Monday, August 30, 2010

Testing out gear

Gear update 12-15-2010:

I've replaced my 25 year-old CampinGaz stove with an MSR PocketRocket. It fires up easily, cooks nice and hot, is ultra-compact, and boils water very quickly (which is what I use it for 99% of the time). I got mine for less than $35 from

I've also purchased a new sleeping bag. My old one was a 30-40 degree bag made out of spider silk and smoke, and required the use of a Thermolite liner to keep me alive. I've slept in that system down to 20 degrees and although I made it through the night, it was unpleasant. I've since ordered a Marmot Never Summer 0-degree down bag from I'll report more when I've actually slept in it

We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming (a.k.a. the original post):

I have a trip coming up that will involve several nights camping out rather than staying in motels. The location will be remote, far away from services such as gas, food, and lodging, and will be at high elevation. This past weekend I decided to ride to a spot in the woods on the eastern slope of Mt. Hood and spend the night, testing out my camping gear. The last thing I want to do is find out my gear doesn't work or isn't adequate for the job when I'm relying on it for real.

The whole purpose of the short trip was to spend the night in the woods to test gear, rather than the more usual goal of a bike trip. I planned to eat dinner in camp, stay the night in my tent, eat breakfast, then ride back home.

It had rained at Government Camp within a few hours before I went over the pass, judging by the wet pavement and cool fall-like air. By the time I got to camp, about an hour and a half away from home and on the dry side of the mountain, I could see spots in the dust where it had rained briefly within about a half hour before. There was still an inch thick layer of fine dust on the ground, however, and it got everywhere as I rode over it.

I set up my tent and unpacked my cooking gear, then set out to make dinner. I've been using the same small Campingaz butane camp stove for 25 years and it has always been rock solid. However, partway through cooking dinner the fuel ran out. Prior to leaving I had suspected my fuel canister was getting low and when looking for a supplier I discovered that brand is no longer sold in the United States. So I took my chances and ended up eating most of my dinner cold.

One trick my brother taught me was to take food that doesn't have to be cooked in order to be edible. If you get into a situation (like I did) where you're unable to heat your food, you won't starve. Eating my dinner cold was no big deal. However, yellow jackets soon discovered my presence and began to pester me aggressively. They landed in my food, on me, and began to really threaten my quality of life at that moment. I had to continuously walk around camp while I ate because if I stopped I'd have a half-dozen yellow jackets in my food.

I finally managed to eat my cold dinner and get my mess kit cleaned up. With the summer fire season in full swing building a fire was out of the question. Considering the prospect of a cold breakfast and more hassles from the increasing numbers of aggressive yellow jackets, I decided spending the night at home would be more appealing. Plus I already knew my tent and sleeping bag set up worked fine down to 20 degrees so I had basically tested out everything that needed testing: cooking, food prep, and packing/loading it all on my bike.

I broke camp and rode home.

End note: I've already ordered a replacement for my venerable but now obsolete Campingaz stove: An MSR PocketRocket from, $35 with free shipping. It's the same type of stove but uses a different kind of fuel canister.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Into the mist

Saturday I took a nice ride up Marmot Road to Barlow Trail Road, then turned around and headed back. There were several bicyclists heading west on Marmot. I didn't see numbers on their jerseys so I assume it was a for-fun or training ride, rather than a race.

Sunday, however, was a different story. I went through Bull Run and Aimes then up to Corbett and up to Larch Mountain, and from Sandy all the way to Hurlburt Road I was passing bicyclists in some kind of race (numbers on their jerseys). Some road three abreast taking up the entire lane. I don't understand their mentality when bicyclists do that.

I managed to get past them safely. By the time I got to Corbett the clouds were thickening up and threatening rain. It had rained the night before so several spots of pavement were wet. I then headed east up Larch Mountain Road. As I climbed elevation mist began to form on my windshield and face shield. Once above 2,000 feet it began sprinkling.

The parking lot at the top of Larch Mountain -- at 4,000 feet elevation -- was shrouded in cloud and mist and drizzle. It was the first time I've ridden in precipitation in months and I welcomed it. I turned around without stopping and headed back down the mountain toward home.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Huckleberry Loop

Sunday I rode a loop up and over the Cascades via Forest Service roads, then back on Highway 26. The route began in Sandy under cloudy and misty skies. Although it was warm and somewhat muggy, the air was damp so I had my waterproof pants on. It was warm riding but that's better than getting soaked. I topped off my gas tank in Estacada and already needed to pull out the liner from my Aerostich Darien. Cooler, I headed up the Clackamas River Highway toward Ripplebrook.

See the full route here.

Although I had a few rain drops on my face shield as I passed by Promontory Park on the North Fork Reservoir of the Clackamas River, I could see breaks in the clouds and within a half dozen miles I had sunshine, which stayed with me for the remainder of the trip. Riding conditions were perfect, actually. Temperatures were in the upper 60s to low 70's, the pavement was dry, and there was beautiful sunshine highlighting the rapids of the Clackamas River to my right.

At Ripplebrook I continued south on FS46 toward Detroit. I had to meep-meep my way past several people walking in the middle of the road at Austin Hot Springs, but once I was safely past them, I continued on to the junction with FS42 / Pinhead Creek Road. This is a paved one-lane forest service road that's in remarkable condition, albiet narrow in many spots. The road climbs in elevation nearly 2,000 feet, up into the high Cascades.

It was getting warm so I pulled off onto a gravel fire road and took a break. Water and granola bar inside me, I stripped down to my skivies right along the road side and put on my denim Draggin' Jeans -- much cooler than my insulated waterproof Fieldsheer pants! Re-dressed in cooler attire, I continued on, joining up with Skyline Road.

At nearly 4,000 feet, I saw a sign for Summit Lake, 1 mile, and pulled off for some exploring. 100 yards up the road I saw a pickup pulled over into the brush and a wooly bearded man standing amidst the bushes with a white bucket in his hand -- picking huckleberries. As I slowly rode toward Summit Lake on the narrow gravel road, I looked at the huckleberry bushes to see if they were ripe yet. Although I saw a few red berries, they're not yet ready for picking. Maybe in another week or two I'll get up there and pick a gallon.

I was soon at Summit Lake. A couple of cars were parked in the unimproved campground, some packing up to head home, back to the weekly grind in the city, no doubt. I parked the bike and took some pictures, then headed back up the gravel road to rejoin Skyline Road.

Skyline passes by the entrance to Timothy Lake, but rather than detour to the lake I kept heading Northeast to hook up with Highway 26 and the slow-moving traffic of everyone heading back to Portland from recreating east of the Cascades.

After getting home I gave my bike an oil change (31,430 miles on the odometer) because it deserves it.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Repairs: Part II

After failing to figure out how to remove the front cowling in order to access my turn signals, I gave up and took it to the dealership's service department and have them do it. Even their head mechanic said it was a royal pain, but they managed to get my front two turn signals replaced. The rear signals are apparently just as much of a hassle, so currently my bike still has the factory indicators on the back.

While at the shop I had them put on new brake pads and replace the bar-end weight that got bent when I dropped my bike in the parking lot at work a few weeks back. Since they were already working on the front right handlebar I had them install a Grip Puppy on that side as well. I had installed a Grip Puppy on the left side a few years back but left off the throttle side.

The dealership I went to is Yamaha Sports Plaza in Fairview. It's the same location as Action Motor Sports, where I bought my bike back in 2007, but has new ownership and they only carry Yamaha. The service department still supports Suzuki bikes, though. I'm concerned for the dealership, however. Business is down for motorcycle dealerships right now, for both sales and service, and I'll be surprised if they survive a year. I asked the owner how much new FJR's were going for and he said, "About $15k retail but we're definitely willing to negotiate." The hungry look in his eye when he said that was unmistakable -- they need business.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Repairs and rides

The front-right turn signal is cracked on my V-Strom and I bought 'drop-in' replacements from Touratech. I also bought new brake pads and bar-end weights. I planned to spend a few hours getting these parts installed and my first task was to get the turn signals replaced.

Getting to the large nuts that hold the front turn signals in place was not an easy chore and after spending over an hour trying to get the front fairing off my bike, I threw up my hands and gave up. There is a bizarre combination of hex-head screws, snaps and hooks that hold it in place and although I got the screws figured out (more or less) I was afraid the snaps were one-time-only fasteners; once you pull them out you have to replace them with new ones. Before taking that plunge I decided to refasten everything I had removed and let the mechanics at my local bike shop tackle the job.

I decided since the bike has to go into the shop I might as well have them swap out the brake pads and bar-end weights as well.

The next day I decided to take a long ride to Detroit. I've written about this route many times before so I won't go into great detail about the route. Most of the road has been repaved and is in great shape. The weather was fantastic for riding, sunny but not hot, and although there were a few slow cars and RVs to contend with, the acceleration of my V-Strom handled the situation marvelously.

I was also very pleased at the improvement the fork brace I installed made on turning and stability in windy conditions. The bike felt tighter and more stable. The difference wasn't dramatic but was definitely noticeable.

I also strapped a special action-cam onto my rear foot peg and videotaped the last leg into Detroit. Once there I took a break, then strapped the camera on the same foot peg facing backwards and filmed the same stretch of road but in reverse. The final footage is interesting and somewhat exciting to watch, since the camera is zooming along about 12" above the ground. However, my pant leg covered up the right side of the lens so I need to do it again with the camera mounted in another location.