Some might find it strange to know that despite a lot of the content we put up online via our website, Youtube Channel and other various social media feeds Laura and I both do a fair amount of analog journaling. We spend a lot of time online, so it is absolutely refreshing to brain dump thoughts using a real pen and paper. When we travel, although we may take a tablet or laptop depending on the trip, everything goes down on paper first. In fact, those dogeared notebooks with rough sketches, misspellings and coffee stains are among our prized possessions from our travels. There is something about that slow tactile experience of writing something down that seems to better set a memory than merely typing it down on a bright glowing screen.
It is interesting to see my preference over years for journaling tools. Looking at my pile of notebooks, there was a period when I exclusively used thicker Moleskine notebooks. But now, my preferences have changed towards simple staple bound mini notebooks. I think there is something about the fewer pages that not only makes it easier to carry, but also takes the pressure off of always having something ponderous to say before writing it down. The smaller notebooks, for me at least, feel more like every day users and I therefore use them every day.
There is also something satisfying about filling up a small book and starting a new one. Like most, we started with the ubiquitous Field Notes brand notebooks. They are easy to find and come in some nice themed editions. I was particularly fond of the Expedition Series because of their water resistant paper and dot ruling, but found it hard to find a pen that wrote well on the slick paper. I gave up at one point and just started using a mechanical pencil with those notebooks.
The Midori Passport is a current favorite for carrying multiple notebooks.
Being a mini notebook power user, I started looking for a way to carry multiple notebooks. Typically, I will carry three notebooks with particular purposes on a trip (journal, fishing notes, sketchbook). This led me to the Midori Passport. It is a beautifully simple notebook system that consists of a leather cover and a series of rubber bands to hold multiple notebooks in place. The paper, although wispy thin compared to FieldNotes, is actually of a much higher quality especially if you use fountain pens. The problem is that the Midori uses slightly smaller notebooks and refills aren’t as easy to find and few stores (if any) carry them locally. Though, we did find that Scout Books, a Portland based notebook maker, offers their notebook in a passport size which works perfectly with the Midori. Scout Books make a great refill alternative for the Midori, but I found the paper was a little too absorbent for fountain pen use. The local art store started carrying notebooks by Fabriano and in particular EcoQua mini notebooks which are my current favorite. They are the same size as Field Notes with dot ruling, but the paper is much better and works well with fountain pens. There is far less feathering and bleed through with them.
I write all this to say that analog journaling can be an endless rabbit hole in of itself but it is pleasant to have some nice tools in the journaling process. Part of the impetus of creating our latest Youtube video, was to give people a simple way to try out multiple notebooks without spending too much on specialized leather cases.
While my personal taste for specific notebooks and pens may change, I think I will probably always analog journal in some shape or form. I’m curious, do you journal with pen and paper on your trips? What are your favorite tools and how do you organize them? And lastly, what are YOUR reasons for analog journaling when it is so easy to do it on a phone or tablet?
Since paring down our touring kit, we’ve become real fans of small panniers. These Arkel panniers are probably the smallest we own (definitely the lightest) and are more like a bikepackers pannier than anything else. Amazingly, they are also fairly affordable for the pair. Watch the video to see how they mount and our thoughts on them.
We first learned about the Great Shasta Rail Trail several months ago, and have since been following the progress with great interest. The 80-mile corridor cuts through the forest south of Mt Shasta in Northern California, crossing several trestle bridges and connecting the communities of McCloud and Burney – which means it will be an incredible bike tourism route when complete.
Currently, there are 37 miles open and rideable, and we had the opportunity to check it out on our way back to Portland from LA. During our visit, we also had the opportunity to connect with some of the advocates behind the Great Shasta Rail Trail. We’ll cut the footage into a short video in the near future, but we wanted to share two big takeaways from the interviews – because we feel it’s information that could be helpful for other trail and bike tourism advocates.
1. Work Together & Communicate Openly
We’ve heard this from other successful trails and bike tourism destinations (most famously, from our interviews about the Otago Central Rail Trail in New Zealand) – but it bears repeating.
The Great Shasta Rail Trail morphed from vague idea to 37 miles open in just six years – which feels like lightening speed compared to other large destination trails. What moved it forward so quickly was the coalition of people working together. April Gray is the woman at the helm, but she quickly recognized the importance of building a team to work on the trail with her. Before there was a Great Shasta Rail Trail Association (who now manages the trail construction and maintenance), there was April and representatives from several other organizations (from land trusts to trail builders), who all saw the vision. Together, they reached out to their contacts, leaned on each others’ strengths, and put a plan in motion.
Equally as important, this diverse group met every month. Not only did regular meetings keep them all on track, it also kept them in contact with community members and land owners. For bike tourism to be successful in a small town, it’s important that nobody be alienated during the process – which happens best when there’s constant, consistent communication.
2. Name Wisely & Invest in Quality Branding
Often, we encounter trails (or other named routes) which are built without much marketing forethought. Names are long or confusing or otherwise uninspiring, and the routes aren’t branded in a way that brings in visitors. We understand that naming is complicated, and there are serious budget considerations in creating quality marketing – but potential visitors make snap decisions based on how they perceive an experience.
What helped the Great Shasta Rail Trail stand out to us, in the middle of all of the noise of the internet, is its incredible logo and iconic name. In talking to April, it was great to hear that they recognized the importance of good branding at the beginning. For everyone involved, the primary goal of the Great Shasta Rail Trail is to bring economic development via tourism to these communities – and they understood that potential visitors needed to find out about the trail in order to plan a visit. Hiring a professional graphic designer to create their branding imagery was, in our opinion, money very-well-spent.
But it turns out that selecting the name wasn’t so cut and dry. In fact, “Great Shasta Rail Trail” didn’t come along as a name until the committee kept squabbling about which town name should go first. It turns out that the original name was the McCloud-Burney Rail Trail, which the residents of Burney wanted reversed to be the Burney-McCloud Rail Trail. When nobody could agree to be second, someone suggested just leaving the town names out, and that’s when the hunt began for a new name. Our feeling is that, whatever it took, the new (and current) name is much better. Naming is tricky, because we often want to recognize an important person or reference a locally-known icon. But it’s important to think about an outsider coming in – who doesn’t know one regionally-important person from another – and who will likely choose a route based on the experience that it promises. The name “Great Shasta Rail Trail” promises incredible scenery, views of Mt Shasta, an epic trail experience – which will help it stand out above other potential destinations with less-exciting names.
We are just wrapping up 3 weeks of being on the road on a sort of Northern California bicycle tourism study tour. We’ve been staying in countless motels and in this vid, we show our travel coffee setup we use when we aren’t camping. It’s a great portable setup if you’re on a trip where lighting a stove probably isn’t the best choice!
The Great Shasta Rail Trail has been on our radar for the last few months. When it is complete, it will be an 80 mile rail trail through some amazing Northern California landscape. 37 miles are currently open to the public, the remaining miles have some challenging construction challenges with several bridges that need to be maintained. In this video, we ride a portion that starts near the quaint former timber town, McCloud, CA.
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