Monthly Archives: August 2012

Travel Technology – The On the Way App

Ever have to take a really long, boring road trip?

I bet later on (months later) you were puttering around on the internet and found out there were things you would have loved to have seen and done nearby. You then get the bitter taste of regret.

Well this new website looks like it could solve that issue, pointing out cool and fun stuff on your route.

The On The Way App just has you put your start and end points into your web capable mobile device or tablet and sets you up with a kick ass road trip. It isn’t an App per say; just a really cool travel website. That being said, it looks handy.

Check it out! I’m going to give it a try this weekend.

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Filed under Commuter Travel, Restaurants worth the trip, Traveling Light

Hiking Trails – Fort Harrison, Indiana – Falls Creek and Camp Creek Trails

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So this week I find myself in Indianapolis, Indiana.

As I’m only here for a couple of days, I decided to get out and stretch my legs this morning early before work. I also wanted to take the Marmot Kompressor Plus 18L out for a walk to see how it held up compared to my usual traveling daypack (the REI Flash 18).

My initial impressions of Fort Harrison State Park were not good. There was a $5 fee per car entering the park. It was also the ONLY trail that wasn’t a paved multi-use (Bikes, rollerblades, etc) that I could find on AllTrails.com and it had not gotten stellar reviews.

I tracked 4.5 miles (7k) in about an hour and a half on these two interconnected trails, which are really one loop trail that is bisected by a multi-use paved path. Even at 8am, they were fairly busy.

All in all the trails combine for about a 4k hike. I looped back and did the Falls Creek trail again, coming back along the multi-use path as I just hadn’t stretched my legs enough at 4k.

Trail condition was fair, not good as the trails had grown over a bit and were not well maintained. More attention is being paid to the multi-use trails and local picnic shelters that this park is clearly designed for.

The trail itself was a rolling easy walk. The only interesting bits of elevation gain had actually be totally covered by a wooden boardwalk and stairs, which I was a bit bummed by.

So I had to pay for an only middling hike. I feel a bit bad for hikers in the city as the terrain was interesting but has been totally supplanted by a more multi-use park for dog-walkers, strollers, bikes and roller blades. A shame really, as some of the spur trails that ran paralel to the river were actually quite fun to ramble up.

Overall, if you’ve got the time to get outside the city a bit and find a better state park, then I would do so. This park is likely a great place for a picnic or to take the kids for a bike ride, but any technical hikers or trail runners will be really disappointed, especially for a pay park.

On a funny note…

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When I looped back this empty quart of Bourbon simply materialized on one of the bridges. It wasn’t there thirty minutes earlier the first time I passed. Someone was having a better time than me in that park! Parents with kids beware.

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August 29, 2012 · 7:20 am

Travel Pack – Marmot Kompressor Plus 18L

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One of the things I’ve found with the amount of travel I do is that if you’re going to have a Hobby, it better be light.

Now, I’ve got a lot of hobbies. A lot. But the one that packs down best and can go with me anywhere is hiking. You can wear boots or trail runners on the plane. You get to either stretch your legs early in the morning or clear your head after a days work. Better still, weekdays most trails are really peaceful.

As I like to do 5-10 miles when I go out (2-4hrs) it means I usually also pack a few essentials with me, JUST in case. These don’t take up a lot of room in my main commuter backpack.

The problem then, was the backpack. A 40L bag is perfect for a weeks travel for work. Its big for a 3-4hr hike.

Enter the summit bag. I own a few of these.

The term summit bag comes from mountaineering. It’s a light bag you can take from your basecamp to the summit, allowing you to leave the bulky gear like your tent, food and other camp gear behind along with your big heavy backpack. Typically they are frameless. I take them for backpacking as well as it allows me to do much the same, exploring the area around where I’ve set camp without needing to haul my 60L Osprey Aether with me.

The two I have are a waterproof Outdoor Research 25L bag and an REI Flash 18 travel pack.

The Outdoor Reasearch bag is great but airtight, large and has no hydration sleeve as it is designed to be waterproof with a roll top.

The Flash pack is a small 18L bag with a built in whistle, single stuff sack style opening and a small mesh organizer on the inside. It can be reversed to double as a stuff sack.

Both of these are great bags. The Flash 18 is the one which has operated the most with me when I travel as it can simply be a stuff sack inside my REI Vagabond 40.

Today I found this Marmot 18L Kompressor on sale at REI.

While it is the same pack volume as the Flash 18… it were the features which sold me on it.

Pack Features

– The bag completely inverts into a pouch that is the top lid of the bag.
– It has a top lid to keep out rain, etc.
– It has a closed foam pad which collapses in quarters and gives the back of the bag some structure, AND keeps your water bladder from sitting against your back.
– It has both external and internal organization pockets for your quick to reach essentials on the trail.
– It has side compressions straps to keep it from sagging, ice axe loops at the bottom, and does away with the useless waist strap a lot of these travel packs try to have.
– The reservoir pouch is separate from the main stuff sack top loading interior.

So basically, it will stow away in my REI Vagabond just as easily as the Flash 18 did, but is all around a more functional bag. I’m going to give it a run tomorrow (sans bladder, as I just packed my Platy soft bottle this trip) and see what I think.

It was on sale for $34.99 at REI this week, so I don’t know if it will be in production much longer. That being said, if you’re looking for a bag to act as a Daypack for Backpacking, Traveling or any other time you need to stash a smaller bag then this could be a winner for you.

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August 29, 2012 · 2:26 am

Hiking Trails – Castle Rock State Park, California

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While I was in the Bay Area I took an evening to stretch my legs. Nice little park south of San Jose up in the saddle mountains around the Bay.

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This photo is shot as the sun is going down in the west over the bay to my right. The fog was rolling in off the Pacific and it really was pretty spectacular. I imagine the views from up here are the best at sunrise and sunset, but bring a headlamp as the gap back to the parking lot gets dark almost an hour before sun goes down!

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While the air outside the redwoods was a comfortable 75 degrees, it was breezy and cool once you got to the windward face of the mountains.

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…the trail was beautiful on the way back.

Lots of folks Bouldering in the park. If you’re a climber or hiker or even photographer, this park is worth checking out. I went on a weeknight and it was very peaceful. I’m warned its VERY busy on weekends however, so caveat emptor.

All photos iPhone 4S!

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August 28, 2012 · 6:57 pm

Arrived alive

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In northern California. I love the mountains surrounding the coast.

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August 22, 2012 · 3:37 pm

Also…

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Hilariously, the newspaper in my cab had this add. I love Memphis for its commitment to student success.

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August 21, 2012 · 12:32 pm

Back in Motion

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This morning, NorCal. Here’s hoping I get to see some redwoods.

Packed an actual suitcase this time as I’m going through LAX (awful place to drag a bag) and plan on going hiking at some point this week (so my non fun to have as carry on stuff like a water bladder is in there.

Off I go!

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August 21, 2012 · 12:27 pm

Food in Philly

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Just had a Philly Cheese Steak at Jim’s Steaks on Cottman Ave. Great little diner and I highly recommend it for a stick to your ribs lunch if you find yourself in North East Philly!

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August 16, 2012 · 5:11 pm

“Your hotel room looks like a Gypsy camp.”

This comment was made a few weeks ago by the unfortunate fellow I shared a room with at my companies yearly national convention in Rosemont, IL.

I have a good reason though, I swear. Too many times have airlines lost my bag. Too many times have I been stranded in another country with naught but what I had the sense to put in my ultralight carry on. I wasn’t going to put up with it anymore. I was never going to pay to check a bag again (especially in Europe where the prices for check baggage are simply INSANE, at times more than my ticket!).

So I started paring down what I would bring to travel more and more. It started with five days clothes. Not it is down to four, including what I wear for the flight. As I mostly travel by air I had the space considerations and TSA regulations here in the United States to consider as well. Basically, it started having me reconsider entirely what I packed and why.

This isn’t a new phenomenon for me. My job has be traveling a lot for work. My hobby has me heading into the back country with only what I can fit in (usually) a 60L backpack three seasons of the year. It was kind of natural that gram counting and trying to streamline my travel system would start to overflow from my sport into my ‘normal’ life.

I’ve been thinking what I would post here, and I think I’ll start with my little life code about traveling weekly. My wife is starting a lovely blog about moving to the United States which I will refer to later, and this has encouraged me to share my own little journey.

So back to the title. Why did my co-worker call my hotel room a Gypsy Camp? Well, the laundry line strung up in the middle of the room likely had a lot to do with it. Since an experience in 2007 where my checked luggage did not follow me on to Europe for almost a week, my father (a veteran world traveller by virtue of being an exploration geologist) turned me on to in-the sink laundry. There are a bunch of advantages to it and a few cons as well which I will list below;

Pros
1) You can pack less. This is the big one. Having the ability to do Laundry yourself, on demand, means you can simply bring less clothing with you when you travel. How many pairs of briefs or socks do you need for a two week trip? I know folks that pack fourteen. I pack four, including the ones I wear on the plane. Why? I simply wash three pairs when I get down to my last clean set. That sets me up for a week. I will only need to wash twice for 14 days on the road.
2) You have a back up in case you’re stuck with the clothes on your back. It happens. Even if you don’t pack light, you can pack these in case your luggage is lost or bag is stolen. My wife and I survived with me in a single set of long wearing clothes for five days in Nottingham, UK last year when B.A. sent my bag to the wrong country. It always pays to be prepared.
3) You save money. In a lot of places. First you can save money on checked bags. Most airlines, unless you get priority status in their network, charge at least $25USD to check a bag. This figure can spiral to insane levels. You can also save on the absolutely ludicrous rates hotels charge to do laundry, and it is even cheaper than waiting at a laundrymat you find locally if you shop the items I will explain later.

Cons
1) Dry Time. This is the only really big con, you will need to hang dry your laundry. In humid climates (England) this can take a while. Plan accordingly if you’re catching an early morning flight unless you want to run the risk of packing a damp bag. You also want to think about the dry times of the items you pack. Cotton white socks will take 50% longer to dry than wool socks that wick moisture.
2) Consumability. Make sure you pack your travel soap, line and clothespins accordingly for how long you will be out. This stuff runs out. Plan how much you need.

For me, the pros outweigh the cons. Yes, my hotel room often looks like a Bedouin tribe has moved in. Yes, I am comfortable like that. As Tyler says, I am enlightened.

So if this sounds like a good option for you to be able to shed extra packed clothes, take a backpack on a two week trip somewhere exotic and generally shed weight form your travel life… here is what you will need.

Cord
10 feet of light silnylon cord will do you fine in most hotel rooms. Just look for two spots to knot it up and keep it looped in a ziplock when you pack it up.

Clothespegs
Sounds weird, I know, but this will help you maximize the space on your drying line. Get a bag of the cheapo plastic ones from the dollar store and keep eight in the same ziplock with your cord and soap.

Soap
Tyler says there isn’t anything you couldn’t blow up with enough soap. I don’t think this is what he was thinking of. I use two kinds of soap…

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This is the Tide Travel pack. They come three in a little plastic clamshell pack (which I usually toss) for about a dollar fifty. They are a bit bulky, but one will do half my laundry in a sink of warm water. They are reliable if a bit more expensive and bulky than my other option…

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These are Sea to Summit soap leaves. You get fifty for about $3.50 at REI or most other outdoors stores. They act in exactly the same fashion as the more traditional looking Tide detergent packs, with four leaves giving enough suds to do a sink full of laundry. That puts your at about 12 washes per pack. They are about the size of a breath strip, so you’re getting about 29 cents per wash to the 50 cents per wash of the Tide packs AND you’re saving a bunch of space and weight.

So there you have it, my first travel tip typed up and posted. Maybe someone will actually find it useful. Most likely, I’ve just killed 45 minutes on my flight to Minneapolis.

Travel safe.

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Filed under Traveling Light

Hello from the gate

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Hey folks, first attempt at a candid blog. It will most likely be about travel, and backpacks. And traveling out of a backpack. I own a lot of backpacks. My wife owns a lot of handbags, so really turnabout is fair play.

So here is a quick hello from my seat aboard the Boeing 757 I’m currently heading from Atlanta to Minneapolis on. My backpack is above me in the overhead bin and I’m considering what I should put up here as my first post.

I was answering a question today on the backpacker.com about what kind of bag and gear to take on a two week trip to Italy (Europe in general). Maybe I’ll post my usual multi-week trip gear list and see what you think.

Until then, they’re shutting the boarding door.

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August 13, 2012 · 8:35 pm