Like I said in my last post, I want to explore Vermont some more. I’ve been wanting to try some longer bike trips, weekends and such, and this seems a great first try at it.
Among the stuff I accomplished today was some research on how to do this. There are definitely some roads and areas I’d like to explore. I got to thinking I’d get an early start Friday afternoon, shoot up to VT, stay somewhere for the night (I was thinking Brattleboro), spend Saturday zipping around VT, stay somewhere else for the night, then meander toward home on Sunday. I got looking at hotels and rates and such, since I’m not quite equipped for camping and/or carrying such gear on my bike. Then I remembered during a bike trip years and years ago – a bicycle trip of Cape Cod a friend and I took – he’d arranged for us to stay at a hostel one night. It was cheap, a bed, and a roof over my head, which is more appropriate to my needs than a large room with two queen size beds. So I looked up hostels in Vermont, and rather like the looks of Hostel Tevere. It’s a bit more distant than Brattleboro, but only about 4 hours from home by a somewhat direct non-highway route, which isn’t bad for a warm-up. It’s cheap, a bed, a roof over my head, and has a restaurant, bar, and community focus. Sounds like a fun place to hang out regardless of my logistical requirements. Which it also meets – in fact, being a bit further north, it’s the perfect home base for a loop through Lake Champlain and the Green Mountains of approximately the same length I rode yesterday. I figure stay there for two nights, then meander an indirect route home on Sunday. This route can be as long and windy or short and direct as I wish, depending on how I’m feeling. I can superslab it home in under four hours if I’m hating it, or take twice as long meandering south on the back roads. I like the idea of having that safety valve there, particularly for my first multiple day ride.
Regardless of any Vermont shenanigans, I’ve made a small technology investment as well.
Those of you who follow me on Facebook noticed a check-in or two during my travels yesterday, which got more “likes” than anything else I’ve posted since I can remember. I’ll have to do more of that, which is easy with my iPhone. Another aspect of yesterday’s trip that I hadn’t posted publicly was that I was sending out APRS position updates through an app on my iPhone throughout the ride. My girlfriend had fun monitoring my progress, though such reports were sporadic as I could only send them manually, from my iPhone, while off the bike. But for a relatively small investment, I’ve decided to buy a TinyTrak3+ and GPS2 to hook up to my existing ham radio setup on the bike. What does that mean? Every so often my position will be automatically transmitted over a ham radio data network. This network has gateways to the internet, making it possible for anyone interested to track my progress on my trip(s) – no ham license required. I’ll lose my ability to have voice conversations while underway while doing this, but except for special events where I need to, I’d rather just kick back and enjoy the ride. This lets me put my existing equipment to use for a new purpose while I’m not using it to chit-chat. Besides, I can always unplug the TinyTrak and plug in a speaker/mic while stopped somewhere if I want to chat with the locals.
Why do I want to be tracked like this? Partly to amuse my fans, but mostly as a safety net. Let’s face it – I’m riding a 30 year old motorcycle. It’s in fine shape, but even on a new bike stuff can happen. Some of the places I’ll be going have very spotty cell phone coverage. If I break down someplace with no cell service, I’m screwed. The ham radio gives me a better chance of being able to contact someone for help. Even if I don’t know exactly where I am, my APRS beacon will tell them where to send help. Also also, anyone keeping an eye on my progress can probably figure out that if my beacon stops moving, or turns off completely, in some remote area, there may be a problem. Of course, unlike yesterday, I’ll have to remember to keep beaconing until I reach my destination safely, and if the beacon has issues, I’ll post a Facebook update to call off search and rescue. And, for the conspiracy theorists, the beauty of this system is I always have the option to pull the plug and shut if off if I don’t want the world knowing where I am.
Wow – as I was writing this, I got an email that my order for this device has already shipped.