Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Ozark Trail 2 Person Tent - 2 Year Gear Review

Do I need a really expensive tent for minimalist touring? After two years of using this little tent I can say that I do not. I spent about $30 on this tent over two years ago. It's been with me across a few states, camped on mountains, lakes, deserts, and never let me down. It may be big enough for two small people but not two average sized humans however, it fits my large size just fine. And they still make the same model with some improvements.

It meets my minimalist criteria:
  • I can sit up without touching the roof with my head
  • I can lie down without touching the ends or sides
  • keeps me dry in the rain
  • Is large enough to fit me and my gear with room to spare
  • Goes up in 10 minutes, comes down in the same
  • Is Free Standing
  • Is light
  • I can replace it easily and cheaply on the road if needed (most Walmarts carry the new version)

I had a Kelty two person tent prior to this one, I liked it a lot but after many years of use it finally started to fall apart. It was larger than this tent, a true two person tent, so I always had plenty of empty floor space. It was larger and heavier so I wanted something with just the space I needed, no more. I bought two of these for our Laguna Seca MotoGP trip in 2012 where my daughter and I camped on Fox Hill within the Laguna Seca Race track, something reserved for only motorcycle riders during the race. The tents worked great, kept out the rain, heat, sun, dense fog, moisture etc. We also camped on the beach in Pt Mugu, and various other places we visited during the two weeks we spent going to and from the race track. One night at Lake Diaz near Lone Pine we got hit by a big storm, high winds, rain, thunder, and we kept dry and comfortable in these little tents all night. Two years later and 50-60 nights of camping with these and they are still in good shape, no rips, tears, holes, destitching, etc. So I expect they will at least last us another two years.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

define: minimalist motorcycle touring

Google that and you'll get a lot different opinions, some very passionate ones. For me it is all about having only what I really need to tour comfortably on a motorcycle, starting with the motorcycle itself. So before I get into it, let me start by defining what sort of touring I'm doing. I plan on touring entirely off the the interstate, highways if I must, with my preferred roads being the backroads. I've done a few cross country/interstate rides, and they were fun but I feel I missed a lot. Starting with my back yard (San Diego County) I plan on seeing the places I never knew existed on road and off, and if I have time will venture further away to Arizona and beyond as I get more accustomed to this way of travel.

Why on earth you may ask? Well, a large part of the 'why' for me stems from being able to be comfortable with my motorcycle fully loaded off the beaten path. I need to be able to pick it up by myself, and if I do have a spill need to have the least amount of motorcycle landing on top of me should it come to that. There isn't a way to achieve this with a machine that will cruise at interstate speeds, so an interstate capable bike is off the menu. So far my 1996 Suzuki DR350 works for me, does just what I need it to and no more, no less.

I thought of doing this solo but either my wife and/or daughter are always eager to go with, so unfortunately for them they get to partake of my crazy minimalist experiment. We have car camped and motorcycle camped before, but never with such small motorcycles or such limited gear. To date we have done 10 or so nights of minimalist motocycle camping and have gotten the gear, food, maintenance thing down pretty good. We have 11 liter saddle bags and a dry bag strapped to a rear rack to carry everything we use; tent, sleeping bag/pad, tools, spares, and food. This isn't much room at all trust me, but if you can stand wearing the same clothes for a couple of days it is doable.

Since any touring like this involves getting gas, we plan on sourcing food, water, supplies, laundry/clean clothes, and other things as we travel rather than carry extra stuff. We haven't done a multi-day ride yet so we shall see how this works out.

Boulder Creek Rd and Sloan Canyon San Diego

Today I revisited Boulder Creek Rd and Sloan Canyon Rd with my wife on her XT225. We rode out from Chula Vista early in the morning via Proctor Valley Rd then kept to the backroads of Jamul, Rancho San Diego, Harbison Canyon, Dehesa, and Viejas, to the Viejas Grade. Then onto Boulder Creek Rd, turning towards Lake Cuyamaca at Engineers Rd. We rode back down the 79 enjoying the twisties on our dual-sports and rode Sloan Canyon on the way home. We had a small lunch there, enjoying the cool shaded area at the closed-gate at the end.

Staying off the the highways entirely today was bliss, the highest speed limit was 50 mph in a few areas and even there the traffic was moving slow so it was a no hurry day.

Boulder Creek Rd is in great condition, no problem areas at all. I did encounter a crazy deer that paralled me for a bit then decided to cross the road ahead of me.

The views and temperature were great, we couldn't ask for better riding conditions!

Sloan Canyon Rd was in great shape, appeared to have been graded after the most recent rains. I will have a short video on the ride up here shortly. We ran into a couple of wild turkeys (not the drinking kind) going in and out, they seemed very tame and were probably enjoying the 'No Hunting' signs in the area.

Sloan Canyon Rd is only about 5 miles in and dead ends at a closed gate. Hiking and bycicle riding is permitted beyond. There is a small bridge about 50 ft from the dead end that usually has a running river under it but it was dry today. I believe it is the overflow from the Loveland Reservoir upriver a mile or so. It's nice getaway if you don't have much time to spare.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Lake Morena, Los Pinos Mountain, Lark Canyon Exploration

We setup camp at Lake Moreno after arriving Saturday morning and headed up Corral Canyon to explore Los Pinos Moutain. The ride up was nice, didn't see a single person and it appeared we were alone in the large expansive OHV area. We made the easy ride up to the Los Pinos peak and enjoyed the great views. I'm always amazed at the great vistas we have so close to home. San Diego can seem at times to be so crowded and yet an hour can bring you to such isolation.

The Lake Moreno campground was nearly empty for a weekend. The lake has been drained to a low level due to the drought and it's diminished size may be keeping campers away. At least this night unlike previous visits we were able to have a campfire. The night sky treated us to a near desert like clearness, with no moon blotting out the stars. We ate a pizza at the small market just outside the campgrounds and really enjoyed it, they make a nice pizza.

Sunday morning we left early for Lark Canyon, expecting to be back before the 1pm check out time at the campground. We took the Hwy94 to McCain Valley and rode up to the Sacatone Overlook, stopping along the way at the two developed campgrounds that border the OHV trails. We plan an coming back and exploring the single track here one day. The road in was in great shape and there were only a few riders out this early morning. We took the Old Hwy 80 back to Lake Morena where we packed up and headed home.

These one nighters are a lot of fun, a real escape from the daily grind. We carry the minimum gear and as long as we can find a laundry mat once every few days, could ride as far as our bikes will take us like this.