Friday, June 26, 2015

Bicycling the Americas, a book review

In 2008, the Sathre-Vogel family--mom, dad, and two ten-year-old sons--began their bicycle trek from Alaska and the Arctic Circle to Argentina's Tierra del Fuego. The trip lasted about three years, and mother Nancy Sathre-Vogel chronicles the family's adventure in her book Changing Gears: a Family Odyssey to the End of the World.

Quite a journey it was, with desperately difficult terrain, medical emergencies, and equipment failure. Nancy Sathre-Vogel honestly tells their story, including her doubts and weaknesses, the powerful strength of family bonds, and the innocent exuberance of the boys.
>>Read more>>

Friday, June 12, 2015

Overnighter Bike Camping (S240): Lake Darling

It never works out quite as expected, but that's part of the adventure!

Lake Darling is about 15 miles from Fairfield, most of it on the hilly Pleasant Plain Road. The traffic was light and respectful, but the headwind wasn't. I arrived at 5 o'clock to Lake Darling State Park that has just received a multi-year makeover. My tent campsite was nice with a view of the lake and not too far from the restrooms and showers.

I had fun cooking my noodles with my Emberlit wood-burning stove, adding the noodles to my stew that I had brought in a Thermos. It's a pretty great little stove that focuses the heat of twigs that I collect from nearby.

The unexpected was when Bob from Arkansas showed up on his Long-Haul Trucker. He's traveled over 50,000 miles on bike trips and had gone104 miles the day I met him. We had a good talk and I picked up a few tips.

The night was pleasant in the park, and the sound of owls put me to sleep.

The trip home began as an easy morning with no wind, but the wind picked up about halfway home so I dug in for another headwind. I am finding that on overnighters, I have less energy the second day. I guess that's because I haven't built up my conditioning yet since it's still early in the bike season. Bob heads out every day, and that builds up his stamina.
I got home, though, and have good memories of Lake Darling. I had remembered that the tent sites were out in the sun but were actually tucked in among trees. Very nice.

Copyright 2015 by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

One Apple 6+ Smartphone Equals 6 Electronic Devices

Well, I did it. I bought an Apple iPhone to replace all the electronics (and chargers) I was packing around on my bicycle.

Here are the devices I've accumulated and have been packing on my bicycle:
  • Kindle eReader
  • Canon movie/still camera
  • Tracfone (buy minutes of phone time)
  • HP mini computer
  • Verizon MiFi wireless 
  • Garmin Edge Touring GPS

What I've Learned So Far

I'm still on the learning edge regarding the iPhone 6+, but I'm very impressed and believe adding a new, monthly "communications utility bill" to my expenses is worth it. Buying the 64G phone should provide me with plenty of space for all my needs.

What have I discovered so far? One important fact is that such a consolidation is a compromise. The iPhone is in many ways less than the original device it replaced--yet so close that the bulk elimination is the deciding factor.

One reason I bought the larger 6+ phone is that I thought it would be easier to use as an eReader, and I was right. Reading a book on the phone is very easy, and it was easy to download the Kindle app and to use it. I have to say, though, that I still really like the Kindle E Ink reader, but not enough to pack it with me when I travel. The phone's screen size will do just fine.

I'm still playing with the phone's camera and video options, but the quality appears to be quite good. I've downloaded the iTunes app to my PC and am getting used to the new system. I think the MOV video files will work with my video editor, but if not, there are converters out there I can use. I have bought a phone holder to attach to my tripod, and also a selfie stick that will hold the camera while I ride and record. Hopefully it will also provide some better angles for clips.

The iPhone, of course, replaces my Tracfone. In terms of quality, the Apple phone wins on all counts, except for cost and size. The iPhone 6+ is a little big and heavy if I were a big-time phone chatter, but I'm not. The larger-sized screen comes in handy for options other than a chat on the phone.

For instance, my HP mini computer has a keyboard, larger screen, and more options, yet it is also at least six times bigger than the phone. I will miss the keyboard and will sometimes write by hand in a notebook now. However, I have downloaded Google docs on the iPhone and am also playing around with the dictation option. My step-daughter has also told me I'll get faster with touchscreen keyboarding options, although that keyboard is small. Viewing movies on the 6+ screen is great--yes, a smaller screen but excellent quality. I've learned how to move my mp4 movies to the phone, no conversion necessary. I will also be able to download some audios to the phone. A big choice also was that the phone's FaceTime will replace Skype for my face-to-face chats with my family.

I am pleased with Verizon's reception. The MiFi I used was also a Verizon device, and the iPhone will render the MiFi unnecessary. The phone will even work as a WiFi hotspot if I ever need to bring my HP.

Finally, I have downloaded Google's GPS maps app, and it looks like it will be great. However, there are other apps I can try also if I need to. The screen on the iPhone is larger (another reason why I bought the 6+) and the app even includes voice directions.

Bottom Line

The Apple iPhone 6+ will meet my daily and travel needs quite nicely, and with greatly reduced space. I believe quality may also be improved with the little device, but only time and interaction will tell me that for sure. It has all been about compromise, but in this case, it seems the compromises are all very easy to make.

Copyright 2015 by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved