Good read, found this in another e-bike discussion..

Denis Shelston

Active Member
By Michael Skopes. August 2017
With permission

A 2017 E-Bike Adventure

One day, not so long ago, I opened a door to enter an area where I am employed. I was hit, full on, with the fact that I no longer have any passion for what it is I do there. My days there are only a passing of time spent wondering about other things more important to me; my family, my home,...me, and other more fun activities.

At the same time, I appreciate the compensation that my job affords me - money and health care benefits. You know, all that boring stuff like an IRA, 401k, and such. But, all that, is for the most part, pleasureless. The most pleasing aspect of that crap is the toys I can buy to make my life more FUN.

The following sentence involves a subject, which to me, borders on the surreal. Retirement...is...just...around...the...corner. Hell, retirement is something old people do. I don't qualify as an old person. At least, not in my mind, I don't.

I don't know how my twenties turned into my sixties so quickly. My brain, my heart, and my soul, all tell me it's time for another game of 500 in the park, or a few high dives off of top board at my hometown swimming pool. But, uh oh...the deep end no longer has those old diving boards! In fact, the entire pool has been completely re-built and almost unrecognizable. And, unfortunately, what my body tells me about physical activity is not quite the same as what my brain, heart, and soul communicate.

Go for a long endorphin filled cross country type run? Uh uh. Don't even think about it. My lower back and knees won't take the pounding. Damn, I loved running so much. Extend my body airborne for that long pass at the goal line like I once often did? Not a good idea. Hitting the green grass wearing pads at one time was exhilarating, not debilitating. Hey, how about attacking a radical mogul course on freshly fallen snow? Get real fella! Not anymore. Oh, the knees, the hips, the lower back. Skiing became my all time favorite winter activity while in my mid to late twenties.

Get this, though. Physical exertion is far from a thing of my youthful past. Hooray for the bicycle! Hip hip hooray for the electric bicycle! I'll get to the e-bike in just a minute. Allow me to back track for a moment.

One of my very first loves, as a young boy, was learning how to ride a bicycle. And, after mastering that marvelous activity, the extended range that became my daily excitement, grew longer and longer. Soon, I disappeared from my parents' view for hours at a time as I biked with my pals from one end of town to the other. Minutes, hours, and miles meant nothing to us. We had trusty mechanical steeds whose rolling wheels seemed capable of endless, small town, summer time adventures. If we weren't kicking up dust, pebbles, and basic dirt while racing around Chapin Park's baseball field, we were busy slamming on our brakes while screaming down swimming pool hill.

That excellent downhill activity, of melting bicycle tire rubber, left twenty foot long black streaks on the blacktop. Bald tires? We never cared. That was part of the deal. And when those rubber burning slides ended, we just might opt to take a little detour out to the long abandoned strip mines. Out there, on the outskirts of town, the giant coal digging machines of old left us with huge mounds of gray/white earth. Over time, outstanding trails developed throughout those sometimes treacherous hills which were intertwined with deep, blue pools of water that stretched for hundreds of feet. Riding those paths brought many a boy, and a few girls, to the point of total exhaustion, and in some cases...broken frames and fractured bones.

Yes, my childhood relationship with my Monark bicycle was a love affair. Many of my friends had that same love affair. Several of us participated in the annual Corn Festival bicycle parade. We decorated our bikes with crepe paper, flags and banners. Some kids wore costumes. I donned a Marlon Brando type motorcycle cap - the tough guy look like from his fifties movie, "The Wild One".

But that love affair broke my heart when some criminal stole my beloved Monark. Sadness became my middle name. Consolation on the part of my mother didn't even help. And I adored my mother, and how she did so much for me and my two sisters. My father offered a matter of fact response to my long face with a few well chosen words and a simple pat on my shoulder. All that did little to mend my deep psychological wound. But Dad had a quiet way about him that endeared me to him just as much as Mom.

In time, a replacement two-wheeler appeared. That tale is one whose details I won't divulge in this story. I would rather keep that for anyone interested in reading my book "My Little Skinny Greek Life: On Liberty Street". Find it on Amazon. I don't want to spoil that story here. What I will go into here, is the flash forward to today.

FLASH!

For years, various physical problems have kept me from fully enjoying the activity that I had loved for so much of my life. Before losing the ability to travel by bicycle, I had the pleasure of making two long road trips. The first, at age twenty nine and turning thirty, went on for 1500 miles from California to Illinois.

Some of the information written in an unsolicited newspaper article about that tour - going all the way to Maine, down to Florida, and back to California - never happened. Those plans had to be changed for several reasons. I actually can't recall the primary reason. It may have been that being a touring novice, I bit off more than I could pedal.

I have read, in my current research, that the number one reason for many new bike touring enthusiasts cutting their tours short is because of unrealistic goals. Their mental and physical preparations couldn't match up with their lofty plans. Really. Just imagine coming up with the idea of riding a heavily outfitted bicycle for 7,000 miles without ever having done any touring at all prior to that. Hmm...you see what I mean? However, I did go over 1,500 miles on my Centurion two wheeler.

My second major distance bicycle adventure took me from Monterey, California south to Los Angeles and specifically, Northridge to attend a Super Bowl party. However, I only managed to put in about 155 miles because I strained my knee and had to grab a bus for part of the remaining distance.

So, as I mentioned above, hip hip hooray for the electric bike. Because now, I am so happy to say that I have returned to the joyful activity of riding a long distance tour by bicycle. I am in the middle of one as I write this story. It is forty miles this time. Nowhere near 1,500...yet.

This time, so many calendar years later and with bike technology that is light years ahead of 1982, I now ride a RadRover from Rad Power Bikes, out of Seattle, Washington. They have created a beauty that comes in two colors; black or white. I chose black. It is an electrically powered fat bike which I have modified to fit my practical and esthetic needs.

It is known as a fat bike partly because it has four inch wide knobby, fat, tires. It is, in essence, a mountain bike which is very capable as a road bike at the same time. The 750 watt motor and the 48 volt battery can take me up to 25 miles with my leg power added. With a second battery stowed away in my Burley Nomad trailer, my distance doubles. When that runs out, I hopefully am already camped or in a hotel where I can re-charge for the next day of travel.

My interest in bicycle touring was recently re-kindled by stumbling upon a few videos on YouTube. Seeing the various examples of which panniers to purchase, how and what to pack in them, brought back memories of my past pannier preparations. There is a certain excitement related to the process of deciding upon what to buy, where, and how much to spend. So, familiar tour preparation became a big part of my daily thoughts. This was particularly true while at my personally unsatisfying job.

Every day, while at work, my mind wandered away from vocational duties to adventurous daydreams. I couldn't help it. Every day, as I commuted to and from work, all I could think about was bike touring. Could I even physically do it anymore? I would soon find out.

Suffering through the slow stop and go crawl of heavy rush hour traffic turned into something completely different. My mind turned off the disgust associated with this daily grind and welcomed the fantasies I conjured up instead. Rather than mutter under my breath my roadway discontent with hundreds of other cars and trucks that surrounded me, I was smiling internally at the prospect of my next, long awaited, two wheeled adventure. Hot damn!

Well, the days passed by. Each night after work I would stitch together more and more ideas that percolated in my mind in the hopes of making my fantasy adventure come true. I pulled down my old Centurion Super Le Mans twelve speed that had been hanging in the garage for years and started the process of giving it new life. Yes, the very same bike that took me to Illinois from California thirty five years ago. It needed new tubes and tires for sure, and a good amount of service all totaling $240. That figure was just under what I paid for the bike new from Joslyn's Bike Shop in Monterey thirty seven years earlier. Ouch.

After that, an expense that ultimately turned out to be an unnecessary one, I rode it around my neighborhood for about a mile with no bags other than the old handlebar bag. It felt very familiar and good. The next day, I added the matching rear Eclipse panniers I had stored away from those past tours. I partially filled them with a few items to ease into a touring weight. I rode for three miles. That was not bad, but I did feel the difference and the need to get into better shape if a real extended tour were to take place. By the way, I tried desperately to figure out a way to once again use those great old blue bags on my Rover. I couldn't quite get their proprietary configuration to conform to my new ride satisfactorily, so I had to let them go back into storage after the third and final test run coming up. Bummer!

The following day, for that final test run, I went out for six miles. This time I had to walk up a few hills and also stop for a good rest or two along the way. It occurred to me, that there was no way I could realistically take this sentimental bike for a long tour ever again. My hopes faded. The idea of embarking on another tour adventure looked pretty much impossible. Then, I stumbled upon the e-bike world and everything changed.

I discovered a video, among many others, that was created by a young man named Adamm Jarvis. He produced an interesting review of the RadRover. It can be found on YouTube easily enough. I watched it a couple of times and thought the Rover was worth a better look, so I went to the Rad web site to learn more. I was impressed with the company and its young founders. Still, I needed to look around for other choices, which I did, just to be sure I was satisfied with my research.

I kept going back to Rad. I spoke with them on the phone a few times, telling them my plans and they thought the Rover would work best for my touring idea. I saw more reviews - EBR, Electric Bike Review, was another good one.

I returned to Adamm's video. There was something about it that spoke to me. It had an easy going vocal delivery by Adamm himself, music, and good production value. Along with the bike itself, featured in the video, that twenty something minute video helped me make up my mind. The Rover is what I wanted.

It is now June, 30th 2017. Today, I have pedaled my Rover twenty miles to the Sycamore Campground at the beach near Malibu, CA. Roughly ten miles on roads and streets, and ten miles on the great trail from inland to the beach. I am the only person in the hike and bike area. My campsite begins to take shape.

This may only be a shorter overnight adventure, but boy, am I ever loving it. The ride was wonderful - not hot at all, but perfect. I took this trail part way three other times. Having taken this trail now for the fourth time, and adding the camp out element to it, I am filled with a sense of adventure. I've longed for this touring/camping feeling. This short bike tour brings back all the experiences that my other longer tours gave me - scenery, fresh air, camping, exercising by bike, saying hello to new people as they go about their camping fun. The little kids on their bikes smile as they ride past me among the camp sites. I think one of those smiling little ones was the same one who woke up early the next morning and would not stop screaming. Seriously, for well over an hour, I struggled with those screams and the incessant small dog barking that complimented the shrieking. So much for a peaceful way to wake up with the great outdoors.

My penthouse suite tent is roomy and functional, but it isn't sound proof. It has enough room to hold my Rover and trailer all secured, dry and safe without a need to lock it up. I think it is fine with me right beside it. Even so, ever since my first bike was stolen so many years ago, I have never forgotten the hollow feeling of having lost such a treasured possession to some cold hearted thief. However, in my actual garage at home, my Rover is kept securely locked.

I kid around when asked about the space inside my voluminous tent.
"I have a garage, a bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom."
When people hear me say that, they often chuckle. It's true. I really make good use of the giant tent...I create a garage, a bedroom, a kitchen, and a bathroom within the nylon walls.

Many a campground will have a tendency to gross me out when it comes to the bathroom facilities. I decided to take my self contained idea to new heights by incorporating the survivalist style bathroom. I have a sliced section of a pool noodle circling the rim of a small bucket lined with a plastic waste bag, a hospital urinal, a hospital wash basin (I've spent a few days in hospital care recently), plenty of t. p., small trash bags, wet wipes, wash cloths, towels, soap, and I fill up one or two gallon plastic bottles with water from the campground source. All these comforts ease the hassle of having to walk to the facilities in the middle of the night if necessary. In fact, I am now so spoiled by this, I can't help but think that this is the only way to camp by bicycle.

Having my indoor kitchen is convenient, too. Boiling water for morning coffee without going outside is great. Oatmeal and coffee at my fingertips - perfect. My only concern is if Yogi Bear's cousins come snooping around. I had better start keeping the bulk of my minimalist food stuffs outside during the night. Ya think?

My bedroom set up is an important one. I have to be comfortable with my necessary pillow configuration, and mattress combo. My ground tarp is the first protective layer followed by the tent floor, a one half inch thick layer of foam rubber, topped with my air mattress, the Klymit Insulated Static V Sleeping Pad. I researched the mattresses and knew I had to have a top of the line product. It inflates with only about twelve deep breaths. The Klymit I bought is not their most expensive version. That said, I was not going to sacrifice my comfort to save a few bucks by going any lower.

My new sleeping bag, the OutdoorsmanLab sleeping bag is not of the mummy type. I feel way too restricted if and when I can't sprawl as part of my comfort zone. The bag also allows for poking your feet out when it gets too hot. I like that for sure. Everything is lightweight, and compact. That, my friends, is more than just desirable when biking. It is imperative.

There is so much room to work in my tent garage. I'm away from any flying pests or crawling bugs as I work. I fabricated a kick stand/tent floor protector out of a plastic coffee can lid, cardboard and gaff tape. I need to prevent holes in the tent floor. Spreading out my tools and parts inside my tent near my Rover and Nomad bicycle trailer makes it easier to be a do-it-yourselfer. Very convenient.

Here are some thoughts as the sun sinks behind the dry mountain a few yards west of my camp site.

We're taught from an early age to share. Share that Popsicle, or candy bar. Back in 1982, a lanky gray haired gentleman walked out of a small grocery store in Glacier National Park and saw I was bicycle touring. He had just unwrapped his candy bar and offered to share it with me. I think it was a Hershey bar - kindness.

"Here, have a bite of my Slim Jim, or half of my sandwich." That's a comment that may sound familiar to many of us from times past. Similarly, at another stop at a campground in northern Montana, an older retired couple, who upon learning I was in the middle of a cross country bicycle tour, offered dinner and homemade blueberry pie in their motor home camper. I will never forget the look on the woman's face, and her exclamation;

"You're doing what?? You must be hungry!"

I find it touching when on the receiving end of kindness and generosity. At the same time, I see the compassion and satisfaction on the faces of those who offer it. Those moments lead me into a more spiritual place where I often ponder the bigger picture, and how little things we do can have so much meaning.

Ah, the wonder of it all. The world going by at 70 to 80 miles per hour in a car is quite different from the world I see at 5 to 25 miles an hour by bicycle. The world I witness from a slower perspective has a more complete way of becoming a part of me. I see more. I hear more. I feel more. I acutely sense the wonder of it all.

I guess my philosophical nature comes from being Greek. My ancestors managed to produce a few good ones way back when. I'm sure you can recall their names.

This trip is only the beginning. I'd like to make several of these e-bike journeys to help re-capture some of the youthful times I loved so much. I want to retire soon and take advantage of the physical abilities I still have before they wither away never to be again. I can't see myself spending anymore precious days than I absolutely have to working in an unsatisfying job. I want to feel the wind against my face as I bike along a secluded trail. I want to hear the birds calling, see the squirrels, lizards, and rabbits dart across the trail in front of me as they rush toward their own little palaces. I want to cross the shallow stream that meanders across the trail in three different locations and get wet, muddy, and laugh about it to myself.

I travel alone. I don't mind the solitude, the mud, the sweat, the tough hills, and the occasional mechanical repair. They're all part of the smile. My smile. And I will savor all of these moments as they find me - as nature comes to me. I won't wonder, one day, why I didn't take advantage of the mountains, the beaches, the nights under the stars. Nope. That little boy who ate up the streets of small town USA while pedaling on his Monark still exists. He is just a little bigger, wiser, and definitely more gray. He continues to occupy the space between my ears and the heart of my soul.

So, this is my camp/biking story that replaced the original, longer, Santa Barbara round trip which had to be cancelled. Some of you have been waiting for this documentary of sorts for too long. I apologize for the delay. Perhaps I will get to the Santa Barbara adventure before my legs tell me to give it up. I hope to make that tour soon. For now, I hope you found this little story interesting. Perhaps even inspiring. Thanks for taking the time to share my adventure.
 
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