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June 17, 2006

On a jetplane

I leave today. It has been one hectic week and thank you everyone that helped me out through bike stuff and packing stuff and "oh shit, where's my passport" stuff.

It's been a noisy week with the workers outside our apartment window and I've gotten lots and lots of walking in and a fair amount of riding to boot.

Sid's bike shop and IF frames have been great in helping me pull it all together. Thank you Zoltan, Tim, Darius, Marcus and Lloyd at IF.

I'm very sad to be leaving David for months but excited about the adventure to come.

Ciao!

The bike all loaded up:

154_5494_sm.jpg

June 06, 2006

Google Earth kmz w/geocoded photos!!

I think I've done it. That is, created a kml file with links to my photos which are geocoded to the gps route.

Programs used:

Picasa (with StopDesign photo gallery template) - to create photo groupings
PIE (Picture Information Extractor) - to rename photos with correct date format
WS_FTP - to upload photos, htm file, kml file
TextPad - to "save as" UNIX file
do.php - to DO something to the whole shebang (part of Photo Gallery)
Movable Type - to publish photos into StopDesign Gallery
Garmin MapSource - to get the gps log off the gps
gpsbabel - to covert from MapSource file format to gpx file format
RoboGeo - to tie gps tracklog and photos together
Google Earth

That's a hell of a lot of programs - dontcha think?

But witness the result: TEST RIDE KMZ (opens in Google Earth)

Am still having a problem getting the kmls to open in Google Earth from the website. The browser wants to open the kml file as xml text in a Firefox browser. Comments on this would be appreciated.

June 02, 2006

A Bittersweet Arrival

Let’s see, so much has happened over the past two and a half weeks that if I were a good blogger I would have posted updates daily. Instead, I am going the route of posting after the fact. It’s better this way, believe me. If I had posted updates, I would not have had the necessary time to dull my anger. And anger doesn’t always serve a purpose; in fact, it almost never gets you anywhere.

So the bike arrived and David and I trotted on over to the bike shop on a nice Saturday afternoon eager with anticipation. I brought the Bruce Gordon along so they could use as many parts as possible on the new frame. David got measured and the BG fits him so instead of selling it like a good girl and trying to make a buck, we will get it build back up for David to ride. Then we can go touring together!

The new frame was packed away under other boxes and Zoltan could only get the fork out for us to see (apparently it had been there for two weeks but due to the vaguries of email I could not be reached). What a pretty fork with its pearly dark gray sheen and pink and white decals. Ahhh, the fateful fork.

While we’re going over parts, Zoltan shows me the rims that I specified and said that he had ordered the LX hubs for the wheels. “LX hubs,” I said? “But I specified XT hubs.” Apparently, he hadn’t remembered the email that I send listing all the components that I thought I would need. So with the promise of a fitting on Friday and the excitement of a new bike we headed home and even celebrated with a deliciously wicked Frapucchino. The jubilation would not last.

Fitting Friday came quickly and I scurried off to the bike shop, tires in hand. I asked to see Zoltan and was informed that he was most likely getting some food. He was actually upstairs but no one bothered to look for him while I sat there, minutes ticking by - five, ten, twenty. Why should they – they aren’t his keeper, right? I don’t know – would it have been so hard to check on his whereabouts? And during my wait it was intimated by a certain member of the shop that mesh covered chamois bike shorts were perhaps only for “people like them” in the bike shop. What the fuck? Because I have nothing clever to say about ugly shorts covered with mesh and sewn with red trim I know nothing about bike shorts? Right. Finally Zoltan showed up and we took a look at the progress.

The bike was wheeled out and we went over the components. I would need the following items on top of those already ordered: stem, seat post, and front derailleur. The stem and seat post I understood because of tube size difference between old and new bikes, but the front derailleur was another casualty of not paying attention. If we did as I had wanted and brought the BG into the shop while setting up the order for the new frame that expense could have been avoided. Whatever,it's water under the bridge. I left with the expectation that the whole thing, wheels and all would be ready to take home on the following Monday – May 22nd.

The fateful day arrived and I went to the shop, cutting out early from work, excited about the bike. This was an expense for me, this bike. I went this route because my BG is a 700cc wheel base and by all accounts a 26” wheel base is more sturdy and dependable for the types of roads I expect to encounter – namely boulder strewn dirt paths. Zoltan was there and available for our 4pm appointment and we got started. The bike was together with its new derailleur, the wheels were together with the right number of spokes and the correct hubs, new seat post installed and all the other bit and bobbles from the BG. The stem was a loaner as a lighter, just as costly stem was still on order. The bike was latched into something like rollers and I got on and started pedaling and shifting. It felt good. An adjustment here and there with the saddle and snip, the fork tubing was clipped and capped and I was good to go. But there was a problem.

The rack didn’t fit the fork mounts. I asked why not and was told that it was an old style rack and they didn’t make them like that anymore. Old style I though? It was a Bruce Gordon rack and hell, how often do rack specifications change? I had said “Bruce Gordon lowrider rack mounts” over and over again during the ordering process and here I was with a fancy new bike and a well made, expensive rack that JUST DIDN’T FIT? I left in a cloud of annoyance, numbers running through my head – new rack, new packs – the packs were made to fit that rack no others. And on the way out I’m told to “take good care of it.” Huh, what would you do if you just received a custom frame? Throw it under a truck? OK, OK she was only trying to be nice. Sorry.

Walked the bike home – too much crap in my bag to ride and remembered that I had broken the lamp that morning so there would be no test ride for me. Lumbered off to Home Depot where the same crappy lamp was now being sold for $40 or more, off to Bed, Bath, and Beyond where there no good, cheap halogen lights, and then to some crate store to buy whatever looked the least crappy. My mind was in a fog of money. I had just spent an unmentionable sum on a bike and I now needed to buy a lamp that used to cost $20 and now cost $40. I couldn’t think. Shivering in my tee shirt in the coolness of the evening I got the lamp home and started assembling itand guess what? It was defective. Now I had the lamp and the bike rack to fret about.

The rest of the week was a blur of phone calls and emails to the bike shop (“Are you sure you requested the BG low rider rack mounts as I specified?”), Bruce Gordon (the bike and rack maker), Robert Beckman (the pannier maker), and the wonderfully helpful Wayne at The Touring Store. It was true – BG has his racks designed for 7.5” about the hub mount and most other racks are at 6.5”. Why would Independent Fabrications even offer different rack mounts for BG racks if there wasn’t a difference?

My main source of information and support for this period was the Bike Forums Touring list. These guys (sorry, it’s mostly guys) were so supportive and helpful. There were offers of extra racks and packs and a design of a very sturdy adapter if things didn’t work out with the bike shop. I am very grateful for their support and it made it easier to stand up for myself, knowing I was right and knowing that if the bike shop gave me a hard time there were other options available. THANK YOU!!!

So to wind this up, on Tuesday, May 30th, the bike shop decided to just get me a new fork from IF with the BG lowrider front rack mounts instead of drilling additional rack mount holes into the existing fork. I have to honestly say that I’m not sure that I’ll ever understand this decision as the other most viable option was to just buy me a rack and packs of my choosing (the BG and Beckman stuff is some of the best out there) but it fixes the problem and no one had to get mean. However, the fun of getting a new bike was lost in the stress of trying to figure out how to fix the bike shop’s error.

I’m glad I stuck up for myself without getting bitchy and it was good to work with Zoltan to fix the problem instead of just screaming about wanting my money back. We need the bike shops and bike shops need us so there is no reason to burn bridges, especially if they are willing to work with you, but it’s good to know the facts and how to back them up.

This new fork will work and the bike should be ready this Saturday – just in time for our party!

June 01, 2006

Stacey and Spanish

So - as luck would have it Stacey was able to get a decently priced flight to Lima. We wil be taking semi-private Spanish lessons at El Sol and they are going to let us, the two married 37ish year olds, stay in the same homesta! Apparently, they usually don't like to put two people of the same nationality into the same homestay. I understand the reasoning - promote Spanish immersion - but you know, I'm very glad they made an exception for us.

We are staying with the La Rosa family which consists of:
Father, Architect
Mother, Housewife
Daughter 1, Actress
Daughter 2, Architect

Very exciting - and the sent a picture of the man who will be picking me up from the airport. What a thoughtful idea - it will be helpful for finding him when I am freaking out about the bike and luggage and trying not to look too much like a rube or a stupid, rich tourist.

May 31, 2006

Heifer International

Well, Heifer International finally did something in the cyberrealm to help individuals raise money for their organization. They created a registry program where you can set up a personal page dedicated to whatever it is that you are doing to raise money.

Please, if you'd like to donate, visit this link and it's as simple as selecting an animal to give and following the links!!

http://www.heifer.org/myregistry/jminnick_sasg

Thanks!

May 18, 2006

Shots, Pills and Overkill: Preparing for an Adventure

“You’ll feel a little pinch,” said my doctor. Great. And me not really liking needles. This was just the beginning of a series of necessary little pinches that have spanned months of my life this past year. One pinch for Hep A & Hep B, one pinch for “the Flu” where I bled all over the place and one really big pinch for – don’t let them fool you about this one – tetanus/diphtheria – with a really big needle.  It hurt.

The medical preparation required to travel to South America need not be that extensive if you are only going for a short while and staying in the cities, but if going to the Amazon basin or farther out into the country there are a lot of vermin to be aware of.  For the Amazon basin and eastern slope of the Andes there is the threat of Yellow Fever and a variety of parasites that I don’t really want to think about.  The there is my favorite pest – the mosquito.  Our friend the mosquito brings us Dengue Fever during the day and Malaria in the evening hours and its least vicious manifestation gives us hours of itching pleasure. 

 A quick review of possible vaccine/immunizations:

  • Hepatitis A & Hepatitis B – Two forms of a disease that affects the liver functions – not fun.  These vaccines are often given as one shot and require a series of three shots at a prescribed interval of 0 days, 1 month, and 6 months to get the most effective vaccine. You really need to plan for this one.  Oh, and Hepatitis A is food born so don’t forget to wash your hands, your food, your hands, your food…you get the picture. You can always just eat prepackaged foods, but then why visit another country?  Live a little. As for Hepatitis B, it’s transmitted through blood exchange – think needles or unprotected sex. 
  • Typhoid Fever – A nasty little contagious infection of the intestines again often transmitted via food.  Remember “Typhoid Mary” the first healthy carrier of the typhoid disease to lots and lots of unsuspecting people?  You can appear healthy but still be a carrier.  We don’t want typhoid.  The alternative is a few pills kept in the refrigerator and taken at the prescribed interval or, yes you guessed it, a shot.  I opted for the pills and I hope to god they worked.  The CDC suggests this little ditty to help you with your food selection: "Boil it, cook it, peel it, or forget it."  You need to get/take the vaccine at least one week before traveling.
  • MMR – Our childhood enemies Measles, Mumps, and Rubella, sort of. While we’ve all heard of these itchy sicknesses I know of no one in my generation that has had any of them.  I guess the childhood vaccines worked.  This shot was my first brush with adult immunizations.  My days at grad school were numbered if I couldn’t prove that I had a MMR booster shot in the past.  Since I couldn’t (my childhood doctor has actually tossed my records) a fresh one was required to fulfill the requirement – they were ready to kick me out.    The shot itself was no problem, but 5 minutes later when trying to just get out of the clinic I broke out into a cold sweat, got tunnel vision and just about passed out in the waiting area.  It was grand.  I got to drink orange juice and have a little lie in. Apparently there is a name for this reaction, but I cannot remember what it is.
  • Tetanus(Lockjaw)/Diphtheria – The “stepped on a rusty nail” or the “you’re going to a developing nation and you can’t remember when your last booster was” shot which is often combined with Diphtheria and sometimes with Pertussis.  The CDC states that tetanus is “A disease of the nervous system caused by bacteria” and I remember it by the descriptive name of “Lockjaw”.  This one hurts like a bitch and is given with a huge needle (even my Dr said she felt bad when she was giving me this shot) and your arm very well may hurt for days. Diphtheria, well, I don’t know much about it, but it seems to be another problem caused by bacteria and is transmitted through body fluids and affects the respiratory tract.
  • Rabies – No one wants to get rabies (and health insurance companies don’t seem to cover pre-exposure rabies vaccines).  It’s the condition that we all heard about as children as we were warned to stay away from the neighborhood dogs and the cute little possum younguns.  The threat of rabid possums foaming at the mouth is enough to convince anyone that this is a very bad condition to be in.  The vaccine consists of three lovely shots that you get at 0 days, 7 days, and 28 days.  These suckers stay with you for a bit – I could feel them in my arm for days but not in a tetanus type way.  While absolutely necessary in the more remote areas of the countries that I will be visiting, these very, very expensive shots really just buy you time and eliminate the need for the rabies immune globulin dose which may be hard to get in some countries..  Instead of going stark raving made within 24 hours you have a couple of days to get to some sort of medical facilities where you will get two or three more prophylaxis shots. No matter what, if bitten or if you touch a questionable animal – wash the wound or contact sight thoroughly with soap and water and get thee to a clinic.
  • Yellow Fever – No problemo getting this one – a small needle – but what a disease.  This viral disease is predominately found in South America and Africa where it has caused epidemics.  In order to avoid an epidemic situation in South America there are strict entry requirements for people coming from countries where the disease is know to be.  You need to get the little yellow immunization card for this vaccine.
  • Influenza – Strains change every year, but in developing countries it’s a good idea to get this one especially if you will be staying in hostels.  When getting this at a clinic or at your company’s annual flu shot day be prepared for a brutally administered shot.  No coddling you here – it’s a swift jab in the arm.  Mine happened to hit a tiny blood vessel and I bled everywhere – so embarrassing.
  • Pneumococcol – Bacterial pneumonia which, according to the CDC, used to be treatable by penicillin.  I didn’t actually feel this shot at all, it was that easy to take.  However, it was the only shot that made me feel a little under the weather.  It’s usually given to the elderly but they suggest it if you will be in hostels or other crowded conditions.
  • Meningococcol – Yet another close quarters shot suggested for hostels or other crowded places.  The CDC list meningococcol disease predominantly manifesting in three forms: meningitis, blood disease or pneumonia and is transmitted by spit.    My LAST shot!

Last but not least, it’s a good idea to get a record of all of your fancy shots placed in the yellow immunization document.  Your regular doctor may not be really aware of this document and if you are going to developing nations for extended periods of time it would be a good idea to stop in at a travel clinic for a consultation as they are the specialists.  The nice travel clinic where I passed over large chunks of cash for those rabies shots, Travel Health Services, knew exactly what was needed.  While this document is not absolutely necessary in areas that do not have Yellow Fever, it is suggested for those traveling overland and in more rural areas.

Even with all this preparation you still have to be careful.  Almost everyone gets at least one bout of travelers’ diarrhea (or so I hear) and you need to try to let the bacteria run its course rather than stop it up with an anti-diarrheal.  Also, to help alleviate the effects of dehydration caused by diarrhea, carry a few electrolyte/salt replacement packets to mix with your bottled water.

Cholera still exists but the vaccine is not available in the US and when used is only about 50% effective anyway.  Dengue Fever, Chagas disease (from little bugs that live in thatch), Malaria and Yellow Fever are all serious disease with no cure.  And then there are the creepy, crawly things in the Amazon and the parasites in almost all fresh water on the continent.  Now doesn’t that suck – you can’t even go swimming without freaking out about taking on a symbiotic lover in you gut or skin.

 Prophylactic medications – those which I really want to have, but hope to never need

  • Altitude meds – The medicine is called Acetazolamide and my perhaps generic version is called Diamox Sequels.  You only need to take this before ascending for two days, while ascending and two days after you arrive at your base altitude.  In my case, 15,000 feet.  A breeze right?  Yeah, I get altitude headaches at 10,000 so this will be interesting.  However, I will be slogging up those 15,000 ft over a minimum four day period hoping that there will at least be some sort of stopping point every 35 miles or so.
  • Malaria meds – There are a lot of choices for Malaria medications depending on the area you’re traveling to, the price you’re willing to pay and which side effect you want to deal with so I’m not going into the details of them all.  The one that I will be using is Doxycycline (generic for Vibramycin). The travel doc gave me this lovely regime and despite the advice from some to not take the pills I think I will. 
    • Wake up and slather on the sunscreen
    • Wait in the tent for 30 minutes so sunscreen can soak in
    • Slather on the 30% DEET – my friend, the mosquitoes enemy
    • Exit the tent into the mosquito laden dawn air
    • Start preparing breakfast – with breakfast take malaria pill.  Of course, I cannot have breakfast until I’ve had my thyroid meds in my tummy for an hour.  The joys of maintenance medicine – and I’m only 37!  With this malaria pill you can absolutely not return to a reclining position.
    • Spray everything you own with Permythrin.  Even the name sounds poisonous.  Ick, but I certainly don’t want malaria.
  • Travelers Diarrhea meds – An apparently unavoidable ailment which should be allowed to “run it’s course” so to speak.  If it’s not getting better and you are becoming dehydrated the initial remedy is a full spectrum antibiotic like Cipro which, by the way, also works for…
  • UTIs – I get them and now with even fewer showers than normal I feel like a time bomb.  Front to back – that’s the key.  Oh yeah, and no sex.  Hmmm, no husband equals no sex – that will work I suppose, but it won’t be nearly as exciting.  I should be good on the UTI front, but this is definitely one problem that I do not want to be missing any meds for.
  • Yeast infection meds – A nice side effect from the malaria meds – do you like how we’re going in circles here?  Me too.
  • Pain killers – Hydrocodone (generic for Vicodin), just in case.  I only have a few and like everything else on the list I hope not to have to use them.  If I crash on a bike it has the potential to be very, very painful and with medical support scarce…what can I say?   I’m a wimp.
  • Motion Sickness meds – Meclizine (generic for Antivert) for the airplanes over the Nazca lines, Lake Titicaca, and  those pesky ferries down south and – the only way to continue on your way sometimes.
  • A world of ibuprofen or Aleve – those general aches and pains and headaches.  This is one pill that I will be taking fairly frequently. 

And then there’s the First Aid Kit.  I don’t think that I have the patience to list everything in here, but I did pick the one that gives me my very own needles!  How exciting.  After all that explanation about disliking needles here I am buying my very own.  This precaution seems like overkill, but may be important.  The rural medical facilities, from what I’ve heard tell, are not the most up-to-date and may be severely lacking in supplies such as uncontaminated blood and clean needles.  So if I get bit by a rabid dog or somehow a mosquito slips through my defenses I will have needles on hand to get the shots needed.  Overkill, but I have no idea what to really expect but have heard so many different stories, some firsthand, that I might as well be prepared.  In addition to the main first aid kit I added a Sam Splint, a blister packet, and an emergency dental filling kit. 

 Water purification –

Filters, boiling, carbonated bottles, chemical cleansing, let’s just say you’re supposed to do all of them.  Filtering is not enough.  Filtering and then boiling is not enough especially at altitude and who has enough fuel to boil allll that water anyway.  The smell of diesel or unleaded gas in the morning will put me off my feed if anything will, especially diesel.  The best bet will be bottled water and filtered/chemically treated water.  Products that I will be trying include Micropur MP1 tablets and Pristine water treatment chemicals.  One is easy the other is cheaper.  A filter tip from Mr. Everett Briggs, world cyclist extraordinaire, do not filter water directly from moving streams in the Andes because the fine, invisible glacial silt being carried in that seemingly good water source will kill you filter in one or two uses rendering it useless.  It is better to have a “dirty water” container where you can collect water, let the sediment settle and filter into a “clean water” container.  Thank you Mr. Briggs.

 The Sun – It’s strong.  Use sunscreen and lots of it.  Labiosan is great for high altitude protection of the nose and lips.

 The Altitude – Altitude sickness is a very serious illness that can affect anyone – physically fit or not.  It is important to ascend to altitude slowly so that your body can acclimate. And if that isn’t possible then you need to take the first few days at altitude very slowly.  Walk slowly, eat, rest.  The meds help a little (carbonated beverages feel non-carbonated!) but listen to your body.  The repercussions can be fatal.

 And last but not least, my favorite thing of all…food.  So many rules, so many things to try: cui, ceviche, lamb, llama, and oh the potatoes,

Food –

  • Rule #1 - No salads.
  • Rule #2 – Everything needs to be fully cooked.  This will be hard in Peru – home of ceviche – which I’m determined to eat parasites be damned.  And not to mention Argentina – land of steak and lamb where I’m hoping that a few months of riding will, by that point, have my system ship shape and ready to deal with some nice red meat. 
  • Rule #3 – Only eat fruits that you can peel yourself. Sanitize the fruit, sanitize you hands, peel the fruit, EAT.
  • Rule #4 – Don’t eat the seafood obtained from some scary guy off a dock in Chile – Red Tide is a problem and is deadly.  I’m going to trust that the restaurants buy from reliable sources and am looking forward to a bowl of caldillo (a rich fish soup).

 I’ve run out of steam.

May 17, 2006

Thank you Patagonia

When looking for sponsors I went to companies whose products I used on a regular basis. Patagonia is one of those companies and they graciously gave me a one time discount on their clothing to help me in my goal of raising money for Heifer International and completing my trip. Many thanks to you Patagonia for helping me attempt to accomplish my goals.

Ever since trading in my generic fleece for a Patagonia fleece in Glacier National Park in 1996 I have been sold. In fact there isn’t a day that goes by that I am not wearing some piece of their clothing be it a bright yellow fuzzy, a zip-tee or a pair of pants that I can wear to work.

Patagonia is dedicated to designing quality outdoor clothing that is durable and strong.

Click here to learn a little more about what the company is about.

Patagonia.jpg

May 09, 2006

It's Here!

The frame is finally here. In fact, it's been here for two weeks and Zoltan's emails were lost in the ether. Ahhh, technology (and let's not forget user error).

My trusty Bruce Gordon will be dismantled this weekend and the wheel components ordered. So close....

Now all I have to do is figure out the solar power source/battery stuff.

May 08, 2006

While waiting for the bike...

As the time for departure gets shorter (6 weeks and counting), the posts have gotten scarce, but things are beginning to shape up - let me share the good changes so far…

1)      The plane ticket has been purchased for departure on June 17th, 2006 with a return ticket for December 28th, 2006.  There was some time-based drop in price for my particular itinerary so after waiting and waiting for the price of the ticket to go down (and inadvertently screwing up my friend Stacey’s chance for getting a ticket) the price finally dropped and I made the plunge.  I’m really going!

2)      El Sol Language School will be my future home in Lima, Peru for one week while I attempt to grasp the Spanish language.  My spot is held for 4 hours of private lessons a day.  The private vs. group was a last minute decision based on need and circumstances.  If I were traveling with a group I would be more inclined to depend on other’s for their Spanish skills, but as I am traveling solo and have very specific things I’d like to learn about and discuss (as in “Please, oh please, can I camp on your land?” and “Can you show me how to cook that please?”) it seemed prudent to focus.

3)      The TrackStick was tested and returned.  It had some weird time issues that I didn’t like and the output data wasn’t raw data it was data based on some software calculations.  Also, after one use I couldn’t get the thing to turn back on – even after checking the batteries (don’t touch a charged battery with your tongue – it feels weird, bad weird) and then changing them just to be sure. 

4)      A Garmin 60CSx GPS unit was ordered which should come in a few days.  I’m still working on the power issues and hopefully someone on the nice sales team at Solar Place will get back to me in a few days.  I couldn’t decide between the 60CSx and the 76CSx so I went with the slightly cheaper one and the one that doesn’t float in water.  I hope I made the right decision!

5)      Most everything is purchased with only a few more bits and pieces to take care of.  Some items need to be returned like the very cool mirror that is supposed to go on end bars.  Silly me – I have end bar shifters – there are no mirrors going there.

6)      Bike shorts have all been tried on and a winner, the losers returned.  Again, many thanks to Jane at Team Estrogen for helping me out.  Team Estrogen understands that trying on clothes, especially cycling clothes, can take many, many attempts and have some special shipping thing worked out.

7)      There is an 18 year old, named Anton, who may work out to be a riding partner for a bit in Peru and Bolivia. 

8)   Parents have been told and although they didn't take it so well we are all still speaking.  It could be worse.  

9)  Work has been informed and an official Leave of Absence requested.  Unfortunately, there has been a regime change and while I've been assured that I am an invaluable resource, I won't feel comfortable without a signed agreement.  After all, if I've learned anything working for brokers...

David and I rode the Five Boro Bike Tour this past Sunday (Sunday, May 7th) and it was a blast.  Despite the annoyance of being stuck in massive crowds at stopped intersections, the excitement of being a pair amongst 30,000 cyclists was invigorating!  The route is mostly flat but this time even the parts that I remember as being more difficult were a delight to ride.  It’s so much fun to ride on roads that cars usually rule.  The weather was finally sunny after about 2 or 3 years of drizzle and chill, but with the nice weather brought less concentration among the troops and we witnessed more accidents then either of us had ever seen in a less pleasant weather ride.  I have to say my knees ached a little bit afterwards, but I’ll just take that as a sign to stretch and go a little slower when I’m loaded up.

But the BIKE still isn’t here!

April 21, 2006

Riding on Brooks

I did it. The Brooks B17S saddle is now perched on my Schwinn to be broken in little by little each weekend as the departure date looms closer and closer.

b17s.jpg

Having never replaced a saddle before (I used to replace the bike – just kidding) it took me a month, a bottle of liquid wrench, and the muscles of some nice guy at Metro Bikes on 6th Ave and 15th St. It was really the muscles that did it as my measly upper body strength couldn’t even budge the damn bolt holding the saddle on.

Out with the old, in with the new and the beautiful, honey colored Brooks was ready to be fitted into its place of honor. But wait, what's this? Instructions? Apparently, my fancy new tensioned leather saddle needs some fancy new maintenance. Just a few little care and feeding items to remember like keep it out of the rain (cover it up), proofhide occasionally, don't re-tension but once a year, and yes it's stiff now, but this will be the best saddle you've ever had - we promise. The first tentative round of proofhiding went off without a hitch - I wouldn't know if it did or didn't really, but why not just assume it did. As far as I can tell, proofhide is a just fancy English word for saddle soap. Actually it's the “new and improved” stable (ha ha) version of saddle soap which isn’t really a soap, but a polishing and softening agent. The saddle smells like a nice, well-seasoned set of tack right now, but unfortunately that expensive leather smell will dissipate. I didn't buy the saddle because of the leather smell, but it's a nice perk to open the box for the first time to regard that beautifully crafted piece of equipment and get a whiff of the scent of leather.

Positioning. Yes, sitting for the first time on a Brooks does initially feel like sitting on a brick. But given that I was attempting to balance on a stationary bike in the basement of the apartment while trying to keep my feet away from the cockroach carcasses littering the floor in the bike room, it's not really a fair test.

Now after two rides, one slipping and sliding and one just about right thanks to Sheldon Brown's essay on saddles the saddle is actually beginning to feel like something to be reckoned with. The slipping was due to the saddle not being horizontal and the unfortunate thing about it being on the mountain bike is that I can't get it back quite far enough. But this is beginning to fits like a saddle is supposed to fit and by all accounts it will conform to my sit bones with time and be my very own - much like a good pair of Birkenstocks.

April 20, 2006

Gear is the word

A gear head is not something I’d ever, previously, refer to myself as, but over the past few months I find myself boring each and every one of my friends with descriptions of wheels (tires, rims, spokes and hubs), GPS units, and saddles to name a few of the categories I can drone on endlessly about. I have lurked on and queried online touring lists such as www.bikeforums.net (the touring list) and www.phred.org/mailman/listinfo/touring. And now know enough to know what I want and more than enough to make me dangerous.

I am officially a gear head neophyte, but a neophyte I’m happy to stay. Creating a new bike is a little bit different from using a package bike or even packaged parts. For instance, my dear old Schwinn High Sierra is still running fine and has been tweaked only a little – skinny tires to accommodate the road riding I do these days, but that’s about all. It’s gone on single-track trails, down steps, up 9W, ice cycling all without the least bit of interference from me. But now it’s been ten years since I though about gear ratios, rim holes (that sounds nasty – huh?), and the perfect tire and frankly after this bike is all put together this newly gained knowledge will fly right out of my head. That is if the combinations work. If they don’t work, then I’m in for some experimentation.

Bikes are very personal items and what works for one person may not work for another. Research is the precursor to purchasing and with research you run into a lot of opinions and rating systems (www.mtbr.com/reviews/). In my opinion, rating systems don’t really help – the “this kicks ass” and “this sucks shit” people cancel each other out and then you are left with the people like me who haven’t had much problems so don’t give it much thought. The way around this is to read the pros and cons comments – that’s where the real dirt comes out. Then you’re back on the bumpy ride of opinions rather than a pseudo scientific glissade of ratings and it’s up to you to look for the trends and begin to form opinions based on what YOU need. It boils down to a personal decision based on price, functionality, fit, and sometimes the strength of the return policy (than you Team Estrogen!!!).

April 10, 2006

Maps, Syringes, and GPS

So the countdown has begun – 2 more months – and all I really want to do at the moment is sit around and read mystery books. It still doesn’t seem that real, but it is. Recent accomplishments:

1) Maps: Finally after much research and deliberation the maps have been purchased. There are two each for Peru and Bolivia. And for Chile and Argentina, countries which both have thriving automotive clubs (www.aca.org.ar, www.turistel.cl/index.htm) one map for the first area to be accessed. I feel more comfortable with maps in hand and true to the nature of maps they all have every-so-slightly different information. I purchased the maps from www.omnimap.com  - a company that seems to have every map under the sun. There is this little issue of paying extra shipment for items on backorder as they are already making a profit on shipping, but it’s better than some of the competitors who charge $1.50 a map. Wait as second, I paid more than that a map. Whatever, at some point it stops mattering and Omni Resourses, for as crappy as the website looks, has the BEST selection of maps and a very nice staff.
  1. Peru: Berndtson map 1:1,750,000
  2. Peru: Lima 2000 map (made with GIS!) 1:1,500,000
  3. Bolivia: Berndtson map 1:1,750,000ft
  4. Bolivia: The Guzman map which may be the best but could do with some cleaning up.  You can’t read stuff because there are other notations piled up on top of each other.
  5. Chile: Valles Centrales #08 JLM Mapas (my initials!) 1: 500,000
  6. Argentina: On backorder

2) Medical Supplies: I’m well equipped now with everything from altitude pills to syringes.  Most of it courtesy of www.travmed.com.  Surprisingly in all the kits and such there is no heavy duty ace bandage so I’m not 100% equipped yet. There is one more shot to go and quite the essay I’m writing on those delightful shots and all the other health related concerns to take into consideration. It’s really quite a lot and we take much for granted here in the land of we-can-drink-water-from-the-tap. Apparently, most of the world doesn’t expect to do that. What the hell do they drink as I’m positive that they are not running around buying bubbly water?

3) GPS: Now here’s an interesting story. I found a fantastic device called the TrackStick (www.trackstick.com) which seems like it will do every thing I need it to do. It will take readings at 1 min to 15 min intervals (and maybe larger interval – don’t know), it weighs about an ounce, yes, an ounce, has an approximate 5-7 day batter life, can store 4,000 readings in it’s baby 1MB memory. Perfect? Yes, but for one little discrepancy that I can’t seem to get closure on. Richard from Trackstick and I have been exchanging emails throughout the day over decimal places and we’re not getting anywhere. Other handheld GPS units display 5 decimal places for their readings because they can – accuracy is 15m – which corresponds in accuracy and resolution to xx.xxxxx . What we’ve been getting into, much to my amazement, is an argument over why if the unit can read to the 5 decimal place in positional accuracy it isn’t reflected in the coordinates which are output to the various formats. The output is xx.xxxx or in other words degrees minutes seconds. So he’s not very happy with me but he is lacking a bit in the customer service area.  I’ve also made it very clear that his product fills a very important niche and I will (most likely 90%) be purchasing it.

  • Pros: lightweight, not as expensive as a handheld GPS with altitude, decent battery life, can export to Google Earth kml files, simple concept and software interface
  • Cons: not waterproof, no return policy (a pricy mistake if you change your mind or it doesn’t do what you think it will do), software not MS certified (got some message from MS when installing about MS security and XP

March 26, 2006

Terrance Brennan - Artisanal Cheeses

Many thanks to my old boss, Terrance Brennan, of Picholine & Artisanal Fromagerie and Bistro restaurants and the Artisanal Cheese Center – a state-of-the-art cheese storage, aging, distribution, and education center. Terrance has generously donated towards my trip.

Artisanal has a great bistro menu, but in my opinion, the best part of the restaurant is the cheese counter. Don’t miss it! It is tucked away at the back and I encourage getting up from your seats to take a look at the cheeses. There are over a hundred of them which I can vouch for having unpacked each and every one of them Saturday and Sunday mornings, once upon a time. It was a labor of love and the payoff was that I got to try them all! You can even sample one or two to help you decide what to order and there is a great complementary wine selection to match. Artisanal is great for dinner or for a few drinks and a cheese plate after work.

I have had some of my most memorable meals at Picholine, in particular, the meal two friends and I had around a showing of Madame Butterfly at Lincoln Center. I won’t describe the meal in detail here partially because I don’t remember them all, but it was a special day for all of us involved on the receiving end. Picholine caters in part to the pre-opera, pre-ballet, or pre-whatever is playing at Lincoln center dinner crowd but is also great for those leisurely meals that most of us only get once in a blue moon or even a tasty bite at the bar.

And finally the cheese center…Artisanal Cheese Center is a multi-function space serving wholesale and retail (internet/catalog) customers as well as providing a fromage education to those interested. The classes are taught by a variety of instructors including the best fromagiere around, Max McCalman. You can learn about and order cheese from the website or call toll free (877) 797-1200 to order over the phone.

All of Terrance’s businesses are located in New York City, but the cheeses, cheese baskets and cheese accessories can be sent anywhere in the country.

artisanal_logo.gif

March 24, 2006

Fear & Apprehension - Part 1

I keep trying to write an entry about fear. Fear of others for me, my own fear and it keeps coming out trite. Maybe if I keep trying it will come to me.

Were all afraid of something and who isn’t afraid when traveling much out of their own realms? Suburb dwellers are afraid of cities. City dwellers are afraid of the bumps and creaks in the night and the animals moving about outside the flimsy walls of a summer cabin. I’m more afraid of other people, but I also believe that most people are good.

You cannot do much about being targeted as a tourist. Sure, you can dress down, hide your money, be aware of your surrounds, but traveler or tourist, as someone of European descent; you will stick out in non-western countries. I’ve not been anywhere like this so I’m essentially talking out of my ass, but by the very fact that your surroundings are drastically different from anything you are regularly used to make you a target.

I’m starting to become bogged down in the details of what and how and there are so many details for something like this: finances when gone, equipment, using the equipment, how much to take, what to take, communications, a will, money issues – how to get & where to put, maps, health precautions, health insurance, dealing with parents (who needless to say were not happy and are not supportive), electrical plugs, sponsorship and Heifer donations – which almost no one has replied to. Much love and thanks to those of you who have replied!

So the bike is being made now and unfortunately will not be ready until mid-May, which gives me a whopping 2 weeks to ride it before flying south. Not that much time, but I will be breaking in a Brooks B17S saddle on my mountain bike and trying out the other stuff.

To get an idea of my “to do” list:
1. Make Dr appt to get meds for trip and check to see if she can give me two more shots
2. Get 3rd rabies shot
3. Make will; put finances in order; arrange to have rent paid
4. Order shorts; return another pair of shorts
5. Test stove
6. Test filter
7. Test ride gear on old bike
8. Order medical kit, bug crap, water purifiers
9. Start packing, culling, and repacking, and culling, and repacking….
10. Order maps – overall maps and specific department maps for some locations. I don’t want to head out from Bolivia to Argentina without a decent map
11. Continue soliciting anyone who will give me a chance
12. Call about 10 people for advice, help, contact, and just plain comfort
13. Figure out what rims to get and what width Schwalbe tires to get
14. Order tires, tire liners, tubes
15. Get duct tape, bungee cords, door stops
16. Get security crap for luggage: ties and baggage straps and plastic to group and protect on plane
17. Research and read research on scams and “how to protects oneself” as a female.
18. Study Spanish
19. Make Spanish school reservation
20. Buy plane ticket

I think that’s enough for now, my head is spinning again, but it is helpful to see the list on the screen. After my mother leaves that is what I will be doing all weekend – making lists.

March 12, 2006

Donation Request

Dear Friends, Family and Other Supportive Individuals,

Howdy everyone. I’m writing to let you know that I will be leaving at the beginning of June for a four to six month, 5,000 mile, bicycle trip in South America (Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, and Chile) and I need your help.

About a year ago I was feeling rather directionless and begin looking for a worthwhile goal to pursue. I began reading a book by an older woman, Anne Mustoe, who had set about the world solo on a bike. Coincidently, I also stumbled across the web pages of a woman who had ridden from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego and raised money for a charity. I was inspired by these two women to pursue this South American journey as a beginning of the next phase in my life and, as importantly, to try and help others at the same time.

I am trying to raise $10,000 for Heifer, International and although I am looking for corporate sponsors to help me with a large chunk of this I am also reaching out to my friends. Heifer is a group that I greatly admire for its work teaching people sustainable farming and animal husbandry as well as its promotion of community and I have been donating a set amount each month to this organization for over a year and a half. Anything you can donate to help me meet my goal would be greatly appreciated and I urge you to check out the Heifer, International website at www.heifer.org to learn more about the organization.

Ways to donate to Heifer:
1) Before June 1st – Fill out attached form and mail to me: Contact me at jminnick.sasgATgmail.com for address. Heifer would like me to collect donations and send to them at one time, so there may be some delay with processing checks.
2) After June 1st – Fill out attached form and mail directly to Heifer International at the address on the form.
3) At any time – Donate via the Heifer International website.

If your pocketbooks can handle it, I too need monetary assistance to complete the trip. Funds will go towards daily room and board, various border fees, and the oh-so-delightful rabies shots. This has been a massive organizational project and it is the most challenging thing that I have ever tried to do! I’m excited and there is still so much to accomplish even before leaving. To help with my trip expenses you can either contact me at jminnick.sasgATgmail.com to get my address or donate by PayPal on the sidebar of my website.

Please visit the trip website, www.steady-as-she-goes.com, to read about the progress of my preparations and the journey itself. If you have any questions or comments, contact me by email at jminnick.sasgATgmail.com

I thank you in advance for any contributions and for taking the time to read this. Please pass this on to anyone or any organization you think may be interested in donating.

Sincerely,


Nif Mininck

Note: Only donations to Heifer International are tax-deductible.


Download Heifer donation form (pdf)

March 06, 2006

GIS/GPS thoughts

Some thoughts on using GPS to track the route and photos taken on the trip:

gisgps3.jpg


Download file

More on this later...

March 02, 2006

Stuff to Give Away in South America

I will try here first.

What does one take to other countries as souviners to give away? This is usually for kids but maybe adults too. Pencils and erasers? Stickers? Cigarettes? I have no idea, but it would be a good thing to find out.

Perhaps posting to the legions of touring and cycling list will help although they scare me sometimes. People yelling at each other and calling each other stupid for posting incorrectly. That's a great way to make friends. And let's not get into the factions. Mountain bikes vs. horses is one that is currently going on - endlessly it seems.

But really, I have gotten some great info from these sites and expect nothing less than more good info to sift through.

February 28, 2006

Independent Fabrications - Steel Independence

The IF bike is a go. Zoltan (I just like writing his name) called IF to see if they could make the Steel Independence for 26” wheels and they can and will. It will take approximately 6 weeks to make the frame and fork and then I imagine another week or two, once it is delivered, to get the whole bike together. The bonus in this whole process is that I will be able to take the headset, breaks, bar end shifters, front and rear derailleurs, racks, and seat post (maybe) from my old Bruce Gordon bike (anyone interested in buying the frame please email me) and put them on the new one. This equipment only has 4,000 miles on it. Then I will get new 26” wheels built and buy a new crank arm, cassette, and potentially a new seat – not sure about that yet.

Zoltan, and everyone else at Sid’s Bikes in Manhattan has been very helpful. Everyone, except for one chick, has been friendly and will shoot the shit with you while you are waiting around for the much sought after Zoltan. I like the shop and Zoltan’s attitude about bikes and their desire to help everyone who is into biking, not just the racer-types.

Since I would like to actually keep this bike I’m getting all necessary braze-on for future accommodations:

• All rack connections (I’m using Bruce Gordon low riders in the front and BG regular in the back ) so years down the line, if these ever die, the bike will be equipped to handle a selection of racks
• Pump peg although I’ve never owned a pump that needed this – maybe now’s the time
• 3 water bottle connections – the more water the better, maybe one can even be, something stronger for those endless high-altitude climbs that I am trying desperately to prepare for
• Fender braze-ons, but I won’t be using fenders on this trip
• Fork type – (will add later when I get the specs)
• Tubing – (will add later when I get the specs)

And finally, the color scheme will be metallic carbon black with a pink and white decal. This is really important stuff, since we all know that the paint and decal are the most important decision that can be made when ordering a new bike and that I’ll be stuck with my decision for a long, long time. I almost went out on a limb and got a nice orangey-rust color, but at the last minute whet back to basics and stuck with dark. Even my clothes are all black, brown, and green worn sometimes with red shoes (yes, sometimes I look like a really tall elf) so I went with the same color scheme for the bike: dark with a spot of color.

Things are starting to move; the emails are being sent. The biggest hurdle left is telling my parents that their 36 year old, just married daughter is going to South America on an incredible journey that will indelibly mark the changes going on in her life. When I leave a new period of my life will begin which I look forward to sharing with my husband, friends, and family.

February 21, 2006

And the Winner Is...

And the winner for Nif’s New Bike is...Independent Fabrications – the Independence Touring Frame . I came to this conclusion somewhere in the wee hours of the morning after asking every divination method I could thing of about which wheel to choose 26: or 700c. Finally I just said, “Screw it,” and figured that the 26” was sturdier.

independence-lg.jpg

Apparently, much of Bolivia is unpaved and then there is the infamous Ruta 40 in Argentina which apparently is getting better, but that’s looking on the bright side. I’ve just heard from Ian Thumbert (who is organizing a trip from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego) that “…much of this route the road is "BRUTAL" for cycling with large rock and potholes and barren, desolate, and isolated. Very hard on car tires and undercarriages. Obviously very tough riding on bikes; particularly hard on tires, tubes, and wheels if you are not careful.” Lucky devil took a scouting trip.

Ian’s tour is scheduled to leave in May or so, I believe, and you can contact him at j.thumlert@shaw.ca for more information if you’re interested in joining the trip.

Back to the bike…I have an appointment with Zoltan from Sid’s Bikes in Manhattan on Friday the 24th and I hope we get everything straightened out. This is the moment where I put down the huge deposit – it’s like buying an airplane ticket - I hate it, but love where it gets me.

As for the frame, I’m still not sure whether Zoltan asked Independent Fabrications if the frame could be made for 26” wheels. I suppose these things will be ironed out in good time (as in Friday). I’ll go in fully prepared anyway with the fit kit from IF and a description of the bike.

I’m excited. And apprehensive. And excited!

February 14, 2006

Self Defense

One of the main concerns that I’ve been hearing and having about this trip is about my personal safety. For some reason, I haven’t been too concerned with it as I tend to think that people, on the whole, are pretty nice. We were shown, over and over again, the generosity of complete strangers during a four month cross-country trip that a friend and I took in 1996. Along the way there were a few comments about a tee-shirt I was wearing in Montana (which I subsequently sent home) and other than that there was only one time that we were bothered. It was some local youth in Lawrence, Kansas who couldn’t have been much younger than us. And I still really like Kansas, it’s my favorite not-really-flat state.

There were so many other times on this trip that people were welcoming and protective of us. In Missouri, a man who was taking his 10 year old son on a canoe trip watched over me in a campsite because he had heard that the locals came to party there. They did come and they did party, but no one bothered us.

In Whitefish, Montana people gave us dried fish which sounds like an insult, but it’s really a great compliment and a source of pride in a place where seemingly everyone fishes and smokes their catch. We’d ask to camp in a yard and were welcomed into the house, given a full meal, a shower, and a bed by complete strangers – families usually.

The key is to keep your mouth shut and for once in your life not discuss your opinions about those things that your mother told you to never to discuss with strangers: politics, religion, sex, drugs and money. It’s not as hard as it seems – I never know when to shut up and somehow I managed not to insult anyone all the way across America. Of course, since I’ll be in South America this time and I speak next to no Spanish, conversation may not be an issue. I’ll just be exhausted and to learn a fair amount about Shakespeare in my downtime. Just kidding – I hope talk to whomever will attempt to converse with me.

After the scale and potential solitude of the trip sunk in, I decided that one way to make myself feel stronger and to reassure (somewhat at least) those who were concerned was to take a self-defense class. Using that wonderful superlative, “best”, I ran a Google search and came up with a “Best Self Defense Class” article in New York magazine which lead me to Impact at Prepare, Inc.

Next: The First Two Classes

January 30, 2006

The Contenders

Now that I’ve made up my mind to get a custom frame the choices are seemingly endless but realistically limited by geography and time. Geography is a problem because I can’t go flying across the country to get a bike nor can I talk face to face about the nitty gritty of getting the bike put back together. Time is of concern because although I’m not leaving until May or so companies like Rivendell have a limited number of frames they are able to produce in a year. This isn’t a problem, I’m all for small production companies for almost everything, but I unfortunately don’t have a year or more to wait for a bike. If only I’d decided this months ago.

The person who sealed the deal to get a custom bike was this guy named Allen at Sid’s Bike Shop in NYC. Allen talked with me on the phone for at least 15 minutes about my options of frames and components. I was actually supposed to go in on Saturday, but I actually went out for a ride and then started running errands and ran out of time, but I will stop by later this week or the weekend. It was reassuring to talk with someone who didn’t dismiss me out-of-hand for being female, actually talked about fitting me correctly, and knew what he was talking about. Another bike shop that I called, which will remain nameless, thought that it was ok for me to just order a $2,7000 bike over the phone without test riding it or anything. I asked about having a chance to test ride the bike and the response was that there was one by the same makers but a different style (Traveler vs. WorldTraveler) but that it was being shipped out in a few days. Hmmmm. Bike may be there, may not? Also, the person wasn’t really savvy about touring bikes in general. I know that touring peeps are a pretty small minority, but still…

The two categories are: complete bikes vs. frames.

In the complete bikes category I’m looking at the Koga Miyata World Traveler and the Bruce Gordon Rock N’ Road-Ex. Both of these are designed for fully-loaded touring. The main difference is that Bruce Gordon looks more like a road bike and the Koga Miyata looks like a mountain bike. I am concerned about the road conditions in South America (I’ve been hearing horror stories) which is why I was considering a mountain bike style, but I really need the varied hand positions. Some frame differences aside, it seems that it is predominately the handlebars which are different. Maybe – I don’t know but I can’t imagine that a bike designed for touring which resembles a mountain bike would really be designed for single-track downhill style riding. The other main difference between the two is that the Koga Miyata comes with every bell and whistle available and the Bruce Gordon doesn’t. Take it for what it is.

As for the frame category I’m looking at a Independent Fabrication frame and a Rivendell Bicycles frame. When I mentioned my interest in the Rivendell Atlantis frame to a friend of mine in San Francisco to whom I was telling this riveting bike selection story, his response was something like, “The problem with that (getting a Rivendell frame) is that it will take years.” Yup, we’re back to the time issue coupled in this case with the distance issue. I will still call the nice people at Rivendell and chat, just to cover my bases, but it’s looking like the Independent Fabrication frame is in the forefront thanks to Allen.

He talked with me about cannibalizing my BG components to put on a new frame so I could essentially save some money. I have great Bruce Gordon racks and Robert Beckman panniers designed for the racks and would like to use them again. Then there’s the wheel discussion (700c vs. 26in) which I’m not sure about yet – it seems to be a Texas Instrument vs. HP or Apple vs. PC type argument. I’m a HP, PC type gal (with unavoidable forays into the TI, Apple world) so please, someone, what does that make me in touring bike wheels?

January 28, 2006

The Bikes of Yore

I wasn’t really looking to get a new bike, but I do like shiny, new things. The BG is a great bike, but I never really felt like we bonded – not like my other two: the dear Trek Series 400 and the Schwinn High Sierra. The Trek was my very first, and to this date, only road bike which I bought in 1985. It was racy, bought with my own money, and was probably the first big purchase of my young life. I learned how to ride hills on that bike with my friend Aaron riding circles around me saying things like “You can do it.” My responses were not even remotely close to lady-like and were more in the realm of gutter talk. I got him back a few years later though with the broken toe incident.

Then there is the wonderful 1990 Schwinn High Sierra. It isn’t the lightest bike and it doesn’t have all those fancy things like shocks and weird bar shifters but still serving me well after 16 years. It was my second mountain bike which I bought after annihilating the lower-end mountain bike sold to me by the people who apparently didn’t believe that I was really going to go “mountain biking”. No matter, I had a great time on the bike whose name I forgot and learned many a simple lesson about bike mechanics before selling it to an acquaintance. These two bikes feel like me – I’ve managed to customize them just enough to make me happy. The BG however, even with 4k miles under my belt on it just never felt like home. Maybe I put it on too high a pedestal or maybe it’s just that I haven’t done any extensive riding on it recently.

So there have been four bikes in my life all straight off the shelf and with this trip comes the opportunity to upgrade and get a custom-made frame. Given that these bikes have lasted between 10 and 20 years gives me the courage to go ahead and take the plunge. That way I will have a well made, custom fitted bike that should last at least 20 years if not more. You can always change components, but custom frames are built to last (at least they better be!).

Next: The Contenders

January 27, 2006

The Bike Dilemma

I’m getting nervous and excited. There is still so much to do and I have not raised a penny. I need help with so many things and self-promotion is one big one. So I will procrastinate and focus on something more tangible and only slightly less difficult such as – The Bike, that vehicle that I will be using to self-propel myself over the Andes. The Andes! Yikes.

I currently have a 1996 Bruce Gordon BLT – one of the made-in-China frames with a shop made fork. It has served me well – a 4,000 mile, cross-country journey, but even on that journey, I had a few issues with it. It is a comfortable bike but it feels small and (sorry Bruce) I had some frame shimmy a various times. It does have bar-end shifters which I like very much and I didn’t really have a problem with any of the other parts. I don’t know why everyone is connecting shimmy or wobble with Bruce’s frames or why he gets so defensive. It seems that many bikes get shimmy when loaded and it’s just something you deal with by playing with the loading and the equipment fit. I can’t say that it was fun going down hill with the bike vibrating funny, but I also can’t say that it happened constantly. I wonder if those touring cyclists with custom-made frames have any shimmy problems? Maybe I’ll be able to tell you in the future, but I’m not in the custom frame game – yet.

Next: The Bikes of Yore

January 11, 2006

Making of the Maps (& GIS Files)

I am a GIS person, so it seemed natural to develop a digital version of the proposed route for personal reference purposes, a communication device, and last but not least pretty graphics.

The process followed 3 main steps:

  1. Research and Development of route on paper
  2. Research for digital data
  3. Processing of digital data and GIS file creation
  1. Research and Development of route on paper
    1. Bought paper maps and travel books
    2. Perused books and web journals to develop a route based on things I was interested in seeing
    3. Outlined on paper maps a proposed route from Texas, USA to Usuhia, Argentina ( this later got cut down to South America only)
  2. Research for data Searched the internet for GIS data for South America – specifically road network data
    1. Discovered that there isn’t much out there
    2. What is out there is old
    3. Didn’t search in Spanish but not sure that it would have made much of a difference as GIS is a term that is used internationally as is shapefile (shp). The country names perhaps could have been searched in Spanish as could have the contents.
    4. Found five sources
      1. The ESRI Map Data that comes with ArcView – the data included with the program was adequate, but wanted to see if there were any more complete datasets
      2. www.goleaddog.com/Latin_America_GIS_Maps.htm - probably the most up-to-date, but expensive
      3. www.geocomm.com/catalog/index.html - sort of free, but couldn’t see what I was ordering
      4. www.agiweb.org/pubs/globalgis/ - The American Geological Institute has a version of the Digital Chart of the World (DCW) which was created, I believe by National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA) before it became the NGA. Could not tell the date of the data and could not confirm whether the DCW was being currently maintained. Also, this version cost money.
      5. www.maproom.psu.edu/dcw/ - Found a free version of the DCW which resides on the Pennsylvania State University servers. There are many layers to choose from, although some layers are not available for all countries. The ESRI exchange files (e00) files resulting from the online selection process are put into a zip for your downloading convenience.
    5. I choose the DCW from Penn State because it was both free and convenient (listed below are the files potentially available for each country)
      1. Political/Ocean (network)
      2. Populated Places (point)
      3. Populated Places (polygon)
      4. Railroads (line)
      5. Roads (line)
      6. Utilities (line)
      7. Drainage (network)
      8. Drainage (point)
      9. Drainage Supplemental (point)
      10. Hypsography (network)
      11. Hypsography (point)
      12. Hypsography Supplemental (line)
      13. Hypsography Supplemental (point)
      14. Land Cover (polygon)
      15. Land Cover (point)
      16. Ocean Features (point)
      17. Ocean Features (line)
      18. Physiography (line)
      19. Aeronautical (point)
      20. Cultural Landmarks (polygon)
      21. Cultural Landmarks (point)
      22. Cultural Landmarks (line)
      23. Transportation Structure (line)
      24. Transportation Structure (point)
      25. Vegetation (polygon)
    6. Downloaded gazetteer information for each country of interest from http://164.214.2.63/geonames/GNS/ but never really used this info – I hope to use it later though
  3. Processing of data and GIS file creation
    1. Extracted the e00 files for Roads, Railroads, Transportation Structures, and Populated Places from the downloaded zip files using WinZip (it's not free, you know)
    2. In ArcView 9.1 (The program I use all day, every day)
      1. Unpacked the files from the e00 exchange format to an ESRI coverage file
      2. Set up a project file to start creating a GIS file for my route
      3. Used ESRI data for background information such as international and regional political boundaries, water files, and cities. The ESRI data that comes with the program did not have as detailed of road files so used the DCW data
      4. Included the DCW data in the project file
    3. Copied and pasted line segments from the DCW road data to my route.shp file (Selecting the line segments by referencing the route traced on paper maps and by proximity to populated places)
    4. Once the actual route shapefile was complete I was able to create and format a map layout
      1. Added the Shaded Relief of the World (ESRI data)
      2. Added the GTOPO30 (30 Arc Seconds) – USGS elevation grid (ESRI data)
      3. Played around with cartography
      4. Printed jpg of route for web
    5. Created separate files and jpgs for each country and the overview map so that they are easy to update while on the road with GPS points of actual route and GPS points of photos taken

I also have begun to experiment with GIS files and Google Earth and have created a kmz file of the route (It’s on my Maps page) but have run into some difficulties based on line segment directionality and file order, but that will be another entry.

January 07, 2006

Amazon is In

The task today was to get the Media Manger and the MTAmazon32 plugins to work and of course work the way I want them to.

These two plugs have a lot of great application but were, I have to say, a little difficult to use. Difficult is in the eye of the beholder though and Byrne Reese, the creator-administrator-producer, was very helpful in his responses. At least I think it was he who responded to the emails of panic. There are some inconsistancies in the instructions, but with a little tinkering I got everything just right - as right as it's going to get.

The one thing that I find weird about these plugins and about the whole blog setup is that everything is dependant on or set up for mass database pulls: last n entries, all dvds in list only, every blog entry with a title beginning with "Why" and that doesn't connect well with one offs or specifics. Perhaps I just have to shift my thinking some more - as it is I think in catagories all day long while processing data to make GIS maps.

But the happy end to weirdness is that there is included with MT (although not listed in the documentation) a nice MT tag called MTentry as opposed to MTentries. This tag allows you to list specific entries. I wanted to use the Media Manager to list books that I used to plan for this trip and I wanted to list comments about each for reference. By using the Media Manager MT tag "MTItemEntryID as the id values in the MTEntry tag I was able to list out the books in my list with the associated "review". I actually have yet to go in and write the reviews and enter the EntryID number into Media Manager, but I did test is out in a test blog and it works. See partial code below.

 <MTMediaManagerItems lastn="10" sort_order="ascend" sort_by="modified_on">
<p>
<MTAmazon method="Asin" search="[MTItemASIN]">
<a href="<MTAmazonLink>"><img src="<MTAmazonImage>" border="0"><br />
<p> </p>
<MTAmazonTitle></a> by <MTAmazonAuthor><br />
status: <MTItemStatus><br />
<MTItemIfBlogEntry><br />
<MTEntry id="[MTItemEntryID]">
<div class="entry" id="entry-<$MTEntryID$>">
<div class="entry-content">
<div class="entry-body">
<$MTEntryBody$>
</div>
</div>
</div>
</MTEntry>
</MTItemIfBlogEntry>
</MTAmazon>
</MTMediaManagerItems>

January 05, 2006

December - Summary

  • Worked on website
    • Began setting up Movabletype
    • Set up photo blog with myriad of plugins
    • Refined content
    • Formatted documents for web
    • Struggled with my limited web design/programming skills
  • Created route in GIS
  • Didn’t do as much Spanish
  • Christmas and family visits to Texas and Maryland

November - Summary

  • Worked on website
    • Registered domains
    • Got hosting program
    • Developed content
  • Refined route
  • Started Spanish workbook
  • Ordered tent and sleeping bag and petzl headlamp from Campmor – first real purchases for trip

October - Summary

  • Medicine - Got influenza shot
  • Cut route down again: Ecuador to Tierra del Fuego
  • Now 6-9 months - worried about finances
  • Researched others South American cycling trips
  • Developed a template for documents
  • Wrote documents
    • 5Ws: What, Who, Why Where, When
    • Cycling C.V.
    • Trip Goals

September - Summary

  • Medicine
    • Got 2 of 3 Hepatitis shot
    • Took typhoid oral vaccine
    • Found out that insurance does not cover cholera, rabies, and yellow fever shots
  • Started emailing Hermonie from Germany – she is riding from South to North (Tierra del Fuego to Lima) skipping the Andes and will begin January 1, 2006
  • Researched Central America Route
  • Tried to find a boat from Panama City to Esmeraldas, Ecuador – not having any luck
  • Found out that boats typically go to Cartagena, Columbia and do not go to Ecuador. They used to however.

August - Summary

  • Decide to leave from southern US (Organ Cactus National Park)
  • Trip length will be a year
  • Medicine
    • Researched vaccines
    • Concerned about malaria drugs – don’t want to take
    • Got first Hepatitis A/B shot
  • Researched Mexico route
  • Found out that I can register my trip with the state department which seems like a good idea
  • Started making lists of things that I needed to do
    • Documents to create
    • Logo
    • Web URL registration and hosting package
    • Website creation
    • Gear
    • Bike
    • Sponsors
    • Cool GIS stuff that I could do
  • Started Rosetta Stone Spanish lessons

July - Summary

  • Make decision to go on 1.5 year trip from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego
  • Start planning route through Canada
  • Riding on weekends
  • Meet Everett on bike path – he’s been on world cycling trips
  • Started thinking about raising money for a charity – Heifer

June - Summary

  • Still musing about trip
  • Riding on the weekends
  • Reading and researching books
    • Guidebooks
      • Alaska/Canada
      • USA
      • Mexico
      • Central America
      • South America
    • Hispanic Cultural books

TO HELP WITH MY TRIP EXPENSES:

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