Portable Power Revisited

I decided to revisit my post from a little over a year ago on portable power to see if there were any significant changes in the market. For my methodology, I simply took four of the manufacturers that seemed to score the best in my first post and then pulled models from their web sites. Many of them have specialized models having various features, but I tried to stay with the models that we simply portable power packs without bells and whistles. I then searched for a street price using Google Shopping.


  • I wasn’t able to find weights for the EasyAcc devices.
  • This methodology is bounded by my first search so there is the distinct possiblity of another manufacturer that I missed in my first or who has appeared on the market since them.

Continue reading

Posted in Backpacking, Bicycle Touring, Hiking Equipment | Leave a comment

2015 Bike Tour Leg 2 Route – Baton Rouge to Natchez

Click on the snapshot to open this route in RideWithGPS

Click on the snapshot to open this route in RideWithGPS

Posted in 3NBT | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

2015 Bike Tour Leg 1 Route – New Orleans to Baton Rouge

To get started on this route, I located some advice on BikeForums.net here and here and solicited additional advice herehere, here, and here. Based on that information, I created the first version of my route.

Click on the snapshot to open this route in RideWithGPS

Click on the snapshot to open this route in RideWithGPS

Being an SEC Football fan, I can’t go into Baton Rouge without visiting LSU’s Tiger Stadium so, if you’ll zoom into Baton Rouge, you’ll see that this route is designed to drop me at the front gate.

But then I found this post on Crazy Guy on a Bike (CGAB) authored by someone who sounds very knowledgeable about the area and it caused me to change my route  to track west at Gonzales onto Highway 30, which is more of a straight shot into LSU anyway.

Click on the snapshot to open this route in RideWithGPS

Click on the snapshot to open this route in RideWithGPS

I gave some consideration to taking the Mississippi River Trail all the way from New Orleans to Baton Rouge, but it adds 40 miles and the post on CGAB cinched it for me. I’ll get about 30 miles of it leaving New Orleans.

While I’ve labeled this “Leg 1” this may not be the equal to “Day 1” as I’ve not yet decided where I want to stop. This route is 95 miles and, looking ahead, the next leg to Natchez looks to be about 125-135 miles. I just don’t know if I want to try to hammer out 230 miles in two days fully loaded. Besides, the post on CGAB suggests that there is no camping to be found in Baton Rouge so it might be better to stop in Gonzales on Day 1 and turn this into three days of 75 miles somehow. I guess I’ve got more studying to do to see what camping locations I can find.

Posted in 3NBT | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Losing Momentum

I’m not talking about momentum in any physical sense as I would expect any cyclist to be intimately familiar with rolling characteristics of his bike and hardly need any blog post to discuss it. I’m talking about figurative momentum: in this case, the momentum I currently have in getting back in shape and shedding my Winter hibernation weight.

I’ve begun this cycling season in particularly poor shape after having spent last year focused on hiking and training for a marathon in which I ultimately failed. Following that came an ugly Winter and early Spring (with respect to weather), which means I haven’t done any serious training on the bike in around 15 months. It’s only in the past two weeks that the weather had broken enough for me to get in some decent training miles even though I’m still dodging rain showers. And I’m already seeing results after only those two weeks. It’s encouraging. But it’s about to stop for almost three weeks solid; enough time to lose most of my momentum.

At the moment, I’m three days into almost three weeks of travel. I’ll spend a solid week in Hyderabad, India followed by a three day stop-over in Swindon, UK. If you add in days flying, that’s 10 days off the bike. I’ll then have four days at home and then fly out for a week in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Four days out of the next 26 at home.

I normally don’t worry too much about this because I train very hard leading up to a trip and the time off the bike serves as well-needed recovery time. But it will be 13 days until my four days back at home and that too much time for recovery, which means I’ll be rolling back down the hill I was previously climbing. And while I’m at it, allow me to submit my order for good riding weather on the four days I’m back at home because on them rests my hopes that my legs won’t turn back into Jello. I’ll take running gear for Hyderabad as it’s always warm and dry and Necklace Road near my hotel is a good place to run early in the mornings. And most certainly, I’ll take the running gear to KL since KLCC Park is one of my favorite places to run early morning (assuming the Indonesians aren’t shipping over too much smoke from their seasonal forest fires). HyderabadIf I can get in four good rides in between those two trips, maybe I can keep most of my momentum. But, if not, what can you do? You just have to pull up your lycras, put your head down, and start it all over again. Que Sera, Sera.


Posted in Cycling, Recovery, Training | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Planning Begins for a 2015 Bike Tour

I concentrated on backpacking and running last year so I’ve not done a week-long bike tour since 2013. But my plan is to concentrate on cycling in 2015 and another bike tour is part of that plan. I’ve been very interested in riding the Natchez Trace for several years so I’m thinking that will be my focus. However, my last bike tour ended in New Orleans so I think I’d like to start from where I left off in 2013. (Also, the logistics of starting in Natchez are a bit of a nightmare.) So, my tentative plan is a New Orleans to Natchez to Nashville bike tour, which I think will be roughly 660 miles. I don’t want to take longer than 9-10 days off so that means I’ll need to be averaging 65-80 miles per day. That’s not too bad, but it does mean that I won’t have a huge amount of time for sightseeing. But that’s okay because it is more about the ride for me anyway.

I was originally hoping that I’d be touring in May, but my work/travel schedule is going to prevent that so mid-to-late June looks to be the earliest. Of course, it’s going to be getting pretty hot in the deep South by then so this is not optimum. It would probably be better to wait until October, but I just don’t want to wait that long. Mid-to-late June is the tentative start.

I’ve created a new category on this blog titled “3NBT” that will collect all my posts for my Nawlins-Natchez-Nashville Bikepacking Tour so save this link and check back on my progress.

Posted in 3NBT, Bicycle Touring, Cycling | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Create a Video from a Bike Route Tour Using Google Earth

This is part three of a three part series in which I show how to use Google Earth to create an automated flythrough tour, a curated tour, and a video of a tour. For background, please see my post on a comparison of route mapping websites. See also part one and part two of this series.

Once you’ve created a tour, either manually or automatically, creating a video from it is quite simple. Select the Movie Maker command from the Tools menu in Google Earth.

Google Earth Movie Maker dialog

Google Earth Movie Maker dialog

First, you need to select the tour from which the video will be made so click the dropdown next to “A saved tour”  and select your tour. Tours from My Places and Temporary Places will be shown, but Temporary Places are exactly that and will be lost if you exit Google Earth.

Second, you need to specify the name and location of the video file so click the Browse button in the “Save to” group, navigate to the folder in which you want to save, and type in the name of the video file.

Now, there are other obviously options available here, but I’m not an expert. To be honest, I really don’t know anything about the Supported Compression Formats so I’ll say anything about that. However, you do need to pay attention to the Resolution and FPS (frames per second). Resolution is how many pixels (width by height) the movie should. Computer monitors vary a great deal (typically from 640 to 1920 or more pixels wide). For comparison, DVD is 720 pixels wide and HD video is 1920 by 1080. The FPS affects how smooth the video looks to the eye, i.e. the more FPS, the smoother it will appear. You may be thinking that you’ll just choose the highest settings, but there is a definite tradeoff. Creating these videos takes an enormous amount of processing power and the higher resolutions will take much, much longer to process. I have a recent, quad-core, 64-bit processor with integrated graphics processor and it doesn’t seem to process very fast on my machine. I notice that it doesn’t seem to load all of the cores so I suspect that it is limited by graphics processor more than the CPU. Those of you with hot video cards may find processing to be quicker than my experience. Another consideration is that the higher resolutions will create larger files. Now, most people have hard drives which are hundreds of gigabytes, so local storage is probably not a big issue. But if you’re thinking to upload to YouTube or some other service, the transmission time will increase with file size. I recommend that you experiment with the different settings using a short tour and figure out your preferences before committing to a long process.

Once you’ve got the settings where you want them, all you have to do is click the OK button and stand back. Google Earth will play through your tour and record the frames into the video as it goes. Once done, it will ask you if you want to view the video. That’s it; you have a video of your bike route virtual tour.

If anyone stumbles across this and finds it useful, please leave me a comment to let me know.


Posted in Bicycle Touring, Cycling, Routes | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Create a Curated Tour from a Bike Route Using Google Earth

This is part two of a three part series in which I show how to use Google Earth to create an automated flythrough tour, a curated tour, and a video of a tour. For background, please see my post on a comparison of route mapping websites. See also part one of this series. As part three is published, I’ll update this post to include a hyperlink to that as well.

I’m using this term “curated tour” as opposed to an automatically generated tour, but I don’t know what the official or even common name is for this. What I mean by curated is that you will build up collection of placemarks (as points-of-interest to you) and Google Earth will fly from one to the next. Now, within this definition, there are still automated and manual options to create the tour, but the fact remains that you will be in complete control of the placemarks that define the stops along the tour. And, like before, I’ll go ahead and show you what it looks like…

If you’ve not already watched part one of this series, you should do so immediately unless you are very familiar with Google Earth. There is information there that I won’t repeat here.

Step 1 – Open Your KML File in Google Earth

Open your KML file in Google Earth and move your start point up to its proper order in the Places panel.

Reorder your placemarks with drag-drop

Reorder your placemarks with drag-drop

Step 2 – Adjust the View of Each Placemark

Experiment a bit by double-clicking on each of your placemarks and you’ll see that Google Earth chooses a default view looking North. Now, perhaps that appeals to some people, but I prefer a view looking forward down my route with some exceptions. The good news is that you have complete control over the view at each placemark. To begin, double click on your Start marker to have Google Earth fly to that place. Now move you mouse up to the top right of the map view and hover over the controls that you see there. They are ghosted when your mouse is not in the area and become opaque when the mouse is in the vicinity.

Use the navigation controls at the top right to adjust the view

Use the navigation controls at the top right to adjust the view

The circle at the top controls the direction of view; you can either drag the “N” control around the compass or you can click the rotate left or right arrows to do the same thing. The circle control below is the pan control and it will move the map left, right, up, or down under your viewport, which is the same as clicking and dragging the map itself. The slider will zoom you in or out and this is functionally the same as the wheel on your mouse (if you have one).

Use the view controls to adjust the view for each placemark

Use the view controls to adjust the view for each placemark

You can adjust the view as many times as you wish until you are satisfied. Once you are satisfied and are ready to save the view for that placemark, right-click the placemark in the Places panel and select the Snapshot View command.

The Snapshot View command saves the current view to the placemark.

The Snapshot View command saves the current view to the placemark.

This view is now recorded to that placemark and you can test this by double-clicking another placemark and coming back to this one. You’ll notice that Google Earth will fly through a smooth transition between the two views no matter what they are.

Go ahead and adjust the view for each of the placemarks in your tour.

Step 3 – Add Other Points of Interest as Placemarks

Now, you’ll want to add placemarks for everything that you want to show in your tour. If you let Google Earth automatically create the tour, it’s going to visit every placemark in order. If you choose to record the tour manually, you have the option of skipping some of the placemarks, but they will still show (provided you don’t uncheck them in the Places panel) as you tour past them.

For example, this route that I’ve imported goes through the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge so I may want to indicate a location where I want to look out for alligators, cottonmouth snakes, or drunk rednecks in flat-bottomed boats. To do so, I add a placemark at the desired location, enter a name, and select an icon to represent the POI.

Add placemarks for all the points-of-interest you want to show in your tour

Add placemarks for all the points-of-interest you want to show in your tour

Notice that your placemark is always placed at the bottom of your folder and you’re going to want to put it in order if you wish to automatically create a tour from the folder because Google Earth will visit all the placemarks in exactly this order. Reorder by dragging and dropping your placemark.

Reorder your placemark using drag-drop

Reorder your placemark using drag-drop

Continue adding placemarks until you’ve added one for each place you want to show on your tour. I recommend that you continually move back and forth (using double-click) through your tour to see how Google Earth will fly from place to place so you can see how it will interact with the view set on each place.

04a – Create an Automated Tour

Before you jump in and create the tour, you need to adjust a few parameters that control how Google Earth behaves. Choose the Options command from the Tools menu and click on the Touring tab to view the Touring options. Take note of the group of controls titled “When creating a tour from a folder”.

Touring options

Touring options

The two slides titled “Time Between Features” and “Wait at Features” will control the speed of your tour. By default these are set to 10s and 3s, respectively, which I think makes for a very slow tour. You can experiment with different settings to decide what is right for you.

But I highly recommend that you clear the checkbox titled “Fly along lines”. When this is checked, Google Earth is going to d a virtual flythrough of your path when it encounters it in turn in the folder and this will effectively double your tour. You can delete the path from the folder, but then the path will not show in your tour.

Note that these options are global and not saved with your tour or place so the next time you start Google Earth, these options will be as you left them.

To create your tour, select your folder (should be named the same as your imported KML file) and click the Play Tour button at the bottom right of the Places panel.

Play tour from folder

Play tour from folder

You’ll see that Google Earth will begin to fly from one place to another. You should also notice that your path has a view that, by default, is directly above and zoomed out to show the entire route on the screen. You can also change that view just as any other placemark. You can now save your tour and then Save to My Places to save your tour permanently.

04a – Create a Manual Tour

You might want to conduct the tour manually so that you have exact control over the timing especially if you were planning to add narration in a recorded video. When you record a tour manually, all of your actions are recorded and become part of the tour, which gives you a lot of control over the content. You can turn layers on and off during the tour. You can select which places to visit and in any order. And you can adjust the view manually at any time. The only thing you don’t have control over is how Google Earth flys from the current view to another when you double-click a placemark. I recommend that you rehearse your tour before you begin to record.

To begin, click the Record a Tour button on the top toolbar.

Record a Tour command

Record a Tour command

In the bottom left of the map panel, you’ll see a small panel appear with a record button and a microphone button.


I know that the microphone button supports adding narration to the tour, but the online documentation doesn’t give any details and I’ve not yet looked into that. Another research topic for a rainy day.

When you click the Record button, it turns red to indicate that you are now in record mode and all of your actions are now recorded in real time. You can now move between your placemarks at any pace or order you wish to build your tour. When done, click the Record button again and the record panel will be replaced by the playback panel you’re already familiar with. You can then save your tour and Save to My Places to save your tour permanently.

Thanks for stopping by and look for part three of this series where I’ll show how to create a video from a tour.

Posted in Bicycle Touring, Cycling, Routes | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment