Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Joys of Camping: Honey – I Shrunk Our Stuff

Written By: RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel

My campground neighbors must have enjoyed the show, watching the idiot, yours truly, wander over to a small coffee pot sitting on the ground, lift the lid, and peer into it every couple of minutes. They were probably somewhat bewildered as I poured steaming water into two cups, brewing some Starbucks instant coffee for my wife and myself. What they couldn’t see was that the pot sat on a tiny denatured alcohol stove about the size of a hockey puck. Made of titanium, the stove had been irresistible when I saw it clearance-priced at $15. It featured two heat settings, flamethrower and off, and promised a burn time of about 15 minutes per fueling. Did it live up to its promise? Sort of, as long as the moon was in the proper phase and the correct sacrifices were made prior to using it. Actually, it boiled one cup of water pretty well, but two cups was a toss of the dice. The stove was yet another step in my quest to assemble the ultimate collection of compact gear for motorcycle camping.

No matter how you simplify it, carrying enough gear on your bike for camping requires careful attention to detail. Limiting what you take is only half the battle, the other half being reducing the size of every possible item. Decreasing size without sacrificing function is the goal, and each piece of equipment should be selected with that in mind. I’ve even resorted to packing only collarless shirts to save space. (RoadRUNNER T-shirts do nicely.)

The stove problem has been vexing since size, functionality, fuel cost, and availability must be considered. My first motorcycle camping stove was a single-burner propane model, which worked well but was bulky, both in terms of the stove itself and the small propane cylinders that fueled it. The cylinders would also leak once the burner was removed. It is now one of those items taking up garage space that I mentioned in my last article. I now take two stoves, allowing me to boil water for a constant infusion of vitamin C (coffee) with one, while preparing food with the other. The two that I’ve been using are a Jetboil stove and an MSR PocketRocket stove. They both use the same butane/isobutane/propane fuel canisters, and both perform extremely well. A good lower-cost alternative is either of the two aforementioned stoves used along with a fold-up Sterno stove. The Sterno stove is about as high-tech as a stone axe, but it gets hot enough to cook an egg or heat a can of stew fairly quickly.

You’ll need something to put that food on, of course, and there are opportunities for saving space here as well. We’ve been using collapsible and nesting bowls and mugs made by Sea to Summit. The only drawback we’ve found is that the soft plastic compound tends to absorb odors from drinks. We use a Teflon Bugaboo mess kit made by GSI is for cooking, and we prefer the nonstick surface to plain aluminum for easy clean up. We eat out of the mess-kit skillet and lid instead of taking plates, and we use Lexan utensils to avoid scratching the Teflon surface.

Flashlights and lanterns are other items that need a serious diet before
motorcycle-camping duty. My current favorite is a small Coleman LED lantern, which features two light intensities and a flash setting for emergency use. I recently saw another interesting LED flashlight/lantern combination that I may not be able to resist. It is the “Joey” model by Outback Flashlights and features a flashlight, red flashing emergency light, and rows of LED bulbs down the side of the handle for use as a lantern. While not packing the punch of larger lights, the compact size and versatility of these relatively new lighting products are a perfect match for motorcyclists.

Other diminutive but useful items include a quality multipurpose tool such as those made by Gerber and Leatherman; a small cutting board; a 30-foot piece of strong cord for clothesline use; such clips as the S-Biners sold by Aerostich; a collapsible bucket; and a soft or folding cooler. If your plans include cooking over a fire don’t forget a small cooking grate and something to wrap it in, as the fire rings with grates provided by many parks look as though they were salvaged from a sunken Spanish galleon.

It is amazing how much performance can be squeezed into some of these small products, considering the enormous size difference compared with conventional camping gear. There’s a special sense of self-sufficiency that comes from carrying everything you need on a motorcycle, and it’s fun watching your weekend neighbors wonder how you managed to pack it all. It’s also entertaining to observe them search their own site for a geothermal vent like the one they’re convinced exists on yours.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

What To Do Until the Ambulance Arrives

Written By: RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel

Have you ever come upon an accident before emergency medical service (EMS) personnel arrive and were unsure how to assist? It can be a daunting situation, where it’s tempting to just ride past, but think how you would feel if you were the injured victim who desperately needed help!

The essential things to remember at any injury crash scene are: Call for EMS help immediately; don’t put yourself in a situation where you could become a victim; and do no further harm.

Stop in a safe place, activate your bike’s flashers (if equipped), and use your motorcycle to light the scene if it is night. Think: Is it safe for me? Is it safe for the victim? People tend to get tunnel vision and focus on the victim. Before you plunge into an accident scene, however, take a quick look around to get the big picture. Does it look staged? In rare cases criminals have set up fake accidents or breakdowns to draw in their prey. Perhaps the victim was shot off the motorcycle and the shooter is still nearby. Was it a hit-and-run and the perpetrator is just now leaving? Write down license-plate numbers – in the roadside sand if necessary – and get a full description of any vehicles and people and call authorities as soon as possible. Preserve any evidence.

As soon as you determine there are injured victims, or that police are needed for any reason, call 911 or another local emergency number. The dispatcher will want to know the exact location and if possible the number of victims and severity of injuries. This allows them to send the right resources, such as a paramedic ambulance or helicopter.
If any people or debris are in or close to the road you need to consider traffic control. If other people are on the scene ask them to help with this. Never move injured people unless they are in extreme peril, such as next to or under a burning vehicle that you can’t extinguish or move, or in imminent danger of being run over by oncoming vehicles if it is impossible to stop or redirect traffic in time.

Many states have Good Samaritan laws that protect unpaid people who help at an accident scene, providing they were not grossly negligent. If a person is unconscious and needs assistance, implied-consent statutes allow bystanders to render life-saving aid. Check if your state has such laws. Assume that any victims have communicable diseases, and avoid coming in contact with bodily fluids. Keep your motorcycle gloves on if you don’t have rubber gloves in your first-aid kit.

Do a quick triage to determine how many victims there are and who is most urgent. If a victim is conscious you must get permission to assist them. The person with the highest level of medical training should be in charge. Say something like, “Hi, my name is Ken. What’s yours? It looks like you need help. Can I assist you? What happened? Do you know where you are? Do you feel pain? Where?” A person’s level of consciousness tells a lot about their condition. It’s a good sign if they are alert and fully oriented.

For Unconscious Victims Remember ABC
A – Airway: Determine if there is anything blocking the airway or in the mouth or throat that needs to be cleared immediately. Avoid removing a helmet unless the person will die if it isn’t done before the ambulance arrives.
B – Breathing: Is the person breathing? Determine by listening, watching the chest, etc.
C – Circulation: Check the pulse at the carotid artery, right next to the windpipe/Adam’s apple on either side. If the person is breathing they will have a pulse. If pulse or breathing is not present begin rescue breathing or CPR, if you know how.
Assume that any crash victim has a head, neck or spinal injury, which could paralyze them if they are moved. Keep victims’ heads immobile, even if they say they can move their head normally. Tell them, “You’ve been in an accident and it’s important that you don’t move. We don’t know if you have a spinal injury or not. An ambulance is coming.”
Control heavy bleeding by applying steady, direct pressure with sterile gauze pads. Use a clean cloth or T-shirt as a last resort if no sterile dressing is available.
Ken Freund is a former member of a Sheriff’s Rescue Team and EMT.

 Disclaimer
This information is intended to be educational on what to do if you encounter an accident and is not an authoritative source of medical advice. You should take such further steps as taking a certified ASMI, CPR, or Red Cross First Aid class, and talking to your doctor. Responsibility resides with individuals to educate themselves as much as possible. These are only suggestions. Every situation may warrant different responses and the author and publisher will not be held responsible for injury that may occur as a result of following the steps provided.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Touring Tip: Discouraging Motorcycle Thieves On The Road

Written By: RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel

As dear old dad was fond of saying, “Locks are mainly to keep honest people honest. A skilled and determined thief will often find a way to overcome locks and alarms.” Having acknowledged that, though, there are many effective strategies for helping to “keep honest people honest” and preventing a theft from ruining your motorcycle touring vacation. Here are some of the best ones that I’ve found, starting with those that are the most obvious: 
  • Lock the bike’s ignition and remove the key
  • Attach a lock to one of the front brake discs
  • Use brightly colored locks in easily seen locations so potential thieves will be more likely to see them before approaching the bike
  • Add an alarm to your motorcycle
  • At night, park the bike in a lighted area, near the front entrance of the hotel and, if possible, in view of the hotel’s surveillance camera
  • When stopping for food, if feasible, park the bike where you can see it out the window from your table in the restaurant
  • If you’re using a chain type of lock, attach it through the spokes of your bike to an immovable object, like a light pole, or to a riding companion’s bike
  • Remove any unlocked luggage and take it into your hotel room at night
  • Keep insurance and licensing information on your person, not on the motorcycle
  • Leave the bike’s title in a safe place at home
  • Take valuable items, like cameras, into your room at night
  • Remove electronic gear (GPS, radar detector, etc.) from your bike at night and any other time the bike will be out of your sight for several hours
  • When trailering a motorcycle, chain-lock it to the trailer, lock the trailer that the bike is hitched to, and back up next to a wall in the evening so your bike cannot be rolled off the back of the trailer
  • Take a photo(s) of some unique identifying mark(s) or feature(s) on your bike and keep it with you to aid authorities with identification, in case the bike is stolen and later recovered.
With the replacement cost of touring and custom motorcycles climbing to new heights, it only makes sense to take preventative measures that will help protect your investment. And, when you’re on tour in the hinterlands, you don’t want your only mode of transportation to suddenly disappear. The above list isn’t intended to be all-inclusive, but it’s to get you thinking about risks and ways to discourage thieves when you’re on tour. Happy riding.

This article is published with the permission of RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel Magazine. It is not for sale or redistribution.

Monday, May 07, 2012

The Lost Art of Getting Lost


Written By: RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel

I used to get lost. A lot. Wrong turns. Missed turns. Plain ol’ curiosity sometimes. I always came out the other side, sometimes a little late, always a little smarter. It was ok because I loved maps. Ever since I was a kid I enjoyed spending time pouring over maps, tracing over windy roads, and imagining what stories they held. Getting lost was just an excuse to take out the map, figure out where I was, and figure out how to get home. And then I got my first GPS, a Garmin eMap. Tiny, low-contrast black and white screen. No turn-by-turn directions. But like I told the kids in the Extremadura in western Spain as the mechanic siphoned the leaded gas from the Aprila Pegaso (don’t ask, long story), “Todo el mundo esta aqui.”

And over time I’ve gotten lost less. And looked at maps less. And bumped into unexpected things less. And discovered things less. And been happily surprised less. You call that progress? Now don’t get me wrong – I love nav systems. Use them all the time. But the screens are still tiny and low resolution compared to a good map, and they don’t really encourage discovery, the kind of “what if we turned down this road?” adventure that I used to love. And they’re not really beautiful – if you want to see some really beautiful maps, check out Raven Maps & Images.

A dear cousin once said to me, “jump and the world will catch you.” It’s not too late to make a New Year’s Resolution, is it? This year, I resolve to get more lost. And I hope that you get lost too.


This article is published with the permission of RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel Magazine. It is not for sale or redistribution.