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prepping for schlepping on our six-month bike trip: everything else

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We’re just about ready to do this thing. I’ve slowly been ordering everything we need off the internet for our 6-month bike trip across Europe. Since we live hours from a major city, everything we’ve accumulated has had to come from Amazon for the most part.

I’ve had to continuously put in what I thought to be my last Amazon order, only to realize I’d forgotten something else that we’re pretty sure we might need. We plan to make this as frugal a trip as we can, so we’ve done our best to set ourselves up ahead of time to be as comfy on the road as possible. If we can tent the majority of nights, our finances should stretch out nicely, and allow us the chance to splurge if we’re visiting a large city or we have 7 days in a row of rain.

The two above images represent most of what we’re bringing, without representing a few duplicates that we’ll both be carrying, such as sleeping bags, towels, and cups. I’ll list out everything we plan on taking. Starting with the top image —

  • Two Trangia Spirit burners, small, lightweight, able to travel with fuel inside them
  • Two Trangia windshields, of two different sizes so they’ll will nest in our packs
  • A plush cookset, with a few pans and lids, and a teapot
  • A pan handle for our cookset
  • A lighter
  • Two or three knives
  • Windproof gloves (Gore Bike Wear Windstopper Soft Shell Thermo for me)
  • A highly packable folding Continental Gatorskin tire
  • New Helly Hansen rain pants (without the crotch ripped out!)

Moving to the second image —

  • Big Agnes Seedhouse SL2 superlight tent + extra footprint
  • NEMO Equipment Cosmo Insulated 20R sleeping pad
  • NEMO Equipment 2P slipcover, which connects both pads into one large mattress
  • NEMO Equipment Fillo, inflatable/memory foam pillow (which is amazing!)
  • Sea to Summit Tek towels for bathing and dishes
  • An L.L. Bean sleeping bag stuffed into an Odyssey dry bag (Eli stuffed his differently)
  • 2 GSI Outdoors stainless steel plates
  • 2 Toaks titanium sporks
  • Sea to Summit 4L Pack Tap
  • 2 stainless steel cups
  • Nalgene travel kit with various spices, oil, vinegar
  • Potable Aqua water purification tablets
  • Bug net
  • Small roll of Gorilla tape
  • Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Dry Day Pack (super packable – see bottom right of photo)
  • Corkscrew/bottle opener and/or Swiss Army multi-tool knife
  • 50′ of kevlar sport line
  • Wallet with many pockets for all those currencies
  • New prescription sunglasses! Wheeeeeee!
  • Baseball cap
  • 1-2 bandanas
  • Five Ten Freerider shoes for wearing on/off the bike
  • Chaco sandals
  • Taiga helmet rain cover
  • Multi-country travel adapter with 2 USB ports
  • Sea to Summit dry bags
  • My iPhone! and charging cable
  • A beautiful handmade leather-bound book (with a deer shed!) for journaling…. not my strong suit, but I’ll do my best
  • Pen and pencil
  • A new head lamp, since mine was weak and feeble
  • Bright headlight for my bike, plus USB charging cable
  • Contacts and contact solution
  • Toiletry bag
  • Hairbrush
  • Razor
  • Well-stocked first aid kit, with scissors
  • A couple maps
  • Two biking books with great routes that will come with only if we have room to spare, or if I can’t find electronic versions
  • The big kahuna: a new iPad Pro, with integrated keyboard
  • Dry bag for the iPad
  • Charging cable and adapter for the iPad, plus converters for Europe and the UK
  • 1 trowel (that didn’t make it into either picture)

This is a lot of fricking stuff. But between all our panniers, I don’t think it’ll be much of a problem. We’ll be bringing various bike tools as well, but that’s Eli’s domain. I’ll leave that for him to discuss if he can bring himself to decide on a WordPress username.
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I would like to take a minute to rave about this pillow, the NEMO Fillo. Pretty incredible what you can do with four breaths of air. Insert air, and should you wish, something like a sweatshirt in the stuff sack on the back side of the pillow. I like it only about half inflated, gives a feeling more like my regular pillow at home.DSC06646

I bought this beautiful handmade leather book from a girl on Instagram. Check out the hashtag Ortlieb Leather Books on IG if you’re looking for a lovely special something. I purchased this because of the deer shed, but also because it’s an Ortlieb Leather Book that will be stored in my Ortlieb bike pannier. Too coincidental to not buy it, really.DSC06648

We’ll have a few of these dry bags with us, for electronics, for phones, for wallets, for whatevah.DSC06663

These are my new honeys. Warby Parker Cecily prescription sunglasses. My last pair of prescription sunnies were bought, geez, must have been around ten years ago now. I’ve used them for work forever, and the lenses are scratched to shit, covered in blue paint, orange paint, you name it, it’s on there. Plus the prescription is out of date. So a new pair was warranted. These things are fly.DSC06636

I’ll be taking a little bit of northern Maine with me on the road. Dead Eye Trucking was my trucking contractor in 2015, and I dropped not-so-subtle hints about their bomb ass baseball caps until they brought me one. Something to remember our time in Aroostook County by. In the background, my glorious Five Ten Freerider shoes. These things will be perfect for biking, hiking, anything and everything.DSC06633

Titanium sporks. I’m undecided yet if I’ll like these. I was pretty picky about which sporks I got; I tried to find ones with relatively deep tines. And I didn’t like the ones with a serrated edge on the side – I could just see myself slicing my tongue in half while enthusiastically chowing down on something delicious.Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset

Lastly, we decided to try something new, and purchased these 40 ounce stainless steel Klean Kanteen water bottles. Regular bike bottles are something like 20 or 21 ounces, plus they’re plastic. While I don’t get too crazy about not eating and drinking out of plastics, I guess I’m trying to avoid it when possible, especially when said containers are going to be used all day every day, and beaten down by the sun and the elements. Hence the steel plates, cups, and sporks, and these new water bottles. Fitting 40 ounces of water into one bottle, while still having a second backup regular water bottle, will be fantastic. We had to purchase these TwoFish Quick Cage bottle holders, which have adjustable Velcro straps to be used on a wide variety of frame tube sizes. The rubber footers between the strap and the bottle cage make for a snug, secure fit.

I’m excited to try this stuff out. Let’s get this show on the road!

Previous trip-related post, detailing the clothes I’ll be bringing– Prepping for Schlepping on our Six-Month Bike Trip: Clothes

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doubletop mountain, baxter state park

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My last work day is just over a week away. Things are wrapping up quickly, packing is crazy, and last minute Amazon purchases for our trip are trickling in. And meanwhile I’m tackling final projects at my job, trying to tie up loose ends and present a tidy summary of everything I’ve worked on and created over the past three and a half years.

So this week, my manager let me choose a destination location for my last staff meeting with the company. My options were paddling or hiking, so naturally I chose a hike in Baxter State Park, a few hours’ drive from the office.

I chose a trail I hadn’t done before, which was a nice short up and back (3.1 miles from the Nesowadnehunk Campground to the North Peak of Doubletop Mountain) that I hoped would make the trip more inclusive for all my coworkers, while still providing rewards – a nice view at the summit.

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What we didn’t count on? A record spring snowstorm the day before that dumped 3 – 7″ in the region. Add that to the snow and ice that remained from winter on the higher elevation portion of the trail, and you get a bunch of ill prepared foresters in jeans, plus one well prepared athletic junkie outfitted with all the right gear. Though I felt chilled watching him climb through the snow in shorts, he definitely had the right idea.

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Big thanks to my crew for suffering through the wet and cold so I could enjoy a last Baxter hike.

What started as a promising, if slightly overcast day turned into pea soup fog thirty minutes before we reached the summit. While I would have happily awaited clearing conditions, three of the six were so cold and miserable that it would have been rude to keep them waiting longer than a quick lunch and group photo. We were treated to a brief break in the cloud cover as we prepared to descend, as seen in the top photo.

The last time I summited Doubletop Mountain was in the summer of 2011. We approached from the south that trip, while this visit brought us in from the north. On my last hike, I fell asleep in the direct sunshine on the exposed rock face slab, and woke up with a peculiar sunburn. No dice on achieving a sunburn yesterday.

In an amusing twist, ten minutes into our descent, the skies began to clear, and within a few minutes, we again had 100% visibility. A gorgeous afternoon emerged, and while we were traveling the same trail we had climbed up, it was also completely different, as much of the snow was either melting or had melted.

Near the base of the trail, trillium was in bloom, and I saw my first fiddleheads of the season. Freak snowstorm or not, Maine was showing all of her colors yesterday, and it was a gorgeous day to be in the woods. My Altra trail runners, while clearly inadequate for deep snow, were super grippy on the chunky granite slabs, and it was actually a blast wearing them for this hike. Inappropriate, but a blast nonetheless.

One more week, and then I know I will be missing this place fiercely.

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finding old logging camps: simard, 1924-1925

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It’s early May, and I still had snow slipping into my rubber boots as I hiked up a small unnamed creek leading in to an old logging camp. The camp, designated on one of my old work maps as ‘Simard’ (a common surname in the region), was likely small and only in existence for one winter, 1924-1925. Had it existed longer, it probably would have made it on to other maps with more information, such as date of occupancy.

I love how quickly traces of humanity can disappear up here. I think about it sometimes, and wonder in 90 years how much of the present will have vanished. In some ways, it could be even greater than the past 90 years have been, given that most of our trash is now trucked off-site, and any abandoned buildings are buried, rather than burned or left to rot.

Something about these old camps calls to me. Using a generalized dot or hand-drawn smudge on a map, and topo features such as streams and lakes, I challenge myself to locate these old camps as precisely as I can, without having to trudge around for an hour or two before I find something. All the old camps were located along streams for easy water access, though given that the operations only took place in winter, I’ve found some of the streams to be surprisingly undersized. In-woods engineering in the days of yore was impressive.

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Unexpectedly small.

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There wasn’t much to find at this camp. There was an old moose antler, chewed to shit and looking like it was giving me the finger. And there was an unidentifiable bone from an unknown animal. There were a few old metal tubs, a bunch of disintegrating aluminum cans, a small amount of scrap metal. No glass bottles to be found here.

One of my favorite things to see at these camps are the decadent old spruce trees that grew up adjacent to any clearings. Lateral branches remain from whichever side of the tree was exposed to the extra sunlight of the clearing. This makes it relatively easy to see where buildings and roads were located way back when. It’s not a glass bottle, but it’s still pretty neat. I’ll take it.

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Old lamps are a staple of these camps. If the camp was large, the discard pile of lamps would be in a separate location from other refuse. The bigger the camp, the more outbuildings. This camp had no sign of a blacksmith, for example, and there was only one small trash midden.

In an interesting twist, some harvesting equipment was sent into this area two years ago, so the majority of trees that had grown up in the clearing were recently cut. The trails that the machine traveled on are filled with his brush. So it’s difficult to tell if any more old shit was hidden underneath his tracks or not.

Not much to find here, but it was rewarding nonetheless. Digging up history that very few people will ever see, especially considering that it will continue to decay, is a unique experience.

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