Posts Tagged ‘home’

Tent Revival

Saturday, 14th April 2012; 2:46 pm - Location:

I have replaced my lost/stolen tent. To briefly recap for those who missed last year’s thrilling adventures: at the far end of last year’s big ride, I discovered my tent was missing. It had either fallen off the scooter, or been taken off the scooter, some time during the ride from Ann Arbor to Lake Erie, and I was forced to sleep at a Motel 6 and ride straight home the next day. 🙁

The thing is, I really liked that tent. It wasn’t perfect, but it was as close to perfect for my needs as one could reasonably expect without custom-making something. It was light (3lbs), it was easy to set up, it provided good rain protection, it packed up small… and did I mention that it was light? Great for scooter camping and perfect for backpacking. Although it was starting to show a little bit of wear here and there (and some bloodstains from mosquitoes I swatted too late), it was still perfectly serviceable.

Fortunately it was fairly easy to replace: I bought a new one just like it.

Well, not exactly like it. The exact same model isn’t still available a decade later, but Sierra Designs still makes something very similar, a direct descendent of my old tent. It’s called the Light Year 1. The use of the phrase “light year” makes me cringe a little, because it has nothing to do with interstellar distances, but I accept it as a play on words. It is, after all, a very light tent. But not a year-round tent. It’s officially a 3-season tent, and is clearly not designed for winter use. The "1" refers to its sleeping capacity: 1 person. Just barely.

The most obvious change is the color: the olive rain fly and floor are now mostly a dull steel blue. And the white roof… is black netting. The most unpleasant surprise I had after buying the previous tent was the discovery that it offered less protection from the outside air than I expected. The tents I’d used in years gone by had been designed to hold in warm air. But this tent had multiple netting panels that (if not for the rain fly) left you exposed to the open air. That first cold night in it was… unexpected. But it wouldn’t come as a surprise in this tent, which makes it quite clear that it’s not going to keep you warm, because aside from the floor and a bit around the sides, it’s all netting. If you want any privacy (like in a state park campground), you need to use the rain fly. Nice if you’re camping some place hot and dry, I suppose. But I rarely camp in those places. Not a problem, though. I’ve long since learned the lesson that it’s your sleeping bag that keeps you warm, not the tent. And I’m OK with the darker color scheme: it’s less conspicuous, and hopefully not too dark inside.

They also changed the way the tent is held up. The old model was simple: two collapsible aluminum poles that fit into four grommets, and the tent had hooks that attached to those poles to hold it up. Then several stakes held the rest of the points in place. Most of those simple hooks and grommets have been replaced by plastic devices that connect to each other, and a ball-and-socket holder for the poles. They’re probably sturdy enough, but if they fail they’ll be useless… unlike the old systems, which could be replaced or repaired with a little improvisation and stitching. The simple stakes have also been replaced with a new brand-name engineered design which I hope offers some improvement besides just looking cooler.

I haven’t set it up properly yet. (I’m a little self-conscious about setting up a tent in the front yard.) But I’ve put all the pieces together in the living room, without the stakes necessary for it to stand up. So at least I know the parts are all here, and they fit. According to online reviews of this new tent, it’s a little taller inside than the old one, which will be welcome if true. I trust that it’s as well-constructed as the old one. And I’m sure that after a few times putting it up and packing it away I’ll get over the differences in design.

By the way, I picked it up at Bill & Paul’s Sporthaus for $170. Since I already knew what I wanted, I could’ve saved a little money buying it online, but it’s so important to have actual brick-and-mortar stores with knowledgeable staff for camping equipment like this, and locally-owned ones are the best kind.

Racing the rain

Thursday, 22nd July 2010; 5:00 pm - Location:

I half-woke this morning around 6:00 and remembered the forecast for today: dry in the first half, but probably raining in the second half. So I pulled out the phone and checked the weather radar. There in Minnesota was a big ugly red blotch creeping its way eastward. I woke up the rest of the way and did some calculations (difficult to do making measurements on a screen that reacts every time you touch it). The rain was a good 10 hours away from me. But it was 6… maybe 7 hours from Grand Rapids, which was where I needed to end up. It was a contest between me and the rain, to see which would get there first.

I didn’t panic, but I didn’t delay. I skipped taking a shower, but brushed my teeth. I broke camp, packed the scooter, and was on the road by 7:00. The route I planned wasn’t intended to be the shortest. Taking the shortest route tends to put you on busy roads, so I’d deliberately chosen to take a more northern route that I hoped would have less traffic. It had the added benefit of adding two more counties to the tally of those I’ve been through. I decided to stick with it.

It turned out to be a good choice, M-57 through Saginaw and Gratiot counties was in good condition, and had little traffic. I got passed every few minutes, usually without the other driver having to wait for oncoming traffic, which is pretty much the best scenario. From time to time I was the only vehicle I could see ahead or behind. There was a constant headwind (the same thing bringing the wind my way), but it only knocked my speed down by a few miles per hour.

I turned south following the Maple River, a bit I’d improvised as a scenic route, and it worked great. But somewhere between M-57 and M-21 I had my first permanent equipment loss of the trip: my water bottle. It was in the end pocket of my over-the-shoulder bag, and was secured by a velcro strap… but came out anyway. If this had happened earlier in the trip, I might have gone back for it, because I know the 5-mile-or-so stretch of road it must have happened on. But not today. It was a nice water bottle, one I’ve been through a lot of camping with, but it’s only a water bottle. And I was in a race.

It was a race I “lost”, but just barely. A mile from home, I saw the first drops of rain on my faceshield, and it continued to sprinkle as I pulled up to the front door. I’d beaten the heavy rain. And more importantly, I’d made it home. Safe.

Wet start… again?

Thursday, 15th July 2010; 5:48 am - Location:

Waking early to the sound of approaching thunder definitely qualifies as “ominous”.

On weather radar there’s a big red blotch crossing the Lake, gradually covering Michigan from St Joseph to the Sault Ste Marie. It will be very wet very soon. That’s the bad news.

The better news is that the whole system looks isolated, so if I can wait it out, I could have a mostly dry ride. Judging by the speed it’s moving that could mean a few hours.

Weather outlook

Wednesday, 14th July 2010; 4:14 pm - Location:

Over the last few days I’ve been watching the long range weather forecast, for obvious reasons. The forecast for Thursday has gone from 20% chance of rain to 30% to 40% and now 60%. When you factor in the fact that I’ll be covering a bit of territory, the chances of staying dry are fairly low. Plus, temps will be in the 90s for the southern part of the ride (upper 80s up north).

Oh well. My first overnight scooter ride started with me following storm clouds as they slowly moved ahead of me, and the big scoot around Lake Michigan started in heavy rain. I have rain gear, and I know how to use it. And the forecast gets better on Friday, and stays pretty good (no more than 30% chance of rain) for the forecastable future after that. So nothing much to worry about.

I hope.

Preflight preparations

Sunday, 11th July 2010; 3:04 pm - Location:

The scooter’s back from the shop with shiny new brake pads, but it still required a little bit of prep before it’d be ready for the road. The mirrors needed tightening, the air pressure in the tires needed checking, and the center stand needed a little WD40 so it’d fold up more freely. Done.

I’ve gone through my packing list and started putting things together. I can’t pack per se, because that means strapping and stuffing things into the scooter, and I can’t put stuff in my bag because I’m still using that for my commute the next few days. But the camping gear is laid out on the floor, and nearly everything else (except my clothes) is in a little huddle on the table. It took me half an hour, but earlier today I found my battery recharger (and the batteries in it) under the desk. I’ve printed out Google maps of my day-by-day itinerary, not so much for actual navigation (I plan to use the iPhone for that), but as a backup. I just got back from the gas station, where I filled up my spare-fuel bottle.

I’m doing laundry tonight, then I can assemble the clothes I’m bringing (a few specific items I want to take are already in the laundry basket, and one needs to take the correct t-shirts when traveling). And that’s pretty much everything.

There’s only one thing on the packing list that I don’t have: a charger for my new iPhone. The antique car-charger for the old one doesn’t work with this model, so I need to buy a newer model. I have a wall-outlet charger of course, which I could use at camp grounds, but I’d rather not be dependent on that; I want to be able to charge it on the road as well. So, to the Apple Store tomorrow. The iPhone 4 crowds should be gone by now, and I can pick up a few accessories for mine.

Then it’s just waiting until Thursday rolls around.

Packing list 2010

Thursday, 8th July 2010; 8:48 am - Location:

This year’s trip isn’t fundamentally different from last year’s, so my packing list won’t be much different. Mostly just a refresh on tech gear, and adding a passport to get into Canada and back.

I am dropping a few items, however. I’m not going to bother bringing a lock. The Buddy has a handlebar lock that will discourage casual theft by making it difficult to push anywhere. You’d need to carry it to a pickup or something, and the odds of someone trying that in the short periods of time I’ll be leaving the scooter unattended are pretty slim. I didn’t use it at all last time. I’m also leaving out the tire-repair gear, because it really wouldn’t do me any good if I needed it. Unlike a bicycle, which has tires I could reasonably patch if I had a punctured tube, I simply don’t have the means to remove and then replace the scooter’s tires after repairs, so I’d need professional help regardless.

On my personutter essentials:
T-shirt
Long pants
Socks
Underwear
Hiking boots
Helmet
Riding jacket
Gloves
iPhone 4 (camera, GPS, etc)
Keys
Wallet (cash, debit/ATM card, papers)

Bag (over shoulder/on seat behind me) health and safety:
Camera
Battery charger
iPhone charger
Frogg Toggs (rain gear)
Rain cover for rear rack
Hat
Water
Swiss army knife
First aid kit
Bug dope
Sun screen
Soap
Meds
Toothbrush, paste
Flashlight
Paper road maps
Passport

Pet carrier (under the seat) clothing:
T-shirts (3)
Shirt
Shorts
Underwear (3)
Socks (3 pair)
Hankies (3)
Camp shoes
Detergent for one load of laundry
Plastic bags
Tie downs (for scooter on ferries)

Rear rackcamp gear:
Tent
Sleeping bag
Sleeping pad
Pillow
Jeans
Towel

Glove bucketetc:
Extra bungees
20-oz bottle of spare gas