing with each ride, yet it still lingers a bit in the sandals. With my regular waterproof hiking boots, which I’ll wear on rainy days, and which are not attached to the pedals with the SPD binding system, I experience absolutely none of this tingling and numbness. I am also working on fine tuning the SPD attachment, by adjusting the angle that the sandal is held on the pedal. Thus far, I have had my feet perfectly vertical, but yesterday, after a 20 mile ride to the South Jetty, I modified the angle to allow my feet to point slightly out at the toes, and will assess this revision on the next ride right after Labor Day.

On my first 40 mile ride up the North Fork, where I maintained a relatively high speed throughout, I also noticed an uncomfortable pain popping up near the end of the ride, which encompassed an area across the foot at the level of the ball, where the foot contacts the pedal. This was likely due to the fact that the Shimano sandals are quite stiff, with little padding like I have in my cushy hiking boots. Matt Jensen suggests I get a pair of soft insoles to ease any hard interface. He wears them in his cycling sandals, which he exclusively has on his feet on all his long distance tours, rain or shine. Having the toes free to breathe is a fantastic feeling. Of course, if I get into cold snowy weather or blizzard conditions on my return trip over the Cascade Range, the warmth of my leather boots will go a long way to warding off freezing toes or frostbite.

Recumbent butt is also something that new trike riders will have to endure for a short period of time. As great as the seat is, the first few rides result in the rear-end feeling like you just have to move it around in the seat to get comfortable. Gee, on one of my earliest training rides of only eight miles around and near town, after four miles my posterior was aching enough that I actually pondered that I was not cut out for recumbent triking, and that maybe I had made an error in judgment by purchasing the vehicle. Fortunately, this has lessened with each passing day and mile in the cockpit, to where now it is nearly a non-issue. It no longer has my attention while riding, which allows me to enjoy the scenery instead of curse my aching butt. Yesterday’s ride was problem free in this regard.

If I could change one thing on my Q, it would be the handlebars. I would like the hand grips lower and angled farther forward at top, so my arms would have a more open angle and my hands would grip the bar more straight-on. With the grips closer to the ground and angled forward and inch or so, it would be a more natural position to hold over the long haul. I pondered heavily the idea of sawing off one to two inches from the ends of the under-seat bars, but realized this would not work with the narrow track of the Q. If I did that, the brake levers would interfere significantly with the front fenders when turning the trike sharply to either side. Perhaps this would not be a problem on the standard track Q, which has a width of two more inches on each side, but the point is moot, as I have the Qnt model and I prefer its narrowness for navigation of narrow road shoulders. Fortunately, the handlebars have a wide range of adjustment, and I have them as close to what I want as possible.

As it is now, when I am just cruising along, I lightly hold the bottom portion of the hand grips, and often keep one hand in my lap. Sometimes, I lightly place my hands on the rear of the front fenders for a change. I move my hands up to full handle grip position when it’s necessary to shift, or if I’m coming into a high automobile traffic situation up ahead. My forearms exit my hands at a down-angle at this point, whereas I would prefer a straighter angle. Essentially, the higher one has to hold the hands, the less natural it is for long distances. This is not a major issue however, so don’t think that because I am devoting time to it that it’s a stumbling block, as it isn’t. I love the Q, and all its angles!

For me, a thick padded sock is a good thing to have on my foot. Whether in boots while hiking, or in sandals while pedaling. The cushion just feels cozy, and keeps the aches at bay. Many cyclists prefer thin nylon socks, perhaps due to the ease of which they launder and dry while on a long tour, but my needs may be different. This trip will not be taking place during the common summer cycling months when the majority of cyclists tour, but rather during the autumn and maybe early winter times when colder weather may be in store. Thin nylon socks do not keep my feet very warm in cold weather, and any foot odor over time stubbornly remains in the sock after washings. They also provide no real padding in the shoe or sandal.

I will be wearing a standard athletic sock, thickly padded and mostly cotton. Yes, I can  hear some of you now saying how misguided I am, but all I can say is that it works for me. I will have enough pairs that they will last between laundry stops, because if I wash them in a stream, they will take a long time to dry, unless it’s a very warm day, in which case I can hang them in the sun on a clothes line. For whatever reasons, bodily odors do not remain in cotton products, so I can wear these socks until they are rags and they still have no smell after laundry day. I have spent much time over the years in synthetic products (socks, pants, shirts) and have come back to cotton. During my years of windsurfing and skiing, synthetic clothing was the norm, but not anymore. Comfort wins out for me.

I believe that the body should breathe and that blood flow should proceed unimpeded. This is another deliberation for me regarding clothing choices. Matt gave me a pair of Pearl Izumi socks to try. They were composed of entirely synthetic material, and the upper elastic band that holds around the leg was tight as a drum. It was the kind of sock that after wearing it, a depression encircled the leg, marking the spot. Any piece of clothing that is so tight as to leave obvious impressions in the skin has the potential to obstruct blood circulation, leading to pooling or other unwelcomed results of restricting the flow. Unrestricted blood flow to and from the feet is critical for a recumbent trike pilot, as the feet are up above butt level.

On the rear of the Q is a mountain bike cassette, running from a sprocket size of 11 teeth to 34 teeth. This is gearing that will help me get the trike and trailer, my body, and a ton of gear up and over the imposing Cascade Range and any other earthen elevations that typically bear the brunt of cyclists’ cursing. Knowing of my ultimate goals, Matt switched out this cassette for me early-on in this preparation process, as he realized that high top-end speed was not crucial. Then I came along a few weeks ago and changed out the front crank set and chain rings (remember that nightmare?), essentially accomplishing the same objective at the front of the drivetrain. Now the Q is one low-end monster that will climb as long as there are enough calories in my furnace to keep the legs spinning.

Yesterday, Thursday the 3rd of September, my body and spirit were aching to get out on the open road once again. Perhaps you know the sensation … one where you can feel the legs pumping out the miles on the trike and the mind in a state of absolute ecstasy to be free on three wheels! I had to go. There was no “I have to do this” about it. I can’t wait to do this! Besides, I wanted to see if my body had further adapted to all the peculiarities of triking.

So, I sent off an early morning email to my friend Terry Butler, the former university professor who lives locally and, like me, has traded his automobile transportation for human powered mobility. You may recall that Terry and Dave Beck were my partners several weeks ago on my first “long” ride of 30 miles up into the hilly Coastal Range, the ride where my old Campagnolo crank setup was not downshifting well with a 24-tooth inner chain ring that I had installed (too big of a jump from the adjoining 42-tooth middle chain ring). Well, a little while later that morning, Terry called to inform me that he had other plans, but he would like a rain check.

As it happened, about an hour later I’m on the telephone with Matt, recounting how the ride from Monday was having few adverse effects on my physical self, and talking about some technical thing that I do not recall now (my mind must be going … actually, of all the things I’ve lost in life, I miss my mind the most). In any event, I queried whether he would like to take a short spin, and  he said sure. I prefer early morning starts, when the temperatures are still crisp outside, and I can really put-out the steam to move down the road. Matt, on the other hand, seems to prefer later starts, when the sun has done its warming number on the air and land, and his traditional biker clothed body is more comfortable. I like a bit of a nip to the air, but hey, when seeking riding buddies, beggars cannot be choosers! I deferred and we were off about 11 AM.

By then, the fog and clouds had broken, and the cool temps were beginning to diminish noticeably. Matt didn’t show up at the house riding his Catrike 700 like last time. This time, he was on one of his other steeds, a Titanium Rush long-wheelbase recumbent bicycle. Talk about a costly machine! No paint either … none needed. It’s simply the bright luster of pure titanium metal. On the back of the T-Rush was what they call a tail sock, a bright dayglow green nylon covering that accomplishes both aerodynamic improvement and high visibility in one fell swoop. He knows how to get motorists’ attention.

Matt on his Titanium frame T-Rush

Matt on his Titanium frame T-Rush

We rode over the Siuslaw River bridge at the south end of town on Highway 101. There is only one lane in each direction, and no safe option for cyclists but to take the lane. Most motorists are courteous however, so this was not a white-knuckle affair by any means (four SUVs did pass us on the bridge, over the double yellow line). Heading out south, we had no appreciable momentum, so the speed across the bridge was not fast according to auto driver standards. Coming back into town at the end of the ride was a different story however! There is a huge hill south of the bridge, which makes for slow progress heading out, but means pure adrenaline pumping speed coming back. Hence, when we hit the bridge from the south side, we were putting the pavement under our wheels at a blistering pace, and held up no traffic on the bridge with the 30 MPH speed limit.

Once up and over the big southern hill, we turned west towards the dunes, part of the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. Thousands of dune buggies, ATVs, and other sand-oriented vehicles appear here all year long to spin and race across hundreds of square miles of dunes that are bordered by tall evergreen forests on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other. Fifty miles south, the recreation area ends at the North Bend/Coos Bay region. Most of this ride is flat roadway that stretches for several miles just behind the beach dunes, with open wetlands to the east. It is very pleasant riding, with the clean ocean air wafting in from the west, the sound of the crashing waves, and the sight of large birds of prey occasionally circling overhead. Since the car traffic on this narrow two-lane road with no stripe is almost non-existent on this Thursday, we cruise side by side and fill each other’s ears with matters of importance on our minds.

Ten miles from our point of origin, the pavement stops and so do we. Immediately ahead is the South Jetty, a long pile of gargantuan boulders that the Army Corps of Engineers laid out here years ago to allow fishing boats to exit the river and enter the ocean without having to encounter surf that can capsize a boat. Across the river is the North Jetty, separated from us by only a matter of the river’s width, but a land-navigable distance of roughly 15 miles. To our right are numerous fishing and crabbing boats, along with an occasional pleasure craft.

As we are standing and stretching our legs, and I am munching happily on a Clif bar and sipping water from my Hostel Shoppe Recumbents bottle, a stately white-haired gentleman from Seattle approaches us. Matt and I already know why he’s coming over from his car, which is parked about 30 yards west.

Whenever you ride and park on a Q tricycle, be prepared to talk about your wheels, as the Q just seems to invite curiosity seekers. Most folks have never seen one before, and just have to find out what it is and why you are riding it. They ask a million questions, or so it seems, about what it’s like to be a trike pilot. For me, a guy who likes to talk, share, and write, this is a fun activity, one of the perks of changing my mode of transportation from the overly widespread and mind-numbing automobile. Of course, if Matt were authoring this post, he might offer another perspective on things, perhaps thinking that this fellow might find the T-Rush the object of his attention. Well, okay, I’ll admit, with both the three-wheeled Q and the two-wheeled T-Rush parked there on the jetty together, the dynamic was screaming for attention (and getting it).

We answered all the traditional questions he had, as he smiled and also related how he rides normal bicycles with his son now and then, but he has to stop at the mountains while his son is able to continue on up the steep inclines around Seattle. Visibly overweight, the fellow quickly relates how things were different in his younger years, which I find intriguing since I doubt he was much older than myself, perhaps mid sixties. I had a shade  hat on with droopy sides, which may have partially obscured the silver tint of the hair on my temples, so he may not have realized the closeness of our ages. If I let me beard grow, it’s all white at this point, but the hair on my head is still mostly black, so without the beard, I present a fairly young appearance. Of course Matt, being a youthful 40 years, presents the expected cyclist image, and since I was with him, I must have seemed just as young to the visitor.

As we headed out, this fellow, who was riding with his wife and another couple in their black Toyota Camry, just cruised slowly behind Matt and me for a while, probably chatting inside their 4,000 pound steel box about how cool we were on these bizarre transportation devices. Eventually, the driver pushed on the accelerator pedal, which pumped more fuel into the engine, and the car sped away, leaving the two of us to enjoy the natural marine environment around us. Those folks in the car were seeing the sights and receiving no physical benefit, while Matt and I were appreciating the world from a very divergent perspective and getting a great physical workout in the process. I love this trike!

Back in town, after crossing the bridge in a flash, the two of us chatted in the garage for an hour about the realities of life, or the illusions of life, depending on one’s mindset. It was a great day.

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I just received a nice note from a fellow author and friend of mine, Robert Likes, wishing me well on the expedition. Here is what he had to say:

“Thank you Steve for getting back to me! I can believe what the preperations for a trip like yours must be. I’ll be following your posts on the DVJ Blog. Again, take care, enjoy and take photos. I wish you God’s speed and a book of stories to tell!! You’ve got your work cut out for you, don’t bother about replying to this post. I know you’ll take all the necessary precautions, but at our age, I still have some concerns……..be safe not sorry!!”

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ONE MILLION AND ONE DETAILS

Gear and Preparation for a First-Timer

I’m sure it will be a lot quicker and easier the second time around, but for putting together an expedition like this by someone who has never done it before, the challenges are mentally and physically daunting at times. There is no one thing that is overwhelmingly impossible, yet the endless small details cause the mind to swim in a vast mental ocean of thought and debate, where the psyche searches for landfall and solid ground. I’ll toss out  just one obscure example of a mere fraction of what’s on my mind today (Sunday, September 6, 2009, Labor Day weekend in the United States).

Okay, for one thing, I wonder if little wild critters will be attempting to access my panniers and trailer at night while I’m sleeping. I have read journals of other long distance cyclists, and have been told about this occasionally occurring. Stephanie and Jeremy, the couple written about earlier on this webpage, had what they think may have been a squirrel chew a hole in one of their panniers to eat some of their food. She stitched it up the next morning. So, I guess I had better bring a needle, thread, and some patch material, right?

Is there any way to ward off this type of nocturnal eating? Well, perhaps so, thinks my overburdened mind. Not only do I prefer to keep the four expensive panniers intact (we’re talking just under $500 worth of bags), but I would rather not spend my time stitching up teeth holes when I could be riding down the road. Of course, my situation is slightly different than theirs, as my food will be thoroughly wrapped and inside my Rubbermaid Action Packer 35-gallon trunk attached to the Burley trailer, and the trunk is a hard-shell plastic, likely impervious to small animals and their attempts at chewing. In the panniers, I will only be placing clothing and non-food items.

A bear could still rip into the trailer cargo hold, but since the majority of the trip will not be in bear country, I am not too worried. If I were touring in British Columbia’s Rocky Mountains, that would be a different story. Even in the trailer trunk, the food is wrapped in its original container, and then in Ziplock bags, which are then stored in an REI Cordura-plus gear bag that sits inside the locked trunk. Since my route will not find me passing through towns on a daily basis like most touring cyclists do, I am packing a food supply to keep my body nourished on the long lonely hauls in the middle of proverbial nowhere.

All right, so here is my bright idea about deterring creatures other than myself from getting into my gear while I am deep into REM sleep in my REI Arete all-season tent. First of all, the trike and trailer will be parked right next to the tent, likely wrapped around the front of the entrance area, far enough away to allow me to exit at night without walking into it, but close enough that I can monitor it easily. And here is the brainstorm part: I am considering routing a lightweight string from the trike to the trailer each night … a string that has attached some little bells that will send their unique tones into the night air and into my ears should any movement of my rig occur while I’m asleep.

With this inventive setup, the theory concludes that I will be awakened when and if a squirrel or packrat begins to use my expensive belongings to their personal advantage. I will hear the bells subconsciously, groggily wake up, and be able to open the tent door to politely request that my little visitor think better of his actions and take his leave of my realm. This bell arrangement would also alert me if some thieving human were afoot, but of course since I will be camping primitively for the most part in extremely remote areas, this is probably not going to be a real concern (if it turns out to be, I have other methods of dealing with human intruders). And if it is a bear outside, my personal experience has demonstrated that they quickly run off when confronted by me (not foolproof mind you, but has worked so far).

One thing I have learned the hard way is not to camp near old buildings or ruins of any type. I once did this with my prior SUV, and had a packrat friend attempting much of the night to acquire parts from under my hood to build his nest somewhere in the nearby region. I was awakened about four times that night by the sound of the little critter in the engine compartment as he started to chew on parts necessary to keep my rig running. I would imagine that panniers and clothing material would also make for some cozy nesting material, so it’s not just squirrels looking for food that is a concern.

Speaking of squirrels though, here is the epitome of squirrels from hell: One warm summer evening, I was in a large forested campground with every site occupied, and encountered  large squirrels so aggressive that several of them actually kept climbing up on the picnic table to take the food from me as I ate! Unbelievable! I had to keep arising from my meal to assertively chase them off until I was finished eating and had packed away the food in the truck. I’ve experienced many of these critters in my time, but never anywhere nearly so bold as this. They were a perfect example of extreme habituation, where animals no longer had any fear of humans. When this type of dynamic occurs with bears in the mountain parks, officials have to relocate or destroy the animal.

Well folks, it’s time for me to go downstairs and have a hot bowl of oatmeal and raisins, so I will take my leave for right now. Don’t think that by spending so much time here talking about critters getting into my gear that I’m overly concerned about this potential eventuality, because it is not a priority for me. It’s just one of those million and one little details that race through my proactive mind so that I can be prepared for darn near anything. As with most people, about 97 percent of what we worry about never happens anyway, so why use up my finite existence on this planet with such things.

Hey, I can’t wait to hit the road and see what develops each day! It’s now only 24 days to departure, and the trailer is attached to the Q … loaded so that my training rides from now on will begin preparing my body for the real load that I will be pedaling for all those miles.

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ESSENTIAL GEAR LIST

Most of the main things

VEHCILE GEAR:

ICE Q Narrow Track Tricycle

Tire Fenders

Rear Wheel Rack

Burley Flatbed Trailer (spare tire mounted underneath)

Rubbermaid 35 Gallon “Action Packer” Cargo Trunk

Camelbak Hydration Bladder

Arkel GT 54 Canadian Panniers

Radical Trice Side Pods

Otivia Rack Cargo Cache

Trike & Trailer Flagpoles

Cateye Headlight & Taillight

Schwalbe Marathon-Plus Puncture Resistant Tires

Q Tubes (puncture resistant)

EarthGuard Tire Liners

CAMPING GEAR:

REI Arête All Season Tent

REI Arête Rainfly

REI Arête Ground Tarp

Berkeley Down Sleeping Bag

Cascade Inflatable Sleeping Pad

Nalgene One-Liter WaterBottles (5)

Foldable Water Bucket

Sea to Summit 10 Liter Pocket Shower

Bathroom Bag

Charmin “To Go” Toilet Paper

Foldable Toilet Seat

Small Towel

Corel Bowl

Stainless Steel Spoon

Skin Moisturizer

Trash Bags

CLOTHING:

Merrell Moab Ventilator Boots

Athletic Socks (7 pair)

Safari Pants (2)

Shirts (3)

Down Vest

Polar Fleece Jacket

Polar Fleece Head Cover

Waterproof Sequel Jacket

Waterproof Gloves

Waterproof Gators

Waterproof Hiking Boots

Waterproof Pants Cover

Specialized Instinct Cycling Helmet

Riding Gloves

Wool Gloves

Wide Brim Shade Hat

Sequel Desert Hat

Polycarbonate Sunglasses

Flip Flop Sandals

Thermal Long Under Pants

Nylon quick-dry Water Shorts (for stealth camp bathing)

Moleskin Protective Strips

FOOD:

Water

Grape Nuts

Bob’s High Fiber Cereal

Raisins

Dried Plums

Curry Rice Packs

Bear Valley Pemmican Bars

Clif Bars

Par Bars

EMERGENCY ITEMS:

Compass

Waterproof Strobe Light

LED Windup Flashlight

Black Diamond LED Head Lamp

Aircraft Signal Mirror

Snake Bite Venom Extractor

First Aid Kit

Waterproof Matches

Flint Spark Ignitor

Pocket Survival Book

Survival Scarf

Survival Tri-fold Brochure

Emergency Space Blanket Bag

Space Blanket

Swiss Army Knife

Fixed Blade Knife

PSDD (Personal Self Defense Device)

Whistle

Extra Trunk Nuts

Extra Drivetrain Chain

Extra SRAM Master Links

Chain Tool

Spoke Tool

Tire Levers

Crescent Wrench

19 mm Box Wrench (2)

Spare Tire (for any of 5 wheels)

Other Assorted Road Tools

Topeak Road Morph Tire Pump

Plastic Zip Ties

Important Phone Numbers

Cellular Telephone (borrowed)

DOCUMENTATION:

Samsung Digital Camera

Daily Journal Book

Ballpoint Pens

NOTE: There are things I have forgotten to place on this list that are already included, or I will be including, in my gear. When I discover that I have neglected to list a significant item here, I will attempt to make time to get back to this list for an update. Since there are several items of lesser importance, not everything will appear here.

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RAINY DAY CHATTER

September 06, 2009

There are way too many petroleum powered vehicles out and about this Labor Day weekend with intoxicated drivers to  make cycling fun, so I shall exercise patience and hold off until Tuesday for my next great ride. Tuesday’s tour will be a new experience, as I will be towing a nearly fully laden trailer this time … no more trike-only adrenaline-pumping excursions for me (at least not until after the BIG expedition to Death Valley and back). It is now time to get used to pulling a serious load!

I have ridden with the trailer in tow before, back when I first acquired it, but I had no weight on it. I was just pulling the aluminum flatbed around to test it out and make sure the wheels were working correctly. Without a load, I barely noticed any difference. Of course, while pulling a trailer, one must be aware that overall length of the trike plus trailer is just over 10 feet (if you include the extended forward pedal), so extra consideration must be given to the time it takes to cross intersections … no quick darting around allowed. I have to keep in mind also that there are no brakes on the trailer, and neither is there a brake on the rear trike tire. My only two brakes are on the front two tires. Those brakes have to stop the entire train, so forward thinking the stop routine is necessary.

Since I believe the over-use, repetitive stress situation spoken of several days ago is now a thing of the past, I am eager to strengthen my lower body musculature even more with the extra resistance. It’s similar to working out in a gym, where a few weeks of specialized exercise produces predictable and positive results. My thighs have already adapted to the current loads, with larger muscle cross-section size and noticeable definition. For a guy like myself, who has been a dedicated gym rat for decades, this improvement is welcomed. The stronger I become prior to the departure in 24 days, the easier the trip will be. The trailer will be loaded to its 100 pound capacity for these training rides, and if we figure the trailer itself weighs maybe 17 pounds, then I will be pulling almost 120 pounds.

This weight will make a difference on the hills. On level ground, once momentum is gained from a stop, the nearly frictionless motion of the trailer will be of little concern. And of course, on downhills, the trailer’s weight will increase my speed over just the trike alone. The downhill speed is great for covering more ground quicker, but one must not forget that what speeds up and goes downhill at a fast rate must eventually be stopped by only the front two brakes. It’s all a trade-off, I suppose. This coming week, I will let you know what the load feels like. After three weeks of practice hills, I am hopeful that my legs will have completed the necessary adaptation process, and pulling the load will not pose any physical or mental obstacles.

By the way, earlier today, I picked up a couple new pairs of pants. Well, not new really, but darn close to it. There is a local store here called St. Vincent DePaul, a thrift outlet full of all kinds of second-hand items that are available to help the financially handicapped folks, as well as people who are inclined to be extra thrifty shoppers. I shop at this gigantic store not just to save a huge bundle on things, but also because I prefer not to be a first-line consumer who purchases all new materialistic goods, thereby hastening the depletion of Earth’s resources. The like-new pants are rugged khaki cotton, but do not have the large side-leg cargo pockets that I reported the other day were wearing heavily on the skin of my outer front thighs. After a couple of training rides in the new duds, I will determine if they are what I need to go the distance without irritation. I prefer cargo pockets because they are very handy for a myriad of reasons, however, if they cause a problem, then they can’t come on this trip!

Today, when I came out of St. Vincent’s store, a torrential cloudburst was happening by. I stood and watched from the cover of the store front, and pondered what it will be like to be riding across the landscape on the expedition during one of these waterful events. Later, when the clouds parted, and the sun hit some of the cloud lines, the view was stunning, and I realized that I will be treated to many days of magnificent sky-watching from the recumbent seat of the Q. Between now and launch date, I plan on wearing all my expedition raingear out in one of these monsoons on purpose, just to test it all. My Sequel rain jacket has kept me dry for an entire day in the rain, but it is older now, and some folks tell me that the rainproof material eventually will lose it’s ability to keep the wearer dry. Guess we’ll find out soon enough.

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EIGHTY PERCENT AND CLIMBING

September 8, 2009

The recent Labor Day rain flurries have passed. Today the crowds are gone and the town is slowly returning to its normal non-summer routine, as a few elder visitors eek out one more month of typically beautiful autumn weather. Kids are back in school now, so touring families have faded for another year. Breezes are light and skies are cloudless. Temperatures are just perfect for cycling, or for a crazy guy on a trike to venture out on yet another training maneuver.

At 8 AM this morning, having eaten breakfast and put out the trash, I began to ready myself for a 15 miler to test the trailer and gear at approximately 80% of the fully laden weight. I stuck close to town for the most part, riding through town and county areas around the political perimeter of the realm … not a bad idea whenever testing something different. My assignment was to see what an 80 percent load feels like, and to seek out a few noteworthy hills that will quickly let me know if my gearing modifications have been close to what I want. The school busses have dropped off the school children by 8:30, so there won’t be any waiting as a bus picks up kids. If I’m lucky, I’ll also avoid the diesel trash trucks en route, thereby keeping my lungs just a little bit cleaner.

All four panniers are on the trike, the small cargo trunk is behind my head, and the trailer is hitched. Here is a partial listing of how the storage containers will probably be utilized on my expedition:

Two 54-Liter Panniers will hold clothing

Two Side Pod Panniers will hold foul weather gear

Behind-Seat Rack Trunk will hold tools and emergency gear

Trailer Cargo Trunk will hold food, water, and shelter items

Today, there are no clothes in the main panniers, but a few jackets and other items are loaded into the side pods. Most of the trike tools are in the rack trunk. The trailer cargo hold has the tent, sleeping bag, most of the food, and a little water. This will give me a good preview of what’s to come regarding how the gearing feels on hills. I plan on reaching the 100% weight limit this week, after recovering from today’s ride.

Maybe I should do like baseball players do when they are up next to bat: they use two bats to swing for warm-up, so then the one bat feels ultra light. Using that method, I suppose I could pull two trailers for test rides, and then one would feel like nothing on the trip. Well, I don’t have two, can’t afford another one, and the one I have will be loaded to its maximum rating for the trek (100 pounds), so I will be happy with my setup.

Actually, I will have about 75-80 pounds in the Rubbermaid ActionPacker, as the trunk weighs 20 pounds itself, and the trailer is rated for a maximum of 100 pounds. My water supply in this trunk will weigh around 14 pounds, and if I pick up an extra gallon on a few of the long desert stretches of the trip, it will increase the weight by another 8.6 pounds. My food stash will tip the scales at about 45-50 pounds due to my extremely remote route. Food and water are the predominant players here, as my shelter and bed weigh in at a meager 12 pounds more or less (hopefully less, yes?).

By now, I am used to the automobile traffic when I ride. Prior to my first outing a few months ago, my mind spooked me into the fear of being only 9 inches off the roadway when large steel machines would be zipping by, especially on roadbeds with little to no shoulder in places. Matt Jensen said this fear would subside with time. He was right. Where I was originally fearful of riding along the road that parallels the river that goes into the ocean, now it is second nature, and the cars allow plenty of room … usually much more than is really necessary, something like 6 feet if no cars are coming the other direction. I am very appreciative of their generous spatial allowance, and of their courtesy. Today’s ride was a breeze in that regard.

My first step was to stop by Matt’s house and return his riding gloves, which he left in my garage after that ride to the South Jetty last Thursday. I turned into his subdivision and geared down to low range for his driveway, which is fairly steep for muscle power. The Q and trailer pulled the grade just fine. After parking in the shade of the trees, and removing my helmet, I rang the doorbell … no response but for a small yipper doggie inside. A minute passed, and I tapped out “shave and a haircut, six bits” on the wooden door. Still no Matt, but the yipper was right with me. One more doorbell ring, which, by the way, emits a beautiful tonal tune that I can hear from outside, and I figure to leave after fastening the gloves to the door handle. Just as I’m doing this, Matt’s brother groggily answers (or I figure it must be his bro due to the striking resemblance). I offer my sincerest apology for cutting his sleep short, and leave the gloves with him.

Before I leave the subdivision, I ride over to a shared driveway that is insanely steep (wouldn’t even be legal for a public roadway) and goes up to some prime properties on a high hill with great ocean views north and south. As I pedal closer, and my eyes tell me to turn around, my logic says: “Hey man, if you can’t do this, then just stay home on the porch!” Heck, I’m no quitter, so up the driveway I go. Yes, it requires low-low front and rear, but the trusty Q and I pull the trailer up without hardly breaking a sweat. I place my hands on the lowest portion of the handlebars near where they pivot under the seat, which gives me the ability to pull lightly without altering the handlebar alignment. This keeps my butt down in the cockpit’s seat.

Okay, I’m elated now, and want more hills. The burn in the quads is something I like (yeah, I know I’m nuts, but that just comes with a lifetime of physical training enjoyment). I had already conquered two longer but more gradual hills prior to Matt’s house, so it is becoming apparent that the gearing is working. What I learned from today’s ride was that the new 24-36-50 crank is perfect for my needs, as I can remain in the middle chain ring of 36 teeth for moderate hills, without having to downshift to the 24. With my old Campagnolo 30-42-52, I could not do this because the 42 was just too high with a trailer in tow.

Anyway, I took several side trips along the way, going down the steep, but short, hill to the North Jetty, and then back up on my way out. I also made a quick pit stop to off-load some used water at a local county park. Seems like the liquids go right through you when cycling. After another five miles, it’s down another hill to a boat launch at Munsel Lake, where there is a portable outhouse … not quite as nice as the flush toilets at the county park, but when you gotta’ go, you gotta’ go, right? Guess that’s what I get for taking a ride so soon after breakfast. When Matt goes with me, he likes to leave later in the morning when the weather has warmed up, around 11, so I’m dry as a bone. But I like the earlier starts for the cooler weather. Oh well …

During the second half of the trip, I did get some tingling toes in the SPD sandals, however it was not to the degree that it used to be. I have learned to wiggle the toes and stop pedaling for a spell to help reduce this sensation. I have also angled out the sandals slightly at the toes in the binding mechanism to keep the feet in perhaps a more natural angle. This has seemed to  help. The feeling dissipates quickly whenever I unclip from the pedals or stand up.

Stopping occasionally to stand up is a nice interlude anyway, especially when a lake or other viewpoint is nearby. The reclined seat on the Q is very comfortable, and now that I have loosened two adjuster straps in the mid-back area, my spine has no conflict with the mesh whatsoever. This is a fantastic way to ride over the really long haul. I also anticipate that if I ever need a nap en route, simply stopping and resting my legs out straight is all that will be needed. The seat is so low to the ground, and the 37 degree angle is so comfortable that a nap could easily be had right in the cockpit of the trike!

On the level straight-aways, I love to “open up” the Q and attain a higher speed for a while. I shift the right shifter to the smallest sprocket on the rear cassette, and then watch as the chain in front of me rises up through the derailleur onto the large 50-tooth chain ring. With this combination, I know the fun is about to begin. Now I also know why Norm Nieberlein, the guy who sold me the Q in May, loved the higher gearing! It is a blast to feel the breeze intensify as the ground passes quicker past my rear, and this extra wind power also cools my torso after a steep hill. On the down hills, this Q can really crank out some quick passage! Since I gave away my computer that registered speed, I can only guess at this point, but from the short time I had the computer attached, I know what 15 miles per hour feels like, and with the heavy trailer in tow, the speeds get even higher going down hill (great for the thrill, not so great for the brakes). Of course, if the road is straight with no reason to apply brakes, then the momentum gained keeps me going with no effort.

Once back in town, a thought passes through my over-burdened mind. With people always talking to me about what I am riding, and asking a million questions about what I am about to do, maybe the local newspaper would like to just tell everybody. Gee, people in cars are starting to see me regularly now out on the regional roads, and maybe they would like to know what’s going on. Who is that guy anyway? What in the heck is he up to?

So, I pull in and park in front of the Siuslaw News, and walk into their news office. A lady immediately asks if she could help me. I want to answer some clever remark like: “Well, I clearly need help, but I think I am beyond it now.” Resisting being a clown, I just begin telling her that I have something that perhaps the readership might enjoy. As I am relating just the barest details of the situation, a gentleman overhears and starts listening. And then a reporter wiggles in, a fellow named Shawn Penrod. The lady and the other guy go back to their work, but I have Scott’s attention now. I scribble down some contact information and the internet address to this weblog, and as I tell him of my impending insanity of the Death Valley ride, he begins taking a few notes. As we speak, he glances out the front plate glass window to behold my Q in all its loaded glory.

Well folks, Shawn is going to check out this trike page in the next few days as his busy schedule allows, and who knows, maybe I’ll be a local sensation. Maybe if they run a story and photo, all those people who see me in the thousands of cars over the weeks will be able to say: “Hey, there’s that guy I read about in the paper.” At least that way, I won’t have to tell the same story over and over again, will I? Of course, once on the road to Death Valley, no one will have the slightest idea who I am or where I’m going, so it will be back to story time again … unless by some uncanny chance CNN gets wind of it and plasters me everywhere. Oh, to dream the celebrity’s life! Actually, I like my anonymous status … think I won’t go overboard on this publicity stuff.

You folks who read about me here are a tiny number of enthusiasts, either of Death Valley, cycling, or both, and I feel like it’s a family affair. Thanks for visiting each day and making me feel important as I watch the stats counter rise by each passing hour!

T minus 537 hours, 07 minutes, 43 seconds, and counting! Take care my friends …

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Just when I thought this was a challenging expedition I’m about to take, I read about Anne Dussert, a French school teacher who is riding a trike over the Himalaya Mountains! She calls her trip Three Wheels To The Top Of The World. Check it out HERE.

A school teacher in the French Alps, Anne is also an extreme adventure triker. Here she is in the cockpit of her ICE Qnt tricycle.

A school teacher in the French Alps, Anne is also an extreme adventure cyclist. Here she is in the cockpit of her ICE Qnt tricycle.

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The other day, I sent Dave Olson (the fellow who has cycled across the United States) an email, in which I stated: “Twenty-two days and I’m outta’ here! I am both scared out of my wits and aggressively eager to hit the road, all at the same time! Weird, huh?” To this comment, he replied: “nope..feeling the way you do, is VERY normal, and you tend to get even more antsy up until the first few turns of the pedals. After that you just keep the goal in mind and get into the Buddha Mind of living in the moment and taking in the present.” I suppose this is akin to when I windsurfed, where I would feel the nervous jitters as I rigged the gear and watched the swollen, wind-driven white caps filling the lake. Once I got up the courage to put the board and sail in the water, mount up, and then take off across the tops of the waves, all was fine and I was having a great time!

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THE ROAD AHEAD

Musing about the route

The extreme diversity of environment and terrain that will be encountered on the Death Valley Tricycle Expedition is worth noting and discussing in more detail. Earlier on this page, I posted the route and provided a few rollover-link photographs, but now I’d like to talk about the landscapes a little.

This odyssey begins at the beach of the Pacific Ocean, where North American land slides into the huge salty sea, into water that covers most of this planet as one inconceivably enormous volume of marine environment – one ocean, but with several names bestowed by the human inhabitants of Earth. Westward travel by trike is not possible without buoyancy devices and a paddle wheel in place of the rear rubber, so I travel predominantly southeasterly instead, on good old terra firma. I’m a land lover … like to look at the ocean, but not be subject to its variable moods.

South on the Coast Highway is the first order of business, a route traveled by thousands of cyclists every spring, summer, and fall. Highway 101 is the conduit from Mexico to Canada for adventure cyclists who prefer seascapes to the west of their pedals. I will use this paved pathway to travel south to Reedsport, Oregon, where I will then head inland along the Umpqua River. Up to this point, the highway is a combination of decent shoulders for cyclists, along with some portions that place the cyclist right in the lane on blind curves. The State of Oregon publicizes this road as the “Oregon Coast Bike Route”, however the powers-that-be have a long way to go to make it truly safe for cyclists.

Highway 101 is indeed quite scenic, winding its way through the western Coastal Range, with thickly forested evergreens all around, lakes next to the roadway, and the Pacific Ocean in view for many miles. Every time the two-lane road crosses a river flowing into the ocean, there is a noteworthy bridge to be crossed, some of which are now being refurbished, as they were built in the 1930s. With courteous traffic, this is a relaxing and absolutely stunning ride.

At the small coastal burg of Reedsport, where the picturesque Umpqua River exits the coastal mountains, a left turn leads me eastward through the river valley cut into the mountains by the perpetually flowing water. This portion of the ride was recently dubbed the most beautiful by my sister, who came to visit a few months ago from the Mojave Desert of southern California. After driving through the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Ranges, Willow found that the road following the meandering Umpqua was the most memorable leg of her 963 mile journey.

After quite a few miles of this idyllic setting, the route eventually reaches Sutherlin, a larger town on the Interstate 5 corridor. Crossing under the freeway, I will be taking a two lane road that parallels the speeding autos for a few miles before heading east again on a charming country road of little traffic that will take me over hill and dale, through grass covered hills with stately oak trees here and there. There are some serious cycling grades on this portion, and also the accompanying down hills that will allow me to pick up speed as the miles fly by. This is dryer country out here on the eastern side of the Coastal Range.

Eventually, the small village of Glide is reached, and the road begins its gradual incline into the mighty Cascade Range, a world of volcanoes, deep lakes, and towering forests. This is what many folks around here call the waterfall tour, as there are numerous spectacular waterfalls to be visited near the roadway, or within short hiking distance from it. I have visited them on prior trips in a car, and will not be doing so this trip, unless one happens to coincide with a need to take a lunch or bathroom break, in which case they make for great rest stops.

In October, this portion through the Cascades will find the leaves of many trees changing colors, and depending on this year’s temperatures, I may be treated to a festival of brilliant yellows, oranges, and reds. However, it’s just as likely that my passage may be too soon for this spectacle, which is okay because it’s beautiful here no matter the time of year. When I return through this section of mountains, I could well encounter some snow, which will provide a dramatic contrast to the arid salt flat of Death Valley’s Badwater Basin. Or, I may get in on the tail end of the autumn leaf color extravaganza if I make good time and the cold weather has not hit yet. Time will tell this tale.

The road now descends towards Diamond Lake, a large body of pristine mountain water with campgrounds everywhere. I am told a primitive free campground is immediately south of the improved fee camps, so will likely search it out for an overnight if I hit it just right time-wise. From Diamond Lake, the road continues south, taking me straight into Crater Lake National Park, where 5 US dollars will allow me unfettered passage for up to seven days. If I camped at Diamond Lake the night prior, I should be able to make it out the southern end of this national park during the span of one day, camping the next night either in or near the Rogue River National Forest.

The Mazama campground in Crater Lake charges $23.95 per campsite, regardless of whether you are on foot, riding a trike, in a car, or navigating a 40 foot motorcoach … too much cash for this low-budget guy to spend for the privilege of sleeping in a tent for only one night! There is a great primitive campground four miles off my route, near Mount Scott, but that would necessitate 8 miles of steep extra riding – It’s not outside the realm of possibility, but we’ll have to see how I’m feeling at the junction.

Not far south of the national park, I pick up the road that takes me through the scenic countryside west of Upper Klamath Lake. This is gorgeous landscape, with mountain views, open fields, and a huge lake, which the road skirts to the west. It is relatively easy for a trike pilot, with a few hills now and then, and scenery that will knock your socks off if you love the wide open spaces like I do.

Quite a few miles pass before the town of Klamath Falls is reached. Staying to the south of the town, the route soon drops me into northeastern California, a portion of this large state that is sparsely inhabited and extremely rural. In fact, I have purposely planned a route that does just that: avoid human habitation and resultant automobile congestion as much as possible. I am a man of the natural world, and I explore to enjoy the planet in its natural state as much as is possible considering the unprecedented population increases that have been occurring in recent history, and continue to run out of control world-wide.

My path is now in the Modoc National Forest, heading southeast towards Canby and Alturas. This is designated a scenic route on most maps of the region. Gee, the way I see things, everywhere this route has been so far is scenic, and there are yet weeks of scenic country to be viewed on this trek. It seems to me that for the average person, mountain landscapes are traditionally considered scenic, while desert regions are rarely marked as scenic routes on maps. I like it all fortunately, and this expedition will serve up large portions of every kind. This is not simply a trip through the world’s hottest desert, or North America’s lowest walkable land.

Alturas is the stepping off point for one remote wild ride! Rather than following the overused two-lane highway they call 395, I will be heading off easterly here for the seemingly unmapped and secluded Nevada desert, a portion of the route that is likely the most isolated I’ll encounter. Past Middle and Lower Alkali Lakes the old paved road goes, through territory inhabited by only desert animal dwellers. Along the Granite Range and through the southwestern end of the Black Rock Desert, and eventually reaching the tiny town of Gerlach, this waterless section of the itinerary will present its own challenges I’m sure.

It is in the Black Rock Desert, a place so remote that you may as well be on another planet, that the annual Burning Man city arises from the nothingness of the playa every year, where a city of 48,000 unique human beings congregate each September for a few days of personal expression. This is how it’s offered on the Burning Man website: “These people make the journey to the Black Rock Desert for one week out of the year to be part of an experimental community, which challenges its members to express themselves and rely on themselves to a degree that is not normally encountered in one’s day-to-day life. The result of this experiment is Black Rock City, home to the Burning Man event.”

Of the event, Molly Steenson writes: “You’re here to survive. What happens to your brain and body when exposed to 107 degree heat, moisture wicking off your body and dehydrating you within minutes? You know and watch yourself. You drink water constantly and piss clear. You’ll want to reconsider drinking that alcohol (or taking those other substances) you brought with you — the mind-altering experience of Burning Man is its own drug. You slather yourself in sunblock before the sun’s rays turn up full blast. You bring enough food, water, and shelter because the elements of the new planet are harsh, and you will find no vending.”

Why did I include this additional commentary? Well folks, when I first learned about this massive encampment on the route of my journey, I was somewhat intimidated, so much so that I telephoned the Washoe County Sheriff there to ask about it. An officer informed me that it would be over by the time I traveled through the area, with perhaps only volunteers returning the endless arid void to its former pristine condition by October. I also popped in those paragraphs above to give an idea about the region that I have yet to personally encounter on the Q. This is the part of the odyssey where I will be making sure that my water storage containers are filled every place I see a faucet. Check out that website if you want a few hours of fascinating reading. After learning more, I think I would probably enjoy experiencing the event once this life.

Well, onward we go towards Death Valley, an even more incomparable locale. South of isolated Gerlach, the road passes through the eastern edge of the Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation, and then on south through Nixon and under Interstate 80. In the desert areas to come, isolation is still a factor, albeit not to the extent of the Alturas to I-80 segment. Over the course of the next few days, I will be passing through towns of fairly good size, so that re-supply and other necessities may be taken care of there. As much as possible, I am using Highway 95 Alternate instead of the main 95 so as to avoid more traffic.

At Silver Springs, the route crosses Highway 50, christened as America’s “loneliest road” in state advertising campaigns geared to promote Nevada tourism. Years ago, I drove the length of Nevada on this loneliest road, participating in a campaign they had at the time where if you had a passport stamped at key remote towns along the way, the governor of the state sent you an official certificate, lapel pin, and other assorted items designed to make you feel like you really completed a courageous adventure, which, in fact, you had, as the road is absolutely no place to break down in an automobile! Try it sometime … it’s worth the experiene.

Anyway, back to the tricycle route! I seem to get sidetracked from time to time, whether it be about burning men or lonely highways, so please excuse my wandering mind. Silver Springs is where Dave Olson and his friends are considering the possibility of meeting up with me on their trikes, and then would ride along at least to Schurz. If this comes to pass, it will be a welcomed thing for me, having ridden solo for so many days across so varied landscapes. Having like minded folks to talk to while pedaling out the miles would be very fun.

Schurz is in the Walker River Indian Reservation, which borders the northern edge of beautiful Walker Lake. The Toiyabe National Forest is just to the west, providing magnificent panoramas as the trike trek proceeds southward. This region is also the portion of the trek scouted by my friend Jack Freer some weeks back, so I have a relatively detailed interpretation of what to expect. Some of Jack’s observations have been noted prior on this weblog page. If Dave and friends leave for home at Schurz, then I’m on my own again along Walker Lake. Schurz is where I join the main artery of Highway 95 … wonder what the long-distance truckers will think of my low-slung Q racing along the roadway shoulder with its well-worn flags flapping in the breeze?!

Walker Lake funnels my route squarely into the Hawthorne Army Depot, an immense place of bombs and bullets. Here is a little background information about the installation from the official government website: “The Hawthorne Army Depot (HWAD) is in the west-central part of Nevada, approximately 140 miles southeast of Reno, on the southern shore of Walker Lake. The Hawthorne Army Depot is in Mineral County and occupies approximately 150,000 acres of semiarid land surrounding the Hawthorne community, which has a resident population of about 4,500. The Hawthorne Navy Ammunition Depot (NAD) was established after an explosion destroyed the Lake Denmark, New Jersey ammunition plant in 1926. Hundreds of people were injured in nearby towns. A court of inquiry investigating the explosion recommended that a depot be established in a remote area within 1,000 miles of the west coast to serve the Pacific area. Construction began on NAD in July 1928, and NAD received its first shipment of high explosives on October 19, 1930. When the United States entered World War II, the Depot became the staging area for bombs, rockets, and ammunition for almost the entire war effort. The mission, as stated in a 1962 Navy Command History, was to receive, renovate, maintain, store and issue ammunition, explosives, expendable ordnance items and/or weapons and technical ordnance material and perform addition tasks as directed by the Bureau of Naval Weapons. In 1977, NAD was transferred to the Army, and renamed the Hawthorne Army Ammunition Plant (HWAAP).”

All right folks, think I’ll pass right on through here, and attempt to remain focused on the striking natural world countryside that surrounds the tricycle route rather than the bunkers and bombs scattered across the terrain. Hope the army doesn’t consider me some bizarre national threat, being as how my appearance and mode of transportation is surely something they do not observe too often. If they do, I might end up in some white-walled windowless room, being interrogated by agents of counter-terrorism (gads, I surely hope I’m joking here).

From Hawthorne, the route proceeds south through Luning and Mina, and shortly thereafter it hangs a right to get off of 95 again. This is a remote and peaceful area of high desert not far from the California state line. After a left and then right turn, it’s due south to Dyer, Nevada, where I am scheduled to meet up with Jack Freer in his Jeep. Okay, I know he is operating a petroleum powered machine, and with my new model of living, that is not something to be smiled upon, but hey, I’ve driven cars and Jeeps for 43 years, so how can I complain? Besides, Jack is just a real decent fellow who loves to explore the hinterlands just like me, and he will help me if I break down. Jack will also pitch a few camps along the way with me as we head into the northern-most extreme entrance to Death Valley National Park … on 50 miles of dirt roads, no less!

So, how does the Q do on dirt backroads? It won’t be long until I find out … that much I can say. These dirt roads are ones that I have traditionally classified for the most part as class 1 (on a 5 class system), meaning that you could drive your grandpa’s Cadillac on them. In places, depending on recent weather events of the particular year, portions can rise to class-2 or 3 in a few select places (water washouts), but they are rare. I may have to be creative in coaxing the Q here and there, but I am not worried, as I am familiar with this territory. If the Q needs to be lifted over a washout, old Jack will be pressed into duty to help me get the job done. It is conceivable that the trailer might have to be unhitched and take each unit over separately, but that’s all part of the adventure!

One thing is certain about this northern entrance to Death Valley: seeing an automobile is most definitely a rarity! I think I’d rather do the dirt with no cars than smooth Highway 95 with big rig tires only feet from my head. Of course, if it is so jittery on the trike as to make each mile a less than stellar experience, my mind (what’s left of it anyway) might be changed. I’ve become used to smooth highways and traffic, so it could be preferable.

On the return trip, I will be avoiding this dirt section, and getting out on Highway 95 northeast of Scotty’s Castle to hasten my trip over the Cascades prior to potential early snowfalls. Once into the Eureka Valley, where the gigantic sand dunes live, the road takes a turn up, over, and through Hanging Rock Canyon and then drops down into the northern extreme of Death Valley Wash at Crankshaft Crossing.

Crankshaft Crossing is a special little plot of ground. There is a directional signpost here at this high desert intersection, with old rusty automobile crankshafts strewn artfully about. Last time I was there, a couple of engine blocks also adorned the well-known but seldom visited landmark. Perhaps I should start a tradition of placing old tricycle parts out here. But since a cyclist comes through here only once in a really blue moon, it is highly doubtful anyone else would ever participate.

From the Ubehebe Crater-Scotty’s Castle area, it’s all down hill for one hell of a long time, straight to hell, or at least what many white people have so dubbed over the years since 1849 when gold-seeking prospectors found themselves trapped in the deadly jaws of Death Valley. The road leads to the lowest walkable land in North America, at 282 feet below sea level, and I will welcome the thrill of picking up speed and laughing at the miles. What an extreme difference between this arid salt playa and the high mountain forests immediately to the west, where 11,049 foot Telescope Peak towers over Badwater Basin, 11,331 feet below, which is over twice the depth of the Grand Canyon.

I have hiked to the top of Telescope Peak, and from there, the views are utterly amazing. It is above tree line, with ancient bristlecone pines standing guard below. Bristlecones are the oldest living things on planet Earth. When I finally reach Badwater Basin and park the Q, I will be able to look up at this sentinel and recall how I have stood at its uppermost pinnacle.

This is a truly remarkable landscape that is visited by hundreds of thousands of tourists every year, and this year, I will come here yet again, just the most recent exploration in the 54 years that I have found the Death Valley territory to be a part of my life!

______________________

A FEW FINAL THOUGHTS

September 13, 2009

With only 17 days to go, my departure seems to be approaching at breakneck speed. I keep attempting to figure out what is truly necessary and what is not with regards to my cargo. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle. I try one idea, and if it works, I keep it, but for the ones that don’t pan out, it’s back to the drawing board.

To provide you one example, my headgear has now changed, which for the experienced cyclists among you, was an obvious outcome. Live and learn. Being an avid motorcyclist for many years up until about age 30, a helmet was normal fare. I have mentioned elsewhere in this ongoing weblog page that I was planning on wearing a full-face motorcycle helmet for my trike trek. It has several great advantages over conventional bike helmets:

1) It minimizes the constant annoying drone of car and truck tires speeding past my ears.

2) It keeps the head dry and warm on cold rainy and snowy days.

3) It provides maximum protection in case I drop a tire over the side on a mountain road.

4) It provides great sunshade protection since I have no roof over my head.

After a ride last week, which I’ll briefly relate in a few moments, I also learned that it has one significant downside:

1) It causes acute bodily overheating while climbing hills in the sun.

Most of our body heat is dissipated through our heads, which is important information to know if survival is an issue in cold weather. Feet cold? Put on a wool cap! In hot weather, heat loss through the head is essential for cooling the body sufficiently so that it can still function and survive. This past week, while pulling my trailer loaded past capacity for a test ride, it became apparent that I must ventilate my head more efficiently if I hope to be riding for two months, part of which will be in warm to hot desert terrain.

On that test ride, I put 50 pounds of barbell plates from my home gym in the trailer. I then added two 20 pound dumbbells to the load. The Burley trailer is rated to 100 pounds maximum. This was slightly over, because the Rubbermaid ActionPacker cargo trunk weighs in at 20 pounds. By the time you add in the weight of the all-aluminum trailer itself, I was pulling roughly 130 pounds behind the Q. On flat ground or downgrades, this is no big deal, as the trailer’s presence is not even felt because it rolls so smoothly and effortlessly. However, when pedaling up long hills, of which there were many on this particular ride, 130 pounds makes a huge difference!

The day was sunny, so I left at 8:30 and took off south on Highway 101 to experience the first 15 miles or so of the actual expedition route, with the real feel of the load. The huge evergreen trees provided cool relief most of the time, but some of the hills were in sun, and that’s when my overheating situation came to a head … literally! My head was hot – too hot for safety, comfort, and pedaling efficiency. On the downgrades that often follow upgrades, it was pure joy to have the wind cool me off quickly. One thing I’ll say for the Q: it really has no trouble maintaining a high speed in a very stable manner! Forty miles per hour on the downhill coastal curves most definitely is a major adrenaline surge, even with a trailer in tow!

Of course, even though my half-way point on this expedition is more than 300 feet lower than my point of commencement, there are still thousands of hills in between, and if I hope to make them all, including the return journey, then my body must be operating at peak efficiency. The next couple of days after this ride, I contemplated the heat situation, and finally came to the conclusion that I must switch to a traditional bicycle helmet with venting. It will not provide all the benefits of the motorcycle helmet, but it will allow me to enjoy the ride much more, while not experiencing overheating issues that could reduce my daily mileage to only 30.

I may also acquire some lighter weight pants and shirts from REI. I am contemplating the super light nylon safari outdoor threads that are so popular among folks who hike in hot climes. I have always been a cotton man, yet on this trip, extreme daily exercise is part of the pie, so I want to be comfortable doing it. It would be nice to have some clothes that I can clean and rinse in primitive camps that will air-dry just hanging from a tree or lying across a boulder. I don’t really want to spend much time in laundromats! One thing I am fairly adept at is adaptation when necessary. I am still learning and adapting to a new set of circumstances. It’s all part of the fun, right?

Back to Thursday’s 32 mile ride, I was passed by numerous traditional cyclists, most with loaded panniers, and quite a few pulling trailers. What I have seen mostly over the past several months is the popular BOB (Beast Of Burden) one-wheel trailers, but on this particular day, the Burley Nomad two-wheel trailer outnumbered the BOBs by about two to one. Interesting. I noticed another fascinating occurrence:

On the uphills, these riders would easily pull away from me, for my load was what most cyclists would consider extreme. Downhills were a different story though. I could quickly catch the two-wheelers if they had recently passed me coming up the other side. Perhaps this may be due to the heavier weight picking up speed more quickly while descending, or perhaps it may be due to my ultra-low profile and aerodynamics on the Q trike, or perhaps it’s some combination of both. With my rear only 9 inches from the asphalt, and my 37 degree seating angle, the wind has less surface mass to find its way around. I wonder what it would have been like if I had no trailer and a cool helmet that day. Would I have been able to match the regular cyclists’ speed?

It’s really a moot point to me though, as my objective is to enjoy the expedition and go the distance. Maybe it’s like the tortoise and the hare fairy tale. My daily average mileage may be less, but if I make the destinations as hoped, with my knees still in tact and the body fully functional, then I am a happy triker. I bought this rig from a speed freak, a guy who loves to really crank down the road at maximum throttle. I changed all his gearing to make it into a hill climber, although it still maintains a respectable top-end anyway.

My goals are different. I acquired this trike for exploration of the countryside, to enjoy the natural world of which I am part, and as an alternative to fossil-fuel automobiles, so I need an all-around workhorse that gets it all done. Whatever speed all us cyclists are traveling when we meet, I am finding that the camaraderie is superb, and little waves, hellos, and quick verbal exchanges are fulfilling to the spirit. It’s like an alternative world … a brotherhood of nonconforming explorers!

A funny little story: During this ride, as I was in the process of cresting one particularly difficult uphill section in the full sun, two traditional bicyclists were coming the other direction. I was overheating with my former helmet, and not quite the picture of comfort (at least from my own point of reference). After we waved to one another while passing, one cyclist called out: “Sure looks like fun!” He was referring to the trike, I reckoned. I called back “Yes, it is!” Well, piloting a trike is a whole lot of fun (usually), but at this particular point prior to the summit, I really can’t say that I was having too much fun just then. Of course, once the rugged Q started down the other side, I cooled off and was truly having a blast as my speed soared!

I drank a lot of water that day. I rested in a couple of spots where the magnificent trees were offering me a cool respite. I stopped at Tahkenitch Lake, a gorgeous body of water that became my world about nine miles into the ride. The breeze off the water was welcomed, and I spoke with the congenial campground host for quite some time, and listened to her explain the latest happenings at the dock. I also rested atop a very high coastal peak, with ocean view to the west, and lake view to the east, both far below in elevation. The sights filled my senses with awe and appreciation of nature, while my overheated body recovered. It was a great day, filled with learning experiences along the way.

For this neck of the woods, a 70-75 degree day is considered warm this time of year. The deserts of Nevada and California, into which I will be heading, certainly offer up days much warmer than this, even in October and November. And of course, the famous Death Valley is always capable of throwing a killer heat wave my way even in the fall … better have a plan to stay cool. I have spent time in Death Valley during late fall and winter months, and the temperatures are most often pleasant, but even these would be considered hot if pulling heavy loads with pedal power in the glaring desert sun.

On the flip side, crossing the Cascade Range in late November could be a chilling experience, one where retaining every ounce of heat is necessary for comfort or survival out in the exposed cockpit of a trike with no heater. So, I try to have gear that will answer whatever weather scenario I encounter along the way. Maybe someday I will take a coastal tour in summer like so many do, and not bother with so much in the way of survival supplies.

Five months and five thousand dollars later, I am now perched on the verge of discovery. I have had five months to acquire the gear for this expedition, prepare for what I will be encountering, and train my body for the specifics of long-distance tricycle travel. I have spent close to five thousand dollars in the process, having had no cycling vehicle, trailer, panniers, or other assorted gear to successfully take my spirit soaring into this portion of my life travels. I feel like it has been a crash course, and would have not attempted the trip until next spring were it not for being honored to speak about my book in Death Valley National Park. I have come up to speed faster than I normally would have, but with the help of the many willing friends mentioned on this page, have made notable progress. Am I fully ready? Probably not. Will I proceed anyway? Yes!

I reckon that with the Q resting by my side as I talk in Stovepipe Wells on November 6th, the words may well come easily. Other than reading a few paragraphs from my Death Valley Book Of Knowledge, I plan on winging-it at the podium that day. Heck, I’m certainly winging-it with this whole trike expedition, and talking is easier than that. The ICE Qnt trike and Burley trailer will be my ticket to speak about the adventure of how I arrived in Death Valley this year. Few will believe that I actually rode the rig all the way from Oregon, and I am sure that just telling that story will not only come naturally to me by then, but will also fill the audience’s mind with wonder and amazement.

by Steve Greene

The book that started it all

Well folks, the words on this trike page have passed 40,000 … enough chatter to fill about one-third of a 300 page book. The time has come for me to shut my yap and tend to the final details before I step off into the unknown! There yet remain a number of last minute items requiring my prompt attention prior to departure, so my journal writings here will have to cease for the time being, as time is way too short for doing everything. You can bet that there will be plenty more thoughts coming from my head eventually however!

Have I made all the best decisions for my personal circumstances? I certainly hope so, and the coming days will tell the tale. Will adaptations and changes need to be made en route? Probably so, I reckon. Even though I pride myself in meticulous preparation, since I am a greenhorn at this cross-country cycling, I am sure that I have not learned everything yet, and the school of hard-knocks still has quite a few things to teach me.

Could it come to pass that I do not carry out this trip as currently planned? Yes, that is possible, for who can predict future events? Would I consider this a failure if I don’t pedal back into my driveway in eight weeks under my own power on the Q? Not at all! This will be a life-altering learning experience for me no matter what happens … an experience that I would not trade. I will relish these days of my life for as long as I take a breath on this planet. There is no failure, only unique life experiences that serve to help us grow as humans. My intent is clearly to accomplish that which I have outlined in this preparation journal, as I am a passionate person when it comes to such things. I will give it my best shot!

Regardless of what transpires between now and the first of December, you will know about it. I will update things as I am able, although it may be a few weeks before you hear from me again. I plan on an update mid-trip if I have access to this weblog. If not, you’ll hear upon my return. The only way that my writings will not appear here again is if my life force leaves me during this expedition, or my mind is crippled to an extent that prohibits meaningful expression. These are things I don’t like to ponder, so I rarely do, but being a realist and member of the natural world, I know that such potential does exist. Do I fear it? No. I live life with an essential enthusiasm that keeps me eager to explore further, and whatever emerges from my adventures is all part of my grand journey through this wonderful world.

Take care my friends … see you on the other side!

Ready to Ride the Q!

Ready to Ride the Q to Badwater … and beyond!

* * * * * * *

If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space.

* * * * * * *

MY ADDICTION IS CONSUMING ME

Just can’t keep away from the keyboard

Yeah, yeah, I know … just days ago, I signed off during the final hectic hoursleading up to leaving out. Just too much to do, I said. Well, there is most assuredly way more to figure out than I seem to have time for, but a writer’s life may be destined to consume more time than the writer wishes at times. Ahh, the word “time” is interesting, is it not? Time for this. Time for that. Time off. Time crunched. Time management. Looks like I may not be managing my time that well right now, typing on the keyboard rather than last-minute detail management. But, I have more to say (all writers think that, of course), and besides, I wanted to relate just a couple more rides and eleventh-hour epiphanies to those who find this stuff captivating. So, a few more nouns, adverbs, adjectives, verbs, conjunctions, and participles will be appearing here in short order!

<<<<<<< ^ >>>>>>>

the end is near

… of this page, at least

____________________________

LOCAL RESIDENT NEEDS HELP

Central Oregon Coast – September 15, 2009

News Flash: Maverick coastal triker, Steve Greene, does it again … defies rational judgment by loading gym weights into a trailer to make an already-challenging hill virtually impossible. Reports questioning his sanity are broadly circulating behind his back, as he keeps everyone guessing about what he is going to do next. Widespread speculation has it that Steve’s new ventilated helmet may have played a part in his most recent day trip, during which he was seen being drafted by two bicyclists who sought to use the wind advantage of his rather large human-powered vehicle to spare their leg muscles further fatigue during their trip south on Highway 101. Steve reportedly commented to one disbelieving observer: “This new lightweight helmet is so efficient at dissipating my body heat that I needed to pull more weight!”

Now, back to our regular programming …

________________________________________

TWENTY MINUTES UP, TWO MINUTES DOWN

From slow plodding to white-knuckle ecstasy

I am getting to know the local roadways quite well lately, from a vantage point that I’ve never before witnessed … and from speeds never before experienced by me. Highway 101 is a beautiful drive in Oregon, as it provides spectacular ocean views for miles over its 364 mile length. Parts of it are a cyclist’s delight, while other parts are a cyclist’s nightmare.

Blind-Rights are what I call the most hazardous portions of this road, where a tight right-hand curve on the steep mountain portions in the heavily forested landscape can put a cyclist at risk. If you go into a Blind-Right with following cars witnessing your entrance, things aren’t that anxiety producing because they know you’re in the curve. However, going into Blind-Rights with no cars appearing in your rearview mirror ups one’s heart rate … especially if there is no shoulder on which to pedal. In that situation, you’re in the lane where chances are some car speeding along will whip into the curve and see you at the last possible second. Or, how about the semi-trucks that use the coast highway for transport? They’re really big, I’m really little, and the curve is really blind.

Oregon calls this the “Oregon Coast Bike Route” and they post numerous signs proudly proclaiming this on the open and scenic portions of the highway, where cyclists can ride all day long with no fear. There are no such signs in the ultra tight curvy sections of roadway. The only governmental signs visible in the hazardous curves are ones like this: “Bikes on Roadway,” which most motorists entirely ignore anyway, as they are the old faded yellow instead of the brilliant day-glow green that they now use for school crossing warnings. On a recent ride, where repaving and road upgrades have been in progress for weeks on a southern portion of 101, it appears no new allowances have been made for bikes and trikes either, as there were many places where no riding shoulder was added. Are cyclists an expendable commodity in our society? Does it really require a cyclist’s death for the government to make a particular section of road safer for all users?

Oregon Coast Bike Route

The sign that makes it all seem safe. Hey, that guy on the sign is all hunched over … maybe he needs a recumbent trike? He doesn’t appear too comfortable!

Anyway, enough of this grumbling protest no officials are likely paying heed anyhow. On to one of my most recent rides north on the infamous coast highway. Despite all the drawbacks just mentioned, my 22 mile ride was without negative incident, with just about every car, motorcycle, and big rig graciously providing me with 6 feet of clearance. Some motorists even took the oncoming lane completely if the road was open. One guy in an old pickup truck honked three times at me, so I gave a friendly wave. I didn’t recognize the truck, but maybe he knew me. Although, perhaps it’s more likely that he was sending a message that he owned the road and I had no right on it. Oregon’s law states otherwise, but maybe it has been a while since he last took a driver’s test.

My route took me north of town, on the road that takes tourists past America’s most photographed lighthouse at Heceta Head (pronounced ha-see-ta). This is a truly inspiring sight. I only went as far as the Sea Lion Caves, advertised home of the largest sea lion cave on Earth. On the way there, a long and steep hill presents itself, and a cyclist has plenty of time to see it coming. Some hills in forested roads take you by surprise, but not this one. I had plenty of time to contemplate what my quadriceps would feel like on the way up.

This hill leads the highway traveler from ocean-level wetlands up to dizzying ocean view vistas. In a car, the automatic transmission downshifts and the engine pumps out an extra ration of lethal particulate matter on the way up, straining under the load, although the passengers feel no pain as they enjoy the mighty Pacific. In the cockpit of a trike, downshifts also occur, with the only extra emissions being sweat and perhaps flatulence depending on last night’s dinner.

The road below ... and the view southwest

The road below … and the view southwest

This hill is pretty wide open as hills go, and visibility is generally not a problem. Much of the road is visible from either end of it, and even the right hand curves are open and not blind. With my weight-laden trailer in tow, I began the body-strengthening mission of ascending to its upper limits. Slow? Yes. Challenging? Oh yeah! Scenic? Some of the best views imaginable, which is a great consolation when burning up mega-calories while traversing it. Many portions of the ocean highway have noteworthy hills in them, and this is especially true in the area where I live, which is a low coastal sand flat surrounded by mountains.

On top of my bony noggin sat a new bicyclist’s helmet, the kind with 17 air vents in it to allow heat buildup to escape, thereby leading to enhanced brain function. This also allowed me to experience this uphill without overheating, which made things much easier than my prior prep rides where I fatigued at an accelerated rate due to the dangerous thermal dynamic that was occurring inside my body. I had placed a 16×16” ultra lightweight cotton dishtowel under the helmet to shade my head and neck from the sun’s rays, which also kept my skin cooler. The cloth provided no impediment to the heat as it fled my head. Today’s ride was an eye-opening event for me, as I realized just how much my performance was being hindered by the motorcycle helmet … imagine doing an aerobics class in the sun with such a bucket on your head. This was a day and night difference! Okay, enough laughing out there. At least I learned my lesson!

The ocean breeze was keeping me very comfortable despite the exceptionally long and steep incline that lasted for some 20 minutes by my calculation. I stopped wearing a timepiece decades ago, so I have become fairly adept at time passage calculations. At the top of this hill the road becomes tight once again and is heavily shaded by huge evergreens, a welcomed respite for cyclists. That is how the coast highway goes: sunny stretches followed by dark shady stretches. Steep uphills followed by steep downhills. Easy followed by hard. Scenic beauty followed by even more scenic beauty. It’s a great ride, and perhaps the reason why tens of thousands of cyclists take it every year.

Well folks, since this was only another training ride, my return to home base was to be the same route as my trip north. This had its advantages, the most remarkable of which was that I got to ride down that same big hill I had recently come up, and I knew what that meant.

All-out speed!

As I crested over the top portion before the descent, I began shifting to higher gears, thereby keeping resistance in the pedals as the pavement began its plunge to sea level. The view was breathtaking, white breakers crashing onto the miniature beach way far below, and the Q picking up speed, assisted by the 130 pounds attached behind the trike. Fortunately, the folks at the Burley bicycle trailer company had done their homework when designing functional and safe trailers, which resulted in a product I can tow that gives me no sense that I am even pulling anything! It rolls effortlessly and has no noticeable effect on the trike’s handling characteristics. This was demonstrated once again during the next minute or so of my trip.

100 seconds of the most exhilarating adrenaline ride one could imagine!

You know how automobile traffic seems to flow in waves? There are pockets where traffic is heavy, followed by windows of time where you won’t see another car for quite some time. Well, as dumb luck would have it for me that day, I lucked out for my precipitous descent. For whatever chance reasons, I had the road to myself, so as I was now pedaling for all I was worth in my highest gear to generate a high speed, I moved into the center of my downhill lane. Finally, my speed exceeded my ability to pedal … it was time to coast … faster and faster. Overheating was most definitely not an issue now, with the sea breeze whipping around my low aerodynamic profile, keeping me very cool. I felt cool, and to folks parked at the turnouts for the view, I probably looked cool too.

I have joked that the Q is more fun than a Ferrari, and let me tell you, at times like this, it is true! The feeling of the G-forces give the trike pilot a sense excitement that is hard to describe. My hands are firmly on the grips, not overly tight, with fingers ready for the brakes if necessary. The Q is a racer’s dream machine, and even this narrow-track version is no match for a traditional bicyclist, who carries a larger wind profile, thereby allowing the Q to squeeze on by. Leaning slightly into each curve further assists the wide arcs that I am carving out of time and space, as my mind is fully focused in the here and now. Nothing else matters. I am one with the Q, which is one with the road. All worries of the approaching expedition preparation slip from my mind. Flying down this hill is my world for a time.

For a brief time, unfortunately.

I have to find some longer hills! This reminds me of my windsurfing years, as the pure adrenaline rush is very similar. The difference with windsurfing is that you are always cranking under full power, with no end in sight except if the wind lessened. With cycling, to have a fun downhill descent, you must almost always have a protracted uphill. It’s somewhat like skiing, where you have to get to the top each time. With windsurfing, you were always at the top, and always screaming along.

Towards the bottom of the hill, a cumbersome motor home finally appeared in my rearview mirrors, but I was progressing along at such a clip by then that it only required a tiny deceleration for the driver, who was already only going about 45 miles per hour due to the cliff drop-offs to the side. Oh, how I’d love to be privy to the thoughts and conversations had by motorists as they behold the distinctive Q in action! What in the world must the husband and wife in the motor home have been thinking, for example? To see this tiny trike screaming along in front of them must have been quite the conversation piece. There’s nothing much cooler looking than seeing a trike in action. It just defies the traditional comprehension of the collective social consciousness.

Once down in the flat lands again, with only moderate inclines and straight stretches, I was spinning along without a care in the world. I was keeping my cadence fairly high to reduce the caloric burn and make it easy on my legs for a while longer (after all, that hill climb took its toll in calories and muscle burn). Maintaining a higher cadence, or the revolutions per minute of my feet, allows for an easier ride, but at a slower speed. Well, I had been daydreaming a bit and failed to notice two traditional bicyclists about to overtake me. They said nothing as they passed (unusual for most cyclists), so I was taken by surprise. As I watched them slowly begin to pull away, it occurred to me that I was feeling strong and rested, so I might just see how long I could keep pace with them.

Methodically shifting to higher gearing allowed me to pick up my pace and I quickly pulled up behind them. With the higher gearing, I could surely feel the greater muscle power being used to maintain my position. They had panniers on their bikes, but of course, were no where nearly as loaded as I was with my 130 pounds tagging along behind. Heck, for me, it’s like I’m pulling another person who isn’t helping with the pedaling! Today, I was just pulling a bunch of steel barbell plates (gads, what an idiot I must be!). I kept up with these two touring bikers for quite a ways, but as the gradual incline back into town is very long, it became apparent that this was not a sustainable proposition. Now, if I had been unloaded with no trailer in tow, the story would have been far different.

Coast Highway 101 is a very popular route for cyclists. Not more than ten minutes after the first two had disappeared from my view, in my rearview mirrors I spied two more bicyclists gaining on me. Here we go again, I thought … passed by two more! If I had an ego, it would surely have been deflating by now. These two were different from the first two however …

The first rider of the pair was ahead of the second. I could not assume, as many typical males might, that the first was a man and the second a woman, and thus the reason for the distance lag. After all, on my practice rides, I’ve been passed by plenty of athletic females riding the coast, sometimes two at a time, leaving me pedaling from my low position and watching their posteriors rhythmically power past my pathetic excuse for a cycling body.

So up comes the first rider right behind my trailer, and I hear him ask: “Do you mind if I draft you for a bit while I wait for my wife to catch up?” He was right friendly, so I told him to go right ahead and catch my draft all he wants. I further added that I probably will notice no difference anyway considering the load already in my care. I asked him if he could really tell a difference, to which he replied: “Oh yes! When I got to within ten feet of your trailer, I could feel the load on my legs lessen.”

Glad I could be of assistance! Here I am taking grueling training rides to really get in shape for this expedition, and now I have lightweight cyclists who are humming along much faster, using my vehicle mass and personal effort to make their burden diminish. This was a gradual mid-chain ring hill, but it was long. Well, here’s the way I see it. Since this is my neck of the woods, and they are just guests passing through, might as well show them some good old Oregon coast hospitality. Sure, take it easy in my air wake … glad to have you along for a brief smidgen of company.

The fellow asked directions through town to get off of busy 101 for a short relief from cars, so I filled him in on the main alternate route that would circumvent four miles of highway. He also asked directions to the bicycle shop, Bicycles 101, so I briefed him how to get there too. By then, his wife had caught up, and she was listening to our conversation. He asked where I was from and riding to, assuming that I was also on a coastal tour as they were. I explained what I was doing and where I was soon to go, whereupon his wife wished me all the best on the trip. After those words, these two, like all the rest, simply picked up the cadence and pulled slowly away. I kept up for a while, but again, with this load it wasn’t in the cards. Oh, to have the trike stripped down to race form! Oh oh, that sounds like my ego spewing forth again. Better get a  handle on that.

Anyhow, to wrap up today’s posting, I finally pulled into the garage at home, and decided to adjust my neck rest. With the old motorcycle helmet, it was just right, but with this new bicycle helmet, I had to bring it forward and inch or so. Now, it nicely cradles my neck, just below the skull. It is a position about an inch behind where my head is normally positioned when riding with an upright head, so just a little more incline and I am super comfy next time out.

After weeks of preparation and physical training rides, today’s ride went without any instances of repetitive stress issues or unusual fatigue. When I arose from the trike after 22 miles of strenuous riding, I did so with the same quickness and vigor that I would if I was just testing out the seat in the garage. It seems to me that finally my body has adjusted to all the quirks everyone had initially advised me about when becoming a trike pilot. No more recumbent butt, no more painful or numb feet, no more aching hamstrings, no more wiped out feeling. This ride was the point at which I can finally say that I’m good to go!

I have now unhitched the trailer, removed the panniers, and stowed away the rack … for the time being at least. I figure that in 14 days I will begin a two month tour that will involve plenty of heavy load riding, so why do any more now? Why not enjoy myself these last two weeks? Any rides that I take between now and lift-off will be unloaded for the pure joy of triking. I want to have some straightforward and unadulterated fun on the Q, and that will begin  tomorrow!

_____________________

TRAINING WITH TERRY

Professor Butler’s North Fork class

September 17, 2009

This morning’s skies were cloudy, but enough blue was apparent that it looked promising. Terry Butler was scheduled to arrive at my house on or before 8:15. At five minutes after the hour, he rode up the driveway on his Trek bike for a morning cruise on the serene North Fork road, a favorite place to pedal away the miles for anyone seeking minimal automobile interference. The temperature was definitely on the cool side, and clouds seemed to be building out to the east, over the Coastal Range. Terry had a jacket on as part of his riding apparel, along with a backpack. I guess since most of my heavily loaded rides so far ended up on the warm side, the coolness felt great for a change, so I just wore my long sleeve light cotton shirt with no coat.

My friend Terry Butler, a man with his sights set on acquiring a trike
My friend Terry Butler, a man with his sights set on acquiring a trike

The Q was not encumbered today with all the panniers, rear rack, cargo trunk, or the trailer. It looked race-ready, with its fancy street rear fender replacing the cargo rack. All that was on it was the pair of Trice Radical side pods that I needed to hold a minimal amount of gear, such as my digital camera, energy bars, banana, and a floppy shade hat. It was stripped down to a mere fraction of its tour weight, which would provide me a day of carefree riding, something I felt I deserved after many preparation rides that really pushed me to the limits and made me question the wisdom of what I am about to do. Those rides paid off however, as my body has finally adapted, and today’s 45 mile jaunt drove home the point that the initial aches, pains, and bodily fatigue a new trike pilot experiences were now something that I can happily say are behind me.

I wore a completely different set of shoes today, as one of my final tests to determine whether I’m bringing the best choice in footwear for my situation. I will not carry more than two pairs … one for fair weather and one for foul weather. A third pair would provide yet one more option, but I can not afford the space necessary or the extra weight. At this point, every pound counts, and if it’s not essential to my way of analysis, then it can’t come. The test shoes today are Merrell Watersport Pros, shoes designed to be worn in the water, however I bought them in Jackson Hole Wyoming some years back because they provide maximum ventilation for my feet. The shoes are an open mesh design, allowing air to circulate freely around the foot, which also makes it feel as though you’re wearing no shoe at all – completely flexible.

Merrill Water Sport Pro with open mesh
Merrell Water Sport Pro with open mesh – 80 bucks, but worth every penny

If I bring these shoes, they will replace my Shimano SPD sandals. The sandals, as you may recall, have been associated with a tingling of the toes right from the start, although this sensation has diminished over the prep rides I’ve taken. The Shimano sandals are extremely stiff for cycling, but perhaps too much so for ultra long distance travel day in and day out. The Merrell shoes are ultra comfortable, and after this 45 miles today, my feet felt like I had not even taken a ride at all, which is a notable plus. These shoes, like my Hi-Tec waterproof shoes for wet weather, slide into the Power Grip straps on the back side of the SPD pedals. I will try them for another ride or two in order to fine tune my opinion. Perhaps the Shimano sandals will do best for day rides when I want to really crank out some speed.

——-

Editor’s Note: The final shoe of choice (September 24 update) is the Merrell Moab Ventilator, a hiking boot that offers excellent ventilation, greater foot protection, and superb comfort. This boot will also keep socks from becoming dirty when setting up camp each night, whereas the Merrell Water Sport Pro and Shimano sandal choices would not.

A triker's garage - keeping the wild beast in tune
A triker’s garage – keeping the wild beast in tune

There is a three-day beard growth now appearing on my face. My original intention was to stop shaving once the trip commenced (didn’t want the daily morning hassle), but since my new helmet does not provide much in the way of sun protection like the former full-face motorcycle helmet did, I needed something more. A full beard will assist in keeping the harmful ultraviolet rays from my peachy keen cheeks, ears, and neck, and so now I am gaining an appearance that others may well construe as rugged or menacing. But of course, my nature is soft hearted and helpful, beard or not. The lightweight white cotton dishtowel, which sounds totally weird I know, keeps the rays off the top of my head in the helmet slots, and also does a fine job for the neck. After all, I’ll be days in the western deserts where sun is relentless, so this is no joking matter!

There's a spare tire here, and it's not in the Rubbermaid cargo trunk!
There’s a spare tire here, and it’s not in the Rubbermaid cargo trunk!

I am carrying a spare tire, which has nothing to do with today’s ride since I didn’t even bring it, but I thought I’d tell you where I put the unwieldy piece of tough rubber. It was driving me nuts for a couple of days, as it won’t fold or bend, and to put it in the cargo trunk on the trailer would take up precious space. So, with four bungee cords, I devised a unique method of strapping it underneath the trailer in such a manner that no one will even notice unless I tell them.

The hidden spare tire - trailer on side
The hidden spare tire – trailer on side

As Terry and I pedaled through the town’s main intersection, which was loaded with morning traffic, I knew immediately that I was not pulling my usual gargantuan load. The signal turned green, and instead of my typical slow upstart, I shot across the intersection like a bolt of lightning … well, at least it felt that way. Over the next few miles, I realized that it was easy to use higher gearing today, and keep up a respectable pace, even one that might have given the upright biker guys of days past a run for their money. The grin on my face was beginning to feel permanent.

With the chilly and cloudy weather this morn, riding at a faster rate felt great, with energy seemingly flowing free through my legs and into the pedals. Combine this with Terry’s gifted way with encouraging words, and the essence of the here and now felt very comfortable. He said that no matter how this expedition unfolds over the days and weeks, I have been a success at all points along the way. Even if some injury brought it to a premature close, there is no such thing as a failed endeavor, as what transpired up to that point was success building on success. These have also been my thoughts over the months leading up to October first, and to hear Terry so eloquently verbalize this ideology was something I really needed to hear. Companionship and encouragement are special things, both very necessary in keeping up morale.

The North Fork road gradually climbs in elevation as it winds its way up the stunning forested mountain valley. The farther up it you go, the less scattered ranches you see, and cars thankfully become a nearly extinct species. After the North Fork road ends, and the Upper North Fork road begins, the pavement narrows and the yellow center line stops. Now we are in really thick old growth woods, on a road wide enough for one large car, and we have the feeling like it is the ultimate bicycle path just for us. No cars, no droning tires, no pollution, no anxiety … just the sound of birds, creeks, and the wind in the trees! This is living folks, a cyclist’s dream route.

Triker Steve from behind - photo by the prof
Triker Steve from behind – photo by the professor

Once we reached the farthest point that I had ever ridden before, which is 20 miles from town, we stopped, had a snack, off loaded some filtered water, and reconnoitered about proceeding farther west on the Big Creek road. This road reportedly turns to a graded dirt affair several miles west, but it does lead back to the Oregon Coast Highway, which would allow us to do a loop back to town. We stopped and spoke to a property owner, and he told us that it climbed over the mountain pass and dropped down to the ocean. Both Terry and I wanted to give it a try, but decided that we’d leave it for another time, a day when we would plan on additional water and energy bars to get us up the grade. This trip, we each just brought the minimum amount of sustenance needed for the intended ride. Therefore, we turned around and headed back. With this extra mileage, it would be a 45 mile trip as is. If we had made the loop, it would have meant more mileage with some pretty steep grades.

Spinning up the North Fork, with no load to slow me down!
Spinning up the North Fork, with no heavy load to slow the Q and me!

Since Terry was along this trip, and since I had a digital camera, he offered to snap some photos of me, a rare thing because on my solo rides, I can’t shoot myself. I also took a shot of him, but I think he wants me to wait until he eventually acquires some cool trike before I take any pictures of him actually riding. Terry has and is considering several recumbent options, including the Gold Rush bicycle, although now he appears to favor a tricycle for its inherent advantages. On his short list of models are the Catrike Expedition, ICE Q or T, Greenspeed GTO, and the HP Velotechnik Scorpion FX. Today we spoke a lot about the Scorpion’s German breeding, and its suspension, which allows for a cushier ride. I related to Terry that I am very happy with the Q due to the rear suspension, and how I would not be interested in an unsuspended trike at this stage of my experience. This is interesting however, as I was only one day away from ordering a Catrike Expedition when Norm Nieberlein’s Q became available to me. Sometimes, things just work out for the best.

Professor Butler's future set of wheels?

Dr. Butler’s future set of wheels?

The road going back has more down grades than up, which allowed Terry and me to really pick up some speed at times. Today, I was in my middle ring most of the time, and the big ring a fair amount compared to previous rides with the loaded trailer in tow. Only once did I use my lowest gearing, and that was only for a short hill that really wasn’t that bad. My large chain ring got more use today than it has in a while. This was a fun ride today!

The yellow smile face on the Q's flagpole

The yellow smile face on the Q’s flagpole

As we sailed down the valley towards humanity, and as the iron behemoths popped up more frequently to keep us on our toes, the day was heating up at last. The sun was now out, with a few wispy clouds dancing about, and I realized that further modifications of my head’s sun protection are in order. Terry was feeling great, and kept me humming along at times to catch up with him. We played an amusing game of cat and mouse, taking turns leading and following, going fast and then catching up. What a way to get exercise and extend our functional years on Earth!

Picking up the pace on a right hand curve
ICE Qnt: Picking up the pace on a right hand curve

In years past, I have occasionally pedaled a recumbent stationary cycle in a gym, in a neat row with other stationary people on their stationary pieces of metal and plastic watching CNN on the big screen televisions lined up above us. I adjusted a little computer screen on the stationary device so that it would notify me that I was going up a hill, or coasting down one. I watched the hands on the clock on the gym wall circle around, and saw my little stationary computer ticking away the minutes until I was done with my little stationary exercise. Well, after having now ridden a true recumbent trike over the hills and through the woods for five months, I’m here to tell you that I am so very happy to get out of the box, and break away from society’s mindless fixation with pedaling in a gym while being told by Wolf Blitzer how the world is going to hell in a handbasket.

Watching nature unfold around each curve as I actually move my body along the landscape is far and away superior to paying good money to pretend to ride a trike. No more make believe for me! The real deal is indescribably delicious! I encourage anyone reading this to give a trike a try … it’s impossible to not grin on that first spin around the block, as the thrill is so unique. And when one realizes that improved health and longevity await a dedicated triker, well, it doesn’t get any better than that!

Free on Three - the ultimate way to see our planet
An adventurous way to see our planet!



“We should come home from adventures, and perils, and discoveries every day with new experience and character”

- Henry David Thoreau

* * *

Death Valley Bound

A new return to my old friend

I have found my way into the remote Death Valley territory for quite some time now, fifty-four years to be exact. The first time was in a tiny body with a newly forming mind, back when the images my eyes beheld were only dimly processed for later recall. To their credit, mom and dad used the photographic marvels of the day to memorialize the moments of this four year old child in the Furnace Creek area. Old Dinah, the oil-burning steam tractor that Francis Marion Smith built in 1896 to haul borax, posed with me standing in front of its massive rear steel wheel. Mushroom Rock, the strange earthly monolith near Badwater, also got into the photographic action, and posed as the backdrop for mom and me as the Old Man snapped away during an unremembered afternoon on a sunny day in the valley. With such beginnings, the striking Death Valley territory is burned into my essence every bit as much as the July sun scorches the white salt flats at 282 feet below sea level.

Here I stand, a miniature Terran with the iron marvel (1954)

Here I stand, a miniature Terran with the iron marvel (1954)

“Life is uncharted territory. It reveals its story one moment at a time.”

Leo F. Buscaglia

When I relate to folks about my pending odyssey into the depths of Death Valley National Park during the autumn of 2009, the typical reaction is one of serious concern, as they assume such a stereotypically foreboding netherworld like Death Valley will unquestionably be an unsurvivable adversary, thereby spelling the end to my frail humanly existence. It is largely incomprehensible to most people that I would go there at all, let alone ride a tricycle over 900 miles into the jaws of hell. Sensationalism for the sake of profit has prompted many media creators since the mid 1800s to paint a horrific representation of this grand remote landscape, resulting in a worldwide societal image that is more often than not inaccurate. To me, I am once again returning to visit an old friend, a friend that has revealed countless intimate secrets of all the hidden gems that await the undaunted explorer. This is a country forever wild and free. This is Death Valley!

“I see my path, but I don’t know where it leads. Not knowing where I’m going is what inspires me to travel it.”

- Rosalia de Castro

Earlier I spoke of an aspect of this expedition that is mentioned frequently in one form or another by folks who query me about the journey. They ask if I am scared. After all, my planned trek across the western portions of the United States, and my mid-point destination, are not exactly in keeping with any traditional American ways of life or recreation. This whole thing is pretty much “out there” according to nearly everyone with a rational and sane mind. They of course assume that the Death Valley portion of the trip will offer the greatest challenge and induce the most fear. In my case, this is not the case. Once I cross the Death Valley National Park boundary line, whatever worries that may have plagued me along the way will fully fade into non-existence. I feel absolutely at home in this national park, having spent a lifetime so far visiting its most remote and lonely corners, places that many travelers will never see, except in a photograph.

Looking southwesterly, across salt flats to Panamint Range

Looking southwesterly in late afternoon, across Death Valley’s Badwater Basin salt flats towards the ruggedly spectacular Panamint Range

For me, the unknown between my point of departure on October first and the northern boundary of Death Valley National Park presents the greatest amount of trepidation. I will be traveling a few roads in northern Nevada that I have never before experienced, in an effort to avoid the annoyance of motor vehicle traffic as much as possible. I will be stealth camping in areas that will be determined by my daily progress, not by where I might choose to spend the night if in a car. I will be using a transportation mode that, prior to five months ago, I have never ridden. I have had only about 20 weeks to plan all aspects of an epic passage, both for me physically, as well as on mental and emotional levels. My survival will depend on my own knowledge, abilities, and resourcefulness … I will be a tiny speck on a massive planet, pedaling along at speeds thought slow by humans of the 21st century. Backup, if necessary at any point, will be a long time coming! When I was a cop, a quick call on the squad car radio swiftly got me all the help I could use. Things are different now.

“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”

- Helen Keller

But enough of this fear-based talk, for topics of that nature only serve to diminish the adventure and thrill of life, and keep us shackled to the ordinary din of rote daily living. One thing is certain of this tricycle expedition … it will not be run of the mill by any stretch of the imagination, and it will challenge me on multiple levels. If I complete the two month, 2000+ mile trek as outlined here, I believe that I will be a changed person on the other side. My body will be the healthiest it has ever been, my mind will be the most stimulated it has ever been, and the essence of my spirit will have reached new heights of enlightenment. How can something of this magnitude not change a person? Just preparing for this journey has changed me already, pumping an infusion of determination and perseverance into my core, taking my fundamental nature as a naturalist into new worlds that formerly only found subsistence in my dreams. I must do this, for I must grow and explore life at the outer limits.

“When you’re safe at home you wish you were having an adventure; when you’re having an adventure you wish you were safe at home”

- Thornton Wilder

This will mark my 54th year of visitation to this realm, and I believe it will be my most memorable. I am honored to have been invited to an annual area celebration that began two years prior to my birth. I have written my two Death Valley books because of my love for this land, and I knew I would be elated to see even one of them appear at regional bookstores. Now, I find myself a guest author giving a presentation to other area enthusiasts, and the emotional sensations have not yet fully seated themselves within my psyche. As I joked earlier, I’m a writer, not a speaker, yet now I will learn to be a speaker too. Talk about fear! Maybe getting up in front of an assemblage of people who came to hear me will be the greatest challenge of the whole trip. Although, I reckon that I will be so happy to be back in Death Valley, and so thoroughly euphoric over what I just did to get here this year, that I may well not even worry about standing there at a podium! After all, I’ll most definitely have plenty to talk about, right?

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

So, here I sit at my laptop once again, typing out yet more words for you to read, and temporarily not thinking about what I have yet to do in the way of last minute preparation. Writing to you has provided me many days of sanctuary over the past months from the future unknown, and allowed me to voice much of what is churning around in my mind. I needed this outlet, and I thank you for maintaining your visits here to find out where this is all going, and where it will eventually end up come December. My senses are heightened. The sky is bluer, the clouds are fluffier, the birds are happier, and the trees smell better than they ever have. Just like I will soon place the Death Valley Journal on auto-post during my absence, I will be on autopilot in the final hours before lift-off, and during the first days of the ride. I’ve done all I can, prepared to the best of my ability and knowledge, and soon I will be putting it all into practice … out there on the long road over the mountains to North America’s lowest, hottest, and driest landscape – to a sacred place that the native Timbisha Shoshone tribe calls the Valley of the Red Ochre.

“You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water.”

- Rabindranath Tagore

This is a valley of life, a stage on which I will now return to act out yet another chapter of my finite existence on the planet I call home. As the popular shirt logo muses: “Life is Good!”


“In the universe, there are things that are known, and things that are unknown, and in between, there are doors.”

- William Blake

____________________________________________________

Thank you for reading! The adventure continues …

.

.

.

.

.

.

______________________________

Special Thanks To:

Matt Jensen, for his knowledgeable expert guidance on tricycles, touring gear, and cross-country treks … and for his companionship on training rides

Terry Butler, philosopher extraordinaire, for his enthusiasm about the expedition, continued camaraderie, companionship on training rides, and his helpful ideological support

Joan Greene, the Desert Gypsy, for her enthusiasm and willing support of the expedition, and her desire to see her son speak at Stovepipe Wells

Willow Wolf, for always believing that her brother could do anything he set his mind to

Norm Nieberlein, for selling his nearly-new ICE Qnt trike for a mere fraction of its actual value, thereby putting this expedition into high-gear in short order

Dan Price, for taking the time to share 4,500 miles worth of cross country triking experience, valuable information that can only come from the mind of someone who has been there and done that

Joseph Faber, for his expert advice about long distance cycling, and realizing early-on a potential issue with a chain ring size differential

Dave Beck, for his companionship and support on an early training ride

Scott Christophersen, master mechanic, for his untiring telephonic devotion to getting the new crankset installed, the dérailleur adjusted, and the chain lengthened

Dana Lieberman, owner of Bent-Up Cycles, for his expert advice on solving a front dérailleur issue

Ed Millerstrom, visionary proprietor of ICM business ventures and his seafood restaurant, for donating a warm hooded sweatshirt for those cold early mornings

Tim Sapp, owner/broker of TR Hunter Real Estate, for his offer to help support the food supply, and his willingness to trailer the trike, gear, and pilot back in the unlikely event of a meltdown

Shawn Penrod, for taking a genuine interest in the expedition and spreading the word through his writing in the local newspaper

Inspired Cycle Engineering, for manufacturing one of the world’s finest trikes, providing expert advice, and for supporting this expedition through their website links

Hostel Shoppe Recumbents, a store full of fine folks dedicated to assisting all recumbent cyclists with their gear needs, spending hours on the phone with the new guy, and for operating a top notch business

The Sportsman, a local sporting business that has gone the extra mile in advice about clothing and camping gear, always giving the straight scoop regardless of whether it meant a sale

Robby and Sarah of Bicycles 101, for their interest in the Death Valley Tricycle Expedition, and their help with last minute gear details, such as choosing a helmet and getting backup emergency items

___________________

.

.

GOOD TO GO

Only hours now separate yours truly and the grand journey of a lifetime. T-minus and counting, using astronaut parlance. Along those lines, word from those “in the know” has it that there is a certain phrase space pilots use while strapped atop their massive load of highly explosive fuel just prior to liftoff. After years of training, and then waiting for their assignment, these folks experience pre-flight anxiety at levels we terrestrials can only imagine. It has been reported that at least once in the history of the space program, at least one of these intrepid explorers was getting antsy all strapped in at the top of the combustible projectile (little more than a highly controlled bomb), and strongly desired to get underway as soon as possible to alleviate the transitory apprehension. From his mouth came the words directed to mission control:

“Light this candle!”

We all seek and experience differing levels of exploration and adventure in our lifetimes, and many of us likely know the feeling of being prepared and waiting to leave for some distant and remote destination. We are as ready as we’ll ever be, and commencing the journey is imminent. At this point, nerves are unraveling and we urgently need to plunge right into the task at hand, as that is the only way to focus our attention on the execution of that for which we trained so hard. Once we embark, our minds are wholly engaged in the adventure. The uneasiness swiftly wanes, as the epic saga has finally been initiated.

I am now more than ready to light this candle!

Into the Valley

Into the Valley

.

.

——————-

Editor’s Note: To discover how this Death Valley Tricycle Expedition eventually unfolds, Steve’s next book is scheduled to be available by late summer 2010. General updates will also occur at the newly formed Badwater blog (see below for details). Word in the pipe has it that the book will provide a detailed day-to-day description of the journey, along with a few philosophical musings that are part and parcel to a solo trek of this duration. Once the book is available, it will be described on the “Books” page of this blog, and will also be mentioned on the Badwater blog.

THESE EXPEDITION CHRONICLES ARE CURRENTLY SCHEDULED TO CONTINUE AT: http://badwater.wordpress.com/, where fresh updates about Steve’s progress will hopefully be posted on an intermittent basis by some enthusiastic expedition supporters. Join in and follow along!

(Read about the actual expedition at: http://badwater.wordpress.com)

word count: 47931

final revision: 29 September 2009

______________________

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