Back and Rolling with Good Habits

Yesterday, 4:30AM

I cannot fall back asleep. For the 3rd or 4th time. I’m hungry. As someone who has a terrible time waking up I actually like jetlag on the return trip, wide awake before 5AM? Yeah, okay.

With being awake I had enough time to not only get some thing done around the house (dicking around) but to ride to work arriving an hour early. See, jetlag is productive. And what a ride it was. Not pushing particularly hard I bested my pre-BTG2018 commute time by 2 minutes! How do you like that?!

Bike on trail in redwoods.
Dirt cool down on the final stretch of the commute.

My commute is great even if just on the edge of difficult to do daily. At about 12.6km (7.8mi) and 475m (1560ft) when not in the best of shape it can be a chore. But the end in the Redwoods is worth it, so just keep the fitness up right?

Unkown wooden structure in Redwoods
What is this thing?!

I was treated to this oddity on the final stretch of West Ridge Trail. Rumors around work is it’s some sort of closet burner project, sure hope not.

Sooooo….. Ya know how I was talking about Shitty Hike-a-Bikes, well seems ol’ WOW Airlines is a fan of my work and read that, then decided to do me a solid and loose my bike so I didn’t have to schlep it on BORT. Geeee, thaaaanks. They also decided to not tell me, so I waited nearly 2 hours at the hell that is SFO  with not an employee to be found. Finally got someone on the phone to put in a claim, but it still feels like they just punted me off to shirk responsibility. No update as of yet. OK, being that I’ve been up since 5am again, time for some other early morning productivity. Have fun and fuck WOW Air!

Worst hike-a-bike ever?

It’s never occurred to me before but no hike-a-bike is worse than schlepping ones bike to the airport.

You know what’s worse though? Finding out as your train is pulling up to the airport that you’re (not me) at the wrong one. Ouch, no train service to Tegel fellas.

Anyhow, I am on the first leg of my flight home and excited to see Sam and the little piggles. More writing on BTG2018 later in the week.

Gear Check Mini-Post: “Bearrito”

Daniel from Tumbleweed Bike Co first called it a “Bearrito” and it stuck. Imagine a hungry bear wandering by and seeing this nice warm human wrapped up in convenient take away bag. I’d probably be delicious.

I’m talking about the Outdoor Research Helium Bivy. It’s light, it’s small, I’ve never been bothered to set it up correctly. I guess there is something about such a lightweight bivy that makes me not want to carry stakes. Even the couple times I have used stakes it still sagged, so I just stopped.

Anyhow I used to kind of loathe this bivy but in the right conditions it’s quite nice. Maybe the overnight humidity of the bay area always resulted in wet legs, I don’t know but it worked quite well on this trip. Mostly it was the combo of my bag and mat that allowed this setup to shine.

I’ve been using a Nemo Siren quilt and pad for a number of years now and it’s an amazing setup. The pad is thin and packs down very small for a foam core but does require a bit of effort to get it packed down. Sadly it started delaminating right before Baja Divide and I was unable to warranty it so I ended up buying something cheaper as race/time saving wasn’t a concern for that ride. But for this trip I wanted something smaller so I borrowed my partners Thermarest hollow core. This really changed my bivy setup because now I could deflate the pad and pack everything without removing it from the Bearrito.

Sleeping setup on handlebar harness
The entire setup is very compact on my bars
Pad inside bag inside bivy
After unrolling blowing up the pad is the only thing to do
Pad inside bag inside bivy
Pad inside quilt inside bivy

This last picture shows the open back bag which allows the setup to pack down very nicely.

Welp, it with a bit of sadness I say goodbye to the bivy. While drunkenly complaining about it’s shortcomings I told (insisted?) Mastho I would send it to him after BTG2018. This will be a good opportunity for me to explore some other lightweight setups. I’ve never owned a single person tent so will probably head that direction. What are other folks using?

Bikepacking Trans Germany

Welp, it’s all done now. I completed the race, I finished the ride and while it was slow I made it to Berlin. As usual I am having trouble figuring out where to start in my writing so I decided this will be the first in several posts of no specific order. All posts will be under the BTG2018 category .

First off the hugest thanks to Achim, Thomas and everyone else who helped put this route together. The list of POI put together was thorough enough it made additional planning difficult (where to start?). The GPX file provided is hands down the best I’ve been given to date. They even mentioned in one update they are thinking of old Edge device owners like myself in it’s creation. I had to split one of the sections in half to get turn by turn and that’s it. Typically I have to spend a half dozen hours getting a route working on my old Garbin. Cheers to you all!

The route itself could not be more stunning. Mountainous terrain starting a mere 60km from the start was a bit of a shock to the system. Not only for the fact I hadn’t trained at all with this much weight but the beauty of it all. Most of the route being on “Wanderweg” (hiking paths) meant despite the heat the direct sun wasn’t as bad as it could have been and we spent a great deal of the time in lush forests. This wouldn’t be true for the entire race but I sure enjoyed it while I could.

Racing vs Riding

I knew from the start I was not in race shape. Ten weeks before the start my work schedule for the year got flipped, my manager approved a month off so I jumped, even having just started riding hard again from a broken foot at the end of last year. Thankfully my commute is fairly difficult at 10km with 500m climbing. So I did that several times a week and hoped my prior experience and ability to function without sleep would get me through.

Day Three Strategy

Day one is usually a blast. You’re fresh, you’re with people, everyone is having a great time. Besides not feeling very well at the start this was basically the case for me. On day two, doubt settles in. What am I doing this for? What am I trying to prove? Why am I so far back? Beelzebub where is the next beer?! Never trust anything you think on day two. This is the day three strategy. Make the decision am I racing or am I touring on the morning of day three. Aside difficulties waking up and getting started I felt quite good, I typically wake up (legs, etc) late in the day and day two had finished quite nicely. I was already climbing better and was sitting mid-20s with plenty of people around. Day three says I’m racing.

Sign on tree of Devil marking the trail
Beelzebub says this way to beer

OK! Next post will be after I am back home, I have some ideas on updating the blog to include more map based posts. Stay tuned, subscribe to the RSS amd leave a comment, I actually check those!

Los ghet’s!

Day started off easy. Maybe too easy. No time for details now that things got worked out. I made it to the bbq, met some new volks, bumped into a familiar face who I’ll have to get a picture with tomorrow before she racrs off much faster than myself.

Got all my shopping done despite putting it off several times.

Velorado sponsored our picknick area, cheers for that!

And that’s that. Race starts in just about ten hours so i should repack the bike and get some sleep.

‘eh woul’n’t ‘aggle!

All I wanted was a USB mini cable. Plain old, everyone has a bin full of them USB cable. I do, but stupidly I grabbed the wrong one. And to be clear, the stupidity isn’t on me but as usual Garmin. Some cables cause the computer to shut down as if connected to a computer, some don’t. No way to know but boot up (about 2 minutes) plug it in and see. I’d tested one then packed a different one. Derp. Okay, part my stupidity.

1.05 Franc USB cable
1.05 Franc

“Funf Franc”

How do I say get fucked in Switzerdeutsch….

American thrift stores would have a bin full for a quarter. I quickly gave up on the half Franc I’d hoped to spend and set out for 1. Which at current exchange is basically a dollar.

3. Nein.

2. Nein.

3. NEIN

Nearing the end of the loop I’m starting to wonder if I’ll actually get one and as I literally had 1.05 Franc in my pocket I couldn’t pay two if I wanted. Test another… Ask the lady who’s son is singing next to me, “Ein Franc?” Curiously she looks at him and asks the same. He looks up at me, twists his face in a moments consideration and says “Ja, OK”. Success! Thanks kid! Then on my way out I realized all these stands in this area are being run by kids! Now I’d wished I’d had 2 Franc as I’d happily given it to him but I did give him the extra 0.05

Pretty neat. Thanks for helping me stick to my budget kid (and not brutally over charging me for something you had a pile of).

Back to Basel

The last time I was in Basel was for the TriCMC in 2009. This is a great event in which they find the best courier from Switzerland, France and Germany. I’d come along with some friends from Karlsruhe to play in the polo tourney and joined the race for fun. I do not recall doing well and dropped out after loosing a delivery.

I came a day early so I could catch up with the infamous Ström, who is to be away for the weekend. Thankfully he’s letting me stay at his apartment while on a…. Ahem, strategic planning retreat? Ah the things you do when in charge. He’s now the owner and CEO of KurierZentrale, for which he’s work for nearly 20 years. A huge accomplishment. Congrats buddy.

Plan for today is to mostly relax. I’ve a couple last minute supplies to get. If it gets hot today I will go for a swim in the Rhein, otherwise tomorrow should due. I will take many pictures of fountains I expect.

Solo Overnight to Bernstein

If you pop over to Mastho you’ll see Bernstein mentioned in like… ever other post. And now I understand why. It’s very close to Karlsruhe, about 30km on the short route with the possibility to add on as much as you like. Not only can you add more, it’s nice forrest paths. Mastho put a route together for me using Komoot, I’d never used this service before but it looks quite nice. I downloaded the app and he was able to share the route with me easily, and the GPX it generated worked very well without mods on my old Edge 705. Few (reads no) other services can do this.

As I prepped for BTG I’d read a funny description that stuck with me. They said that sometimes the route appears to ‘bully’ its way through. This is a good example of that. Yes, there is a trail through there.

A bully trail
A bully of a trail

This ride was to be my final shakedown so I ‘decided’ to leave quite late. I was out the door around maybe 2100? I rode for a short while in the last light of the day before finding myself looking down the tunnel of my lamp. Such a comforting view. Onward.

I love riding in the dark. Especially when weather is nice. It was cool but not too cold. My route worked well, even with navigation turned on but towards the end I got bit by the Garmin. I must have missed a turn, then I missed the fact my computer recalculated my route. On it’s face, that’s fine, I just kept riding along, seeing the end approaching. 1.5km. 1km. 800m…. should be right here…..

Recalculating….. 1.8km.

WTF!? I’ve seen some dodgy bugs in Garmin but not only did this add a 1.5km spur, it decided to move the end point! In the end 3/4ths the detour was down hill until I reached the hike-a-bike. A 150ish meter steep, rocky, switchbacky climb that finished right at the hiking hut.

I arrive a little after 0100 and pretty hungry so I started a fire right away with the small amount of wood already in the pit. Once a small fire was going I grabbed some better wood from right nearby and drank some Grappa.

One of my favorite parts of travel is the interesting food along the way (Baja was beans in a bag!). Even just different takes on somewhat familiar foods. Why don’t we grill cheese in the US?!? I’m not talking about grilled cheese sandwiches, I’m talking about putting cheese (halumi or similar) right on the grill. It’s delicious and leads to other innovations like this marinated grilling cheese!

grillkäse
grillkäse

Happily fed and finishing off my beer I fell asleep texting with my love back home (smooch!).

My home for the night! Let me show you around.

Breakfast nook
Breakfast nook
Into the bedroom
Into the bedroom
View from the bedroom
View from the bedroom

Let’s go out to the back porch!

The entire area is pretty stunning and continues to make me envious of the outdoor culture in Germany. California, as stunning as it also is, has been bastardised by private land and closed off access. Where I grew up on the central coast, oil exploration privatised all the surrounding lands. This wasn’t such a big deal in the 90s when I was running around but on recent visits everything has been closed off. I guess this is due to some combo of newer fraking techniques opening fields back up and development pushing up against their property boundaries. This is a crying shame because it’s these areas that helped develop my love of the outdoors and exploring.

The area is named for Bernsteinfelsen, the giant rock on the hill. The whole area has some really neat geology in general. The rock formations were then used to create the outlook.

I spent a very casual morning at the hut having a slow brekky and exploring the immediate area.

Those Germans loooove their grillin'
Those Germans loooove their grillin’

There were several other grills tucked away in various places.

This sign was conveniently posted on the backside of the hut, opposite the well established fire ring.

Feurmachen verboten? \_(ツ)_/¯ (acsii shrug)
Feurmachen verboten? \_(ツ)_/¯

Around noon I’d been mostly packed up and getting ready to head off when I noticed something off.

So first, a little preface. As I said previously I grew up bush-whacking on the central coast. We’d spend all summer out in ‘The Fields’, a typical Califonia coastal sage/chaparral region.  How many thousand hours did I spend tramping around? I don’t know, but based on the number of times I got poison oak it’s a lot. One thing I never got, was a tick. Until 3 years ago when camping on the Lost Coast I’d never had one. Since I’ve had 1 or 2 each year. At Bernstein I got 3. At the same time. Or worse, 2 jump on while I was busy extracting the first.

tick embedded in my leg.
Gimme my blood back!
tick, head intact on the end of pliers
Thankfully I had a multitool with pliers.

The other two were much smaller and came out easily. I believe this is Ixodes Scapularis. It reaaally didn’t want to come out. Eventually it did, head and all. Grumble, grumble.

I took the longer route back into Karlsruhe, taking time to make some adjustments to the bike. My phone died so I didn’t take many pictures on the way back but that did motivate me to fix my charger.

bike at woodpile
Don’t you know axes are out? Saws are the new hotness.

Welp, that’s my Bernstein trip. What a lovely place.

 

 

a toad
A toad!

 

Mini Tour with Thomas and Oli – Day 2

Our second day was fairly straightforward, beautiful forest paths, vineyards, cycling paths between small villages, a couple wrong turns.

Thomas descending with Oli in background

Thomas descending with Oli in background

Oli on the descent from the tower

Oli on the descent from the tower

Best part of sleeping up by a tower is the descent first thing. Thomas and Oli seem to be enjoying it.

A fine example of some of the lovely forest paths we rode out.

We stopped in the small town Bühl for lunch. We had only wanted a bakery and coffee but for several small towns in a row everything was closed so Chinese food it was.

Sadly, Oli had to depart us after lunch to get back to Karlsruhe early but Thomas and I rode on with some detours here and there. Including to Schloss Favorite.

But who's Favorite?

But who’s Favorite?

So… I’m a pretty big fan of rodents. I’ve kept pet rats most of my life, I’ve had hamsters and (while not rodents) rabbits and guinea pigs*. So when Thomas asked if I knew what Nutria were my whiskers started to twitch.

(* The title of this BLARG predates my guinea pigs by 8 years)

I MADE FRIENDS WITH THE NUTRIA!

I MADE FRIENDS WITH THE NUTRIA!

It didn’t take long for my little rodent friends to find me. And oh boy these two weren’t shy at all. They were happily munching on grass as I approached but then decided I looked far more interesting. This was my first time seeing a Nutria up close. With the exception of the round, rat-like tail they appear to be very similar to beaver, including GIANT incisors. Bye my big ol’ water rat friends!

Most of the route from here was increasingly in dense forest with mixed single track. Thomas pointed out one of the local plants (Kleines Springkraut) and told me to squeeze the stamen and…. POP! It’s amazing to witness how some plants have adapted to travel. If my fingers had a nice fur coat (gross) this part of the plant would have happily hitched a ride.

popping stamen of Kleines Springkraut
POP!

With this we were back on the path to Karlsruhe. We passed a nice looking CX/DH-ish mountain bike trail that really had me wanting to make a future trip with my cross country (or future trail) bike.

Aaaand that’s it. Next planned is a solo overnight to a favorite local spot.

'FUCK COPS' on back of road sign. I agree with this message.
I agree with this message.

Mini Tour with Thomas and Oli – Day 1

After a night of anxiety driven shit-show-y-ness I managed to meet up with Thomas, Oli and some other friends outside the small town Irhingen. Not only did I get to catch up with some old friend this vantage point offered my first glimpse of the Backpacking Trans Germany course. These profiles cover about the first 130km.

On the right, 73.6 km 4.76% elevation gain vs. distance. Nice!
And on the left, 53.0 km with 22.47% elevation gain vs. distance. Oof. 3rd steepest segment… on day one. I couldn’t bring myself to taking anymore pictures as my head turned left. Just more mountains.

Basel in the distance
Basel in the distance

After some chit-chat, snacks and brekky beers we departed at the crack of noon. The cycling infrastructure in this area is impressive. Even the smallest of towns seemed to be marked with on path signage, making it really easy to keep rolling along without paying so much attention to the route.

Thomas and Oli!

Thomas and Oli riding behind me
Thomas and Oli!

A lot of the days riding looked fairly similar to this with nice forest paths dotted through out as we headed towards Offenburg. We had some elevation gains through the day but nothing major until headed east after getting supplies in Offenburg. Right away we found ourself in vineyard country again but this time heading up some fairly steep climbs. Our destination was one of several lookout towers in the mountains east of Offenburg. Originally we’d planned to stay near an old brick tower but a mistake in the route planning led us to a more modern steel structure. While less visually appealing this did mean we could climb it for sure, offering some spectacular views.

The old brick tower can barely be made out to the south.
The old brick tower can barely be made out to the south.
View from the tower of where we slept.
View from the tower of where we slept.

And being that it’s World Cup season, we happily cracked some German themed cans as we watched the match. There was a MASSIVE party down the hill who’s cheering prompted us to pay attention to the match and thanks the substantial delay on the phone we didn’t miss any excitement.

Thomas and Oli getting into the match.
Thomas and Oli getting into the match.
Oli admiring his handy work. (see the signs?!)
Oli admiring his handy work. (see the signs?!)
Artisanal campfire pizza.
Artisanal campfire pizza.

And that pretty much wraps up day one. We hung out around the fire until late drinking wine, eating bread and cheese and telling tales of our recent adventures. Really good catching up with old friends.