When you're on the road for long periods of time, the ability to perform your own bike maintenance really comes in handy. I've certainly had to adjust my derailleurs and brakes a fair amount of times, changed more than a few flats, replaced some broken spokes and spent more time than I'd like truing a wheel that just wouldn't stay true. More recently I can add building a whole new rear wheel and derailleur installation to that list.
Building a bicycle wheel is no small task that requires a good amount of patience and, when you're out in the sticks, a little improvisation. Now you might be wondering why someone in my situation would go about such a task in the first place, so perhaps a little backstory is in order. The stock rear wheel on my bike has had almost daily problems since we first set out. Our first night out I found the bike perilously unstable, but didn't have time to look into it and just assumed it was a complication of riding with a lot of gear. After over a week of riding like that, I discovered that several spokes had worked their way out of their nipples leaving the wheel unsupported in some areas. This left the wheel permanently bent and almost impossible to true.
Things don't always have to be simple and slapped together while you're camping. This extremely sweet dessert, inspired by classic campfire s'mores, can add something special to the evening if you have the time and resources to make it. It's more complicated than the typical "roast marshmallow, smoosh between two crackers" fare, but it's not quite as complex as you might think. It uses the same ingredients as s'mores with a few additions, and the bit of added effort makes a mighty difference. You just might feel fancy enough to put on your least dirty clothes and eat it with your pinky up.
Regarding the egg: I know it's sometimes hard to keep eggs while you're travelling and camping. I have substituted a mashed banana with great success, but if you don't have a banana (or the egg) (or the milk, powdered or otherwise) on hand, you're better off just having regular old s'mores. The filling ends up being taffy-like, and while delicious, it's hard to get a clean and simple spoonful.
The next 7 days were pretty much pure bliss straight out of a Laura Ingalls Wilder book. The property where we camped is that of my best-good-friend's (Beastie Back Eastie...referenced in Poop Story) grandparents and is a beautiful wooded piece of land where their house is tucked in amongst the trees, and they have a sizeable clearing where they allowed us to camp. Having never met Adam, and me just once, it was very kind and generous of them to let us stay. The weather treated us to drier 80 degree days and 65 degree nights, but the mosquitos did not get the memo to relent. No matter. While what we were doing was still primitive camping: digging holes for poo, filtering creek water, cooking over the campstove, it was an absolute luxury to not have to setup and strike camp everyday let alone find a place to camp. Though we were still adjusting to life outside, at least those elements were eliminated for awhile which allowed us much more leisure time and relaxation.
That June, before we'd left Indianapolis, Beastie Back Eastie had invited us to join her family on their inaugural week-long camping trip held at a property near her grandparents' at the creek. That trip was full of fun activities and social interactions, swimming, skipping rocks, fishing, roasting marshmallows, hiking, the works! She and I even took a girls-only swim down the creek a ways during which I saw my first ever bald eagle. It was nice to be back at the creek again to quietly appreciate its beauty and serenity. I often found myself wondering what memories BBE had of this spot or that.
We rolled out of Martinsville with some gusto, having had a shower and a decent meal the night before. Leading the way, I had a great coast going and used my momentum to confidently turn the wrong way. As a side note, there really is no wrong turn, though it might not seem like it in the short term. Needless to say, we pulled over so I could re-route. In a moment of clarity, I turned on the terrain feature on Google Maps. Sweet relief! We found a valley route going northwest on the map. Eager to end the rigors of hilly southern Indiana, we decided without hesitation to take it.
Most of the time these days, I am using a double boiler to cook my pancakes as 3 larger cakes instead of 12 or so normal sized pancakes. As of this writing, I have not yet mastered "The Pancake" over open flame: cooked the normal way, they stuck like you wouldn't believe, so I started using exorbitant amounts of oil to combat this, and even then, they were difficult to flip. To avoid hassle, I tried cooking them as 1 or 2 large cakes, but cooking directly on the flame scorched the bottoms before the batter had a chance to thoroughly cook.
Another early morning found us with only an abundance of mosquito bites to complain about. Well, that and what we had come to refer to as our morning hill which really wasn't all that bad, but it certainly was a jump start to the day. We didn't want to stick around Jim's farm too long since we really weren't supposed to be there so we packed up and left looking to find a spot close by to park and cook breakfast.
The BioLite camp stove is probably one of my favorite pieces of gear that we have. I like food, and I love cooking and not just cooking but really delving into flavor and texture combinations. Without a stove, this would still be possible but just very different. We decided to go with a wood burning stove, even though it is heavier and more cumbersome than some of its gas fueled counterparts because in the long run, cost efficiency is necessary for us, and wood is generally everywhere and free. It does present a number of challenges like how to perk a pot of coffee when it's raining, if you didn't collect wood before it rained-how do you work with wet wood, and, one we've not yet encountered: how to cook when no open fires are permitted. Originally, we planned to obtain a small gas burner as a backup which would solve essentially all of these problems. This plan is still in place, however, on the backburner (haha) at the moment.
The campstove is 2 parts: a double-walled aluminum cylinder, which I also refer to as a canister, with some holes spaced along the inner layer and a battery pack. The yellow battery also houses a fan and has a copper rod coming out of it which fits into a hole in the aluminum component and is held in place by one of the three folding legs which are on the bottom of the cylinder. Once you've got a bit of a fire started, you turn on the fan which feeds the flame the necessary oxygen in a vortex pattern through the holes in the inner wall of the cylinder, the flame gets bigger as you add more fuel which heats the copper rod which transfers that heat to a thermoelectric generator where it is converted into electricity to charge the battery and power the fan...which is feeding the flame...that is powering the battery. So you can see by now how this is a brilliant piece of technology. But wait! There's more!