mountain laurel designs trailstar - review

touring for a third of a year requires quite a bit more gear than a weekend trip, for sure. when going out for a night or two you can get away with all sorts of stuff that just won't fly when home is hundreds or thousands of miles away. everything must have a purpose, and even better, more than one purpose, so you must chose your gear wisely. the ability to do that really comes almost exclusively through personal experience, but often seeking reviews is the place to start.

getting a quality review of a piece of gear is often more difficult than it would seem. reviews on sites like REI or Amazon can be helpful but you have to consider the source. how long has it been used? in what conditions? what were the expectations? is the person reviewing qualified to make that review? i can't say how many times i've read a review online about a bike that says "i tested this in the parking lot, it's so fast!" this person has no business saying anything about that  bike. i want to read the review by the person that's used the product for at least a season, if not more. only then can the review be taken with any sort of credibility.

over the past four months i've gotten a lot of questions about the gear i've brought on my tour. i'd usually just toss out the name and say, "it's great", but i always had much more i could have said. when you spend all day every day interacting with more or less a few pieces of gear you get to know any strengths and weaknesses pretty well. i mean, really well. i was in the fortunate position to have to rely on my gear day in and day out, without fail. if something didn't work right, well enough, or at all it could be really bad news, depending on the item. so i had done my homework and i chose wisely, indeed. i hope that i can provide some helpful insights into the gear i brought.

sometimes the weather cooperates and you can just sleep out under the stars, which, as far as i'm concerned, is plan A. other times you can find a sturdy structure to camp under, like a gazebo or a bridge. still, other times you just need a shelter because you're in the middle of nowhere. maybe it's due to rain, wind, or mosquitoes or maybe you just don't like sleeping outside unprotected. no matter the reason, you need to have one with you.

Mountain Laurel Designs Trailstar on tour in the nebraskan sand hills

i chose the term shelter because it doesn't have to be a traditional tent. i personally brought along a Mountain Laurel Designs Trailstar tarp, and i couldn't have been more pleased. i had looked at a few one-person tents but often found that their specs made them too heavy or bulky in terms of volume. i would have made due with what i got, but this one came on recommendation from a friend with plenty of experience with it. it's also made in the USA, which is nice.

in the past i've used smaller tarps for single-night trips and i took one to nova scotia last year for a one-week tour. it was small and covered barely more than a hammock or a sleeping bag, so it would be terrible for heavy rains. for this tour i knew it would be probable that i'd run into some weather where i'd have to spend quite a lot more time under the tarp so i wanted something that was a bit bigger and sturdier. the Trailstar fit the criteria.

the footprint is a luxurious 50 sq.ft., which is plenty of room for whatever you may want to put under there. i often just had my sleeping bag and pad along with some a few other things like food or clothes which left ample extra space... not that i needed any more, it's just nice to have. they do recommend not cooking under this thing, but go on to say that it is large. i cooked in this thing pretty much every night and morning that i had it set up with no issues. plenty of ventilation and the ceiling is high enough to not be close to any flames. if you do that, though, just be smart about it.

10 miles east of the continental divide in wyoming.
a big footprint also means you have a ton of coverage from the elements, which is a very nice feeling when you can see some nasty clouds off in the distance headed your way. i've waited out several heavy rain storms, plenty of nights with drizzle, a few snow storms, and a few nights of excessively strong winds under the Trailstar and at no point did any precipitation find its way onto me or my stuff. nice. it does come with a tube of seem sealer, which you have to apply yourself. it's not much of an issue but it is something you ought to do before using it in rough weather.

going through many of the western states there is a lot of nothing and the wind can get pretty fierce. often, even if the temperatures permitted and there was no rain in the forecast, i set up the Trailstar just for wind protection. with its low pitch angle and 10 tie-out points it's super sturdy. if you button it to the ground and tighten it like a drum it will hold up to some serious winds. in a few places in nebraska and idaho the forecasts called for 25mph winds with gusts up to 50mph at night and, though the walls flapped quite a bit, it held up very respectably.

among the idaho sage brush. tripod as support.
now, it seems like it was designed for backpackers because you're supposed to use trekking poles to set it up, one in the middle and one for the doorway. but if you're bike touring trekking poles are not part of your gear list, so you'll have to find something else to use. branches can work, but only if you're around trees, so i suggest something more reliable that you carry with you. i ended up buying a $12 monopod from walmart for hunting and used that for the center support. i just put a cap nut on the end to protect the tarp and it worked great. for the doorway i often used my camera tripod, my bike, a found stick or a tree. i never had an issue with any method.

aluminum stakes are garbage.
packing it up was easy, just fold it in half a few times and roll it up. done. i had a separate small ditty bag for some stakes that i tossed in the stuffsack with the Trailstar so i didn't have to look for them when it came time to set up camp. side note: don't bother with aluminum stakes, they amount to garbage. just go ahead and pick up some steel stakes or get the stakes that have 3 blades to prevent them from bending. i started with 10 aluminum stakes and finished with none.

the inner bugnet set up solo using a guy line tied to a branch
now, being a tarp it is simply protects you from precipitation and wind, but not bugs. some places or seasons that won't be an issue, but during the summer it will be a big problem. MLD does make an optional inner bugnet, which i did use for the first half of the tour. for most of the first half i used the bugnet independently of the Trailstar, which is quite nice. during those hot and humid summer nights it's nice to sleep protected from mosquitoes but have a fully ventilated shelter. i often just slept on my sleeping pad with no bag. a good night's sleep is invaluable when you're on tour. after the bug season passed i ended up mailing the net home with some other stuff to free up some pannier space. for the first half though, it was one of the most-used, most-appreciated pieces of gear in my bag. once i get home to connecticut this will definitely get used more than the Trailstar.

high pitch for better ventilation
it does have to be said that the Trailstar can be a bit difficult to set up, at least at first. having 10 tie-out points there is a lot of ways to set it up and a lot of ways to have a wonky set up. it does take a bit of experimentation to find the right pitch for your needs. i usually had it set up in the standard configuration, but on occasion i had it set up as a teepee or just used a higher/lower pitch for wind or snow shedding. when it was still fairly hot out i set it up with the sides off the ground for better ventilation. this thing is versatile, to say the least.

the Trailstar did me well on this tour. i have no regrets with my choice. for me it worked perfectly, though, i can see for some people it just wouldn't be right. some people may just prefer the full enclose of a tent. being a tarp it does not have a bottom so you're just there in the dirt, and that may be a deal-breaker for some people. you could get the inner bugnet, but that's just another thing to set up. i, personally, don't mind at all, but it does expose you to stuff on the ground. if you need a shelter that will fit a few people, or one person and a bunch of stuff, are facing lots of rain, snow, or wind, the Trailstar might just be the ticket. MLD often has some lead times posted on the front page of their website. i think when i ordered mine it said 3-4 weeks but it arrived in under 2. sweet.

left coast.

dipping the tires in the pacificwith no fanfare or anyone to recognize the achievement, i quietly rolled my bike out onto the beach and let the waves roll in. three and a half months on the road has had it's official end. it's bitter sweet, for sure. a tour of this size fundamentally is a freedom we are not used to as adults. it will be 1/3 of a year by the time i get home that i will have had no schedule to live by. no place to be at the end of the day. no person i had to see. no thing i had to do. i just pointed my wheel west and rode until i didn't feel like it anymore. that's a nice feeling and i'd like to feel it again.

that's not to say that my ride is over, though. i still have some riding to do.


riding among bales of hayi'm certainly touring late into the season, and i knew that i would be back when i first decided to do it. finances needed to be squared away to make it possible in the first place. when it came down to leaving late or putting it off another year, a late-season tour was the obvious choice. that meant i'd still be riding through the fall and i'd be at some much higher elevations by that point. i said i'd just deal with it when i got there.

so i'm there. and i'm dealing with it. nights are cold and getting colder. a few nights have hit single digits and have exceeded the rating of my sleeping bag. it's pretty miserable when you wake up at 3am and your face literally has ice on it and your feet ache from being so cold. there's not much more you can do that just wait it out until the sun comes up. luckily, that's only been a few times. for the most part nights have been a reasonable just-below freezing, which is perfect for sleeping.
enjoying idaho sage brush
sagebrush for miles and miles.
the downside to dealing with the colder temperatures is that i don't have a home or car to go back to after my ride... i live outside. if i'm cold all day and then it just gets colder at night, i'm just going to be cold. it's not pleasant, but you just deal with it. a few nights i've been able to have a fire but i've been burning sage brush, which burns like gasoline. you need an absurd amount just to keep a fire going for an hour or two so it's not terribly worth it.

one thing is for sure, though... the west is magical. it is everything i imagined it would be. it's huge. it's wild. it's beautiful. i'll be forever bound to the west in a way that the east cannot approach. just being completely removed from the rest of the world and existing purely in the expanses of the west has concretely carved itself a special place in my soul. after i've dipped my tires in the pacific and returned east to my home to sleep in my bed i'll be dreaming about sleeping in western dirt.

climax and falling action..

riding west into the wyoming rockiesthe past week and a half has been interesting, indeed. a little over a week and a half ago i left riverton, wy. and started heading into the mountains, which, are both literally and figuratively the climax of my tour. there is no phone service to be found and few towns with any resources so for the most part, you're on your own. by this point in my tour that type of isolation is familiar and actually quite comfortable. it's something that i'll miss when this is all over.

riding west into the wyoming rockiesthe landscape surprisingly looked very much south-westy in palette. orange and red rocks sprout from the ground and the land is relatively barren of trees. around every corner is another stretch of road with beautiful cliffs on either side. it did not wear thin. i could ride these roads over and over again.

the further i rode the more i could feel a change in elevation, though, there were no signs. my lungs were fine and i never went lactic but i just could not generate any power whatsoever. it was low-gear all the way, which made for some slow miles.

going up in elevation definitely means a change in weather. i had found a spot on the side of the road that looked good for a campsite and decided to call it a night. not having service i had no idea what the weather was going to do so i just prepare for the worst. i pitched my tarp, buttoned it to the ground and tightened it like a drum. i brought everything inside i might need and called it a night. during the night the winds whipped up and started dumping rain in spurts. by morning it had changed to ice. preparing for the worst paid off for sure this night.

just after sunrise the clouds broke and let a little light through, and man oh man, light just doesn't happen like this at sea level, for sure. i had just enough time to get out, grab some more food from the bike and enjoy the contrasty light. the clouds closed up and the precipitation started up again. all you can do is tighten the guy lines and get back into your sleeping bag and just wait. sometime around 1 o'clock the weather lightened up and it was time to make some distance. a quick pack job and i was on my way.
mountain laurel designs trailstar after a sleet storm east of the wyoming rockies

mountain laurel designs trailstar in the snow east of the continental divide in wyoming
while climbing through the shoshone national forest i came across a campground and decided to call it a night. i wasn't going any further that night and having a campsite would be nice seeing as though i was definitely in bear country at that point... not that that would really have any affect on a bear, it just made me feel a bit better. while setting up my tarp a guy from the one other campsite being occupied walked over and offered me to join him and his family in their camper for some dinner. absolutely i would. dinner, snacks, coffee, and fresh cranberries from their farm in wisconsin were had. afterwards i head back to my site and set up my tarp. again, prepare for the worst. i awoke to a winter wonderland. i heard a voice calling through the trees, "breakfast is ready... so is your coffee". well, you can't say "no"  to that.

when they had packed up and were on their way out of the park the stopped by and offered to drive me in to jackson hole. i declined, i had ridden this far and had to continue on my own two wheels. they wished me luck and drove off leaving me in the snow cave that had become of my tarp. around mid-day the weather broke and the sun came out. it was time to get moving. up through the mountains i rode.

scraping ice off the pedals of a soma grand randonneur bicycle while crossing the continental divide in wyomingthe higher i went the grayer and colder it got. when you get to that point there is no turning back, you just have to go up and over. not having access to any data i had no idea how far "over" was just that it was somewhere up there and i needed to get there. continuing in my bottom gear i crept on. it was getting bitter cold and my pedals were icing up almost immediately. i had to stop and scrape the ice off with my multi-tool every twenty minutes or so. stopping for any length of time was bad news. freezing cold would stab its way in at every opportunity.
riding over the continental divide through togwotee pass in wyoming.grinding on with no idea how far i had to go i looked up and saw a sign. a good sign. the continental divide sign. 9584 feet. then another good sign "6% grade next 17 miles". although crossing the divide was literally the high point of my tour, the second sign was perhaps even better. it was time to lose some elevation, and fast. but first, i needed to put some socks over my gloves... i was a bit under prepared. 

coming down from the pass the snow quickly disappeared. this was a good sign, though still cold. i stopped at the first campground i came by and called it a day. i was beat and i deserved a good sleep. the campsite was right next to a ranger station and i struck up a conversation with one of them. "do you have bear spray?' he asked... i did not. he popped back into the station and gave me a bottle and said, "i could save your life". all that means is i was not going to have a good sleep that night. don't get me wrong, i was glad to have it, but, dammit.

it was a cold night. very cold. a sturdy layer of frost covered everything and all of my water was frozen solid. i packed up as fast as i could, being painfully cold, and got on my way. still riding slightly downhill the wind burned my eyes... it made looking at the wild buffalo off in the distance difficult. even if they're blurry their size is quite clear.

now, here is where things get interesting. i pulled off on the side of the road to get a good look at the tetons and there was a guy there sitting in his car near by. "not a bad sight, eh?" he said and we struck up a conversation. he invited me to go hunting in the teton wilderness on horseback the day after next and i said "yes, absolutely" are you kidding me? people pay thousands of dollars for this experience and i just happened to meet the right guy. awesome. this is what my tour is all about. we head back to his cabin a few miles away and got the fire going. it ceases to amazes me how friendly people are outside of the northeast.

riding horseback into the teton wilderness in wyoming.the next day we drove around, got coffee, talked to people he knows in the area and just talked about everything late into the night. the following day we head out into the backcountry. i should mention that this was my first time on a horse. not a bad way learn how to ride, right?

we got lucky. very lucky. about an hour into the ride he had spotted what would become our dinner. he dismounted, aimed, and fired. now, remember how i said this was my first time on a horse? right, well at the gunshot the horses bolted, mine with me on it. they all took off back down the trail and i could not get my horse to stop so my only job was to stay in the saddle. trees, branches, fallen trees, rocks and dirt flew past as i juggled between trying to get control of the horse and bracing for an unwanted dismount into any of those obstacles. i managed to bring him to a stop and immediately hopped out of the saddle in case he decided he had some more running to do. that was an exciting minute, for sure. that night i had the most mind-blowing steak ever.

after a few days of insane hospitality i bid my host farewell and set off hoping to get ahead of some snow coming in the next day or so. my time in the tetons has been unforgettable but it was time to get going. weather waits for no one and i still had about 1000 miles to seattle. a day riding towards jackson hole downhill into a stiff headwind and having to work for it is enough to demoralize the fittest tourer out there.

napping in a barn outside of jackson hole wyoming during a rain storm
keeping an eye on the weather i did what i could to get ahead while trying to stay dry. sometimes there's nothing to do but seek shelter and wait it out. unfortunately, this day i'd still get caught in some downpours and get soaked. cold and wet is a bad combination and all i could do was motor on to stay just warm enough. i spent the night in a luxurious gazebo that had electricity so i was able to charge my phone and get a good night of sleep.

i'm into idaho now and still have damp clothes. nothing dries at 37 degrees, especially if the sun hasn't shone in over a week. there's not much i can do about that but keep moving. it's getting late in the season and i have places to be. the last time i checked i'm about 800 miles from seattle. there is an end in sight, for better or worse, but i'm not there yet. i still have some riding to do.

riding in the wyoming rockies

there's water in them sandhills.

for the past several days i've been riding through the sandhills region of nebraska. scenic ranchland is a more accurate description, though everything is actually a sandy hill. for the first few days i had a sweet tailwind. the hills rolled by quickly and over every hill was another never ending expanse of grasslands. day after day nothing but rolling hills. i don't want to make it sound like it got boring, because it didn't, but after 1000 miles of corn it was a welcome sight.

the towns got few and far between. half of them are unincorporated and are more or less just settlements with no resources to be had. the air was dry and the sun was intense so i ripped through water much faster than i had thought i would. luckily there are plenty of windmills drawing water from the ogallala aquifer. the water is delicious and cold. if the windmill is spinning, it's drawing water... unless it has been disconnected, which i came across a few times. it's as much of a letdown as the oasis mirage in a desert.

with 150 miles to alliance the winds changed to a stiff 10-15mph out of the west. not exactly a good time but i had no choice but grind away the miles. if i had to spend an extra day or so among the sandhills i'd be just fine with it, or so i thought,

with 80 miles to alliance the forecast called for westerly winds of 25mph with gusts up to 45mph. that would stop me in my tracks, for sure. i made the decision to ride late into the night and cover the 80 miles instead of being stuck in my tarp, probably far enough from any towns that i'd get anxious from the disconnect. already having done a typical mileage for the day the idea of pedaling on for another 30 miles or so didn't really excite me. as soon as the sun dropped below the horizon the winds calmed down and it cooled off to a comfortable 60 degrees. maybe the rest of the night wouldn't be all that bad.

i decided to get a motel for the night and get out of the wind. staying in town, or on the outskirts, would have been a rough night even with the tarp buttoned to the ground and tuned like a drum. every now and again it's good to get in from the out and feel like a human being, even if just for a night. it had been 10 days since leaving my good friends in lincoln and i was a salty, dirty mess. i deserved a shower and to do some laundry. sometimes those things are one in the same. it's nice to get all of your laundry done at the same time rather than only how much can be draped off the panniers to dry while riding.

now i must head out of alliance and keep heading west into a headwind. pedal, pedal.

my heart rises in the west.

it certainly is starting to feel westy out here in nebraska. the cornfields are becoming further and further apart and are being replaced by more and more prairies. towns, too, are further apart... which is a double-edged sword, for sure. i've passed the bigger towns of eastern nebraska and have entered the center, filled with towns with signs that read "pop. 62". i've started carrying a lot more food and water because not all of those towns listed on a map have any resources a town should have. i'd hate to get caught starving and 30 miles from the next town that has a market/gas station.

camping is no problem out here. you basically find a field and call it a night. and what a night you'll have. yesterday i set up in a field with enough time to relax, take some pictures, make some dinner, and just overall enjoy myself. i was joined by some new friends... they seemed curious but didn't want to get too close, which is fine, because i was eating a can of savory pot roast soup and gently stroking my brooks saddle.

when the sun went down it got dark and quiet. all night it the only sound i heard was the occasional wind blowing the tall grass against my tarp, which is about is about as effective as light rain in lulling you to sleep. delightful.

earlier on in my tour i used a bugnet literally every single night and used the tarp only a few times out of necessity. now that the weather has changed and the bugs have all gone away i've sent my net home. i've had a few nights where i just toss out the sleeping pad and bag and have a wonderful night under the stars. i've been using the tarp every night simply as a shelter. the prairie offers no respite, even from a gentle wind.

iowa may break you.

uf... it was getting rough there for a little bit. i ran into some unforeseen affects of long-distance touring and it was grinding me to a halt. the last half of iowa was a tough stretch, to say the least. i made it to my destination of lincoln, NE. and took a week of to straighten my head out, and not a minute too soon.

when you effectively ride your bike for the equivalent of a full-time job, if not more, it becomes routine. you wake up, pack up camp, get in the saddle and ride, find a spot, set up camp, fall asleep, repeat. what had been exciting everyday becomes just what you do day in and day out, and that's not a good place to be. i'm sure plenty of distance tourists have run into this but i've never heard anyone ever talk about it. it's probably just like anything else, in retrospect you forget much of the bad and candy-coat everything. well, it's a thing, it happens, and it's not cool.

for me it was a mixture of loneliness, depression, never-ending cornfields, and straight up physical exhaustion. all of these things combined to a point where i was basically looking up bus schedules and utterly giving up. what an awful thought. things had conspired against me an almost had won.

when i rolled into lincoln i had already had a long shitty day of rain, headwinds, awful strip malls, horrible directions from google, and absolutely no motivation nor enthusiasm for being on a bike. i spent the next week hanging out with some really good people at monkey wrench cycles, eating good food, drinking excellent coffee, riding around town and just taking a break from touring. it could not have happened at a better time, or any later for that matter. those guys are far too generous and cool for their own good... plus, they have, hands down, the coolest bike shop i've ever been in, and that includes the shop i used to own. it had to be said.

i was able to regain some enthusiasm and excitement for the tour. i had come half-way across the country, up to the literal start of the west [the intersection of O street and 13th in lincoln, NE is marked with a giant compass and says it's the official start of the west], i could not stop now. i put my time in through the cornfields, i came to see prairies and mountains and that's exactly what i'm going to see, dammit.

so my tour continues. i have my apprehensions but i know, i know, that when all is said and done i'll forget much of the bad and candy-coat everything too.

carl, nate and eric, i'll miss you guys... you helped me out in a big way and you didn't even know it.

clay and cake.

iowa is a tough state. i've been grinding through it painfully slow and i feel every mile of it. it's not a difficult ride, though it has the rolling hills that ohio, indiana and illinois were lacking. they're not hard by any means, but they still slow you down. it's not for a lack of scenery. it truly does look like a grant wood painting and it turns out, he didn't exaggerate all too much. it's not for the people, they have all been very nice, so far as my interactions have gone. it's just a rough ride. i know i have many more ahead of me, but it's still a hard adjustment.

yesterday was one such tough day. after a good chunk of the previous day being spent in iowa city
and not gaining much in terms of mileage i really wanted to put some saddle time in and get somewhere. around 11am i took shelter in a barn just in time for a thunderstorm. rain on a tin roof will knock you out very quickly. after a furious nap it was time to move on... but i was very much not into it.

the past few days i have not been terribly interested in taking photos. even though i've seen plenty of great landscapes i just have not been interested in stopping and getting the camera set up. towards the evening i spotted a sweet dirt road rolling off into the distance with some great highlights from the setting sun through the clouds. i turned around and started down the road. i got about 100 feet before my bike came to a halt stuck in what amounted to clay. the photo was clearly not going to happen now. no, in stead i had to drag my bike back out to the road sideways because the wheels would not turn. the clay had filled my fenders and clogged my brakes and made a general mess out of everything. the clay was building up on my shoes as i slid about dragging my bike. after about fifteen minutes i managed to get back up to the main road and proceeded to remove the wheels to scrape out the clay. my day was now ruined.

after another twenty minutes of clay removal i reluctantly got back in the saddle and started grinding away. i was in a pretty foul mood and was enjoying nothing about my day when a guy in a pickup truck pulled up next to me and shouted, "you want a piece of cake!?" now, if this ever happens to you the correct, and only answer, to that question is, "yes".  he passed me the cake and sped off. and that was that.

i rode for another five miles, tops to the next town where there was a fairly nice looking athletic field. at the prospect of more thunderstorms that night i decided that one of the new dugouts would provide some sweet shelter. i started making dinner on one of the picnic tables while i waited for some softballers to finish up their practice by my dugout. just as the sunset, and as i was packing up my kitchen, i startled a woman that had showed up to get something from the concession stand. i apologized a few times and she said it was quite alright. after my run-in with the 5-0 in mineral, illinois i figured the possibility that she'd call the cops was likely so i decided i'd move off into the shadows of the dugout.

just as i was setting up my mattress a car pulling into the parking lot. i watched from my shadow as 4 people got out and head over to the concession stand that i had just left. "sir?" said a man. "hello, sir?" i didn't say anything because, who knows? maybe they'd tell me to gtfo and it was after dark, i didn't want to ride any more. "hello, sir? we have a care package for you"... okay, now i doubt they're here to bust my stones. i called out to him and met him on the other side of the field. apparently the woman i startled had seen me riding earlier in the day and then recognized me at the concession stand. she rallied the troops and they came back with bottled water, beef jerky, nuts and home-made cookies. wow. we talked for five minutes and they were really concerned that i had everything i needed. i assured them i was alright and i thanked them profusely for the provisions.

cake and cookies. not a bad end to a bad day.

the daily gear grind.

you know, i thought that leaving my job and hitting the road would provide me with an unlimited amount of time to do whatever i wanted. i thought that i'd have time to sit around, nap in the shade, make elaborate dinners, or just stop and smell the corn. what i didn't take in to account is  just how much riding there is to do. obviously, i knew there'd be a lot, but it really takes up most of my day and when i get to where i'm going all i want to do is eat cold soup out of a can and pass out. it's not bad though, i just thought it would be different.

it's been almost a month on the road and i don't think i've managed to shake the pace of life with a job and embrace the pace of life in the saddle. i really do have time to stop and nap, or just stare at some clouds or those fuzzy caterpillars i see frantically running across the road. there really is no reason why i can't do these things but i just have this nagging feeling that i need to be riding west at all times. i've had a few fleeting moments of clarity where i do actually stop and just do whatever it is i want to do, but it's difficult to downshift into this lifestyle. i guess it really is a grind-it-'til-you-find-it transition... i feel it happening, though, slowly.

cops and amish.

it's been hot. prohibitively hot. the kind of hot that forces you indoors and takes away your motivation to do anything other than sweat and be crabby. it's not fun by any means and i've never sweat as much as i have in the past week or so. i'm disgusting. i guess it's all part of the adventure.

frustrating is a pretty accurate way to describe ohio and indiana. finally the roads have flattened out and i can really start logging some miles except that damned heat stops me in my tracks and i'm forced to spend several hours at a walmart or mcdonalds waiting for the sun to ease up some. i can't help but feel bad because i can waste time at one of those places a few miles from home. but i'm on this bad-ass adventure and i can't do what i set out to do... ride. i know, i know, it won't last for much longer. i have quite a bit of time of what will probably be fantastic riding weather to come, and i'm looking forward to that, but it's hot now. dammit.

all negativity aside, let's talk about the positives... the grass! oh my stars the grass in the midwest is luxurious. ultra-flat lawns, fluffy grass, and apparently no rocks to catch tent pegs on. everything looks like it's been mowed within the past day, and i wouldn't doubt if it had been. i respect the midwest's lawn pride. it's a freedomcamper's dream.

last night i rolled into a town just as the sun went down and spotted a nice patch of grass behind some commercial buildings and some trees. really, around here everything looks mint. i quickly set up my yardsale and called it a night. as i laid there reading my kindle a wicked bright light swept across my campsite and a police office on a quad rolled up. he was just curious as to what i was doing, obviously. he saw the bike and we got to talking. he said he had no issues with me staying there and let me know he'd be around the area if i needed anything and then he rolled on.

a few thoughts on that... since 99% of the campsites you end up using on tour are either private property or are otherwise public and definitely not for camping, you have to be low-profile. set up in the dark. get up, pack up and be off before other people are awake. not the most comfortable schedule, but, eh, you gotta do what you gotta do. if you are discovered, like i was last night, and certainly by the authorities, be polite. be very polite. explain the situation. it's not all terribly odd, if you think about it. you're on a bike tour. you're an adult. you're not some teenager making a mess. clean up after yourself and ride on.

post script. just a moment ago as i was sitting here writing this post an amish couple came up to me and asked about my bike. we got to talking and they are very much into bikes as well. i told them of my tour and they thought it was fantastic. they then handed me two $5 bills and told me to have an exciting adventure. believe me, i tried to give the money back but they refused. now that was amazing. just amazing.