Monday, May 14, 2018

Roof Top Tent: My Thoughts

1.5 yrs ago, when I put a down payment on a new used truck,  I came home excited about researching slide in campers so that we could go camping/exploring in comfort.  After some extensive research, I was disappointed to find out that this truck and similar ones, are not built to carry the load of a typical slide in camper.

Not to be deterred, I set about designing and building my own.  I created a monster, redneck version of a slide in, that met the bunk requirements for a family of 3, and it came in under the weight restrictions of the truck, and was supported by camper jacks for easy removal.  There was nothing easy about it.

I used it successfully at the Pisgah Stage Race 2017 and was pretty excited about it.

A couple of weeks later, I loaded the family up and headed 8 miles down the road to Lake Powhatan Campground in the Pisgah National Forest.  For some reason,  something wierd always seems to  happen when I take road trips.  This time, we were in the middle of the first heat of spring, and it was hot!  It stayed hot all night and without a power source, the inside of the camper was pretty warm.  None of us slept well.

 I worked on the camper a little more over the course of the year, but we never used it.  I was sure that someone could put some time and money into it and make it really cool and functional, so I listed it on Craigslist.  I lost money on it, but learned a lot through the building journey.

One lesson learned: I don't want to do that again!  
Now what?  I started looking around.  Some late nights on the internet after the family went to bed,  searching for that perfect camping set up.  What I found was that there is no perfect set up.  So many different options: traditional ground tent, roof top tent, pop up camper, camper van, sprinter type van, rv, pop up camper trailer, tear drop trailer.

Trailers were almost immediately crossed off the list.  I need the hitch to haul bikes or a boat.  I also need lightweight and wanted something that mounts on the truck.  I have a camper shell that can be used to convert the truck bed to a sleeping space with a simple foam mattress. It seemed like a roof top tent was the way to go.

Some more research, talking to a couple of people and then a demo from Joe at REI and I was almost sold. 

I took my search to Facebook to see if any of my friends had experience with one. I got varied responses.  Sprinter owners told me to get a sprinter.  Others told me to stick with the old tried and true ground tent.  Several people told me that I didn't want a roof top tent (RTT).  ( most of the time, when naysayers tell me I don't want something, I can be sure I am on the right track!)

With a little more research and a lot of help from REI,  I wound up getting an amazing deal on the Tepui Autana w/ annex.

Lightweight and can be set up almost anywhere.  The annex, when properly staked out, has enough room for a queen sized bed behind the ladder.  Combined with the camper shell, we technically have enough room for 6 people and a dog. 

We headed back out to Lake Powhatan for our first test run.  The kid slept upstairs while the wife and I occupied the truck bed suite.  The dog took the space on ground floor.  We all slept amazingly well and had a great time, excited to get back out again.


A couple of thoughts:
-One of the cons to this set up is that once set up, you can't drive anywhere.  Good point.  That is the ONLY issue I have with this tent set up.  But,definitely not a deal breaker.  At this point, with our schedules, we rarely have time for a multi day trip.  I'm looking into a solution for that.  Stay Tuned.
-Actual tent takes about 5 minutes to set up or tear down.  Annex takes another 10-15.  I'm sure it will get faster as we learn.  About the same time and effort as a ground tent.  But for the stoke level of the family.... this is the way to go.
-I bought a set of leveling blocks from Tractor Supply for easy leveling.
- I also bought a scissor jack from Camping World.  I placed this under the rear of the truck  and raised it about 1-2 inches.  Just enough to take the bounce out of the suspension.  (the kid tosses quite a bit in his sleep.)  This made the set up firm.

More adventures await.  Can't wait to get out and explore some more!

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Pisgah Stage Race #10

 After a long cold winter, the sun finally came out and dried out the forest, warming our skin and changing our attitudes.   People from all over the nation and the world were stoked to sample Pisgah's finest trails, and we were all elated to see the forecast clearing and the temps warming.

This was my 10th time in this race.  And I am the only one to have completed all 10 editions.  Todd of Blue Ridge Adventures has done an amazing job of improving the race and fine tuning the details.  Participants are treated to a great race environment, or if they choose, a fully supported tour on some of the best trails in Pisgah.  
 I was able to train fairly consistently until the beginning of February.  Then I was able to train sporadically, but with some longer rides, which kept me hopeful of being competitive.  Then I was off the bike for 2 weeks, except for 2 rides with the kid totaling about 9 miles.  I did play lots of soccer and basketball though.....  I don't regret trading training time with spending time with the kid. 

So race day rolled around and I knew I wasn't ready, but was pretty sure I could finish.  I was on a 32x21 gearing which had been working for me. 
 Stage 1 and 2 were fun routes, and I was having a blast.  But,  my legs were dead.  Already.  Not good.  I put our an APB on Facebook, looking for a 22 tooth single speed cog.  I could have gone with the 2 hr round trip to my house in Asheville to get the one I already had, but figured I would try to save some time and money. 

 Randy Collette responded and got me set up.  Sycamore Cycles helped me out and let me use the tools to make the change.  My chain was pretty tight but I figured it would loosen up as I rode Stage 3.   That didn't work out so well.  The chain stayed super tight, and I'm pretty sure I lost some energy due to that.  Oh well. 
 I finished Stage 3 and went back to Sycamore to purchase a new chain.  Of course then I had to purchase a new chainring to mesh with the new chain.  That's the way it goes,  still better than the 2 hr round trip to the house.  The upside of changing my gear?  I finished 17 minutes faster than previously on this stage.  That's huge!
 Stage 4 is my favorite.  A big long loop including Squirrel, Laurel and Pilot, with the start/finish at the Cradle of Forestry.   I rode my own pace, intent on having fun, finishing, and not imploding.  Success, and I was 11 minutes faster than previous years!! 

Wow,  I'm getting faster, and my skills are improving!

Stage 5 came and went with no issues.  I rode, chatted with friends, and finished,  a little slower, but only about 5 minutes.  10 years of fun racing and riding.  10 years of new friends.  10 years of hard training and focus.  

Am I going to do it again?  Yes.  Next year?  No.   I'm taking a break.  It's been a good run, and I've got some bragging rights that no one else can claim!   There are other trails and events out there that I'd like to take a look at.  And of course,  Todd claims that he is going to pay my way to another stage race in another country!  I'm looking forward to that.

Thanks to Todd and the entire Blue Ridge Adventures crew for providing an event that challenged me and helped be grow into the person I am today!  

Maybe I'll be one of the hecklers on Pilot next year!

Monday, April 09, 2018

Pisgah Stage Race 2018- Day 0

All shined up and ready to go.  Not the best picture, but kind of how I feel.  A little bit of congestion and feeling sluggish this morning.  Took some natural decongestant,  hoping it will clear up as the day goes on. 

This is it,  Pisgah Stage Race #10.   So much has happened over the past 10 years.  So, wild to think how many times I have done this race.  Some years better than others,  each year different than the last. 

Some have suggested that this is my year.  I don't disagree, its a race and you never know.  But, that's not my goal.  I've done the chase,  trying to close the gap, the difference in seconds or minutes.  The minutes that mean the difference between 1st, 2nd, 4th.....  I've looked nervously over my should, looking for that jersey, looking for the rabbit chasing me, the carrot. 

Not this year.   I'm going to make this my victory lap.  I'm going to enjoy the ride and give the volunteers a high five. (not gonna eat the bacon though).  I'm going to take in the sights and sounds and celebrate a decade of racing fun.  I'm gonna finish with a smile on my face and warmth in my heart.  And I'm looking forward to it.

Here's to a fun ride.... (unless of course I wind up near the top after the first day,  then, well,  the race is on!)

Saturday, March 31, 2018


Jesus said, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”  Matthew 1:28-30

Easter is another of those holidays that brings up so many different emotions in different people.  

For me, I remember the excitement of an Easter basket, and the dread of going to another boring church service.  At this point in life, there is a sense of emptiness.   

Easter for me, symbolizes a time of renewal,   a time to start over.  Not just today, but everyday.  I have the freedom to celebrate, and I don't have to celebrate exactly like the modern church dictates that I should.  

 The road before us is wide open.  We can continue doing the things the way we always have, or we can make changes.  The changes don't have to be huge,  just slight, incremental changes.  A little here and there.  In the grand scheme of things, the results will be huge.

Friday, March 30, 2018

More Sunshine

 The gravel road climb up out of N Mills River to Bent Creek Gap is a good one.
 I'm getting tired of the beard,  probably gonna shave when the temps heat up.
 Mtn Laurel tunnels for days!

Stage Race (ride) training is full effect.  I did not do any intervals and did not attempt to go fast.  Just working on endurance and keeping good form.

Monday, March 26, 2018


 I got out of the mountains and into the Piedmont for a ride around Croft.   Temps were still a bit chilly but there was sunshine.  I looped all the loops and dropped the drops, except for a couple that were huge!  
 It was a fun place to ride,  somewhat flat with lots of grunt climbs and some tech mixed in.  And enough variation in terrain to keep it interesting. 
 I'd choose this over FATS
 One of the smaller drops
Pisgah Stage Race is looming, 2 weeks out.  I'm burned out trying to ride through the winter.  Always happens this time of year when training for this race.  I haven't done any other races either.  I always try to mix some in, it helps with motivation and helps dial in progress.  Not this year.  Just been riding a bunch and trying to have fun with it. 

It has been mostly fun,  just gets old wondering if I'm hypothermic or not!   I'm doing my best not to complain though. Jean has been training INSIDE all winter.  I'm sure there are others too.  That determination is inspirational.

Bring on the sun!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

I don't like riding bikes.....

..... all the time.
 There,  I said it.  Out loud.  For the world to hear.  I think its something that I have been struggling with for a long time.  The bike industry tells us to ride more, ride everyday, riding is life, anything else is boring. 

For a couple of years, I was on a training regimen.  I wanted to see what my body and mind were capable of.  I got stronger and stood on the podium a couple of times.  It was good. I worked hard and earned those spots and I'm proud of those trophies. 

But, now what?  I love to ride, no doubt about that.  But I also love to trail run, hike, windsurf, sail and believe it or not, I love to do projects around the house!  I also love bike packing and long distance/endurance rides. 
 So, that's what I'm gonna do.  All of the above.  I'll have to figure out a balance though, knowing that consistency is key in the cycling world.  I'll have to figure out how to keep up the miles and keep the steam in my endurance legs while at the same time enjoying all of the things I enjoy. 
 Yesterday, when the snow was falling and the wind was whipping, I got my mtn bike tuned up.  Replaced rotors and break pads,  cleaned and lubed the rear I-9 hub.  Then I went for a hike/run.  It was a blast, and I didn't feel guilty that I was not on my bike!  I had a great time, and didn't freeze my butt off like I would have if I were on my bike! 

Here's to a new chapter in the life of an appalachian lumberviking!

And next time the wind blows ( and it is 60 degrees or warmer, I'm going windsurfing)