Monday, May 23, 2011

Burley Nomad in Action

I neglected to mention some weeks ago that I got myself a Burley Nomad Cargo Trailer. I found a seller off Craigslist selling one in may-as-well-be-new condition for $250, and jumped on it. Originally, I had planned on getting a BOB like most touring cyclist who go the trailer route. These initial impressions are what predominantly swung me towards the Nomad:

  • Cargo room: Much more of it. Some may point out that with so much space, one would be tempted to fill it. Well, I'll certainly do that, and be glad for it, too!
  • Balance and Handling: The Burley Nomad only transfers 10% of its total weight to the bicycle, reducing frame and wheel stress. It won't fishtail, swing, or tip over when you park. It makes little difference rather its loaded evenly or not.
  • Design: The Burley Nomad is designed like a trunk for your bicycle, rather then a big crumpled bag on a wagon. It's easier to root through in a hurry, and easier to keep organized. The trailer can easily be snapped into the hitch with one hand, and is easy to move around when detached.

Unfortunately, there is no great wealth of product reviews for the Burley Nomad. Most of those available review it as an around-the-town grocery hauler. Among those, I heard of various drawbacks: Its not weatherproof enough. It is not durable enough to handle rough trails or roads. Its too wide. Just looking at it, I was worried I'd feel like I was carrying a wide load, or it would jerk my bike around if I tracked it through a pothole or over grass.

After putting the trailer to use, heavily loaded, over gravel, limestone, pavement, and a bit of dirt, I'm entirely pleased with it. My average speed over nonpaved surface was significantly lower than usual, but without the effort of balancing loaded panniers, I felt less exhausted than I suspect I otherwise would have. Over paved surface, I may well have made better time with the trailer.

The attachment arm dampens most jarring from the trailer. I made an extra effort to drag it over lumps, rocks, and potholes to assure myself of this. Even with one wheel on a rumble strip, it just rattles enough to alert you. I've heard of these trailers tipping, but even while intentionally unbalancing it, I never felt it came near toppling over.

The width of the trailer, though no wider then a pair of stuffed ortliebs, does cause me to be a bit more cautious about what is going on down at wheel-level. So far, however, I've not felt cramped by it, nor have I hit any curbs. I've yet to take it out on any narrow, high traffic roads, so I can't say how that'll be. I've heard that in general, folks see the big yellow trailer and give you a wide berth. I also wonder if it might distract aggressive dogs. I suspect the one that chased me was more playful than angry, but it did seem a great deal more interested in my trailer than my bike. I can live with that.

The spacious cargo compartments are great. I love being able to stop, prop up the bike, snap off the cover and have easy access to all my gear in one place. I rode through some heavy rain, any only minimal water and grit found its way into the gaps. For this run, I wrapped my gear up in a tarp. Next time, I'll have made a snap on weather cover out of a bit of tarp, both to keep the trailer relatively clean, and because the yellow covering seems like it might soak through, given enough steady rain. I may also sew some mesh pockets onto the top for drying herbs on the go, thus weakening its weather resistance.

So, in summary - with about 100mi on the Burley Nomad trailer, I'm thrilled with it. It's a joy to ride without the effort of balancing loaded panniers. It is wonderfully spacious and well designed. Hopefully after 1000mi I'll still be saying the same.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Spring Stormclouds

Some pictures from a storm that rolled over yesterday. It mostly missed the beach I rode to after work - the lightening looked far away, and other then one brief deluge, the rain was across the lake.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Waverly to Home

- 42.5mi
- 8.0AvS
- Rainy morning, some sun after 2pm. 60-70s.

The park in which I camped last night seemed like a smart place to stealth camp. Several miles from the town center, it was surrounded by farms and what looked to be some sort of maintenance facility. A picnic area of mowed grass angled just enough from the gravel parking space so it would not be visible unless one where on foot. There where no bathrooms to lock, and it didn't feel like a place that would be patrolled. There was a long trail along the river, but I decided not to hide back there, rather to camp in the picnic area near a paved picnic table pad, to give myself a dry place to pack up in the morning.

Seems I should have taken greater effort to hide myself. The spot I picked was very comfortable, though, and I got all the sleep I missed last night. I was so soundly asleep, in fact, that it took the cop several attempts to wake me up, and even once I groggily unzipped the tent, It took a bit longer to remember where I was and realize that this guy was wearing a uniform. He was pretty decent about it, more conversational with his questions than demanding. Seems there are no canoe campsites in the riverside county parks, after all, but he'd let me stay the rest of the night.

I stayed uncharacteristically calm about the whole thing, and quickly fell back asleep. It wasn't until I was back on my bike, again at 5:30 in the morning, that I started to worry about it. When he took my ID, did he just check up on me, or add some kind of note so the next time I get caught snoozing in a park I won't be let off so easily? The officer who caught me actually got out of his car and walked around the quiet little park in the middle of the night. He told me no resident had spotted me and called - he's just very thorough. How many other small town cops are that thorough?

Eventually I decided to just let it go and not agonize over how I'm going to stealth camp across long stretches of farmland. I'll avoid even isolated little parks where possible, but if I get caught again, or even fined... well, the monetary loss would hurt when I'm already on such a tight budget, but I won't feel guilty about it. The law isn't the dictate of a higher power. It's not an iron code of morals. If I break it, I have to face the consequences, but, in short, I'm not going to feel I'm a bad person because I didn't follow the rules.

The rest of the day was a typical dull ride home, unfortunately. I stopped again to read for a while closer to Waverly. It's a nice routine so far. Had some unfortunately stomach problems a bit further on. Between Montrose and Delano, it started to pour. I didn't break my rain pants, but the coat and home-made booties did their job, and as long I kept moving I wasn't too cold. About 10mi from home, the sun came out for a bit, and I just barely got home before the rain returned.

One of those sunrises I'm usually asleep for.

Maybe I should start getting up this early more often?

My rain booties. They're made from the upper sleeve of a cheap raincoat. The shoulder section makes the shoe-cover, which is folded into shape, sewn, and coated with seamseal. Where my foot contacts the pedal, it's padded with two layers of cordura. A bit rough-looking, but they worked very well.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Wayzata to Waverly

- 57.85mi
- 8.5AvS
- Partly sunny, 70s.

Last year I was taking week-long tours at the spur of the moment. I was unemployed the entire summer, and learned most of what I know about touring for dollars a day. This spring, I probably won't get out for more than three nights at a time, but it won't cost me anything more than staying at home would, and I intend to take every opportunity I can to prepare physically for when I leave in mid-July. I'm still planning on catching RAGBRAI on the way out, after all - I'd like to be able to keep up with the pack while hauling a heavy trailer by then.

Yesterday I brought my trailer to work, got off at 7pm and spent the night at a rest stop on the Luce Line trail. It was a bit too close to a house for my comfort. A light from my camp site would like be visible from what appeared to be a kitchen window. Every sound I made seemed a bit too loud, and I had a rough time sleeping.

Aside from June bugs noisily colliding with my tent, the night passed uneventfully. I packed out at 5:30 in the morning, glad that the people across the trail did not seem to be such early risers, and set off for a day of lazy meandering. For such a long day of biking, I didn't go far. After less than two hours of riding, I stopped at a bench off of the trail, and stayed there for at least an hour reading while the dew and my shoes dried. The weather report seemed to change by the hour - mostly cloudy, warm, probably no rain, now a sunny day, or maybe not? The sun came out while I waited.

Much of the day passed in the same fashion. I stopped for a while in each town of the day. A very talkative woman in Watertown kept me there for longer than most. I biked through Delano North to South, East to West then back again a few times trying to find its riverfront downtown, which I eventually did, before turning around again and going back to the highway and having a lunch of free samples at Coborns. Through Lake Rebecca regional park, I took my time on paved bike trails.

I reached my intended camping site at 4:00. The county website listed it as having a primitive canoe campsite, but I could find no sign of such a thing. Perhaps it was somewhere under the flooded Crow river? With so much of the day left, I decided to pass it up and look for a better place. After more wandering about, getting lost, and a stop to ask for directions, I came upon Humphrey Arends County park, and decided it would do. Again, the canoe campsites listed on the internet where nowhere to be found, but this park looked like a more inviting place to spend the night.

Whats that I see?

Oh. Hey there, miss.

A much better place for stealth camping, about 10mi west of the rest area. It's visible from the trail, but far out enough that no one would likely notice. Even on a warm and sunny morning, I saw only a bare handful of joggers and a single cyclist out here. That, and a cow munching alongside the trail.

No Llamas here :(

This appears to be some kind of nasty, partially rotted, soft root dragged out from the lake. The piece the looks like a birds foot was longer than my arm and looked more like, well - a monsterous bird foot.

I'm not actually sure how long this fellow was lackadaisically trotting along behind me before I noticed him. He didn't seem keen to get much closer.

The purple on the roof looked more like a growing fungus than flaking paint.

All the sheep save those snoozing under the trailer where raising quite a ruckus by the time I moved on. I took a video, but forgot I had my radio on and the sheep where barely audible over it.

Hey there, fellas.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Early Season Camping

I'm willing to admit that there really is something to this early season camping. Minnesota State Forest campground are still closed, and in this case, the main road into the forest itself was gated against motor vehicles. No bugs, no people, no worrying about who sees me digging up ramps or catching frogs.

At Birch Lake I camped on a hill over the boat launch, out of sight from the campground but close enough to walk down heat up some soup in a fire ring. It was cold, yes. There was a bit of snow after dark. I'm becoming much more tolerant of that, so long as I keep moving, and with a bottle of hot water and my new sleeping bag, it may as well have been a warm summer night.

Campground host site, still empty.

Out of sight, mostly.

A light to read under.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Bike-Camping at Birch Lakes State Forest II

- Birch Lakes State Forest to Sauk Centre.
- 11mi

I have to give my unconscious imagination credit for the dream I had, of waking up to a summer day. Fishermen launched their boats below, kids played in the lake, and an eager swarm of hungry mosquitoes waited in the shade outside my tent. Then I woke up to reality - 30 degrees, a dusting of snow, and thick clouds ahead. The wind had kept up all night, in incredibly loud gusts punctuated by cracking wood and the crash of falling limbs. I'd made sure my campsite was surrounded by sound, healthy trees, but it was still and unnerving night.

I packed up during the brief dawn stilling of the wind. No breakfast, since I had some crazy idea of getting all the way to Sauk Centre before the wind came back. I barely got back onto the pavement before it nearly bowled me over. I never found out what the sustained wind measured up as, but it wasn't much gentler then the 45mph gusts. It started to snow again.

Had I more time, I would have just stayed put. Eleven short miles turned out to be the most brutal ride in my life. I'm all kinds of confident about my gear, now, since it actually kept me fairly warm where possible. My hands where frozen, my feet alternating burning and numb. I don't think I was ever able to move faster then 8mph, and at some points I had to get off my bike and was unable to get back on for the wind and stiff legs. The nasty, biting, wind-driven snow never let up for long, and was halfways sleet at some points. The cold did mostly stay in my extremities, however, and it wasn't nearly as miserable as it could have been.

It wasn't until I walked into my Grandpa's house that the cold really reached me. My blood and skin and bones felt frozen though, and my clothes where just insulation to hold all the cold in. The water heater gave up before I could pour enough hot water into a tub to do any good. It was like dropping an ice cube into lukewarm coffee. Going back outside, unloading my bike, loading my bike into the van might have warmed me up a bit, but rolling up in a mound of blankets and taking a nap seemed a great deal more reasonable at the time :)