Changing Sites

Well, folks…I’ve filled up this blog site with excessively large images.  We learn as we go…so I’ve started a new blog here.   I invite you over to this new site.  It will contain all my new cycling adventures and gear reviews.


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Hand Woodworking Tools

It’s a lost art.  The ability to use hand woodworking tools to accomplish simple or complex woodworking tasks in your wood shop.  Here’s the deal.  After World War 2, the development of power tools for the woodworker grew exponentially.  Hand tools became obsolete and we all filled our shops with power jointer, saw, drills and planers.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating your get rid of your power tools or even that you shouldn’t buy power tools.  Instead, I’m recommending we all become a little more proficient with hand tools.  There simple, fun, safe and provide tremendous accuracy.  It is also much easier to teach your kids with handtools.  Have you ever hesitated to teach your wife or son how to use a table saw?  How about a power jointer?  I have!  I alway say instead, “let me do that for you”.  Well, with hand tools, you can easily teach even your 8 year old how to get started in woodworking.  Still not convinced?  Here are a few more good reasons:

  1. Less saw dust floating around to breath
  2. Quieter, no need for ear protection
  3. No need for eye protection
  4. A quite confidence that if the power goes off, you can still build something
  5. Handtools last for hundreds of years
  6. Your great grandchildren will fight over them

If this doesn’t convince you, nothing will.  Stop reading now and move on with your day.

For those of you still with me, meet the Dutch Tool Chest.


This chest has an ancient pedigree and has been popularized by Christopher Schwarz.  I purchased his instructional DVD, which was very helpful in building and designing the chest.  Chris brings a wealth of knowledge about how to layout handcut dove tails and make router cuts and dado’s with traditional hand tools.

I was completely taken by the process and purchased several additional hand tools to accomplish this build.  I consider these hand tools better than money in the bank.  In hard times, money will buy me almost nothing, but good quality hand tools will be invaluable, at least to me.


I used traditional hardware for a pirate ship look.  The handles and hasp are cast iron, hand rubbed in Danish Oil.



This bottom portion is removable for access to the lower compartment.


This shows the lower access panel removed.  The batten keeps the panel in place.  Simple, yet effective.

I finished the soft maple case with milk paint.  My first coat was in barn red, as an underlayment of color.  I then applied flat black over the case.  After the layers dried (it only takes a few hours with milk paint), I sanded through some areas of the case to reveal the barn red beneath.  I then rubbed a medium stain and Danish Oil over the entire case.  These steps gave the case an old world look and feel.


Before organizing my tools into the case, the scene looked like this:


After building the Dutch Tool Chest, my tools looked like this:

DSC00559I have 4 saws in the saw till:  dovetail saw, crosscut saw, tenon saw and panel saw.  It also holds 4 planes:  Shoulder plane, bench plane, smoothing plane and jointer plane.  The top tool holder accepts all my smaller tools like, chisels, screw drivers, marking gauges, awl and dividers.


Down below I stow my tongue & groove plane, router plane, brace & bit, egg beater drill, sharpening stone and guide, dead blow mallet, and two hammers.

There is so much tranquility just looking at this level of organization.  It makes me feel good and warm all over.  I even love just touching the tools and talking a bit to them.  I guess they almost become a part of you.  This is a connection I have never felt with my power tools, though I appreciate owning them.


Quality hand tools are worth every penny you spend on them.  They last a lifetime and serve you every time you pick them up.  They are constant reminders that simple things are good things.  In a day and age when electronic devices are buy now and throw away next year, hand tools represent all that is still right with our world around us.  Buy some while you still can.



Posted in Woodworking | 1 Comment

Gear Review: UCO Candle Lantern with LED


My high school buddy, Sam Filetti had one of these back in the eighties.  For several years around Christmas time, we would nordic ski up into the surrounding mountains and winter camp one night.  Sam, would pull out this funky looking lantern, hang it in the tent and light the eccentric device.  I thought they were cool, but that was about the end of it.

Now enter 2015:  The UCO lantern is still cool and now even cooler. DSC00435I chose the brass material, feeling any good lantern should be made out of brass.  It just feels more nostalgic to me.  It weights a few ounces more than the aluminum version and seems to develop a patina on the outer surface.  Both the brass and aluminum work equally well.DSC00425The lantern in it’s collapsed form.  The handle swings around to fit securely below the base.  DSC00436The lantern extends outward for better light transmission.  DSC00429This top piece is structured to allow the heat to escape around the sides.  The top will get hot enough to burn you, but it’s the only place on the lantern that actually gets hot.

DSC00433Now for the new feature.  They have incorporated an LED into the base.  DSC00431The light detaches and can be hung in your tent or placed next to you for reading a book.DSC00437

This proved very handy inside our tent and allows the lantern to serve as a small flashlight.  Totally cool.

DSC00442The glass mantel slides down for easy lighting. Notice the metal surrounding the candle.  There is a soft spring under the candle that applies a slight upward pressure to the candle.  This metal shroud acts as a limiter for the height of the candle.  The wax burns away as the candle raises, the whole systems works beautifully.DSC00443I removed the open hook that came on the chain and instead clipped on the biner.   I felt much better about hanging the lantern in my tent being secured by the biner.

DSC00423The candles burn for 9 hours and replacements can be found locally at Sportsman’s Warehouse and the like.  DSC00462Bennett and I field tested the lantern last weekend on an overnight backpacking trip to lower Palisades lake.  We were truly amazed at the heat it gave off and the ambiance it provided.  So much impressed that the lantern made our packing list for all future bicycling and backpacking adventures.  I love simple, reliable, practical gear.  This lantern meets all three criteria.

 It pushes all my buttons.  

Posted in Gear Reviews, Other Cool Stuff | Tagged | Leave a comment

Great Divide: Big Springs, ID to Flag Ranch, WY

Last year we rode Lima, MT to Big Springs, ID.  You can read about it here.  This year we decided to continue our journey and ride from Big Springs, ID to Flag Ranch, WY.

We had several reasons to skip it.  Jen felt out of sorts with the trip.  I was busy at work.  The kids were getting ready for school, with one heading off to college.  Maybe we should just let it go.  After all, we’re not ready anyway…out of shape and gaining weight by the minute.  Maybe we’re all washed up.  Or, maybe not.  I’ve learned in life that the harder it is to get ready for an adventure, the better experience you’re probably going to enjoy.  We finally decided to throw our gear together and go.  We are both so glad we did!

DSC00422The back of our Subaru, piled high with gear.  It wasn’t pretty or organized, but it was loaded.

DSC00420I’m currently riding a Surly Ogre, Jen a Salsa Fargo.  Both excellent choices in the ever growing segment of adventure bikes.

DSC00427With a girl this pretty, I had to feed her.  It’s always fun to have a good meal before and after a great ride.

DSC00436My father built an ‘off the grid’ bunkhouse in Island Park.  This is 1/2 mile off the Great Divide Trail.  What a great start to our divide ride.  The workmanship of this little 300 + S.F. cabin is off the charts.  It feels more like a wooden sailboat than a cabin.  DSC00438I could live in a place like this…ride my bike, chop wood and nordic ski all winter.  DSC00432The small Jotel wood burning stove came from Norway.  It’s the real deal.DSC00433I’m totally in my element in this type of retreat.

DSC00451The next morning, we examined all our food.  This looked like enough to last a week…truth is, we had 1/3 more than we needed.


DSC00455DSC00457DSC00465The railroad came through this area heading to West Yellowstone.  Along the shallow canyon walls you can find names and dates of forgotten years.

DSC00475Hey, we’re going 6 mph.  Thats actually fast.  Many uphills the following day were traveled at 2-3 mph, no joke.  Note the bear spray, only deployed once on a onrushing dog closing quickly from the rear port quarter.  It stopped him cold.DSC00467Buffalo River.DSC00471Trail snacks for quick energy.DSC00488DSC00480We love our REI travel chairs.  This makes the lunch stop very relaxing.  The key is to secure them on your bike for quick retrieval, otherwise you won’t take the time to set them up.

DSC00476Jen used packing cubes to organize her clothing.  She then folds the cube and stuffs it into her Viscatcha bag.

DSC00499The trail offers spectacular views of Warm River.
DSC00530 This is my set up.  Surly Ogre with frame bag, rear Carradice Longflap Camper with front bed roll in waterproof dry bag (down quilt, air mattress, tent, poles and ground cloth).  Food went in the frame bag and clothing went in the rear bag.  Honestly, I’m not entirely happy with this setup and believe next year I’ll try traditional panniers on front and rear racks.  But, that’s heavier.  Yes, but I want more room than what I have here and I’ve learned that I like panel load packs with organizational pockets.  Living out of a bag has it’s draw backs and I’m ready to move back into panniers.  DSC00529 Jen is happier with her setup than am I.  She will probably stay with the bike packing style for her next tour.   DSC00517 DSC00513 DSC00510 DSC00509 DSC00507

DSC00531Now my thoughts regarding the Caldera alcohol stove.  If you are just interested in boiling water, these stoves are great.  But, if you want to actually cook something there are better alternatives.  Next year, I’ll be packing a liquid fuel stove or canister stove with a small fry pan.  I want the ability to cook a few dishes along the way.  Freeze dried meals work for a couple of days, but beyond that, I start to desire real food.  Next year, I will attempt to cook a few real meals (purchased along the way in local grocery stores).

DSC00535Here’s a piece of gear that absolutely impressed me and will make next years tour.  My new MSR Hubba Hubba NX tent.  Fast to pitch, just the right size for two, very small to stow and light weight to haul.  This tent packs 1/3 smaller than my REI Half Dome.


Warm River Campground is a fantastic place to wash in the river and clean up after a long dusty ride.

DSC00565Day 2 brought some initial road riding pedaling out of the Warm River area.



DSC00603 DSC00611 The trail quickly transitions to gravel.  Though this photo doesn’t show it, many sections are very rough with rocky wash board.  You want all the tire you can get to smooth out this section of the trail.


DSC00594During the heat of the day, I dunked our shirts in a stream.  Pulling them back on provided AC for several hours, especially if the shirt is 100% cotton (never leave home without a cotton shirt, despite what experts tell you).  Cotton, a natural fiber, is way more comfortable than a synthetic.  If you don’t believe me, try it.  Wear both shirts for 1 hour on your bike in the heat of the day.  You’ll never wear synthetic again.

DSC00582Day 2 brought several tough climbs.  Here, Jennifer takes a rest.  This was nothing compared to the time she lay face down at the edge of the road and didn’t move for 10 minutes.  A forrest ranger was convinced I’d killed her.  Sometimes I wonder why she continues to go with me on these adventures.


After force feeding her M&M’s and lemonade, she was ready to ride.


There’s 2,000 vertical feet of climbing on this section.  We thought the downhill would never come.


DSC00629One of the greatest things about these rides are the people you meet.  On the left is Gary.  He has sailed (single handed) around the world in a 33′ sailboat, kayaked the Northwest Passage and bicycled on every continent.  To his right are the New Zealanders who flew to Canada with bikes in cardboard boxes, assembled them and began cycling South.  Both groups are riding the entire Great Divide Trail, all 2,700 miles of it.

DSC00618Lodge at Flag Ranch.  The sign said restaurant.  I could smell the food a mile away.

DSC00621We were smelly and tired, but I didn’t care.  After splashing clean cold water on our faces from the restroom, we ventured in.


DSC00627My prime rib dinner…after a few initial bites.  As the sun raced toward the horizon, we rode into the Flag Ranch campground.  The attendant said it would be $37.88 for a tent site.  We were tired and I wasn’t about to argue over price.  We unloaded our gear, wiped off our dusty legs with wet wipes and dove into our tent anxious to get some rest.  Laying on our backs with our head lamps strapped to our foreheads, we read several pages of Wild before drifting off to sleep.  Never been on an adventure yet when I later wished I’d stayed home instead.

What I learned:

  1. I want more room to pack than bike packing bags afforded me
  2. Gary, who has cycled around the world, is using traditional pannier and racks on the Great Divide without incident (many feel the vibrations are too harsh for traditional rack/pannier setups)
  3. I’ll try racks and panniers for my next tour
  4. 30-50 miles/day is plenty of milage for off road riding, loaded with all your gear
  5. Water filters allow you to camp where you want and free you from campgrounds
  6. I began craving real food after only 2 days of freeze dried meals
  7. I’ll carry a canister or liquid fuel stove with simmering capability for actual cooking
  8. I’ll carry a cotton sun shirt instead of nylon
  9. I’ll be adding a small wash basin for easier clean up
  10. I’ll be swapping my nylon Tilley hat for a cotton Tilley hat to better cool my brains


 Our setup wasn’t perfect, we forgot things, we were out of shape, but we rode anyway.  We’re both so glad we did.  If you’ve got 2 days to ride, this is a beautiful stretch of the Great Divide.  

Posted in Bikepacking, Gravel Riding, Idaho, Micro Adventures, Rides | 6 Comments

Review: Pilen Lyx Bicycle

It’s been a long time since I’ve purchased a bicycle.  If I was to purchase another bicycle, it would need to be special.  It would have to do something my current stable of bikes don’t do.

You can read about all the required criteria here:

Welcome to my new step through Pilen Lyx in classic black.     DSC00417This is truly a beauty, straight from Sweden, where bicycles are used for daily transportation.  The Brooks saddle appears to be sloping upward.  Well, it is.  When riding an upright bike, the angle shown is actually very comfortable.

Now for the photo story: DSC00460This is what arrived at my house by carrier freight.  The bicycle was purchased from J.C. Lind Bicycle Company out of Chicago.  They were great to work with and got the bike right out to me.  DSC00468This is what came out of the box. DSC00462You gotta love Brooks saddles…at least I do.  There is something very special about these leather springers that I can’t resist.  Brooks has been making leather saddles since 1866.  Now that’s heritage.  DSC00465These saddles are so simple that they actually work.  DSC00464DSC00469Pedals are functional platforms with reflectors.  Remember… practicality.  DSC00472Wow, how cool is this?  A real chain guard, just like you used to have on your Raleigh 3 speed.  You can throw your pant/ankle strap away.  DSC0047429″ Swalbe Big Apples make for a smooth ride, also capable of off road riding.  DSC00475All fitting are top notch.  DSC00476 Excuse the sticker residue.  This is the Shimano 8 speed internal rear hub with roller brake.  I love internal hubs, especially for this type of riding.  DSC00480The front hub contains a dyno (for off the grid lighting) and internal roller brake.  Nothing hanging off the frame squeaking against the rims, all internal, out of the weather.  DSC00467 Pilen’s hand painted logo on the rear rack, which is oversized and very sturdy.  I could haul my wife on this rear rack.DSC00483 These opposing jaws mean business.  They are very robust and stiff.  DSC00482Check out the rear tail light, also generated by the front dyno.  DSC00496You can buy better front lights, but this little retro classic does the job just fine.  DSC00489 DSC00488 DSC00487The bars are totally swept back and very relaxed.

DSC00494Shimano Nexus Grip shift operates the IH 8 speed. DSC00493 The only thing I don’t like about this bike is the bell.  It rings when going over small bumps in the road.  DSC00499Notice the integrated lock.  This will at least keep the local Boy Scouts from cruising the parking lot on my bike. DSC00501DSC00491Summary:

  1. Most things made in Sweden are bomb proof and very well thought out. (‘Gransfors bruk’ axes for one, ‘Light my Fire’ flint & steel for two and ‘Pilen bicycles’ for three.)
  2. Having lived in Sweden for 2 years, and riden a bike somewhat similar to this bike, I am very excited about owning this fine machine.
  3. Once you have ridden with a front dyno hub powering front and rear lights, it’s very hard to like anything else.  There is virtually no maintenance ever.
  4. All town bikes should be equiped like this bike…it just makes total sense.
  5. When I’m 75 years old, I’ll still be able to get my leg through the step through design.  No, it’s not a girl’s bike, it’s a practical bike.  Try one…you’ll see why most Europeans ride step through designs.
  6. The more practical my bikes get, the more I seem to love them.

Now go ride what you have and make it a great day.  

Posted in Bicycles, Current Bikes, Gear Reviews | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Review: ‘Bikes at Work’ trailer

This year for the 4th of July, we opted for the ‘stay-cation philosophy’.  The stay-cation suggests keeping it very simple and actually relaxing a bit, close to home.  Utilizing the things you have close at hand, maybe even your bicycle instead of your car.

Question:  How would I get my water toys to the local lake without a car?

Answer:  Bikes at Work cargo trailer.

Trailers come in all types and sizes.  They all serve a purpose and allow a bicycle to become so much more.   Let’s say you want to fill your barbecue propane tank.  Let’s say you want to haul kayaks to a nearby lake.  Let’s say you want to buy $200 worth of groceries.  Let’s say you want to help your neighbor move his mattress or fridge.  You can do all this and more with the right trailer.

Notice I said, ‘the right trailer’.  I’ve owned a myriad of trailers ranging from:  Burley, Bob, Cycletot and Bikes at Work trailer.  All of these have been well built, practical and reliable.  But, today we are looking at the Bikes at Work trailers.  These are the king daddy of max payload, versatility and practicality.  I love mine.

Now for the real world example:

DSC00416Say your two youngest kids demand a day trip to the local lake.  They threaten complete mutiny if you do not comply.

DSC00417A little skeptical in their outlook.  Would this trailer really haul all dad said it would?

DSC00420Always on the lookout for the weak link in my systems or philosophy.

DSC00440My Bikes at Work cargo trailer (with added side boards).

DSC00422The frame of this trailer is aluminum.  Light weight but very strong.  It’s rated to haul around 300 lb.

DSC00443I added a strip of wood to the back end.  This allows me to lean the trailer up against the wall without skinning up the rear reflectors.  I also added a floor (1/4″ plywood) to mine and placed a rubber mat down to keep the propane bottles from bouncing around.

DSC00446Bikes at Work makes a trailer hitch specifically for the Yuba Mundo, a most excellent cargo bike.  The hitch receiver fits inside the rear platform tube of the Yuba.  The application works seamlessly.

DSC00444The hitch fits directly into the receiver.  It attaches without tools and takes about 10 seconds.  Just long enough to push the pin through the receiver.  It doesn’t get any faster than this.

DSC00442Check out the fender.  This is 1/8″ solid aluminum.  The plastic spoke wheels are simple and strong.

DSC00425Here is the whole banana.  One bike, three kids and two kayaks (complete with paddles, lifejackets and lunch).

DSC00426This is faster and easier than finding a parking place.  Just ride to the edge of the lake, unload and go.


Life is good.  Create memories every chance you get.  Keep the gear simple and enjoy.

Posted in Cargo Biking, Gear Reviews, Micro Adventures | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Micro Adventure Sailing with Bennett

Many of you know I have been working day and night to build a small sailboat called Scamp.  This project has taken me over 15 months, working 2-3 hours/day religiously.  Well, I’m proud to say, here is the finished product:DSC00421 DSC00437 DSC00429Notice the small outboard.  Idaho is notorious for either no wind or gale force winds.  This little outboard will allow us to motor around in the event the wind decides not to blow.  The irony is our weather changes every 10 minutes.  Today’s weather provided both dead still conditions and ideal sailing conditions.

DSC00419 At just over 600 lb. my Subaru pulls this little boat like a champ.DSC00418Boom, mast, yard and sail all secured ready for travel.


DSC00428Bennett eating Cheetos and washing his hands in the glassy smooth Palisade Reservoir.  We motored out a significant distance from the dock, eating, visiting and just enjoying the scenery.  We used a Wave Front tiller tamer for hands free cruising.  It worked very well.

DSC00431Then, the wind picked up and began to blow and things got serious.  I love this look on Bennett’s face…he sailed all the way back to the dock.  We tied in one reef half the way back.  This was a great micro adventure.

Kids are great…sailboats are great.   Grab some gear and create a micro adventure with your child.  Remember a micro adventure should be hassle free, close to home and take a minimal amount of time.  They are more about your attitude than the actual adventure.  And, finally, don’t forget to take a few pictures to document your trip.

Posted in Sailing | Tagged | 2 Comments