Coffee, Camera & Kilometers

Beautiful adventures on two wheels

Gear. A Confession.

Eggs. In my trusty Jetboil. On the windowsill of an Italian hostel.

Can I confess something? Some people have alcohol problems. Some are powerless in the record shop or the shoe department or at the makeup counter.

My problem is outdoor gear. I love the promise and possibility in every titanium cook set, multi-tool and ultra-light backpack.

I steer myself away from REI and Paragon and Eastern Mountain Sports like an addict avoiding the path that parades past the bar. These places are dangerous toy stores full of OOOO! LOOK AT THAT!

So yeah, it’s minimalist-travel inspiring and mentally soothing to read something like this Lightweight Tour Packing List. Thinking minimally helps my rational adult mind to tell the greedy inner child to just chill out already, but sometimes comfort or convenience is a great argument and the gearhead wins.

This’ll probably end up being a multi-post entry as we move along with the planning, but here’s the first:

Top-5 Toys I’m Already Intending to Bring on Our Big Bike Tour:

  1. Jetboil Ask Jack. He knows how gaga I am over my Jetboil. We took the Jetboil to Italy and boiled eggs on the windowsill of our hostel. We took it to Mexico and I made my morning coffee with the French Press attachment. We took it to the Florida Keys and made very respectable fish stew. We took it to Montreal and I boiled hot cocoa all over the porch of our yurt. I’m aiming to get the pot support so we can do more than boiling, and I think the Sumo Companion Bowl Set might end up being fun for enjoying morning coffee with Dave and Lauren on this trip.

  2. iPhone (with a European SIM) GPS! Selfies! Connection to the great internet oracle! Yes, I consider an iPhone to be necessary gear for 2014. I promise I won’t spend all my time on Twitter…

  3. And if you’re going to bring a phone, this Goal Zero Switch 8 Solar Recharging Kit ends up being totally justifiable based on its planet-friendly charging abilities, right?

  4. Alien Bike Multitool. The kids these days are buying the Alien 2, but I got this little guy back when it was just the Alien. It’s over 12 years old now (retro!) and I rarely need it, thankfully, but it’s comforting to know it’s packed along for the ride for quick work on flats and wiggly parts.

  5. Therm-a-rest Luxury Lite Cot Sleep is SUPER important to me. I’m not 20 anymore, and we’re not hiking into the wilderness, so my need for “Lite Luxury" sleeping wins over ultralight travel on this trip. Also, the last camping trip was on a Big Agnes air mattress, and I now realize that experience is not for me. Too wobbly. Too bumpy. Made me too lightheaded after blowing up the mattress.

(Not to be a brand loyalist, but if I do buy another sleeping pad, it’ll be a Therm-a-Rest, probably the ProLite Plus, which is thin, not wobbly and doesn’t make plastic noises when you roll around on it, which I did when I tested it over at REI last week.)

What Do You Do in the Garden of Forking Paths?

The other day, I posted a note with Draft One of a route plan, but then I was doing more research and I discovered that Eurovelo 15 is opening up this year.

It’s the Rhine river route, and they’re promising sauerkraut and gorgeous river views and The Dragon’s Rock. Dragons, people! It’s kind of compelling.

On the other hand, taking Eurovelo 15 means we’d miss the glorious Vennbahn, which also promises good food, wonderful views and has an amazing set of gorgeous photo evidence like this mossy-wall image from the Venbahn “Picturetrak"…

How does one choose between wonderful and wonderful? Which wonderful looks more wonderful? Can you even know until you’re there?

Should we make an arbitrary decision now, cycling forward with our heads high, never turning our minds back to the fork in the road?

Should we map out both routes and make a last-minute decision at Cologne, south of Münster?

Should we flip a coin and leave the choice to random chance?

Our Choose Your Own Adventure story is met with a key conundrum.

Bike Break!

Tonight, a sketch I made based on a pretty picture of the night sky in Patagonia (done with Paper 53). I kinda like it. It looks a bit 3D.

I’ll be back to bike blogging tomorrow.

'Night, everyone!

Bike Break!

Tonight, a sketch I made based on a pretty picture of the night sky in Patagonia (done with Paper 53). I kinda like it. It looks a bit 3D.

I’ll be back to bike blogging tomorrow.

'Night, everyone!

Choose Your Own Adventure

Every trip is a Choose Your Own Adventure story, and everyone is different in when and how they make those adventure choices.

For instance, Jack often chooses to make decisions on travel details in the moment. I’m a planner. Even if I don’t end up sticking with the plan, I want to have a plan and a good idea of where I’ll end up spending the night.

With all that in mind, I’ve done up a route proposal for the summer excursion.

My organizing principles: maximize use of existing bike-ready paths through the beautiful countryside, minimize the steep hills over mountains.

We are quite interested in experiencing the Eurovelo project first-hand, so this trek combines completed sections of the Eurovelo 2 with the award-winning Venbahn Line (a rails to trails project) along with a couple of canal paths.

This tour would take us from Berlin across to Münster, Germany then down to the north of Luxembourg, then over to south-east Belgium, along through the Champagne region of France and a wrap-up in Paris via one of two suggested ingress paths. Beer! Cheese! Wine! It sounds nice, right?

In the course of research, I also discovered that Münster considers itself to be Germany’s bicycling capital! Very charming. That, in itself, might be worth a stop.

Sections are chopped up by available path information rather than expectation of time. For this exercise, I assumed date estimates as a future step.

Note the areas where my routes are sketchy, the “Little Info" sections. I’d love more detail on those. But, for now… THE ADVENTURE!

**BERLIN TO PARIS, 2014 **(Proposed Path, Draft 1)

Berlin to Münster [Eurovelo 2: Berlin-Dessau-Goslar-Munster]

Münster to Aachen [Some Info]

Aachen, DE to Troisvierges, LU (The much-applauded Vennbahn Line)

Troisvierges, LU to Bastogne, BE [Little Info]

Bastogne, BE to Rochefort, FR [Little Info]

Rochefort, FR to Givet, FR [Little Info]

Givet to Charleville-Mezieres, FR [A Promising Canal Path]

Charleville-Mezieres-Reims, FR [Charleville-Mezieres-Sedan-Rethel-Reims]

Reims-Epernay-Meaux, FR [A nice diversion? Page 124 in the Lonely Planet Cycling France book]

Meaux-Paris, FR (Canal Path) Either Route 1 or Route 2

Got intel? I’d love to hear. Leave it in the comments!

When Is It Time to Begin Ambitious Things?

LéLé rides!

Reading the pre-journey comments of Lauren, Jack and Dave this week, I realized that I’ve felt vibrations of recognition in each of those accounts.

When Lauren says, “For most of my life I felt hopelessly un-athletic and klutzy. The last few years have involved crushing this old identity…”I nod in agreement. Oh yes! Me, too. I was always one of the slowest and least-coordinated kids in my gym classes.

When Jack says his first bike was “not just a conveyance, but a lesson in freedom and self-reliance” I remember how I then felt — and still feel — the truth of that lesson. Always a library card. Always a bike. These are must-have belongings that make us powerful.

And when Dave tells us, “Bike-camping Europe has been something I’ve assumed I would do since I was 13. Only in the last few years have I realized that I actually have to go do it, else it won’t get done.” I can’t help but think, Yes! Yes! The time is now! And if you don’t plan it, you’ll never do it!

As for my own reasons… I’ve already enjoyed a lot of truly wonder-filled experiences on much shorter bike treks (including an awe-struck Canal du Midi cycle/camping tour with Jack).

I’ve always wanted to commit to this kind of adventure across Europe in particular. I’ve heard that the countries we’ll pedal through have very bike-supportive cultures, and I’d like to understand that first-hand.

And finally, tripping across articles such as “The Top-Five Regrets of the Dying" has only reenforced my sense of urgency.

When my father died a few years ago, he was just a few months short of retirement. After 30 years in the postal service, he anticipated that retirement would bring newfound freedom. There was still so much he wanted to do.

Now that I’ve observed what age does to bodies, I realize I won’t be young and able forever. The time to begin ambitious things is now, while it’s still possible to do them. We never know how long we have.

For all these reasons, we now prepare to pack our bags, stretch our legs, find our paths and ride.

What’s Your XYZ?

Do you have longstanding daydreams? Something you’ve always imagined you might do? An unanswered desire that crawls along the crevices of your mind? "Someday I’ll xyz…" What’s your xyz?

We plan to bike from Berlin to Paris this summer. Today marks part three of a four-day series on why the members of our summer bike team are motivated to cycle for three weeks across several countries.

We’ve already heard inspiring stories from Lauren and Jack. Today, we’ll hear from Dave.

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On this trip, Lauren and I will be using the same tent that my parents bike-backpacked across Europe with, circa 1980. Bike-camping Europe has been something I’ve assumed I would do since I was 13. Only in the last few years have I realized that I actually have to go do it, else it won’t get done. 

The other side of it, the more practical side, is that seeing places site-by-site has been expensive and unfulfilling when compared to self-directed travel that spans the cities and the spaces between them. I want to really sink my toes into the rich mud of doing “nothing” between sites. 
Also, to my mind the bike embodies adulthood. Getting full bike-into-town privileges at age 10 was like my bar mitzvah. It is the most splendid form of transportation. Yet, I have never done any truly long rides.

Why Bike So Far, So Long?

Before we embark all the little details of planning our Berlin-to-Paris bicycle trek, I wanted to understand why the involved parties were interested in doing such a thing.

As it turns out, they had fascinating answers. Yesterday, we heard thoughts from Miss Lauren on strength and the evolution of self-perception.

Today, Jack gives us a peek into his long love affair with the stately metal steed.

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When I was just a boy, nine or ten years old, I heard that the bones of a herd of ex-bicycles were rusting away in a shed on a neighboring property. I cobbled together a working road bike from the bits and pieces I found, and as it turned out this simple machine was the real-life version of the Seven-league Boots of which I’d read in fairy stories.

The bicycle didn’t burn fuel or eat food, required nearly no maintenance, and it was always there, waiting to carry me wherever I wanted to go. It was not just a conveyance, but a lesson in freedom and self-reliance [1,2], and I’ve never been long without one since that time.

As for why I’d choose a bicycle for this summer’s ramble: I have traveled extended distances on horses and motorcycles, in cars and caravans and kayaks, asleep aboard overnight trains and intercontinental airplanes, in steerage on ferries, and on foot for hundreds of kilometers at a time, but there remains something magical about seeing the world from the seat of a bicycle.

[1] “The bicycle has done more for the emancipation of women than
anything else in the world.” — Susan B. Anthony, 1896

[2] “On my tenth birthday a bicycle and an atlas coincided as presents and a few days later I decided to cycle to India.”
http://www.dervlamurphy.com/about.html

Over 1,100 Kilometers on Bike. And Why?

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Before we embark on over 1,100 kilometers of cycling (when none of us have cycled for such an extended period or such a distance), I thought it wise to take stock of our motivations.

We’ll hear from all four adventurers. First thoughts from the lovely Lauren:

Why do I wish to engage in the crazy bicycle trip…

I’ve never done anything like this; honestly, I don’t think I’ve biked more than 30 miles in a day before, and I am a European virgin (that’s right, I saved my Eurotour for marriage.)

I’m trying to make a habit of saying “yes” to opportunities that are a bit intimidating to me.

For most of my life I felt hopelessly un-athletic and klutzy. The last few years have involved crushing this old identity and discovering my body is much more capable than I once gave myself credit for.

This upcoming Epic Bicycle Tour is a chance to reinforce my ability to myself, while feasting on beautiful sights in the company of some of my favorite people!

Please Note: This Blog is Now About Cycling

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The boyfriend and I have talked two dear friends into reserving time for a madcap journey on bikes this summer.

We plan to travel from Berlin to Paris, and knowing our cycling history and desires, I think this will not be the only cycling adventure we undertake.

With all that in mind, I’m going to begin to use this blog for posting our plans, discoveries, packing lists, photos, tips and trip logs.

I hope that others can discover, enjoy and use these resources in the same way we’re already finding and using information that other cyclists have left scattered across the web for us.

By way of introduction, I began cycling on a frosty morning at the age of five (you can see the photographic evidence, with charming kitty witnesses above) thanks to the patience of my father, Erick. This blog is dedicated to him.

http://mollyculetheory.tumblr.com/post/70871628626/when-your-iphone-decides-to-stop-picking-up-its

mollyculetheory:

When your iPhone decides to stop picking up its cellular network, almost exactly three years after you bought it, and even though the emotion pings unwanted intimations of conspiracy theories you feel almost crushingly betrayed by the timing, like the time the odometer in your old Hyundai Accent…

I discovered that I routinely feel adrift when I haven’t posted anything on at least *one* social media channel for a given period of time, say, a few days, a week. If I don’t comment, if I don’t “like” something, or heart something, or favorite something, do I exist? The longer I’m unplugged, the more I feel mortality stalking close