Getting my feet wet with a mountain ride

This coming week, on April 17th, I’ll make my first venture into the mountains on my loaded touring bike. I’ve been wanting to do this ever since I got that puppy in November 2012. I just haven’t found the time.

I’m a little apprehensive about this trip because I don’t know how difficult the hills will be. I’ve ridden up in this area a lot over the years, but always on a lightweight road bike. Never with the rig I’m riding now. But there’s only one way to find out and that’s to go!



View Ride to Vogel in a larger map

I’m riding to Vogel State Park where my mother Lois will be having her 80th birthday party!

I’m keeping the miles as short as I can so I’ll have maximum energy when I make it up to the steep climbs. So I’ll take the Marta train to the North Springs station and ride from there. My first day is then about 50 miles to Dawson Forest where I’ll camp. This forest is owned by the city of Atlanta and is about 10,000 acres of watershed. You can camp anywhere, with the only expectation being that you pack out any trash of course.

The forest hosts two beautiful streams of water – the Etowah River and Amicalola Creek. My tentative plan is to camp on the river somewhere. I’ve never been to this area, but studying with Google Earth indicates some shoals/rapids to be found. I’ll try to find myself a campsite near the river where I can hear the water.

Getting to Dawson Forest will be similar to riding around in Atlanta. The serious climbing happens the next day. For the route I’ve planned I’m expecting 6000 feet of elevation gain that day and about 4500 feet of elevation loss. Seven hundred feet of that loss is a really steep hill I’ll go down right before getting to the park. The maximum grade should be about 13%. I don’t know if I can ride that or not? Maybe not a problem – or maybe I’ll do some walking!

It’s not like I can’t get a ride, mind you. But what kind of adventure would that be?

Waking at Panola Mountain

I got finally went camping last night at the new primitive campground at Panola Mountain State Park. This campground opened about a year ago. It’s a very pretty setting on Scott’s Lake (a little pond really).

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Beautiful morning! After some coffee and oatmeal to break the chill, time to go play!

Planning the C&O and Great Allegheny Passage

Started a new page about my next big tour. I’m excited about this ride. This should be a nice trip in June. Hoping for good weather. I can’t wait for warmer temperatures.

This will probably be a relatively easy ride with lots of good camping and sites along the way. And I’ll visit my brother Robert, his wife Terri, and witness the high school graduation of my niece Katie.

I’m so ready!

I love my new saddle

I just got this new bicycle seat, a Selle-Anatomica. I found it more attractive as a touring saddle than the better-known Brooks. For me this is a better transition from a racing saddle.

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My saddle is Watershed leather with copper studs to secure the leather. They have several different styles to choose from. The setup guide is very well written so it’s not hard to get dialed in so you’re fit to the bicycle just right for the best comfort and efficiency.

It is made of leather and has no padding to “sink” into and potentially cut off blood flow. The saddle has adjustable tension so it can be very flexible, very tight and hard, or anything in between. I’ve only been about 25 miles on it so far, so I can’t say for sure how it will work out on real long rides. But I am very impressed so far!

I can already feel the subtle positive effects of just a little bit of “give” in the surface. When I’m powering up a slow steep climb and planted hard in the seat and going over bumps, I can hardly feel them. It puts me one with the bicycle. My old racing saddle would jar my sit bones as I went up a surface like that.

There’s a sale running right now where you can get these for $99.

The house feeds itself – with me, its unknowing supplier

I remember returning from my last tour, on the road for three weeks, and how strange it seemed to be in this house of mine. Wow. What excess. Entire rooms filled with furniture, appliances, tools, a whole room for food preparation (known as a Kitchen). I didn’t have access to any of this stuff while I was on the road. My little world consisted of my bicycle and gear I carried under my own power. No more possessions than I’m willing to haul across the countryside.

I’ve gotten used to living here again now. It’s not strange anymore. But I have a new perspective. I know now, that all these possessions somehow justify themselves in a self-referencing sort of way. For example, I have a shed with a lawn mower and a bunch of garden tools. Imagine trying to carry that on my bicycle. But if I didn’t have a house with a yard I wouldn’t need all that stuff that’s there to take care of it. Likewise for all the cookware, or my big refrigerator and stove, etc. I see it this way because I more and more confirm for myself that a day to day healthful and sustainable existence doesn’t require more than I can carry on my bicycle. Life doesn’t have to be as complicated as the life I’ve designed seems to deem necessary.

Left on the Silver Comet – Return on the Silver Crescent

My trip to Mississippi began on the repurposed tracks of the old Silver Comet Railroad, riding aboard my bicycle.

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My trip is ending as I ride the newer Silver Crescent rail line from Meridian through the countryside and enjoying our pretty world and the beaming sun.

The train was a few hours late leaving. The front of the train was damaged just outside of Meridian. Somebody apparently dumped a load a rocks and gravel on the tracks. Probably kids enjoying their power to mess things up. The train came limping into the station very late and still needed a welding repair. I bet they get caught. There will be an investigation and kids like to brag about such things. I feel bad for my sister Martha since she plans to pick me up now-late.
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I think I’ve learned from this trip, that there are so many Subway restaurants scattered in both metro and rural America, that I can probably get a foot long *somewhere* every day while touring. By taking some oatmeal and dried fruit for breakfast and adding a Subway visit, the essentials of my eating plan are covered – probably for under $15/day. Now if I could just curb my motel habit…

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This has been a really splendid ride :-)

My Natchez Trace Tour is complete

What a trip this has been. I’ve reached the Amtrak train station where I’ll ride home Saturday morning.

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19 days of riding, but I stayed in the same place a couple times. A total of 1,006 bicycle miles. The full detail with various waypoints is here

I would love to continue and refine this healthy lifestyle but I need to be at work Monday morning.

This is my longest ride yet. I’ve ridden for three weeks, less a day if I go ahead and count riding around the area tomorrow. I did not take “rest days” but I had a couple days in the 15 mile kind of range that I consider rest.

I’ve really enjoyed seeing the countryside up close along with many local folk in various areas I’ve been to. People have been very nice and in many instances quite interested in the details of my journey. Taking county roads and highways is key to that. Taking back roads also does a lot to keep the trip interesting and adventurous.

In a few of the really low income areas I didn’t feel entirely safe. But usually that’s where I see more interest or at least acceptance of what I’m doing. It’s where people are the friendliest and outgoing.

I’ve seen Mississippi better in these few weeks than in all my years. The Natchez Trace Parkway is quite a treasure. The views are beautiful and the road, quiet. I also found many a sweet ride on the country roads I’ve been on though. And I enjoy seeing “life” go on there, something you don’t see in the isolated environment of the trace. Mississippi is really full of beautiful wet lands and birds, something you don’t see much of from the highway. I’ve loved the quiet swampy areas I’ve come upon again and again.

My physical well being is top-notch. I’ve never been more fit. I felt new endurance in my legs after a few days. It became more “explore the world” rather than “take an arduous journey”. I kept up a daily routine of sit ups, push ups, touch toes, stretch, that kept me in tune with my body and particularly kept my back strong, which has been a source of pain fatigue in the past but not on this trip. I think I’m learning how to manage that with exercise and riding posture. Often I feel my back “pop” a little while exercising and I know I just did something good.

My butt still gets sore late in the day even though my pelvis bones have noticeably reshaped themselves to fit my saddle better. I may need to try out a real touring saddle. I’ve been put off by the look of them, with concern for blood flow after a long time sitting. Still, this is the weak link in getting a long day of riding in. It helps to take frequent breaks getting off the bike saddle for even a few minutes at a time. But late in the day a couple times I reached a point where most of my mental energy was focused on the pain in that region. The cream they sell at the bike shop helps a lot and I was always OK by morning, without residual soreness that I’ve sometimes had without that.

I stayed in motels a little more than I’d hoped. But I had a few stretches of three camping days at a time and one or two here and there. Motels are definitely easier to manage when they are around but the drive up the cost. And camping is usually more interesting. I think I’d camp more were I not as interested in making good miles at times (easier to do with motel stays).

Keeping my electronics charged has gone very well, particularly since I added the Mophie Juice Pack Pro battery pack to my equipment. I’ve been able to charge my phone with that and also charge the AAA batteries in my helmet and my flashing tail light and music box (which I use only to amplify spoken route directions in metro areas where there may be too much noise to clearly hear the phone). My dyno-hub then recharges the battery pack in my next days ride. The battery pack is not up to putting a full charge on my ipad. But that battery lasts a long time and I recharge it at motels when I can and don’t really need that much anyway. It’s convenient for catching up on various podcasts I follow.

Managing my food has been very easy. Sometimes I’ve had energy bar snacks but usually it’s been a combination of fruit (most often oranges) along with nuts and the flavored cranberries I brought from the farmers market in at home. Being primarily a vegetarian, I found it convenient that Subway is so prevalent since I have good healthy food choices there. I would stop and eat half of a foot long, take the other half with me, and have the basis of two meals a day. When camping I always made oatmeal cooked in soy milk for breakfast. Using the lunch-size non-refridgerated individual packs works well for that.

The weather has been so good! There was not a single day where I road in the rain all day or had to setup camp in the rain. The most rain I had during the day was the day I spent in Columbus. I didn’t mind that and it fit my spirit that day. A lot of the bulk on my ride has been cold weather clothes. I’ve actually made good use of all of them. But only briefly. Usually if the ride started out cold, the mid-morning sun would find me peeling off layers and by noon or earlier I was back in shorts. Only on a couple days did I need a layer on my legs or arms into the afternoon.

On a more personal level I’m so happy to have been able to visit with aunt Hazel in Okalona for a couple days. We had a nice time together and I also got to see my cousin Rick who still runs the family farm there. We even visited Henrine, who was the maid at granddads old farm lodge where I went several times as a child and road horses and camped and played with my cousins and friends.

Detail on my dyno driven lights

As requested by a comment here is some info on the lights I have.

LIGHT B&M IQ CYO R SENSO PLUS BLACK is the front light.
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B&M TOPLIGHT LINE BRAKE PLUS is the rear light.

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Excuse the quality. I’m on tour in Mississippi right now. Following my heart and the good weather!

Respecting Trees

What would the world be like without trees? It makes me sad that so many are cut down. They cool and shade the planet, break the wind, give us oxygen, and are beautiful and full of variety.

Without trees I’d have nothing to tie my hammock to. So I feel the comfort of the trees as I sleep at night.

The “tree hugger” lashing on my hammock begs the majestic strength of the tree for a night of rest. In return I promise to leave you with respect and no damage to your bark.

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To all my friends and family

I’m having trouble sending email. Not sure how persistent it will be.

Based on having one bar here in Rockmart and heading towards more remote areas, I may not upload waypoints for a day or two at a time. Please, nobody worry because I’m out of contact.

Having a great time.

Love, Walter