Archive for May, 2013


Wednesday, 29th May 2013; 9:38 pm

I now have a new backpack, for the hiking segments of my trips. After researching a bit online, then checking the inventory at my nearby sporting-goods shop (buy local!), I picked out The North Face’s Recon pack. I think it’s last year’s model, because the color doesn’t match what’s on North Face’s web site, and there are other minor differences. It was on sale for $20 off, so I paid $80 for it.

There were other colors available, but for some reason as I looked at them, this one grew on me.  Even though it’s fake-distressed pseudo-plaid, it feels like a nature pattern.  I’ve never really liked bright colors for wearing in the woods (yet another reason not to go during deer-hunting season), but I didn’t want to get black.  This works.

It isn’t perfect.  It’s considered a “daypack”, and isn’t really intended for really serious backpacking. Because it’s not very tall, the waist strap is really more of a belly strap; it doesn’t do anything to support the pack’s weight.  There’s also a dearth of places to attach things on the outside, so I had to stitch a strap across the bottom, which I’ll use to attach my tent underneath.  That should leave enough space inside the pack for my sleeping bag, some food, cooking gear, and a change of clothes: just enough for a couple nights on the trail.  I can clip a water bottle to the outside, hang my camera around my neck… and do some ultralight hiking for a couple days.

I think I’ve figured out how to pack this bag on the scooter.  It doesn’t fit very well in the space between the seat and the steering column, at least not leaving enough legroom for long days of riding.  So what I think I’ll do is to strap the camping gear to the rear rack, as usual, then strap the pack to that as if the tent was a set of shoulders, facing toward the rear and downward.  That won’t leave much room behind me for my over-the-shoulder bag, but I may be able to use the backpack to stow the things I would otherwise put in that.  Anyway, I’ve got a little over a week to figure that out for sure before my 5-day “trial run”; I’ll do a packing and riding test around town this weekend.

New gear may be needed

Sunday, 19th May 2013; 5:04 pm

When I first thought about adding a day or two of hiking to this year’s scooter trip to the UP, I figured I could just fudge it somehow using my existing gear. Not by bringing my full internal-frame backpack, which I’d used years ago on week-long backpacking trips. After all, I wouldn’t need to pack anything close to that amount of food and other gear, and transporting that rigid behemoth on my scooter simply wouldn’t work. But by using the old daypack (well, more like a bookpack) I’ve had forever: I’d put my clothes and sleeping bag in the pack, strap the tent to the outside somehow, and carry the rest of what I’d need in my shoulder bag.

Well, maybe not.

I’ve just dug out all of the gear I plan to bring – the same gear I’ve been taking on the past several scooter trips, plus cooking equipment with some freeze-dried food and some other nicknacks – and I just can’t see how to put it all together with the bags I have. The daypack is also showing its age, starting to come apart as the seams. And since it wasn’t designed to carry a full load like I’m looking to stuff it with (it has no hip strap, for example), I’m not sure it’d work, even for a couple days of hiking.

So I think I’m going to have to invest in a proper daypack (big enough to strap a small tent to). I hesitate to spend the money, because I’m really not much of a weekend camper: I prefer to go all-in for a week in the wilderness. But maybe once I’m done with the long rides like this, spending some weekends on nearby trails might be a good idea for future get-aways.

Lunch in Lowell

Friday, 10th May 2013; 5:51 pm

Lowell is bicycling distance from my house. At least it was back when I was bicycling regularly. Yesterday I took a day off from work (mostly just because) and the weather was nice, so I rode the scooter out to Lowell, on Grand River Drive. I’m about a month away from the first extended ride of the year, so I figured it was a good time to at least do a day trip.

The scooter performed excellently. I brought it into the shop at the end of the winter for the most extensive service since I bought him. New rear tire (3rd so far), new transmission belt and rollers (first time), gear-old change, new fuel filter and spark plug, front brake line replaced (it’d worn a hole in it from rubbing against the wheel), and assorted minor bits. And it’s running as good as new, literally. I’m getting a little over 40mph on level groud, and my last fill-up was nearly 90mpg. I’m about 500 miles from hitting 20,000 miles, and as far as I can tell, it’ll make it to 40,000. The muffler’s looking a bit corroded, and I swear it’s gotten louder than it used to be, but that’ll be just another maintenance part to replace.

I’ve been to and through Lowell many times, but I don’t usually have lunch there, so I used an app on the phone to show me what was available. Even this close to Grand Rapids, I was already down to a 1G data connection. Before I switched from AT&T to T-Mobile to save money, I didn’t know that such service was still online; I’d always gotten at least EDGE (aka “2G”), but T-Mobile apparently still has some towers running the data service offered before that. It shows up as a little circle in the signal indicator. I knew T-Mobile had lousy rural service when I switched, so I figure I’ll get AT&T pre-paid service on a temporary number for the times I’ll be on the road. Coverage is still spotty in the western UP, but should be about as good as the service I had on my first UP ride in 2009.