How to Safely Pass a Cyclist

The first draft of this was a little too much of a critical mass, Portlandia, cyclists rule the world type rant.  If you are not familiar with this attitude, allow Fred Armisen to demonstrate:

I am likely preaching to the choir here, so maybe a cyclist's rant is appropriate. Is any non-cyclist going to read an article about passing a cyclist safely from a blog titled Uncle Dan’s Bike Ride? Perhaps I should consider some alternative blog names to draw in the target audience: Uncle Dan’s Monster Truck Rally Through Residential Neighborhoods, or Uncle Dan’s Fast and Furious Adventures Down Quiet Country Roads. In hopes of a non-cyclist reading this, I'll start more tactfully and try to build some common ground.


Who Cooks For You? Sounds of the Night on the Appalachian Trail

One night in the mountains of southern Virginia, a deer or two were behind the Hurricane Mountain shelter making the snorting huffing sounds that deer make. They woke me up, but I fell quickly back asleep, until a fellow hiker mistakingly cried out, “holy shit, it’s a bear!” Now fully awake, I corrected him, “It’s a f’n deer!” Sorry for snapping at you, Rock-Licker. Good sleep on the trail can be hard to come by 


Finding What Matters Most in Life: The One

I’m talking about the right bike saddle, of course.  My apologies to those who arrived here thinking I was going to be writing about love and relationships. Don’t go away just yet. I have noticed that if you substitute "relationships" for the word "saddle" below there are strong similarities between finding the right bike saddle and finding that The One. So if you are still looking for The One, or want to make sure you have the right One, keep reading and insert  “relationships” anywhere words are underlined. The key to two of life's most important decisions in one blog post.*  


110 Miles on the Long Trail

In my failed attempt to hike Vermont’s 270 mile Long Trail this fall I learned a couple important lessons.  First, you can’t plan around the weather.  I learned this hiking the AT, yet when Hurricane Joaquin was threatening to hit New England I decided to wait and see what would happen.  It never came, but the days got shorter and colder, and I caught a cold from my nieces.  Second, any kind of weather is possible in October in Vermont.  Third, a stove is a necessity if water sources are frozen.  Fourth, boots are much better than running shoes in snow, even with YakTrax.  Fifth, it’s bad luck not including my bicycle on an adventure.


A Map and Numbers: Appalachian Trail / East Coast Hike & Bike

Blue is my bike route down to Georgia, white is the AT, red is my bike route back to CT. Click on map and zoom in for more detail. The bike routes are my actual GPS tracks using my Garmin Forerunner 410 watch. The AT GPX files are courtesy of www.guymott.com. I wasn't willing to carry my watch and deal with keeping it charged while hiking.


Mile 2189.2

As expected, New Hampshire and Maine are the hardest and most beautiful sections of the AT, by quite a bit, I think.  Lots of the sections looked familiar, and I remember my dad and I slogging up some of those ridiculously steep rocky trails with 40-50 lb packs when I was a teenager.  My pack was much lighter, but still the terrain seemed just as hard. Probably because I got used to being able to hike at 3 mph doing 20-25 miles/day. I felt like we were moving at a snail's pace, which didn't really matter except for the psychological component of progressing slower.


Mile 1790.5

The last 300 miles of hiking has been a good stretch. The temperature and humidity dropped once we hit Greylock and the bugs have largely disappeared. We've also had lots of company and support from friends, family and strangers. Now the weather has turned back to heat wave status so we are laying low and extending our break in Plymouth, NH with Effie's family. Only about 400 miles to go with the biggest most beautiful mountains to come.

Hiking out of CT. Rands View looking at the ridge along the MT Everett state reservation.


Mile 1490

Over 700 miles without a post.  We picked up the pace as we got closer to CT and I haven't had the time or  energy.  The brief summary: northern VA got better.  The trail along the Blue Ridge Parkway and Shenandoah NP is scenic.  Luna, the trail dog, went home in Shenandoah. PA is a bit boring in the south,  but has amazing shelters and good spring water.  The trail is less glamorous in the north with lots of rocks and suboptimal water.  NJ and NY were surprisingly beautiful.  Now back in New England with 700 miles to go.   The picture story:


Mile 727

Since leaving Damascus we've picked up the pace and trying to get at least 20 mile days in except for town days. I pasted my mileage log at the bottom for numbers people.  We is now me (Diva Dan), Effie (Baby Wipe), and Luna the trail dog (Luner).  The others we were hiking with are a couple days behind but will hopefully catch up. On the plus side as we go faster we get to meet totally new groups of hikers.

So far Virginia is my least favorite state.  Sorry Virginia, but you are hot as hell  (90+ and humid), prone to severe thunderstorms, have many biting insects, and have long stretches with no water, which isn't particularly cold, clean, or flowing when it is available. On the other hand the wild berries are increasingly abundant and the trail magic has been the best yet (certainly most appreciated). And of course there have been some scenic stretches, notably around Grayson Highlands, Mt Rogers and McAfee Knob, and some beautiful meadow hiking. The most scenic stretches of VA are still to come along the Blue Ridge Parkway and Shenandoah NP.


Mile 469

The stretch between Hot Springs, NC and Damascus, VA was a scenic one, but the wettest hiking yet. After leaving Erwin, TN thunderstorms were frequent so feet were mostly wet. Scott Jurek, the ultra-marathon runner trying to break the fastest AT hike-run past us in Ash Gap during the evening. Unfortunately, I was in my sleeping bag when he came through.

Luna, the trail dog, at White Rock Cliffs.


Mile 275

Arrived in Hot Springs, NC to resupply and take my first full zero day. Myself and 4 other hikers rented a small cabin on the French Broad River. A nice place to relax, with hot springs across the street, plenty of beer and food.

I over did it the last couple days in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park and now have a sore left ankle, the posterior tibialis tendon, I think. I'm not quite ready for 20+ mile days day after day. The weather was very cool, 50s, and lots of trail magic, so I was feeling like hiking a lot. Already feeling better, so should be back to normal soon.

So far NC is more mountainous and scenic than Georgia.The weather has not always been cooperative, so many of the scenic vistas were up in the clouds, but still plenty of views, wildlife, and good company.

Here is the picture show:

Not a dramatic entry into NC, but starts with a steep climb.


Hiking the AT, Hiawasse, GA

5 days on the trail and all is well. Currently at the Top Of Georgia hostel spending my first night off trail and resupplying.  This will be a brief post as there is socializing and sleeping to do. 

To summarize so far: 

1.  There are a lot of people on the trail from all walks of life, even starting as late as I have.  No shortage of good company. 

2. It is a nature lover's delight.  Birds, reptiles, bugs, wildflowers. No bear sightings yet.  I need to brush up on my bird songs and learn some plants, especially the edible variety.

3.  So far my gear is working well.  Some minor tears I've been able to fix with needle and thread. 

4.  Doing 15 mile days so far. Feel ok, but getting good sleep has been hard.  Minor blisters. 

Pictures tell the rest of the story:

Not only did Andrew give me a place to stay in Gainesville, feed me good foodie food, help me ship my bike, and drive me to Amicalola Falls, but he hiked the 8 miles up to Springer Mt to see me off. Here we are at the start of the AT


Gainesville, GA

About 560 miles of pedaling from Norfolk, VA and I've arrived in Gainesville, GA.  Heading out of Norfolk riding was rainy and a bit intense until past Suffolk.  Then I was able to find some enjoyable low traffic country roads. 

Country road and cotton field near the VA NC border


From Norfolk, VA

So far, so good.  I've successfully navigated through NYC, NJ, and down the Delmarva (Delaware, Maryland, Virginia) peninsula with about  400 miles of pedaling, 3 ferry rides (Bridgeport to Port Jefferson, Manhattan to Belford, NJ, Cape May to Lewes, DE) and one Virginia DOT ride over the Chesapeake Bay bridge tunnel.

Heading to Lewes on the Cape May ferry


East Coast Bike & Hike & Bike: The Plan

Long distance hiking and adventure cycling seem to go hand in hand.  I met a lot of people on my first biking trip that were in the process of, planning to or had completed hiking the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and/or the Continental Divide Trail.  In El Paso, Texas, for example, I met a young couple that was on their way to Maine by bicycle to hike the AT.  That got me thinking.

So this summer I am going to try to ride to Georgia from CT, about 1,000 miles, hike the AT, about 2,200 miles from Georgia to Maine, and then ride back to CT, about 450 miles.  I had lots of ideas from my first trip, so this time I am going to try a few new things.  Many of which involved hours and hours of time with my sister's sewing machine.

First, I am taking my road bike instead of the Surly cyclocross/touring bike. The road bike weighs about 10 lbs lighter and greatly limits what I can carry, so hopefully will be faster riding.  I constructed a frame pack for between the down tube and top tube and modified a compression sack for under the saddle.  I also changed the cassette to an 11-32  (works fine with Shimano 105 derailleur despite some things I read online) and put a 38 tooth chainring on the front for easier pedaling on hills.   I put on some higher spoke count wheels and hoping that durability in general won't be an issue.

Lastly, I broke down and bought a fancy Brooks Cambium Saddle, which I paid about $130 for.  After a few 15-30 miles rides I was impressed, but after back to back 50+ mile rides I had bad saddle sores.  I've decided to give it a 1,000 miles before I definitively say that high end saddles are a waste of money.

While riding I had a number of ideas about creating a tent that could be used as a hammock and also a backpack.  So after a few hundred hours of sewing I put together something that does that.  However, I haven't had a chance to test it extensively other than a few short hikes, which makes me a bit nervous.  Worst case scenario I'll have my backup non-homemade gear shipped to me.  Details and pictures of hiking equipment to follow.  For now, I will say I've got everything to about a 12lb pack, not including food and water.

Leaving today, Saturday April 18, 2015 (Madeline's 6th Birthday).  First stop, New Haven.