Trading stories around the campfire

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Two years of travel without electronics, save for some old-fashioned cell phones, is now a jealous memory.  Our first two years by bike are entirely undocumented, except for the stories we tell and a few photos that may exist, taken by others.  That is the way lives and experiences were memorialized for many decades, compiled in a meager photo album, or told as a story around the campfire.

On our first night south of the Grand Canyon on the AZT, a two liter bladder of water burst inside my saddlebag, dousing a small bag of clothing, my cookpot, and my computer.  The saturated laptop quietly whined all night, like the sound of a slowly deflating sleeping pad, but which is actually the sound of a dying battery.  I kept the computer in my sleeping bag to keep it from freezing, and I sunned it in dry Arizonan afternoons over the next few days.  It has yet to be seen by a professional, but the prognosis is not good.  I remind myself that we are happy, healthy, and much too lucky in all other respects.  Although inaudible, my sleeping pad is also losing air, again.

Until I can repair or replace it, I will enjoy more room for avocados, a half-dozen pounds less in my pack; more time for sitting in the shade, thinking; and a little bit more fun exploring Arizona, without a computer on my bike.  I am already wondering if I can squeeze into a smaller seatpack like Lael– she just seems to be having so much fun.  For the next few weeks, I’ll be on vacation from the internet, mostly.  If you want to know what’s happening, you’ll have saddle up and join us around the campfire.  The ride leaves tomorrow morning from Flagstaff.

I will make an effort to share words and images as it is convenient, mostly as a way to test the possibility of staying connected with a lightweight packable tablet, and a camera. 

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This post was written entirely on a Google Nexus 7 tablet.  All photos by Lael Wilcox, from her miniature Olympus E-PM1 camera with Panasonic 20mm F1.7 lens.  The import process requires an OTG cable, USB SD card reader, and the Nexus Media Importer program.  Any suggestions for simple Android-based photo editing programs?

Lael’s new office

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For many cyclists an iPhone is a self-contained office, including a basic camera with photo editing and publishing apps.  Lael and I traveled for years without any electronics, eventually graduating to a single iPod Touch that we shared.  We mapped routes, sent e-mails, and even applied for a job from the small touchscreen (I got the job!).  In fact, I started this blog two years ago on an iPod Touch, on a whim.  However, the leap to a proper camera requires a laptop to upload, edit and publish photos.  For a heavy workload including writing and photo editing, that is still the best way.  If your needs are less demanding, the new generation of touchscreen tablets provide a more portable and affordable solution to cyclists.

I purchased a new camera and a new lens this past week.  Lael gets my old camera– an Olympus E-PM1— with the 14-42mm kit lens.  For just over $200, I picked up a 32GB Google Nexus 7 tablet for her as well.  To upload images to the Nexus, I sourced a generic Micro-USB (male) to USB (female) converter, and a miniature SD card reader.  Additionally, I purchased the Nexus Media Importer from the Google Play store, a source for apps, games, and media.  Also included below: the USB wall charger for the Nexus 7 and the battery charger for the E-PM1.  The charger and power cord for the camera battery are bulky and heavy.  Lucky for Lael, the E-PM1 uses the same battery as my new E-P3 camera so she won’t have to carry a charger.  Aftermarket chargers that plug directly into an outlet are available, and they should save weight and space.  This will be Lael‘s new office.

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The E-PM1 camera body is barely larger than an iPhone, and begs for a quality pancake lens to make a nearly pocketable system.  This kit zoom is versatile, and will be familiar in Lael’s hands.

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This lens is lightweight and packable, as it retracts into itself when not in use.  Extended on the left; retracted for storage on the right.

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Barely $10 of electronic hardware and a $2.99 app transform the Nexus 7 from a fun e-reader and web browser into a mobile office for a traveling amateur photographer.

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The Nexus 7 is less than half the size of my MacBook Air and should have no trouble finding a home in a framebag or handlebar bag.  The claimed weight is a mere 340g, less than the weight of most fatbike tubes.  However, if you are riding a fatbike you should be riding tubeless anyway.

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While I drooled over the OM-D EM-5, I settled for the E-P3 at one-third the price.  So far, it is everything I wanted and nothing I don’t need.

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The Olympus E-P3 is available for about $375 from several online retailers.

Check Lael’s Globe of Adventure in the coming weeks to see the new system in action. We will be back on the trail in Belgium at the end of next week.