For someone who is obsessed with Ultralight travel, I sure do carry a lot of crap. Two tiny things I’ve found to be my favorite every day carry items are my Card Ninja wallet and my Olight flashlight. The Card Ninja is constructed from a neoprene type material and holds a few cards and some cash; costs about twenty bucks. I purchased mine directly from Card Ninja and the delivery was quick; about five days. I love it. I’ll never go back to carrying a wallet. If you’re the type to leave your phone lying around unattended this may not be for you, but it works for me.
Another favorite pocket item is my Olight i3 EOS flashlight; also about twenty bucks. I leave for work before sunup and arrive at my office in the early morning dark. This tiny torch pumps out a whopping 70 lumens on high, 20 on medium and a very usable 2.5 on low. Powered by a single AAA battery this Ultralight powerhouse has a strong pocket clip as well as a key ring attachment.
Okay, you guys must really like polk salad. Follow the link below to find out how many people wasted time reading this blog…mostly to learn about polk salad?
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
19,000 people fit into the new Barclays Center to see Jay-Z perform. This blog was viewed about 69,000 times in 2012. If it were a concert at the Barclays Center, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.
I’ve lost an old friend. Racing down the mountain, flying along behind Andy, hit a hole. Things like this happen in my fast paced, caution to the wind, cycling lifestyle. Uh? Oh no, Andy’s fine. It’s my beloved Specialized Sequoia that has ‘bitten the dust’. I must have been doing many miles per hour when I smacked that hole. My headlight flew off in one direction, taillight in another, rear wheel went wobbly, rear derailleur went wonky. She hobbled back with one gear as if to say “I’m okay Jack. See?” But my fear is that there is some unseen crack in the carbon seat stays or forks that will reveal itself as I’m bounding down the steep side of some Parkway peak. So I’m putting the old girl down. Sniffle. Truth is she was pretty worn out anyway. I’ve ridden her across the state of North Carolina and on countless shorter tours, centuries, metrics and casual day rides. She’ll be replaced by Surly’s most overlooked bike, the Pacer.
Many bikes nowadays are made of carbon fiber, wind tunnel technology and pixie dust. This ain’t one of ‘em. If you’re in the market for a new road bike and your local bike shop is steering you towards “the same model Lance rides”, ask yourself this: How many races have you been in lately? If your answer is zero, then your options for choosing a new bike have just increased tremendously, and the Pacer, or something like it, may just be the bike for you.
I’m choosing the Pacer for a few reasons. My dedicated touring bike is a Surly Travelers Check and it has proven itself to be rock solid. Pretty? No. But a tough bike and comfortable despite having a tighter geometry than a true touring bike. Price is another important factor. I’m not sure where Surly’s frames are built; they may be welded together by little Indonesian children. But whatever, they’re strong and inexpensive. So I’m sold on Surly.
I’ve learned my carbon/aluminum lesson; I’m going with genuine unadulterated Chinese or wherever steel. Also I like the company’s no nonsense approach to building bikes. The Pacer will be my daily ‘knock around with friends’ bike and I’ll keep the TC set up with racks and fenders for carrying a bit more weight. The Pacer will also pull double duty as an Ultralight tourer for quick minimalist S24Os.
My wife tells me the Pacer is the ugliest shade of blue she has ever seen. “Sparkle Boogie Blue” is what Surly is calling it. Coincidently my eyes are also “Sparkle Boogie Blue” so I’m a bit offended by my wife’s comment. I’ve tried explaining to her that Surly goes to great lengths, hiring a team of colorists and spending billions of dollars on surveys and focus groups to choose the ugliest colors available. This makes it seem as if little or no thought went into choosing colors. This is why Surly is one of the most unpretentious bike companies out there. They put a lot of effort into being unpretentious. You gotta pay a little extra for that, but it’s worth it.
Follow along here as I build one of these swanky rides with a collection of new and salvaged parts. Thanks to Andy at Bryson City Bicycles for helping me get my greasy paws on this great frame!
And as always, thanks for reading, Jack
About thirty miles south of Corolla was our next destination, the Wright Brothers Memorial. The bicycle Gods took pity on us and aimed their winds at our backsides. Still cold and wet, but at least the wind gave us a fast downhill run back to Kill Devil Hills. It’s still unclear what provoked these two accomplished bicycle mechanics to abandon a lucrative career wrenching bikes and pursue the silliness of flight, but what they did on this sandy field in 1903 changed humankind forever. There is no telling what wonderful innovations in bicyclery were lost due to the misguided path these two chose. As it happened aviation took off like a, well rocket and bicycles remain almost frozen in time. How many of you are still riding steel A-framed bikes? You know we should all be on hover-bikes by now, right? Oh well. Before bailing out on biking, these two invented the self-oiling hub and a crank arm that the pedal screws on backwards (if you’ve ever gotten pissed off trying to take a pedal off a crank, blame Orville).
I find the whole thing a bit unbelievable. We went hundreds of thousands of years walking or riding on the backs of animals; then about sixty years after the first flight we land on the moon. Does anyone else suspect the tinkering of aliens or is it just me?
There’s plenty to see here and it’s one of my favorite places to visit on the coast. Walk the actual field where their first four flights were made, see replicas of the Wright Flyer and glider, climb Kill Devil Hill and look over the many exhibits. My favorite is the life-size bronze recreation of the first flight.
Arriving on a loaded touring bike, especially one with a retro look will garner appreciative glances from the Park Rangers. Getting there is a breeze if you follow well marked bike paths. Before heading out to tour the northern Outer Banks stop at the visitor’s center and ask for the Dare County bicycle map. This will keep you off the deadly 158 (a mistake we made) and on well-maintained bike routes.
End Note: Flexibility and “Roll with the Punches”ness is important when bike touring hurricane ravaged coastlines. Our route south of Kill Devil Hills was washed away so we lingered in Kitty Hawk and enjoyed the hospitality of our Warm Showers hosts. We finished our tour back on Roanoke Island in miserable weather. Still a wonderful short tour and we can’t wait to come back to the coast.
Thanks for reading, Jack
Ride as far as the pavement will allow on Route 12 and you’ll find (at risk of not sounding as manly and macho as I obviously am, I’m going to use the adjective ‘charming’) charming Corolla. Marking the northern tip of the Outer Banks is a tall brick stanchion rising far above other buildings in town. This beacon is the most beautiful, in my opinion, of all the North Carolina coastal lighthouses. All others are plastered and uniquely painted. In contrast, this one was left bare and weathered showing the thousands upon thousands of bricks laid back in the days of rickety scaffolding, before hard hats, safety harnesses and OSHA regulations. Still in great shape after 137 years of tolerating the harshest of weather, the true craftsmanship of her construction is obvious.
The top of the Currituck Beach Light Station makes a great touring destination. Climb the 214 steps of the ornate iron spiral staircase up this 162 foot tower for an awe inspiring view. To the north you’ll see the undeveloped and protected estuary. Look directly down and view Historic Corolla. Winds were gusting to 40 miles per hour on our visit, so we clung close together as we took a wind reading for the keeper. This and all the other lighthouses on the Outer Banks are not just historical artifacts; they still work to ‘fill the dark spaces’ and warn sailors navigating the hazardous Carolina coast.
Once back on ground level, after your knees have stopped shaking, visit the Currituck Banks North Carolina National Estuarine Research Reserve (part of the larger North Carolina National Estuarine Research Reserve). You’ll find a long boardwalk trail twisting through a maritime forest. The Boston Globe describes this as one of the ‘most beautiful nature preserves’. If you’re lucky, you may catch a glimpse of the wild ponies that live here on the Currituck Banks. Like the dingo of the Australian outback, these vicious animals have been known to carry away small children. Okay, that’s not true, but this trip report was getting a bit boring.
(To be continued. Next stop the WrightBrothersMuseum!!!!)
Standing guard over the mainland of coastal North Carolina is a thin chain of ever shifting barrier islands known as the Outer Banks. This sandy vanguard has been hammered by countless hurricanes and lesser storms and is in constant flux. The Outer Banks of today is not the Outer Banks of a century ago and years from now they will have morphed into another version. As testament to the ferociousness of the weather the surrounding waters are littered with shipwrecks, some dating back to pre-colonial days. Both pilgrims and pirates have peopled these shores. History buffs have plenty to explore in the Outer Banks
As much as I love the mountains of the Smokies, I am equally drawn to the wind swept dunes on the opposite end of the state. Every year my wife and I head out to reconnoiter another corner of the North Carolina coast. This year’s tour held some challenges as our visit followed hurricane Sandy’s. But despite the mountain of sand dumped on the road to Corolla and the destruction of our planned route south of Kitty Hawk, we pieced together a pretty decent excursion.
We began and ended on Roanoke Island, site of the “Lost Colony”. Swept away by the hellacious wind, eaten by animals, carried away by the indigenous people or teleported into space; no one knows. From Roanoke we crossed the sound to Nags Head and from there we meandered north avoiding the buried sections of route 12 and made our way to Duck; buried neck deep in sand from hurricane Sandy.
With plenty of good places to eat and a cool greenway known as the Duck Trail, Duck is a neat little town. It marks the ‘about half way’ point between Nags Head and Corolla. We lunched and Guinnessed ourselves to stave off the cold before leaving Duck and plowed into the headwind towards Corolla. I have lots of respect for coastal riders in these parts. Although lacking the long steep climbs, the wind here blows with a hateful vengeance. We fought a wet and frigid headwind the whole ride from our first turn north in Nags Head all the way up the coast to Corolla. But after a long hard day in the saddle we reward ourselves with luxury accommodations at The Inn at Corolla Light.
We awoke the next day to more of the same, cold and wet, and headed out to poke around in the old lighthouse. (To Be Continued…)
Traveling the world for free is the dream of most of us. Here’s an ingenious scheme to do just that. Here’s what you’ll need: A zip-tie long enough to go around your neck, a carabiner and a three by five card. Inscribe the following message or something similar. Unless you’re particular furry, change ‘teddy bear’ to uncle, brother, cousin. You get the idea.
My name is (insert cute name here). I am the teddy bear (sister, brother…) of (Susie, Tommy or Timmy work well as they conjure up images of cute kids in the minds of most people). I would like to join you on your trip! Would you take me and make a picture of me on your holiday location? Then e-mail this picture and the name of your holiday location to (you can use anyone’s e-mail or send them to me if you’d like. firstname.lastname@example.org). This way class (whatever) of primary school (wherever) can follow my travels around the world. Would you then give me to another traveler? Thank you very much and enjoy your holiday.
This scheme seems much safer than the traditional approach of mailing yourself places ‘Postage Due’ and sneaking out of the post office in the middle of the night.
Happy travels, Jack