Rob's Blog Archive

July 20, 2014

Tried and True










Prior to my heading out to skijor the Iditarod trail, I bought a new GPS.  It was similar to the one I had, but it had map features.  I had decided to use only these maps---no hardcopy at all---on my expedition.  Previously, I had used map features of a GPS only once, driving in my sister’s car on the way between Durango and Denver.  I had a lot to learn and I wanted to make sure the GPS would work for me.

I used the GPS on all of my training runs during the two weeks prior to my heading out on the trail.  I didn’t just record my route, either, but used it to navigate both during daylight and at night.  I also input the track data for the Iditarod trail by hand. 

With all the practice and the data I entered, I always knew where I was.  Just past Skwentna, the Iditarod Trail International turned right off the river and headed northwest.  I had talked to the postmaster in Skwentna---he was the only person there---and he had told me about this and that the Iditarod uses the true trail and this turns off a couple miles upriver and it goes southeast.  When the trail finally left the river, there was no alternative track.  Still, it was nice to pull out my GPS and see that my position was exactly where the data I had entered said the trail turned off of the river. 

The tent I had decided on using for my trip down the Iditarod trail was a Hilleberg Keron 3.  As a tunnel style tent, I figured I could put it up by myself, even in a very stiff wind.  That’s something I can’t do with my geodesic tent.  The tent is nearly bulletproof, big for its weight, and easy to set up.  Beyond that, double doors and double vestibules meant it would be usable and comfortable.

I had made the decision in June to buy the tent.  Between then and the end of November, when I actually purchased the tent, I checked to see if it went on sale, anywhere.  It didn’t and I paid full price, $810. 

When the tent arrived, the first thing I did was to set it up in my living room.  As a tunnel style tent, I had to rig it to something that wouldn’t move.  Even in my living room, tent stakes aren’t an option.  The rail next to the staircase and legs of the couch worked.  I was happy with the new toy. 

Once the snow came, I set it up in the yard and left it standing for a week or so.  That was before I left for Alaska.  Finally, in Alaska, I set up a full camp, dogs and all, in the front yard of the house I was staying at---melted snow for water, fed the dogs with this, had my dinner, then went to sleep.  Everything, from the new tent to the MSR stove that had been in storage for years, worked great.  Out on the trail, the tent met my high expectations.  I didn’t have to deal with any wind, but I did spend a night at -15 F, cozy in my home away from home. 

The Great Divide Mountain Bike trail and race pass through Seeley Lake.  With it being the only bicycle shop between Whitefish and Helena, Mike Kahnle’s place is a waypoint for many riders.  I like hanging out there, harassing Mike and Kathy---I have to be a bit careful as Kathy is an attorney---and playing with their two dogs. 

I was talking with Mike when Bruce, a Divide rider from Australia---actually not his name or country---came in.  He was complaining about his bicycle computer not working.  He said that it no longer read out mileage and that that’s what he used for navigation.  Its failure had forced him off of the trail, proper, and onto highway 83. 

The computer itself was one of the more poorly designed bike computers Mike had seen.  What made the design so poor was the mode button was on the underside.  Perhaps the bouncing alone did it or maybe something depressed that button during the ride, but the computer had gone into calibration mode. 

Once Bruce mentioned to Mike that there was a second button on the underside, it took Mike about five minutes of pushing the two buttons on the computer in various sequences before he had it figured out, something Bruce had evidently not done.  With this, Mike “fixed” it.  The one problem that Mike couldn’t fix was that he would set the time, but it wouldn’t show that time after he switched the computer from setup mode to run mode. 

As Bruce was leaving the store, I pointed out that with a widget like this, a failure like not being able to set the time usually means it’s on its last legs.  Bruce didn’t like hearing that.  Replacing the computer would run him another twenty dollars for a device like he had, more if he wanted to upgrade to something decent. The next bike shop was in Helena.  I wonder if Bruce’s bike computer made it. 

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