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Let's hear from people that toured before cell phones and internet

Old 10-14-14, 03:23 AM
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Let's hear from people that toured before cell phones and internet

I want to hear your story. How did you get started touring? How did you figure it out? Did you read books? How much did you learn from just trial and error? How did you build a decent touring bike? Where did you get touring accessories like panniers/other?

I got into touring with a wealth of support from Internet forums and web sites. I have tons off offline info on my iPhone. I feel pretty connected with the world having a cell phone. I read a lot about the subject before even going on an overnighter. It seems so much easier and less fearsome, what I've done, than to have done it in the 1960s.

Tell us upstarts what it was like for you?

Last edited by Walter S; 10-14-14 at 01:49 PM.
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Old 10-14-14, 03:43 AM
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Not any different. We just didn't have electronic toys pointing the way. I got my gear from a local shop and mail order shops like Nashbar. Picking a route was a little more adventurous, just find your destination, look at the major highways going there, look a mile or so to either side and find a county road that runs parallel. I wasn't that difficult back in the seventies, it's just more convenient and more common today.

Marc
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Old 10-14-14, 03:54 AM
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Did my first tour in the early 70s and just saw it as a natural progression from hitch-hiking around the country which I'd done before staying in hostels. Probably easier then at a time when car ownership wasn't a given. No big deal, had a small bit of money so spent it on a nice road bike with mudguards/fenders and a rear rack, bought a map and off I went.

I think it's probably harder now for a young adult who grows up accustomed to being driven to school and games to make the leap to bicycle touring.
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Old 10-14-14, 04:06 AM
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Originally Posted by irwin7638
Not any different. We just didn't have electronic toys pointing the way. I got my gear from a local shop and mail order shops like Nashbar. Picking a route was a little more adventurous, just find your destination, look at the major highways going there, look a mile or so to either side and find a county road that runs parallel. I wasn't that difficult back in the seventies, it's just more convenient and more common today.

Marc
My thoughts exactly. Except I didn't really inform myself. I just went. The first time I was so ignorant I didn't have a third chain ring and walked up the mountain passes. The second time around 1990 I went coast to coast. No watch, no radio, no calling card. Just brought a wad of cash. Bought a state map each time I needed one. People were curious back then and offered up a lot more places to stay. Not so much anymore. Maybe because I'm older and scarier looking now. Planning a route is a good idea but it sure takes the adventure out of it.
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Old 10-14-14, 04:09 AM
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Originally Posted by Walter S
I want to hear your story. How did you get started touring? How did you figure it out? Did you read books? How much did you learn from just trial and error? How did you build a decent touring bike? Where did you get touring accessories like panniers/other?

I got into touring with a wealth of support from Internet forums and web sites. I have tons off offline info on my iPhone. I feel pretty connected with the world having a cell phone. I read a lot about the subject before even going on an overnighter. It seems so much easier and less fearsome, what I've done, than to have done it in the 1960s.

Tell us upstarts what is was like for you?
I started touring before cell phones and the internet.

From the time I was born, I travelled. My family went on short weekend trips, on long multi-week trips, and everything in between. We also moved quite a bit. We travelled from the Northwest Territories to Texas ... but all within western North America. We camped once in a while, but mainly stayed in hotels or with family. So I grew up going places ... travel is natural to me, so natural that I have trouble making it through a month without going somewhere ... and I can't imagine living in one place for more than a few years.

I was also born into a cycling family. I grew up surrounded by bicycles, bicycle gear, and Bicycling Magazine back when it was good. I learned to cycle when I was 6, and we cycled as a family. My first bicycle commute was when I was 6 in Grade One. My first hub-and-spoke tour was probably when I was about 10 years old, but it might have been earlier. When we travelled, the bicycles came with us, and we'd stop in a place for a few days or week or two, and we'd hike and cycle all over the place.

I moved up through various bicycles as I was growing up, and then started riding my first "10-speed" when I was about 12. In those days, 10-speeds were sort of touring-ish style ... steel with eyelets. I rode several of those ... my father collected them and fixed them up. Sometimes I would get a new bicycle, other times he would give away or sell them. Finally, in 1985, when I was 18 years old, my father bought a new 57 cm "18-speed" (triple in front and 6 in the rear) touring-ish bicycle ... a few weeks later he found another bicycle he liked better, and I inherited that "18-speed".

In about that time, my father decided to ride the Icefield Parkway as a supported tour. My mother, brother, and I followed along in the car, arranged accommodations, etc. but I cycled with him on the last day ... and I got it into my head that I wanted to do the whole ride one day too.

I started college and my cycling kind of died off, but in 1990, I started it up again, with that "18-speed". It was too big for me, but I set it up as best I could from the information I found in old Bicycling Mags and books from the library. I lived in a small city then, and our library had a grand total of 5 books about cycling. I read each one from cover to cover. I gradually increased my distances, moved to a larger city, read more books, and then in 1995, I did my first point-to-point tour with that bicycle because that was the bicycle I had ... a supported tour between Jasper and Banff ... finally!!

I met and married my first husband in the late 1980s, and we camped a lot ... many weekends each summer. We travelled quite a bit too, although not quite as much as I would have liked. And of course, I brought my bicycle with me on those camping weekends and when we travelled ... more hub-and-spoke tours. He supported me on that tour between Jasper and Banff ... he drove the van and set up the campsite etc., while I rode.

4 years later he and I separated ... and that's when my travelling and touring and cycling really took off. I raced for 3 years, then got into Randonneuring. Not long after, I was off to Europe and Australia ... for Randonneuring events, but touring as well. By then, I had a good idea what I wanted in a bicycle, and I ordered Machak, my Marinoni Ciclo ... a sport touring bicycle. I toured on Machak for years.

But it all just happened quite naturally. I travel, I camp, I cycle ... so why not put it all together sometimes. And for me, cycletouring is really not much different from hopping in the car or boarding a plane and going for a holiday somewhere.

[HR][/HR]

Regarding gear ... I just collected it as I went along. Yeah, a bit of trial and error. I didn't have a lot of money in the beginning so I picked up bits and pieces at Canadian Tire, bicycle shops, and wherever else I could find things inexpensively. I got my first 3 pair of cycling shorts from a clearance clothing rack in the basement of a Co-Op grocery/department store. I don't think they knew what they were, because they were selling them off for about $10 each. I also inherited bits and pieces ... my first handlebar bag was something my father had picked up, used for several years and then gave to me when he got something different.

Regarding routes ... I planned them then pretty much the same way I plan them now. Spread out a paper map and figure out where I want to go on a day-by-day basis. And then sometimes change my mind mid-route.

Regarding repairs ... my father taught me how to change a tire a long, long time ago. So long ago, I don't actually remember changing my first flat. He also taught me this and that about bicycle maintenance and repairs when he fixed bicycles. Then, when I started Randonneuring in 2001, I decided I needed to update my bicycle mechanics skills, so I took a couple hands-on classes. I highly recommend doing that!!


My family, our stationwagon, and our bicycles ... on one of our family hub-and-spoke tours. I'm taking the photo and I would have been in my teens then.


Me on my first the Icefield Parkway tour with my 18-speed bicycle ... long, long time ago ...

Last edited by Machka; 10-14-14 at 04:47 PM.
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Old 10-14-14, 05:14 AM
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Walter S, Mainly it was a trial and error foray into bicycle touring in my case. A bicycle has always been around and a reason to NOT take one for a trip didn't exist. I did read a book about a couple that toured Ireland and in spite of all of the things they did wrong, and there was plenty, it cemented touring as a natural progression of my bicycling.

I didn't build a "touring bike" until fairly recently.

Brad
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Old 10-14-14, 06:05 AM
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Originally Posted by irwin7638
It wasn't that difficult back in the seventies, it's just more convenient and more common today.

Marc
Definitely more convenient or at least more touring specific stuff these days but I'm not sure it's a lot more common today. It may seem that way since via the internet, you're aware of a lot people touring that otherwise you wouldn't know about, but there was a lot of touring going on in the mid 70's, around the Bicentennial Trans America ride and into the early 80's, as some would call it the golden age of touring (or at least it became quite the fad). Bicycling Magazine was about the only place we got our info, other than than just by trial and error and the local shop. There was a lot more home made gear back then but a lot of the bikes were considered "sport touring" bikes and they came with braze ons for a rear rack or baskets. As a substitute for a cell phone, you carried a bunch of dimes. All in all, it wasn't that far removed from the Hippie culture of the early 70's. Just my take on it anyway.
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Old 10-14-14, 06:18 AM
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I started tinkering with bikes seriously in high school. I still own and use the hand tools I bought then. I had a copy of Richard's Bicycle Book that I read cover to cover. I loved the last chapter where he wrote about a dream of a society where cars were banned from cities and free bikes provided. I still think that is a dream that needs to happen.

I got into touring in a sort of roundabout way. I dropped out of college and went to live in Europe. I bought a peugeot UO-10 from a bike shop in covent garden in London and a lot of karrimor stuff (rack and panniers) and took off. I never really looked back. I sold that bike and bought a Koga Miyata when I was living in the Netherlands. Touring in Europe is different than touring in the States. The roads are actually marked and there are good quality maps that show you all the roads. I seldom paid for a place to sleep. When I'd run out of cash, I'd get a job to finance my next trip. I spent three years doing this before moving back to the States.
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Old 10-14-14, 06:42 AM
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I pondered this question recently at the end of a cross-county tour--what difference has cell phones and the internet made? I still don't carry a cell phone, but one of the biggest changes for me was the warmshowers.org network. Also on-line journaling. One of my first stops in a town now is the public library where I log in, update a journal, check messages from other cyclists and hosts, and even take care of personal business. The internet has definitely enhanced much of the touring experience. It has not affected what I pack or what I carry. The only electronic devices I carry are LED lights (now there's a technological advancement for you!).

I guess the internet would be very valuable for finding routes, but I haven't used it much. I used to rely on local knowledge, and find free maps at gas stations (remember those?). County maps were the best. I still do that to some extent. I'm not using Google Maps very much in areas I don't know, because I see where they try to route me in areas I do know. Generally it's good. But I've noticed in mountainous areas, they pick some really weird routes, nearly impossible on a touring bike.

I met an older gent on his tour who was completely consumed with blogging his ride. He actually showed some stress about when the next internet access would be. I don't know if technology was a good thing for him or not. And he had a trailer full of gadgets. He obviously had a hard time leaving it behind. (A few days later, I checked his blog and it was not very good. Gadgets don't make you a good writer and photographer.) Then a few months later I hosted a young man on a real adventure, Alaska to Argentina. First thing I showed him was our computer, and he just shrugged it off, didn't touch it until the next day when he spent a few minutes emailing mom. I thought his life was in balance and was impressed that he didn't need any gadgets, and at such a young age.
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Old 10-14-14, 07:09 AM
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Originally Posted by andrewclaus
I still don't carry a cell phone ...
I'm with you there. Rowan has one ... mainly because he needs it for work ... but I've never owned a cell phone.

And Rowan's only works in Australia. When we travel overseas the phone doesn't work, and we've never bothered to find out if there is a way to make it work ... not even on our 8-month trip.

Funny thing ... we just recently returned from 3 weeks in North America. When Rowan could use his phone again, he discovered there were exactly 0 calls. Guess we're not missing much.


We do carry laptops (notebooks) now, and I do write about some of our travels, but mainly I use it to process and post photos. That's something which amuses and interests me.

I will use it to look up accommodation on our travels, but we rarely book anything online ... we just get a bit of an idea of what's available and the price range we might be looking at. However, several times I checked out an area, determined that there were several places we could possibly stay ... and then we ended up going somewhere else entirely.

I still prefer visiting tourist information centres and picking up paper brochures, maps, accommodation guides, etc. I have heaps of those things here in Tasmania, in storage in Victoria, and in storage in Canada. For me, there's just something more tangible to holding a colourful brochure about an interesting tourist attraction than looking at the same tourist attraction online. And I so much prefer spreading out a paper map and getting a good "big picture" view of where we might go tomorrow, rather than zooming in and out of google maps.

Last edited by Machka; 10-14-14 at 05:05 PM.
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Old 10-14-14, 07:51 AM
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I first toured in the late 1970's. At the time, my longest was 9 weeks. I used paper state road maps. I rode small local/backroads that connected towns. Most weren't even labeled on the maps. When I got to a town I looked for a sign that pointed to the next town or I asked people which road to the next town. The linking of town-to-town is how I made my way. Once a week or so I'd find a pay-phone and call home.
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Old 10-14-14, 08:20 AM
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My progression to touring came from my backpacking & hitchhiking that I did in the late 1960's and throughout the '70s. I'd read about touring in a backpacking magazine. It was faster than backpacking and more reliable than hitchhiking, so I thought I'd give it a try. I added a front rack to my 10-speed and mail-ordered front, rear, and handlebar Kirkland panniers. After a year or so of short trips, and saving some money, I decided to quit my job and hit the road. For me it was a great decision. I was 26.

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Old 10-14-14, 08:48 AM
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I toured with a compass and a paper map about two years ago, when I was 22. The "old" ways are still fun, and cell phones aren't infallible.

Just trying to push back against the "kids these days" wave a little
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Old 10-14-14, 08:50 AM
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Originally Posted by Walter S
I want to hear your story. How did you get started touring? How did you figure it out? Did you read books? How much did you learn from just trial and error? How did you build a decent touring bike? Where did you get touring accessories like panniers/other?

I got into touring with a wealth of support from Internet forums and web sites. I have tons off offline info on my iPhone. I feel pretty connected with the world having a cell phone. I read a lot about the subject before even going on an overnighter. It seems so much easier and less fearsome, what I've done, than to have done it in the 1960s.

Tell us upstarts what is was like for you?
That would be what? Like 2000? Honestly, I got my information on bikes and gear from magazines and route information was from paper maps. Even as late as 2003, 2008 and 2010, I was depending on paper maps for route information. I only started carrying one in 2010 (it was mostly a brick) and it was a geezer phone...made phone calls and that was all.

I got a smart phone in 2012 and I will say that it made touring much, much easier. In 2012, I did a touring around Appalachia with a smart phone which made finding food, lodging and places of interest much easier. I didn't have to plan ahead for each and every stop as I did in previous years but could just look do a map from where I started to where I was going to stay the night. It was much easier.

That said, I also did a mountain bike trip this fall in the central Colorado Rockies where the phone was, again, a brick. I could use it to track my route but that was all I could do. There was no reception of any kind in the 60 miles I did. I did know where I was going so I didn't have to depend on the phone which is a plus. I would suggest that you have some rudimentary ability to get around without the electronics because they can fail you.
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Old 10-14-14, 09:35 AM
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started touring about 10 years ago, in those days we diden't even have a bike just 2 wheels and a sheet of plastic for shelter,if you need to wash you would stop off in the country area knock on a door and ask if you could have a bath and most of the time you would be told to feck off ,ah great auld days indeed .never see the like of it again.
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Old 10-14-14, 09:43 AM
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I don't see that there's been that much of a change to bike touring due to the internet and cell phones. Sure, we didn't do any 'online shopping', but catalog shopping was very common and I bought my panniers in the mid-70s from Bicycle Warehouse (who later changed their name to Bike Nashbar). And back when people didn't have cell phones there were public phone booths (or public phones in stores) in just about every town for keeping in touch and free highway maps in almost any gas station for finding your way.
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Old 10-14-14, 09:47 AM
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Hi.

went thru the Boy Scouts , got the camping skills . was a bike mechanic beginning as a child as well.

I love maps too.

Now I have a collection from various countries I visited .

did a North Sea loop Route by just getting a Map, riding to the edge of it then Buying another ..

Even got a map of PL on the ferry on the way across the Baltic , from someone that lived there (1991)

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Old 10-14-14, 10:01 AM
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The question sounds like you're picturing us in those days asking ourselves, "Gee, should I take a tour? Not sure it's a good idea, since cell phones don't exist yet." And of course, it doesn't happen that way. If we needed help and there was nothing but traffic, we could flag people down for help.
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Old 10-14-14, 10:04 AM
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Originally Posted by irwin7638
Not any different. We just didn't have electronic toys pointing the way. I got my gear from a local shop and mail order shops like Nashbar. Picking a route was a little more adventurous, just find your destination, look at the major highways going there, look a mile or so to either side and find a county road that runs parallel. I wasn't that difficult back in the seventies, it's just more convenient and more common today.

Marc
That was pretty much my experience in the 80s. We didn't miss what we didn't know existed. But it's better now. I like being able to plan routes online, track my progress with my Garmin, and have access to a phone and mapping at any given moment. That said, I'm sure this will all look pretty primitive in another 20-30 years.
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Old 10-14-14, 10:42 AM
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I started touring in 80s, though consider myself post-internet as I had access to Arpanet in early 80s in college and also read trip reports on net.bicycle newsgroup in mid-80s. I still often don't bring along a cell phone.

However for questions asked:

How did you start touring? I did a lot of camping/hiking/backpacking while growing up in CO. Went to school in Boston area and didn't have a car so it was natural to use my bike to get to places that I didn't walk or use the T. It was also cool to get out of town and the states are so much closer together. Organized my first bike tour summer after freshman year. My brakes didn't work well, but I could use my feet to slow myself down. Unfortunately, about 10 miles from home I went down over a hill, off the path and flipped over the handlebars landing on my back. Had a sharp cut in my back and it would have been wiser to have turned back. However, I was the trip leader and young/male/invincible so we found a spot to buy a bandage, taped myself up and continued on. We headed to the Cape and overnight very painful changing my dressing but next day felt like heros cycling to P-town, riding the ferry back and cycling back.

Next summer, I got an internship at DEC in suburbs (Marlboro), 26 miles from home. That summer, 60% of the time I cycled to work, 20% I took a van and 20% I camped in the wood or slept in my cube. Sometimes doing a mix, e.g. cycling in Tuesday morning, camping overnight and cycling back Wednesday evening. A number of weekends rather than cycle back to Boston I continued on through western MA or to NH/VT. Also took some more trips to Cape Cod. Did a lot of fairly gonzo rides, not necessarily fast but I'd get on road at first light and ride until last light where I'd sleep beside the road. If you ride for long summer days you can cover some miles.

How did you figure it out? Some amount of trial and error. After that very first trip, I figured it made sense to have working brakes . I also organized trips with others, so some experience came indirectly. Also did some book reading. Local bike shops and local AYH also had resources. By mid 80s was also following net.bicycle newsgroup and reading other trip reports.

How did you build a decent touring bike? First touring bike was a 10-speed I bought for $42.50 at a garage sale as teenager. Once I was cycling more, my sophomore year in college I splurged and bought a Lotus Odyssey from local shop, a real touring bike. Similar thing with things like accessories like panniers. Some things like camping were very familiar from teen years growing up including Boy Scouts and hiking/backpacking.
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Old 10-14-14, 10:54 AM
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One difference between touring in the early 80's and now is the degree to which you could indulge in gear obsession (or over-obsession). As mentioned by someone else, you could gather what you need from local cycling shops or Nashbar. Bicycling Magazine was a resource, and there were little classified ads in the back of the magazine that advertised bits of cycling gear or mail order catalogs you could write off to. There was a camping catalog called Campmor (I think) that had some cycling gear as well. Frank Berto, of Bicycling Magazine, wrote a couple of books on bike gear that had some especially helpful advice on gearing for touring bikes -- I practically memorized every word of his advice on half-step gearing and hounded my local bike shop until I tracked down the chain rings and cassette cogs until I could follow his advice. But without the Internet there was a limit to how much advice and how many opinions you could gather -- you had a handful of resources, and then you had to make a call (maybe it was better than the endless discussions we now engage in on the Internet).

The Bikecentennial program in 1976 was a big boost to the idea of cross-country touring, and (by my memory) sparked an interesting in touring, touring gear, and coverage in places like Bicycling Magazine. And there were a few books on touring as well -- in 1982, for example, there was a wonderful book written by Gary Hawkins called "Bicycle Touring in the Western United States" that is still a good resource for route ideas (you can buy a used copy at Amazon for less than $1). I lived in both Texas and California at the time and found a number of cycling clubs whose members could pass down route knowledge, and some state and country highway departments published route maps with recommended bike routes. I still have some route guides from Northern California published in 82 or 83 that feature elevation profiles, water stops, etc.

I did have a couple of modest (very modest) emergencies that occurred while touring that I suspect today I would have managed differently with access to a cell phone. But it was actually kind of nice to stick out my thumb and hitchhike the handful of times I had trouble.

Here's Frank Berto's book (I bought a used copy a few years ago to help me work on some vintage bikes, it's still a good guide on parts from teh 70's/80's):

https://www.amazon.com/Bicycling-Maga...dp/0878577513/

Here's "Bicycle Touring in the Western United States"

https://www.amazon.com/BICYCLE-TOURIN...dp/0394748077/

Last edited by BengeBoy; 10-14-14 at 12:49 PM.
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Old 10-14-14, 11:35 AM
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My first tour was in '99. I didn't have a home computer and Internet access through work was limited. I ended up crossing the country with Adventure Cycling since I knew nothing about touring or even camping.I found Robert Beckman Designs (racks and panniers) through and ad in the back of ACA's magazine. I wasn't going to drop a lot of coin on a touring bike so I went with a Cannondale T700, which was readily accessible to test ride. My tent and sleeping pad were from a local Army Navy store. My sleeping bag and a few other items like rain gear came from REI. Group cooking gear was supplied by ACA. After reaching Bar Harbor, ME, I rode home to Philly and then to Ocean City, NJ solo. The following March I went to Andalucía for 7 weeks. I planned my own route using a great guide book and Michelin map. That May, I combined four ACA routes to ride from Seattle to Cortez, CO to visit some friends who were working at Mesa Verde, N.P.

Taking my first trip with a group was helpful since I had done no unsupported riding and, as mentioned, had never slept in a tent in my life. Since cycling was part of my every day life, riding wasn't something I needed to figure out. In fact, I only took one fully-loaded day ride of 62 miles to get a feel for riding a loaded bike a week before heading out to Seattle to start the ACA trip.

I don't take gadgets with me other than a basic phone and bike computer. Crossing PA last month I had nothing but some map pages annotated to show camping options and some cue sheets I created.
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Old 10-14-14, 11:57 AM
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Originally Posted by BengeBoy
There was a camping catalog called Campmor (I think) that had some cycling gear as well.
Heh. Thanks for the flashback. Somehow I got on Campmor's mailing list long before I ever considered camping or loaded touring. Located in north Jersey, Campmor was, at the time, the equivalent of Mecca for camping equipment in the mid-Atlantic area. Every six months or so I would get their catalog in the mail. It was maybe 6" x 8", printed on the same paper used to print telephone books and seemed to have a dozen items crammed onto each page. At the time, I found the amount of items and the format overwhelming. It also confused me a bit since I had always imagined that camping was supposed to be simple and "clutter-free." Just you and nature. Yet here were a dozens and dozens of pages of stuff to take into the woods with you. The one item that I got the biggest kick out of was the trowel with a small roll of TP in the handle. They were also expanding into the cycling arena. Every once in a while I would flip through it, but most of the time it went straight into the trash. Then between my first and second tours I wanted a new, lighter tent and a butane burner to take to Europe. I wasn't working at the time so I one day I hopped in the car and made a pilgrimage up the NJ Turnpike and hung a left on NJ 17 to Paramus. Quite a place, and I walked out with what I was looking for.
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Old 10-14-14, 12:00 PM
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Originally Posted by BengeBoy
There was a camping catalog called Campmor (I think) that had some cycling gear as well...
Campmor still exists. It hasn't changed much either.

Originally Posted by BengeBoy
I did have a couple of modest (very modest) emergencies that occurred while touring that I suspect today I would have managed differently with access to a cell phone. But it was actually kind of nice to stick out my thumb and hitchhike the handful of times I had trouble.
I carry a cell phone now but I still don't understand how people think that they will help much in the case of a problem. If you are 1000 miles from home, calling for someone to come pick you up isn't really an option. If I find myself somehow stranded, it's up to me to get myself out of a sticky spot.
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Old 10-14-14, 12:24 PM
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Campmor is a great business. We stop there often. They have great prices, great stuff, and great staff. They are terribly helpful and knowledgeable.
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