Let me begin by saying that when I first noticed that this contest was going on, I thought to myself, "Man, I would sure love to do that, but there's no way the pregnant wife and toddler would let me get away for even a day." Well, I was wrong--and my family is awesome for letting me take time off from being a dad. After spending wintergheddon in Pistol Pete's tipi tent using my wood stove, I really wanted a shot at one of those tents from Wyoming Lost and Found.
Now, Kyle and I have been talking about taking out our motorcycles for a camping trip for a while, and two weeks ago, we finally decided to do it. Initially we were going to go for an overnighter, with some early morning squirrel hunting. Unfortunately, the season had just closed for anything we could hunt with a .22 rifle. Not one's to be discouraged, we still decided to go camping. The area of operation chosen was across the street from the ZombieCon property--basically the side of Hugh's mountain in central Missouri. This is one of our optional bug out locations. The forecast looked marginal, what with the possibility of thunderstorms, but neither one of us are afraid to take risks from time to time to learn the limits of our gear, and ourselves. Let me mention that this is the first time that Kyle or I have ever taken our bikes on a trip like this. As we were getting ready to leave, Kyle said that we should take photos and that there was a contest going on....The Contest! I had completely forgotten about it! Here was my chance at that tent!
And so, here is my humble entry.
Here are some pics of the bikes upon setting off. The motorcycle I have is a mid weight dual sport—the XT350. The tires I have on it are 90% for on road, 10% off road. I only use it for getting around the city. Of course I had to do it up ZS style. I sewed that seat cover from homemade tincloth.
We stopped by Crypto's place to see his new jeep, dubbed the brick:
He was kind enough to take a pic of Kyle and I:
The ride down was cold. The things I brought to cover my legs were a pair of lightweight smartwool long underwear bottoms, a pair of round house duck cloth dungarees, and my rei rain pants. I had all three on while riding. And so, my upper body was fine, but the lower half was cold. Then again, the trip was over an hour and a half, and we were pushing 70 mph a good part of the time. We stopped about 2/3rds of the way at a gas station, warmed up, and were on our way again. The last leg wasn't as bad as the roads were much windier, and so we weren't driving as fast. When we finally got there, the first obstacle was to leave the paved road, and get past a foot deep puddle of water. Let me remind you that we have never done this before! Well, I remembered what my dad used to do when we would take the 2 wheel drive car on roads up in the mountains of Colorado. Just get enough speed to coast through what ever you are going through. I chose a narrow path at the edge of the small pond, and made it through. Kyle tried to go on the other side of it, but got stuck:
After trying a few methods, we finally decided that a combination of elbow grease and man handling would unstick her. One we were past the first obstacle, we then decided to try to get as far up the power line cut as we could. As we didn't have a particular camp spot in mind, we figured that we would just go as far as our skills and bikes would carry us.
I kept thinking that as a traveler in the PAW, one would probably want to get off the road as far into the woods as one could to camp during night time--you know, to avoid thieves and vagabonds. At least that's what I was pretending as we were struggling up that hill! Unfortunately, Kyle's bike was a bit too heavy for such mucky ground, and after getting only a couple hundred meters or so up the cut, had to stop. My bike was a bit lighter on her toes, and was therefore able to get quite a ways further up the cut. I went up a ways, but didn't want to get separated too much. So, I parked the bike, grabbed my hand held transceiver, peeled off some layers( my bike is kickstart only, and I was having to turn it on and off a lot by this point--I was getting hot) and walked back down to Kyle. On my way down to him, I noticed a clearing through the woods that we might check out for camp. When I got down to him, we had to make a decision: ride both bikes back down, stash his bike and hike up, or camp right there. We decided to stash his bike:
Here I am walking up the hill with a few of Kyle's items in hand. You can see how treacherous it is, especially for those who have no experience, or the tires to compete.
I took his things to the clearing and proceeded to ride my bike through the woods to the edge of the clearing. Kyle came up, and we agreed that this was as fine a place to camp as any. Too bad the ground was kinda murky. Here is the site:
And my bike:
With only a few hours left of daylight, we knew that leisure would have to wait. It was time to gather wood, set up our shelters, and make fire. I put my camp knife on, and my pistol (there could be vagabonds!), a wool shirt, and proceeded with said chores. The shelter went up easy, as I decided to only use the bivy bag. You can see my camp behind the fire pit.
Here I am limbing out a downed cedar with my council tool hudson bay ax with a 28 inch handle. She works great, and I would recommend that ax to anyone.
Also, the Bob dustrude quick buck saw is a great piece of gear. I like mine so much, I decided to give one to Kyle as an early birthday present:
Remember, split wood with your knees bent, so the ax can't hit your feet:
Another good way to split small stuff is with a helper stick...that way you don't split your hand.
Or you can make a few wedges out of oak:
The upside down fire: works great when the ground is wet. Also, burns a very long time, smokes little, and requires little tending.
Even though I carry several lighters, it is easy to use the back of the tip of my neck knife, and a firesteel with a bit of vaseline soaked cotton ball as the starter:
I invented a adjustable pot hanger just for this trip, and threw together a tripod to try it out on. However, the tripod wasn't tall enough to get hang the pot over our fire:
So, I used the tripod to support a longer stick, which I then hung the pot off of. That worked great:
When we wanted to get some oxygen in a particular spot, I would use part of an aluminum arrow shaft to blow air into the fire. Later on, I added the drinking tube from my water bladder so I could sit on my bum while I did this. The second pic also shows the inside of my fire kit. It is just a waterproof tobacco tin with vaselene soaked cotton balls, REI storm matches, fat wood shavings I got from my pencil sharpener, and a small neon orange sparker from a survival kit.
Dinner consisted of fresh green beans and steak. Kyle used my old school acme frypan for the meats. Yum!
And now for that leisure I was talking about...harmonica time! You can see also that I am using the cooking support stick to dry some socks by the fire:
Well, after enjoying some exellent company with my best friend, we finally decided to turn in. Again, my sleeping arrangement consisted of a reflective tarp, a US GI goretex bivy sack, a thermarest inflateable sleeping pad, a thin wool blanket, and a quilt that I made based on the RayWay quilt kit. I call mine the fireball, as it is orange and black. You can learn more about that here:http://www.rayjardine.com/ray-way/Quilt-Kit/index.htm
I got to bed, but woke in the middle of the night to put on my Camp 7 down jacket, and eat some peanut butter. Peanut butter may be one of the most perfect survival foods there is. Lots of energy, and tastes good too! It helped stoke the metabolic fires, and I went back to bed.
In the morning, Kyle checked his phone, and said it had gotten down to 19 degrees. Yeah, it felt like it--but I slept alright. In the morning it is best to start moving around. We wanted a hot beverage quick, so water was boiled on my alchohol stove. This is a trangia burner in a clikstand brand stove (http://www.clikstand.com/
). The stand is the wind break, but more shielding helps keep the heat next to the pot. Also, you can see that it packs down small. Also, I'd like to mention that my pots are hard anodized aluminum, without "non-stick coating". This allows me the option of using metal utensils, and also, never possibly being poisoned by my cookware's "coating". Further, I can clean my cookware with sand or whatever I please.
Here's another way to stay warm in the morning. Use your wool blanket and a big safety pin:
Don't you fuck with my bacon!
Also, if you want to filter water, or take a shower, the ULA H2O amigo is a good gravity filter:
Kyle agreed to cook while I took some more photos of my gear. He made the bacons and the eggs. What a guy!
So, while he was cooking, I was able to take a bunch more pics. Here is my sleeping gear. I use a bladder from a box of wine as a pillow. It also serves as a back up water carrier. Also, I didn't need to rig my flectarn tarp, but you can see it folded up in the second pic. Note that I made the yellow and orange silnylon stuff sacks. I keep the sleeping pad in the yellow one. Also I'm demonstrating a good way to stow an inflatable sleeping pad. Fold in half down the long axis with valve open. Then tightly roll up, keeping edges aligned. Lastly, close valve.
The cook kit:
My pack is a cfp-90. It feels great, and held everything I needed for this trip. I walked around a bit with it on so that I could be part of the contest
Here is my neck knife. It made by brusletto and is the spikeknivve--an child's introductory whittling knife. The blade is high carbon, and I made the sheath myself. I designed it so that you could wear it high or low on the chest, or configure it to hang from a belt. I can one hand draw it from the belt. The knife is excellent.
Also, this is what I carry with me in my pocket at all times. This kit contains a lighter, sewwing kit, fire starter, fire steel, knife sharpener, cordage, a whistle, and water purification tablets.
Here are the tools of camp. Ax, saw, knife and revolver. The revolver is a ruger gp-100 in .357 mag. With this gun and the right ammo, I can hunt everything from squirrels up to deer. I feel confident that I could take down anything in my AO with it. My camp knife is a Helle eggen. I have been whittling a spoon with it at home and it is great, but I hardly had to use it on this trip at all. The blade is about 4 inches long, has a scandi grind on it, and has a rat tail tang. It came from the factory very sharp, and the curly birch handle is very beautiful. Also, the sheath is well made. 70 bones well spent. Also, please note that I use my axe for splitting wood, not my knife. The axe...don't leave home without it.
Here is the cordage and webbing I brought. I use the carabineers and webbing to strap the pack to the bike.
First aid kit. Old outdoor research kit I've had since I was a teen. It has a fold out that unbuttons from the main pouch. While I didn't have to use anything out of it, Kyle lent me something out of his...I'll get to that in a minute.
Here are a few more pics of gear:
And here's a few of the things on my bike. I carry gasoline in the MSR fuel bottle. The bag on the handle bar carries tools, plastic bags to put over my hands if it rains, and an air pump for tires. The bag is just a butt pack, and you can see that it flips up for refueling. Also, I used a piece of pipe as a makeshift highway cruising bar--a place to put my feet in a forward position. Note that it was removed for all off roading. Also, the rack is made by cycleracks.com. A bit spendy, but high quality.
We knew that rain might be coming, and didn't want to have to be riding in it. So we finally decided to pack it in and get down the hill. Kyle humped down to his moto, and I rode my bike out to the power line cut. Unfortunately, as I was riding down to Kyle, I lost control of the bike, and it landed on my foot. Crunch. Ow....that was bad. Is it broken....no, I can stand on it. Well, Kyle cam running up, helped me pick my bike up, and we assessed the situation. My ankle was good enough to limp on, so I decided to ride the bike down the hill, this time with it off, and in first gear. That way, I could let the clutch out to compression brake, and keep better control. I was able to get down the hill, and Kyle came down after me. Here's that damn hill again.
Once at the bottom we had to get past that little pond, and out onto the road. I could ride, but it was very hard to start my bike--kickstart, remember? And on the same side as the injured foot. Kyle had to start helping me with that. However, we did manage to get out onto the road with some manuevering. I found a deer skull while we were working on getting onto the road. That was when I knew we had leveled up. We rode a little ways down and stopped in the parking lot of Hugh's mountain. I had some wire wrapped around the fuel bottle I carry, and so decided to lash the skull to my bike. I earned that skull.
Kyle earned pickles:
We rode for twenty minutes, got fuel in Potosi, and I put some more clothes on. My ankle was hurting like a mild sprain. We rode for another twenty minutes or so, and got lunch at subway. Here I am wrapping the ankle of doom (from Kyles first aid kit). Perhaps Kyle has finally passed the curse on?
Well, the rest of the trip was uneventful. It wasn't nearly as cold as it was the ride down, and the ankle didn't keep me from getting home. A lot of good lessons learned. Kyle and I need a primer in off roading--and I don't mean a crash course. Otherwise, all of my equipment worked great. It has taken me a long time to put my kit together, and I am continually learning new things.
I have to thank Kyle for taking so many pictures of me in action. Good luck to everyone else, and may the best person win!
One last thing...remember how awesome I said my wife and son were? Well, when I got home, I found that they had baked me a cake to show how much they love me. If I don't win the contest, then that was prize enough!