Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Coffee Camp & Pop Tart Smoke Out

Because so many asked for details on gear and technique after my Micro Tour post, I decided to set aside some time (on my day off, mind you) to head out on the bicycle for another Micro Tour, and prepare a more instructional, how-to type post.

You're welcome.

Good morning! Welcome to our Micro Tour instructional blog post titled, "Coffee Camp & Pop Tart Smoke Out".

My name, is Chris "Pondero" Johnson, and I'll be your instructor. Although I am a master of the civilized adventure, and am quite skilled in the way of Micro Tour coffee-making, I am technically classified as an amateur. I'd do this professionally, but I haven't found anyone willing to pay me.

I'll provide a chronological description of some of the more important steps in the process and illustrate with photos at key points.

Let's begin...

The thing to do is to identify a good Micro Tour destination. I suggest secluded, out-of-the-way locations where you can practice your cyclotourist geeky-ness without ridicule. Locations beyond paved roads tend to work well.

Destinations beyond the limits of gravel roads are even better. I, to make this as entertaining as possible, went some distance this morning to a secret destination on dirt roads.

You might be tempted to stop at places such as this grassy hillside overlooking a forested area. It was quiet and out-of-the-way, but since the plan is to enjoy a micro fire, it would be best to move along.

Down the dirt road, and in my case, deeper into the Clear Creek valley...

...then up a short, steep rise.

This looks like an excellent spot! If you can select a destination with comfortable features such as this natural picnic table and bench, it will enhance the overall experience.

After finding a suitable location, you can unpack your gear. In my case, it's the Kelly Kettle and REI French Press/Insulated Mug combo.

I fill the fire tray with twigs...

...and get a micro fire going.

Then I pour coffee into the mug, water into the kettle, set it on top of the fire, and wait for the water to boil.

While we are waiting, let's take a closer look at that press/mug combo. It's nothing fancy, but it works reasonably well.

Here's another piece of gear, my pop tart smoker. Sometimes, when I head out for a coffee camp micro tour, I'd like a little something to eat. Sometimes, I'll grab a package of pop tarts. If the choice is pop tarts, they are always better toasted (or at least warm).

We'll see this device in operation's our fire doing?

Very well, I see...and I think I hear that water boiling. It doesn't take long at all.

I pour the water into mug, wait for the coffee to brew, and see about warming one of those blueberry pop tarts.

I didn't spend 2 minutes designing this device, and it's really too high to allow the fire below to actually "toast" very well. It does, however, allow sufficient space to keep stoking the fire with leaves and twigs.

I guess it is more of a "smoker" than a "toaster". Oh well.

See that slight reddish glow? At least, my pop tarts will be warm.

Ah yes, sort of a warm, smoky, semi-toasty snack.

That's pretty much it.

Push down the press and sip the brew. Savor the smoky campfire flavor...

It is quiet enough that I can hear the sound of birds wings beating the air as they fly, without song, by me. Mission accomplished.

Hopefully, you will find this short instructional blog helpful. More than that, it is hoped that it would be inspirational. Just think about the amount of fun you can have with only two and a half hours, a bicycle, and a few pieces of gear.

I'm inspired to pursue longer adventures, but not today. It's time to pack up my things, point my bicycle in the opposite direction...

...and pedal on back to my prairie home.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Country Bike, December 21, 2009

Well, it might have been the shortest day of the year, but I managed to squeeze in a short ride in the late afternoon.

When the horizontal light on the hay bales caught my eye, I realized I had a unique opportunity. In a moment, I had successfully photographed a first class country bike out in its natural habitat.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Fall Finale and Friends

It was the First Annual Fall Finale Forty-mile Country Path Ramble. It was a great ride because it was about riding on some of my favorite roads on a gorgeous day. It was special ride to me most of all, because it was about sharing what I consider ideal cycling roads, roads that I normally traverse solo, with friends.

left to right, Steve, me, Myles, Keith, Chandra

What follows are only a few photos of my friends and our surroundings. I think these reasonably represent the experience of the event for me.

To all those who indicated a desire to participate, but could not make it, we missed you. I am hoping that we can do something similar next year...maybe even sooner.

Until next time, happy trails...

Monday, December 14, 2009

Ramble 'rrangements

For those that are planning to participate in the First Annual Fall Finale Forty-mile Country Path Ramble, I have created a thread on the BABBLE discussion group forum.

The discussion forum is for making commitments to participate and working out logistics related to returning to the starting point from the ride destination. In other words, all the latest information about the planned ride (such as cancellation if necessary, but not expected) will be posted on the discussion forum.

For reasons of privacy, I will contact persons individually on a need-to-know basis for directions to the starting point.

A route map has been requested for those unable to join the Dec. 19 group ride. I do plan to post something but, based on the fullness of my calendar, I expect it will be sometime between Dec. 19 and mid-January (hopefully before the end of the year).

Saturday, December 12, 2009


Adaptation can be rewarding. For some, perhaps, it is a matter of survival. Not all circumstances can be controlled, at least not in the near term. So working with what one has seems better than constantly struggling to change things that aren't practical to change. With limited time resources, what can the aspiring bicycle tourist do?

Fortunately, the S24O was invented. The Sub-24-hour Overnight camping trip is an excellent example of a limited time resource adaptation, and has numerous rewards. But what if time constraints are even tighter?

How about a micro-tour? Basically, it involves a short distance, destination based bicycle tour. I suggest packing and using at least one-piece of your touring gear. Otherwise, it seems like maybe it would be simply be a short ride. Besides, since we've made the investment in cool gear, let's find an excuse to use it.

Today's example is a "Coffee in the Woods Micro-Tour". I packed up my gear last night, minimizing early morning hassles. I rolled out this morning, using my lights, just as the sky begin to lighten. I silently cruised down to a pre-determined lonely spot under creekside pecan trees. I sat down roadside and put some water on to boil.

I waited patiently. No hurry. The faithful fixed-wheel country bike stood, as always, at the ready. I listened to the birds, creek gurgles, and the crackling of a micro-fire in my Kelly Kettle. I sipped the fresh brew... an anti-coffee shop, and enjoyed the calming view.

Did time slow down?

The scent of wood smoke, fresh coffee, and damp leaves is amazing. Adapting to constraints, and seizing the moment to bag a micro-tour is simply priceless.

Micro-tour stats...

mileage = approximately 4
elapsed time = 1 hour, 15 minutes
weather = 41 degrees, light mist

I'm proud to say that I think today's adventure should qualify me for my micro-tour merit badge.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Out There

Because of choices made a long time ago, I spend a lot of my time indoors or driving a motor vehicle. I think that is one reason why I treasure my time "out there" so much. When my "out there" time is limited, or somehow disrupted, I get edgy and think things similar to my last post.

Fortunately, the frustrations eventually slid on by, and opportunities become apparent again. This afternoon, a one-hour window opened and like a desperate bird, I flew out without hesitation.

In total contrast with the sentiments of my last post, I had no trouble at all keeping out of the ditches. Brisk air invigorated, and the scenery suited me just fine.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Pace of Life

Sometimes the pace of life seems like trying drive 150 mph on a bumpy, twisty, two-lane county road. It's hard enough to stay out of the ditch, and the scenery is not so great either.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

One More...

One more short ride at the end of a blustery day.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Where can a bicycle take you?

Well...over the Thanksgiving holiday, it took me all around Florence, Alabama.

A bicycle can take you meandering through urban landmarks.

It can take you through a forested area where golden leaves come raining down.

It can take you riverside for a quiet opportunity for reflection.

A bicycle can take you through rural areas, next to farms, and old barns.

It can take you through small town college campuses.

A bicycle can take you outdoors, down the road, over the bridge, and to your pondering place.