This last weekend we spent four days and three nights riding and camping on the Root River rails-to-trails system in southern Minnesota. It was a fully-loaded test trip so we could mimic the real thing and learn from the experience. Below are some highlights.
- The CAS (Canine Alert System).
At about 3 AM on the first night of camping the CAS went into DEFCON 1. All 45 pounds of Biscuit launched into a bark that said “I’m-a-barely-tamed-150-pound-dog-and-I-want-to-rip-your-face-off.” Trust me, it’s a highly effective deterrent, especially so if it’s dark and you can’t see his cute furry face. Junebug joined in with a high-pitched, “Yeah! What he said!” The target: A man walking through the campground. Needless to say, he didn’t slow his stride. I don’t know how dogs can determine which sounds and situations require attention, but in this case they nailed it. I don’t think the guy had any bad intentions, but even if he did, he never got the chance to act on them. Dogs 1, Bad Guys 0.
- A Sawed-off Foam Roller
If you have ever used a foam roller for sore muscles or a bad back, you know it’s as good as free chocolate cake. A full-sized one isn’t feasible given our limited space, and a travel sized one was just too small in diameter. So a little creativity might lead someone to use their grandpa’s hand-me down wood saw to shorten a full-sized one down to 24 inches (the width of the trailer). Then what to do with the ragged end? Well, “let’s light it on fire and see what happens” may have been uttered. You know, the same principle as securing the ends of a frayed nylon rope (a lighter works great). Turns out, it doesn’t burn but does result in a nice solid non-crumbly cut-end. We should be on the Martha Stewart show. The foam roller will be invaluable on our trip.
For this trip we purposely arrived at the start line with no food other than 4 snack bars and some protein powder (and 5 days of dog food, in case the situation got serious). Our goal was to experiment with obtaining food as we could find it, which can be a challenge when the trip includes a pescetarian with a gluten allergy. In support, Junebug volunteered to catch varmints and Biscuit offered up his knack for finding french fries in parking lots, but we opted for small town grocery stores. In one, our hunger led us to buy them out of nectarines. I should probably mention they only had two. Such are the choices in small towns. FYI, they were quite delicious.
When a person doesn’t have a TV, sometimes evening entertainment can take an unusual turn. Add to that mix not having a job, and the result is invariably a mohawk. I pitty da foo! Sorry, I just had to throw that line in. I have been experimenting with ways to trim my hair cheaply and effectively on the trip. The latest experiment was shaving my head, which when the razor was turned over to Georgia, resulted in me feeling a need for gold chains and a van. It won’t last, but it’s funny and I think it gets us quicker service at restaurants. Probably so we’ll leave faster, but hey, it’s still faster.
- Tilley Hats.
If you have a (mostly) bald head that hasn’t been exposed to the sun in well, ever, it might be good to cover it up when outside. Enter, the Tilley hat. It’s guaranteed for life, and sort of looks like a cross between something Crocodile Dundee and Indiana Jones might wear. It’s comfy, blocks the sun well, is vented, and as I learned on the trip, makes a mighty fine rain hat. I might also wrastle a gator and try to find that Arc thingy.
With each test trip we learn a LOT about how to do things and it gives us a chance to fully test out gear. From tents to solar chargers to bike clothing to water jugs. We are slowly forming a database of useful hints and tips we will begin to pass along. As mentioned previously, we hope not only to blaze a trail, but leave a map for others to follow.
— Mark, Georgia, Junebug and Biscuit