Tuesday, July 28, 2020

What to Take on a Bikepacking Trip

I am about to ride for 13 days from Butte Montana heading south on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. I normally ride on paved roads through more populated places, but this trip will be more remote and it will be on dirt roads where pushing the bike or carrying it over obstacles is a real probability. Bikepacking is like biking and backpacking mixed together, so the gear list leans towards lightweight like backpacking. I find it helpful to take a list of everything I plan to bring and compare it to what I come home with. 


The bike will look something like this when everything is packed on it

Missing from these photos are:
  • Water bottles which are on the bike
  • A small cooking pot which I shipped out already 
  • Stuff sack full of food

This is what I am going to be wearing on the plane. This will all come along with me on the trip. A long-sleeved red synthetic top, a simple cotton t-shirt for sleeping and for in-town wear, a pair of nylon "Prana Stretch Zion" pants, underwear and a hat. 


This is my handlebar pouch, so it will have maps, phone+battery+charger, earbuds, a rain shell, a water purifier, sunscreen, two buff/facemask things and a spoon. Basically, things I will probably need several times a day. 

The orange stuff sack and blue backpack are very lightweight and will be used when I have to carry a lot of food. As the food gets eaten, they disappear into the other packs. There are also two small bags that fit on the handlebars that hold a water bottle, phone, snacks, sunglasses, and other small items that should be readily available.  

This is my sleeping stuff. It all fits into the black bag shown in the photo which will be mounted on one of the bike forks. Clockwise from top right is a ground cloth, a green tarp, a hammock and the yellow inflatable sleeping pad. In the center is a yellow inflatable pillow and two poles for pitching the tarp. In nice weather, I can sleep in the hammock. The poles are from my hiking poles with the handle section removed. Turns out that they are the perfect length for pitching a tarp. The poles and the food bag will be held in front of the handlebars. 

The sleeping stuff also includes a headlamp, ear plugs, an eye shade (it is just a headband) and a sleeping bag. It all fits into the blue bag which goes on one of the bike forks. 


This is an odd assortment of items. From top left, there is a bag with repair items and first aid stuff, then a piece of aluminum to be used as a wind shield for the stove, four orange clothespins and some string, a propane canister, toiletries including a washcloth and a tube of chamois cream. Next is the spice kit with a few spices a fork and a lighter, a blue cup and a very small MSR "Pocket Rocket" stove (the silver and red thing). Tent stakes and a spoon round out the list. 

For clothing, I have a red merino wool t-shirt, a blue puffy jacket, some camp shoes, socks, underwear, two bike shorts, a hat and gloves, one bike jersey and a compression stuff sack that holds it all. All of this and the airplane clothes will join the cooking pot in the big bag that goes under my saddle. 

In the black frame bag, I will have tubes and chain lube, a repair kit, a leatherman, some zip ties and extra batteries. The frame bag looks a bit empty but it will get filled up with things like the spice kit, toiletries, the hammock and other items. 




Saturday, December 28, 2019

Rock Climbing in Mexico - December 2019

OK, so we don't actually rock climb, but our son Casey and his fiancĂ©e Dorothy are both enthusiastic climbers. We were just along for the ride. 

All of the photos for this trip are in this photo album. Below are highlights and Facebook posts we posted during the trip. 

We went to El Potrero Chico which is near the city of Monterrey. The overall location of Monterrey is shown below. The yellow dots are places we went to or planned to go. 



A larger scale map is here. The dot in the top center is Hidalgo is where we stayed. The far left dot is the hot springs, and the dots in Monterrey are the places we visited when we stayed in the city. The airport is the far right dot. The big green blob in the center is the mountain range where the climbing is located. 



Here is the shaded relief "terrain" view which shows the mountains better. The yellow dot is the Rancho and the green dot just below it is the main climbing area. 


Upon arrival, Casey and Dorothy picked us up at the airport and we drove to Hidalgo. We stayed at "Rancho El Sendero" which is a combination of tent camping, hostal-style shared rooms, single rooms and two stand-alone "casita" structures. Casey and Dorothy and their friends stayed at the larger casita while Sherry and I went between a single room, a night at the hot springs, a night in the city of Monterrey and then the smaller stand-alone building. The last few nights were at Ariel's Chalet which was up right next to the climbing area. The Rancho el Sendero was about a 20 minute walk to the climbing walls. 



Thursday, October 10, 2019

Scuba Diving in Guanaja, Honduras 2019


Sherry and I went diving in Honduras for the last week of September and the first week of October. We decided to go pretty far off of the beaten path this time, opting for Guanaja, Honduras rather than our usual Bonaire. 

All photos are in this album

The three Bay Islands off the coast of Honduras are, left to right, Utilla, Roatan and Guanaja.



The End of the World is on Guanaja. 


Getting to Guanaja required flights from DC to Atlanta, Atlanta to Roatan, Roatan to La Cieba and then finally La Cieba to Guanaja. Delta got us to Roatan and Lanhsa airlines took care of the last two flights. The Lanhsa airplanes are little puddle jumpers jammed with people and packages.



There aren't any roads or cars on Guanaja. Google Maps can't find a route from the airport to the resort. 



Getting picked up at the airport by the son of the owner. This is our taxi and our dive boat. 




Here are a few Facebook posts that we submitted while we were there:






Mike's review of the resort posted on Tripadvisor

Most of the reviews of the resort seem to be from people who have not actually stayed here. We stayed at the End of the World for two weeks in September/October 2019. Here is our review of the time that we spent here. For reference, we are scuba divers and we have been to Bonaire 7 times, and have been to Roatan as well as a number of other locations and we have traveled extensively throughout the Carribean.

The Diving:

The scuba diving was simply fantastic. We saw one other dive boat once in the two weeks we were there, so we had the whole reef to ourselves. We mostly dove sites along the reef out in front of the resort. The reef is pretty amazing, and there are nice dive sites at 30 feet and sites at whatever depth you want to go to. The Pinnacle is close-by, and it makes for a nice dive that starts close to 100 feet and slowly winds its way up to the shallower reefs. There are well constructed buoys on all of the sites, so getting tied off is quick.

The staff carries your gear to the boat in the morning. After breakfast, we would walk the 100 feet to the dock and get in the boat with our gear already assembled. 10 minutes later, we would be tied off and ready to dive. The water was amazingly warm, and we dove in t-shirts and shorts or a thin skin. Because nobody is there, the reef is in astounding condition. Roatan gets cruise ships and huge numbers of snorkelers and divers, so the reef is more abused. We dove with nurse sharks on at least half of our dives, and the explosion of fish was always spectacular. This is the easiest diving that we have ever done. No current, calm water and a staff that carries the gear make for stress-free diving. We would generally just throw our tank and BC off of the boat into the water and gear up in the water. The owner of the resort, Bryan, doubles as the dive guide. The boat is small, and would fit four divers and the guide comfortably. Mostly, it was just the three of us on these dives. We only wanted to do two dives per day, but I think that you can do more if you want to. Work it out with Bryan.

During the two weeks we were there, we took one expedition to the other side of the island to dive near South West Cay (there is a wreck there) and we took a longer expedition out to Isla Barbareta. The Barbareta dives started pretty far off shore, so there was certainly an element of adventure diving into the open ocean. In the end, though, the diving off of the resort reef was consistently excellent and we didn’t see a need to have the guide go to such far-flung locations.

There is a scuba shack which houses the compressor and the dive gear. All tanks are filled on-site. The compressor is hellishly loud, but they run it while you are out diving. There were a few occasions where it still had to run for a few minutes when we came back, but it was otherwise invisible to guests. We brought our own gear, but it was nice to know that additional equipment was available in case ours had a problem.

There is also a nice snorkel spot with a quiet little beach within a 10 minute walk from the resort. Look for “Michael Rock Beach” on Google Maps.

The Location:

Guanaja is a small island and the resort is not near any of the small villages. It is off of the grid, so just realize this when you go there. The electrical power is reasonably reliable and a German engineer was there tweaking the solar grid, so it is probably even better now. There is Internet, but you won’t be streaming Netflix while you are there. The bandwidth is fine for email and general browsing. The resort is right on the ocean, and it is very quiet. Other than the occasional local walking past, or a few people tying up at the dock to sell fish or have a beer, you won’t see a lot of others.

Getting to Guanaja is definitely a day-long process. We flew from Atlanta to Roatan and then took the puddle jumpers from Roatan to Guanaja via La Ceiba. The airport in Guanaja is tiny and, because there are no roads in Guanaja, we were picked up by boat at the airport and shuttled to the resort. It is only about a 15 minute scenic boat ride.

There is only one short road in Guanaja, so boats, feet and dirt bikes are the way around. The staff boats into either Low Cay ( Bonacca) or Mangrove Bight a few times a week for supplies, so you can catch a ride with them if you want to walk around town. You can walk 40 minutes down the beach back to the resort from Mangrove Bight, but you will need to boat back with the staff from Low Cay.

The Accommodations:

This is a small resort. There are two guest houses up the hill, each with two separate rooms so, completely booked, four couples could be there. The owner and staff have houses down at beach-level. The scuba shack and restaurant/kitchen/bar are also at beach level.

The rooms at the resort are spare, bordering on monastic. There are 95 steps from the beach up to the rooms so, if you have heart or joint problems, this is probably not the place for you to stay. There is running water in the rooms but no hot water, so be ready for cool showers. I say cool, not cold, because you are in the tropics. Nothing is ever that cold. Because the rooms are up off of the beach, there aren’t many biting insects up there and the rooms catch a nice breeze. The rooms have no air conditioning, but they have fans. This was generally not a problem because it cools off nicely at night. There are good quality screens on the windows, so flying things don’t come in to bother you. The staff brought fresh towels and sheets and straightened up the room while we were out diving.

We did not wear shoes or sandals unless we were about to go into town. We lived in a pair of shorts and a t-shirt. The staff will do your laundry for a small fee, so don’t bring too much stuff. If you need air conditioning, fewer steps or a reason to wear that party dress, just pay twice as much and stay at Dunbar Rock and go out in their big dive boats with a gaggle of other divers.

The Food:

Just a reminder that you are at a small, modestly priced resort on a remote island - don’t expect big cruise ship buffet food. With that caveat - the food was consistently good and very fresh. The fruit smoothies are from fruit picked locally, the fish was caught this morning, the shrimp is not frozen, and so on. Marley, the cook, is really friendly and accomodating. If you have something in particular you want, and she can get the ingredients, she will make it for you. If you want more (or less), just let her know. Her seafood stew (soup?) was stunning. What you won’t be able to get is your favorite marmalade, your favorite cut of beef or any other bespoke foodstuffs. One look at the local stores and you will see why. If you have something special that you can’t live without, bring it with you.

One building houses the Tiki Bar, the dining room and the kitchen. The bar was generally very quiet. The occasional small group of locals would be there, but it was mostly just the guests. The beer ($2) and drinks ($5) are reasonably priced. They try hard to keep well stocked and, if you are staying a while, they will specifically purchase the mixers and alcohols that you like.

Summary:

If you want luxury accommodations, dancing to live music and a buffet, go elsewhere. If you want a somewhat off-the-grid experience with fresh local food, really good diving, and a quiet beach - this is your spot. It is pretty astonishing that a place with electrical power, Internet, a dive compressor and a bar even exists in this location. Bring a book.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Seattle to San Francisco by Bicycle - 2019


A few of the better photos are shown below, but the entire collection is in this photo album. Below the pictures are the planning notes the show a map of the route, mileages and so on.


















Here is a planning document that I put together before the trip:

Pat White and Mike Evanoff are planning a bike tour in August of 2019 along the Pacific Coast. This is a self-supported ride, meaning you need to be prepared to carry all of your own stuff and to camp at night. 


Start from Seattle, Washington on August 5th. 
Finish up in (or near) San Francisco by Labor Day


The Route


HERE is the approximate route on Google Maps






For the 404 mile “Section 1” of the route, we will probably take the “Washington Parks” route around the Olympic Peninsula rather than just following the Pacific Coast route straight south. The straight route is about 112 miles and the peninsular route is 241, but we need to remove the 58 miles we saved by starting in Bellingham. So, if we take the listed 404 miles, and subtract 58 because we started in Bellingham, and add 130 because of the peninsula, we get about 404 + 60 =  464 miles for section 1. 


These are the map sections that you can find on the Adventure Cycling Association page for the Pacific Coast route. 



Here is the elevation for the various sections. We are only interested in sections 1, 2 and 3.


The Timing


If we ride 50 miles per day on average, the first 350 mile section into Astoria shown on the Google map above should take about seven days. The second section should be about 8 days. The third section should take 8-9 days. All told, that adds up to about 24 days. We are allowing 30 days, giving us time to stop in places that are interesting. 
As we get closer to San Francisco, we can decide if we want to keep riding the coast past Point Reyes, or if we want to head inland following one of the valleys (Dry Creek, Russian River, ….) and ultimately ending up closer to Sonoma. 


Here are approximate dates. We can speed up or slow down by a day or two in order to accommodate visitors. This schedule has built-in days off in Astoria and Crescent City. 


Depart
Days
Date
Arrive
Date
Seattle
7
5 August
Astoria
11 August
Astoria
8
13 August
Crescent City
20 August
Crescent City
8
22 August
San Francisco
29 August






Logistics for joining the ride


Anyone joining us on the ride can easily pick us up in Bellingham,  Portland, or Eugene. Further south, airports get a little more spread out and farther from the route. Amtrak has some decent connections to the coastal areas. The red lines are Amtrak train routes, the green ones are bus/shuttle/light rail services. 


If you want to pick us up in Astoria, there is a bus from Portland. The bus schedule is here. A few years ago, we shipped our bikes to “Bikes and Beyond” in Astoria and they stored them until we picked them up for a small fee. They will also assemble your bike if you want them to. 


Eureka is easy to get to via Amtrak and it is a 35 mile Uber ride from the Oakland Airport to Martinez, where you can pick up the Amtrak heading north.


There are a number of bus services from San Francisco to Mendocino 


North Bend, Crescent City, Fort Bragg and Eureka have rental car agencies, so you may be able to just do a point-to-point rental.


We use BikeFlights.com to ship our bikes. You don’t need an account, just go to the site and enter your info. We get boxes from REI or the local bike shop. It is easiest to just ship it to a Fedex facility. They will hold the bike for six days and they are normally open from early morning to early evening. If you time it right, Pat or Mike can pick up your bike and have it ready when you arrive. 

We will already have a stove and cooking gear, so just bring a cup, bowl and utensils. We will also have a pretty solid repair kit, so all you will need are your own tubes, pump and tire levers.