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?
We met Chase almost a year ago at FrostBike. He and his wife Tami had plans to open up a new bicycle and coffee lifestyle shop in the heart of Los Angeles Art’s District. We got a chance to get an exclusive look at their new space a few days ago. Even though the shop is still under construction, we could tell immediately from the space that it is going to be a big hit. Check out our interview with them and follow them on Instagram or sign up for their newsletter to keep track of their progress!
We’ve long been dumbfounded that with the popularity of bicycling, bike travel, bike touring and bikepacking that there currently isn’t a single show on TV about it. Clearly, there are far more people interested in cake making and what is sold in Vegas pawn shops. We figured, we could either wait until something magically appears or try to make our own. We’ve had a Youtube channel since the very beginning of our adventures in 2009. The early videos are pretty rough and they are a little embarrassing to watch now, but they capture where we were at the time.
Fast forward to the present and we’ve matured as people, our video production skills have vastly improved and we do professional client work. We’ve made the decision to reinvigorate our Youtube Channel with content we’d like to see. Short well-produced reviews, helpful how-to’s, interviews with interesting cyclists and recommendations for bicycle destinations. We’ve been slowly updating videos the last three weeks (hopefully you’ve noticed!) and have been working out a formula and tenor that suits us. I think we’ve got it to a pretty good place now. Expect some flubs here and there as we try different things, but we feel good enough about it to formally make an announcement.
So, in short, welcome to our Bicycle Travel Channel! Check out the new reviews, tell us what you like and what you don’t and what you’d like to see. Youtube is new-ish waters for us to navigate, so we could use some direction. If you like the vids and want to see some more, show your support by subscribing and share the vids!
For our last few tours, we’ve been combining fly fishing with bicycle touring. It is a great secondary activity to do on a bike tour and really allows you to see your environment in a different way. It gives you a reason to stay at a beautiful riverside campsite for a few days and explore, rather than feeling the eventual pull of momentum drag you along. In this video, we talk primarily about our tenkara fly fishing kit. Tenkara is a Japanese form of fly fishing that has grown in popularity the last few years because of its lower learning curve. You can literally be taught how to cast and catch fish with a tenkara rod in less than half an hour.
In this exclusive never before seen video interview (footage was from 2013….took a while to get to), we visit with Rob Perks of Ocean Air Cycles. He walks us through his Rambler bicycle, which is designed to be the perfect all-rounder. Rob also started the #coffeeoutside hashtag which has taken the bicycle Instagram by storm. Learn the origins in this exclusive interview.
Imagine summer camp… complete with mess halls, campfires, s’mores and bikes… really really nice bikes. And instead of ghost stories, you get enthralling tales of riding the Tour Divide race or attempting a fat bike expedition in Alaska in bad weather and dwindling food, and you’ll get a sense of what Salsa RideCamp was like!
RideCamp was held just outside of the tiny community of Seeley, WI in an open field that serves as event space for the famed Birkebeiner event. This was a first for Salsa, who has usually held events for dealers like Frostbike and Saddle Drive, but has never had one where they can speak directly to the people who are riding their bikes. As a bike nerd, it was the perfect opportunity to talk to their engineers and bike designers about every nuanced detail of their bikes. And everyone was really approachable. Maybe its a Mid-Western thing, but all the staff was really friendly and there was none of the bike snobbery we’ve seen at some other bike events we’ve attended.
Each day of the three-day event, there were multiple mountain bike and gravel rides. They were all at a nice casual pace that gave you a chance to stretch the legs, try out the new bikes and chat with fellow ridecampers. We partook in the gravel rides, which followed nice rolling terrain through the North Woods, with little-to-no car traffic. Some of the roads were barely large enough to fit a single car!
RideCamp ended every evening with a presentation. We heard from Jay Petervary about the behind-the-scenes action of this year’s Tour Divide race, the closest and fastest finish in the history of the event! Jay told us about the hazards of “sleep biking,” where you ride (and sometimes walk) with your bike in utter exhaustion and sleep deprivation while weaving all over the road. We also heard from Bjorn and Kim about their Ring of Fire expedition in Alaska. Bjorn and Kim had mapped out an ambitious route that combined both fat bikes and pack rafts, but were thwarted by rough weather and lack of food. Both evening presentations were riveting and made you forget that the temps were hovering in the 30s. In addition to the evening programming, there were also great daytime presentations on gravel riding and packing for bikepacking or biketouring trips.
Of course, one of the reasons we wanted to attend was to throw a leg over some of the new bikes (a few of which haven’t made it to dealers yet). Specifically, I had my heart set on trying out the Deadwood, Salsa’s new supersized Fargo with 29+ tires.
All the Deadwoods in existence were at this event (production runs haven’t shipped yet) and I was the first to break in the size small. It’s the sort of bike you take when you’re not quite sure what sort of road conditions you’ll encounter, but aren’t riding on snow or extended sandy stretches. For me, it was the first time riding the 29+ tire size and I was surprised how much I really enjoyed it. The big tires are confidence-inspiring, especially on sketchy washboard descents. Despite the wider tire width, the handling is playful and it is a decent climber.
We don’t usually ride extended snowy or sandy stretches, so a fat bike doesn’t make sense for us, but the 29+ size is perfect for taking more exploratory forest service roads and trails. Even Laura, who was a bit skeptical in the very beginning, came around and was bombing down hills with a smile on her face.
RideCamp was great for a first time event by Salsa and we are looking forward to seeing what they do next year. We really appreciated how mellow and approachable all the staff were and also enjoyed meeting new people and even some blog readers! We were also blown away by the bucolic rolling Wisconsin countryside that the event was held in and are making plans in the future for further exploration.
The Historic Columbia River Highway is a fabled piece of road in Oregon history. It has the distinction of being designated the first “Scenic Highway” in the country and inspired other great roads in the US. With the construction of I-84 through the Columbia River Gorge many parts of the historic highway were lost. We’ve had the great pleasure of working with ODOT the last few months to create a web video series explaining the highways reconnection as trail and build support for the difficult final stretch. As a bicycle tourism asset, when it is complete it will provide an amazing experience. But, we are not quite there yet. Sit back and enjoy the videos and share them!
From Historic Road to Trail
The Mossy Road
The Final Five
The Mitchell Point Tunnel
Exasperated, I stopped in the middle of the mud field of a road. I could no longer shoulder my bike, after carrying it most of the way down the hill. But pushing wasn’t an option either, as the peanut butter mud clogged up the tire tread and chain and everything else in the bat of an eye. So I just stood there for a moment, pondering what to do.
And that’s when I saw Phil’s van, chugging up the hill on a rescue mission. I stuck out my thumb, amazed that he’d gotten enough traction to come after us. As we loaded up my muddy mess of a bike (and muddy me), Phil joked, “if everything went perfect, it wouldn’t be a good story!”
In Oregon, the part of the state West of the Cascade Mountains is known as the “Wet Side.” The Eastern part of the state, predominantly high desert and ranch land, is the “Dry Side.” There’s a reason for this – it’s usually exceedingly dry and sunny in the East.
The Dry Side also has spectacular gravel roads that wind their way through endlessly open and empty vistas – which is why we had crossed the mountains with a motley group of friends.
We were base-camped out of Treo Ranch, a hunting lodge that caters to cyclists in the off-season – and a slate of beautifully challenging rides had carefully been planned for our weekend.
Phil and Dan plotting ride routes for the weekend.
But Russ and I seem to be on a streak of having rainy weather on the Dry Side – and we woke up Saturday morning to a soggy landscape that had been pummeled with rain overnight.
We dawdled over coffee and breakfast, trying to pull up the weather forecast via weak internet and cell service, before deciding to just go for it. This was clearly not the weather we wanted, but there was no point in wasting the trip.
Dodging puddles as we pedaled away from Treo.
We followed the undulating ridge line out of the ranch. All of Eastern Oregon, it seemed, rolled out alongside us, a never-ending series of deep valleys and tall hilltops, all covered in sage and wild grasses. The storm clouds of the night before still lingered on top and around us, lending a surprisingly grey cast to the landscape.
Determined to ride, we ignored all the ominous signs.
Fantastically steep descent down Buttermilk Canyon.
After a few miles, the storm clouds seemed to lessen, and we descended into Buttermilk Canyon. The creek had long ago carved this narrow and winding canyon, and there was an old ranch spread out through the bends. Hundreds of swallows rushed out of their nests in the cliff walls above us – and, for a few miles, everything seemed perfect.
Then we started up the hill.
At a certain point, the good gravel we’d been enjoying turned into sticky muck. Mud glommed on to every possible surface, gumming up tires and chains in seconds. And it brought along the remnants of the gravel that should have surfaced the road, so that pebbles could be heard scraping frames and found clogging chain links to the point of cogs no longer turning.
There’s a bike under there somewhere.
When the mud got too thick on my tires, I walked.
When the mud got so sloppy that it tried to suck off my shoes, I carried my bike.
Cyclo-cross style, aka why I have a bruise on my shoulder.
Slowly, gingerly, we made our way up the hill.
At the top, I discovered that I had cell signal, so I snapped a photo and posted it to Facebook, laughing at the ridiculousness of the mud.
And then I heard the worst words you can hear on a ride: “I broke my bike.” In the fight of Russ vs the mud, the mud had won. It had ripped off his derailleur, which now hung from his chain in a sad and mangled ending.
Our 70-mile ride had been reduced to just 16, and the mud had left a few casualties in its wake.
Unable to make all the necessary repairs on the fly, Russ and his steed hitch a ride with a passing rancher.
There is something about Eastern Oregon that keeps drawing us back. The landscape is mesmerizing, with its big skies and rolling hills. You can stand on a hilltop and feel impossibly tiny, just as you will check that your eyes are open when it’s pitch black at night and that your ears can still hear when it’s stunningly quiet. Whenever there is an opportunity to ride around Eastern Oregon, I will take it, and it will never be enough.
But the allure of Eastern Oregon can obscure an important fact: you can easily get in over your head.
On a ride last fall, we climbed up a twisting gravel road and dropped into a deserted valley. Breathtakingly beautiful, and eerily easy to just disappear and never again see anyone or a hint of civilization.
I love the feeling of being completely independent and self-sufficient. But, I have to say, when things go wrong, when the road tries to swallow you alive, it’s nice to know that someone has your back.
Thank you Phil and your mud-conquering van.
We first met Phil roughly a year ago, and we were instantly impressed. A former rancher and mechanic, Phil has run a hunting lodge near Heppner, Oregon since the 1980s – and began to reach out to cyclists a few years ago to fill the gap during the hunting off-season.
Cycling caps now hang alongside hunting hats.
At Treo, cycling and hunting blend together under one roof, in a style that’s both odd and perfectly fitting. There are pheasants on the wall and cue sheets on the side table. There’s Bud Light for the hunters, IPA for the cyclists – and everyone gets a steak at the end of the day (this is Eastern Oregon, after all).
And that’s what makes Treo so inviting – rather than putting on airs, it’s a cozy slice of Eastern Oregon. It’s an opportunity to experience a place that’s vastly different from where most of us live, to rub elbows with the history and culture of this part of the West – and to cycle some of the most beautiful roads in Eastern Oregon, without a second thought about ‘did I pack enough water?’ and ‘what if I break my derailleur in the middle of a long ride?’
Helping cyclists blend into the surroundings and be a good neighbor.
The morning after the mud fiasco, we awoke to sun streaming in the window. Was it all a dream? It would be easy to believe that we had simply imagined all those miles of walking through muck – if not for Russ’ derailleur-less bike propped against the wall.
On a normal independent trip, we would resign ourselves to “not chancing it.” But the promise of van support on our planned 40-mile route meant that we wouldn’t have to miss out on the last day of (now dry) Eastern Oregon gravel. Russ could spin on his make-shift single-speed – and bail if it turned out to be a terrible idea.
In sharp contrast to the day before, we were greeted by a sparkling blue sky, dotted with a few perfect powderpuff clouds. Out through the ghost town of Hardman, down a roaring canyon descent, uphill again along a winding creek, and into the Ponderosa forest. Treo Ranch is located on a grassy slope, surrounded by rangeland – so the tall pine trees surprised and delighted us. And then they surprised us even more when they suddenly disappeared on the other side of the summit, and we followed a screaming descent through wildflower-dotted prairie-land.
Incredible views around every turn.
A much better experience in the sunshine.
The landscape and terrain of the route changed every few miles, a perfect welcome-to-Eastern-Oregon gravel sampler route. Up, down, narrow canyons, wide open fields. Constant wonder and surprise, on a deliciously warm and sunny day. It was exactly the ride that we had been looking forward to – made all the sweeter by the sheer inability to experience it the day before.
I feel like a complete goof. I’m standing in the Deschutes River, decked out in waders, rod in hand, as if maybe I belong there, but I have no clue what I’m doing.
An hour earlier, amid conversation at the fly shop, we let it slip that this is my first attempt at fly fishing. Curiosity ensues, and I try to explain what makes me want to wade into the river and swing for trout. As a feminist and marketer, it bugs me that fishing ads rarely show women. But that sounds weird and pretentious to say, so I go with the second reason – which is that, after years of watching Russ, I have simply started to wonder what the fuss is all about.
It’s over 80 degrees, sunny and dry, and the sky is swimming with giant insects. So far, so good.
We decide to keep it as simple as possible, so I use one of Russ’ Tenkara rods. No reel, no complicated cast patterns, I just have to land the fly in the right part of the water.
But first, I have to overcome my fear of water. As soon as I step into the river, I remember why I have always avoided fishing, and it’s the same reason why I avoid swimming in rivers or lakes or the ocean… I tend to panic when I can’t clearly see my feet. The river bottom is dark, and there are ripples on the water’s surface. I take a deep breath and step in, but I have to remind myself that I’m only ankle-deep and the waders and shoes will keep the river critters from brushing up against my skin.
Russ ties a fly onto the Tenkara line, the fly that the guy in the fly shop says I should rely on. I get a few pointers and throw the line into the water. Russ stands on the bank, watching and taking photos.
When it seems like I’ve grasped the basics, Russ strings up his own rod and steps into the river behind me. While he brings in a few trout, I snag a few trees.
Russ suggests that I move down the river a bit further, out from under the brush, but it’s too late. My fly has decided to dance with the tree branches. I wade down to where it’s royally tangled up, trying to make sense of the mess. And then I see the snake. Game over.
It rained overnight, so we wake up to a soggy campground and grey skies. The temperature is at least 20 degrees cooler than the day before. There are no giant clouds of enormous bugs. But we’re not leaving, so we load up the bikes and pedal down the gravel road.
The gravel is thick and chunky, recently graded. It’s not ideal for the tires we have, but I’d much rather be on a bike than picking my way through in a car.
Russ watches the river for rises while I take in the scenery. This stretch of the Deschutes is different from the stretch we usually visit.
Eventually we pick a spot. Waders. Crocs. Down jacket. Tenkara rod. Magic fly. I wander back into the river, thankful that the change in weather means I won’t likely see any snakes.
The morning wears on, I catch a few more trees. We take a break and chat with another fisherman. I feel completely out of my element.
And just when I’m beginning to think that fishing is completely the dumbest thing ever… I hook into a trout. I’m so shocked that I literally scream. The guys who had just boated across the river watch as Russ helps me land a beautiful 8” rainbow. I just keep saying, ‘holy crap, I can’t believe I caught one.’
Ten minutes later, I hook another.
Not long after my fishing triumph, it began to rain. And rain. All through the night and into the morning. We drag ourselves out of the tent, hoping for some clear skies for a few hours. I want to catch another trout.
We pack up our stuff, hop back on the bikes, and pedal back down the road to the magic spot of the day before. I get a strike only 10 minutes after getting into the river, and I’m so mesmerized by the sight of the fish coming up from the depths to grab the fly, that I forget to set the hook.
Clearly, I’m still a rookie. But at least I finally understand why fly fishing is so darn addictive.
From the moment I first threw a leg over my Warbird, I knew a gauntlet had been thrown down. This bike would travel places with me. But how would my gear?
Our first bike overnight without panniers to Cascade Locks.
As I stared at our bikes in advance of our overnight to Cascade Locks and as I dug around the pile of old bags at the back of the closet, I couldn’t help but think back to our very first bike tour, over eight years ago. A lot has happened in between then and now, but I once again faced a packing conundrum that proved how much I still had to learn.
Eight years ago, I had no idea where to start. I didn’t have any of the fancy gear, because I wasn’t yet sold on this bike touring thing. So, I used what I had, and I overpacked a basket that hung so heavily from my handlebars that it scraped the paint off the headtube.
We all have to start somewhere, but there would be no ill-fitting basket hanging on my Warbird. Nor would there be a hairdryer, or any of the other excessive items I packed on that first trip. But I needed to carry some things, and I once again faced the fact that I didn’t have any of the fancy gear – because, again, I wasn’t yet sold on this bikepacking thing.
Packing with panniers is so simple and easy.
The truth is I like panniers. They’re simple, they’re exceedingly functional, they locate the weight of your gear low to the ground. In contrast, most bikepacking setups rely on many small bags, strapped all over the place with fat ugly velcro, located so high off the ground that they raise your center of gravity.
Panniers are egalitarian. You can use them to buy groceries and you can use them to travel the world. Those funny seat bags, though? Where else do you use those?
Plus, I’ve become incredibly skilled at packing for a bike trip with panniers. It’s such second-nature that I really don’t need to think about it, other than deciding what to cook for dinner.
Put another way, though, maybe I’ve become too skilled at packing with panniers. There’s no challenge anymore, just the chore of finding the things and dropping them inside just-so.
I may hate the look of most bikepacking bags, but I have to admit that I like the challenge of completely re-thinking everything I know about packing for a bike trip.
And when I say re-think everything, I truly mean everything. The systems that I’ve adopted for packing in panniers aren’t transferrable. Neither is a lot of my gear. For the first time, I have to care about ounces and excessive compressibility. I love simplicity, but this is a whole other extreme. And I really don’t want to cut my toothbrush in half.
Definitely planning more rides like this!
In the end, though, I accept this challenge for one reason: this bike is a blast to ride!
I just hope I can find a Mary Poppins bag, because it turns out that the trunk bag I have will only hold one incredibly minimal change of clothes if I want to make decent coffee in the morning.