Friday, December 23, 2016

T-Minus One Week Until the Baja Divide

T-minus one week until Brent and I head south to LA on the Amtrak Coast Starlight, then onto San Diego on the Pacific Surfliner. We'll be spending New Year's Eve on the train, arriving in San Diego on New Year's Day. We get to take advantage of Amtrak's new roll-on service for the long distance trains. As many of you know, who have read my blog before, I'm no stranger to rolling my bike on the train. The Amtrak Cascades trains have had roll on service for quite some time. The only limitation that still remains for the long distance trains is being unable to roll on at non-luggage stops. That means we can't get on in Olympia. We'll go to Centralia.

Brent and I are doing the Baja Divide. It is a 1700 mile route that crisscrosses the Baja Peninsula from Tecate to La Paz (including a loop around the end of the Peninsula and back to La Paz). The route has been developed by Nicholas Carmen and Lael Wilcox. It is 90% off-road. This is the inaugural group departure for the route. There are 97 people meeting in San Diego to depart January 2nd. We will spend our first night together in Barrett Junction before crossing into Mexico the next day. We will also likely spend a second night with many of the riders, camping just outside Tecate. From there, everyone is on their own. Although Nicholas and Lael are doing the ride, they are not functioning as leaders after Barrett Junction.

Both Brent and I are riding our Surly ECRs. Brent's is brand new. Mine, of course, is Mama Cass. MC got some new wheels for this adventure. It is required to run tubeless tires due to the multitude of thorns. The rabbit-hole rims that MC had could not be converted to tubeless (I guess it would be hard to seal all those big holes). Jason, at Joy Ride Bikes, managed to find me a reasonably priced set of Stan's Hugo wheels. Pair them with some Vittoria Bomboloni tires, and I've now got a great tubeless set up. For my non-bikey friends, tubeless means that instead of a tube in the tire, there is a sealant. The sealant is a liquid that will seal small punctures such as those from thorns and goat heads. The tire bead is securely seated on the rim, and the spoke holes are covered with a sealing rimstrip. The valve stem is also sealed on the wheel. Maintaining the tubeless set up will be the primary concern on this route. To that end, we are carrying a tubeless patch kit as well as a tire plug kit and extra sealant.

For this ride, I'm going with a hybrid bikepacking system. I'm using Revelate Designs bikepacking bags, and my Ortlieb Sportpacker panniers. The Sportpackers usually go on a front rack, but for this tour, they are going on the rear rack. I'm taking far less gear than I did on the Great Divide. My cooking gear is staying home, and I'm not taking as many clothes. Here's a rundown of what is where. Starting with the front of MC, the Salsa Anything cages on the front fork, with the 4-liter dry bags will carry food. Hanging from the Jones handlebar will be the Revelate Sweetroll containing my sleeping bag, sleeping pad, pillow, and pack towel. In the pocket attached to the Sweetroll, will be small things like my wallet, sunglasses, sunscreen, chamois cream, etc. Tucked between the pocket and Sweetroll will be a section of Z-rest pad for sitting on, and placing under my sleeping pad for protection from any thorns I miss when setting up my tent. I'll have two Mountain Feedbags for water bottles attached to the handlebar (a third bottle will be on the underside of the downtube). The Revelate framebag (in the main triangle of MC) will have my repair kit, chain lube, pump, 1st aid kit, and maps. The Gas Tank top tube bag will have my camera, Bluetooth speaker, pocket knife, and multi tool. The Jerry Can (on the top tube below the saddle) will hold my headlamp and charge cords. The Vascacha seat bag will hold all my clothes. The rear panniers have my tent and stakes (the poles will be on top of the rack), toiletries, iPad mini, my collapsible bowl and cup, my spork, my new, slimmer profile Crocs, and water containers (6-liter dromedary bag, 2 1-liter Platypus bags, and a 2-liter Platypus bag). I'll be able to carry the water in the panniers, as there is plenty of room. That's pretty much it. I haven't weighed it all, but I'm sure it's much less than what I carried on the Great Divide.
                                          All that is missing in this photo is the bike!

One major change for this tour is in navigation. I'll be using a Garmin eTrex 20 with the GPX tracks downloaded. I'm using this Garmin because it uses AA batteries. My Garmin Edge Touring might be better, but it has to be charged daily (I'm only taking my external battery for charging my iPad and camera--I'm not taking my solar charger). The paper maps I have will be mostly used as an overview, and backup.

I'm not thrilled with my level of fitness right now. With a seemingly colder (and more icy) than usual winter, and now a nasty cold virus, I've not been able to ride as much as I usually do. The first few days will probably be pretty rough. The first day will probably be one of the longest mileage days as we ride from San Diego to Barrett Junction, CA.

One final note regarding this blog. Blogger has yet to update the app for iOS. Therefore, whenever I try to write a post, it quits. I will have to use the website instead. Since I normally compose blog posts offline, I'll have to compose in the Notes app, then copy and paste. I think it will work (in fact, I'm doing it with this post to make sure it does work). I'm not sure how much access to wifi I will have, but I'll do my best to keep you all informed. Also, if you normally access my blog through Facebook, you might want to sign up to receive posts by email. It seems that publishing from the Blogger website does not automatically share to Facebook. If you sign up to follow by email (the widget is on the blog page at, you will only receive an email when there is a new post. Blogger does not send any other emails.

So, t-minus one week, which includes Christmas. I'm sure the time is going to fly by. I hope this cold I have flies by too!!!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Joyride Gravelpalooza ala Polar Vortex

Finally, I made it to a Joyride gravel ride! My touring and traveling has conspired against my being able to do these gravel rides. Not today!

Due to the weather being bone-chilling cold (for the Pacific Northwest anyway). Cam, wisely, altered the route to have less elevation, and a shorter distance. We started at the Kennedy Creek Trailhead. I rode over to Karen's, and we drove out to the trailhead. I was pretty sure I knew where it was, but when we arrived, no one was there. Just when I was about to suggest maybe going further down the road, Brian showed up. He's from the shop, so I knew we were in the correct place. Bit by bit more people started arriving, until we had a great group of 21 people! Today, there were a lot of mountain bikes. Also, something different this year is the amount of bikes with bikepacking bags on them. I know a few guys are getting ready to do some bikepacking, and are trying out their gear. But, some are using the bags to carry food, water, and extra clothes specifically for the day's ride.

We headed up the gravel, crunching through frozen puddles, and at times riding through an inch dusting of dry snow. I remembered to let some air out of my tires (I totally forgot on last Sunday's chick gravel ride), so the riding was pretty smooth without any slipping. I had been this way before, but at one point, I think we went straight, instead of turning, because we ended up coming out to an intersection from a different direction. While we were regrouping, eating, etc, Derik and Deb caught up to us. They had not started with us, but managed to find us. So, now we were 23 riders!

When we got to the turn to go either up, or around, we all decided to go up.

The problem is not the climb, it's the descent down the other side. It's much more steep than going around. It was questionable as to how much snow we might encounter. Turns out is was no more than what we'd already been through. Although the descent was steep, it was not bad. The scenery was pretty decent too.
At the bottom, we were back on the road we had been on at the beginning.

Total mileage was around 12, but it was a great 12 miles!