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Unipacking: Designing Panniers for a Unicycle: Prototypes


After a bunch of research, and making a new handlebar, I decided to start up on some prototype unicycle panniers and bags.

First I just strapped my tent under the front bar; this was a quick hack:

 

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It won’t work at all as it rubbed way too much on my legs.

Next came some cardboard prototypes:

 

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This allowed me to get a general feel for what sizes would work. 

What material should I use to make the bags? At first I went to a local Beverley’s Fabric store, but this left me empty handed. I did some internet searching and realized that most bags are made out of a waterproof canvas and is rated via a denier. A 600 denier fabric seemed to be tough enough based on what I was seeing other bags made out, so I bought some on eBay for about $32 (with shipping). I got a TON of fabric; enough for 4 or more bags.  Once I got the fabric, I started cutting it out and sewing it together roughly based on the size of my cardboard boxes:

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I had decided to make the larger rear bag first. The next part was to figure out how to hang it behind the unicycle. I was planning on welding up a rack, and I started down that process but quickly realized it would take me too long. I wanted to get going soon! So I went to REI to scope out what they had and ran across some racks:

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I initially bought the first one, but it was angled too high. I then went with the 3rd one (E-type) which has no angle at all. In hindsight, the second (A-Type) might have been “just right” as it would have dropped the sack a little lower. I later learned that Jamey also has the same rack! You can easily buy a variation of these racks on Amazon: 

 

 

 

While I was there I also bought the Topeak MTX Trunk Bag: 

 

 

 

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The cool thing about this bag is that it has both a top section and panniers that drop out:

 

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However, my test riding around my deck proved that this wouldn’t work. The panniers pulled the unicycle back too much, and swayed side to side. The sway made the uni really hard to ride. I ended up returning them to REI. The Topeak rack is nice, and I’m sticking with that. You can see how it is attached in the above picture; right below the main seat post clamp. I had to push the seat post clamp up a bit to allow it to fit; I might trim it a bit to make it fit better, and get a thinner seat post clamp. But for now, it is working pretty well.

So, my text feat was to figure out how to load it up. I initially went with this approach:

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On the rack is my tent (orange), sleeping pad (black), towel (green, mostly hidden) and water filter (black, top rear). The rack is pointing too high; I really would like it to be more horizontal to keep the weight lower to the ground. The high angle might actually be okay if I eventually go with the underneath mounting system with the sample pannier I made. Some practice riding around my house proved the this is a viable approach to unipacking. It wasn’t too hard to mount, although a touch rear heavy. I really needed a front pack to help balance it out.

So, I sewed together a front pack that would velcro to the handlebar and frame:

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I stuffed it full of clothes and did a test ride of around 7 miles on the Jones Trail in Los Gatos while wearing my backpack:

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I quickly realized that the front pack was too wide; my legs rubbed on it and it wasn’t pleasant. I looked around my house for something to make the bag stiff on the sides. If it held its shape it wouldn’t rub so much on my legs due to bulging outwards from clothes. I had an old piece of laminate kitchen tabletop veneer laying around; it was thin, strong and easy to work with. So, I cut out some sides to make the bag stiff:

 

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 This stuff works great! Later I cut out some holes in it to save some weight. 

The next thing I was worried about was my tent bag getting scuffed up. It is a lightweight bag and would easily get destroyed if I crash a few times. I’m bound to crash, and I want my tent to remain in one piece. Lexi had a great idea: Just sew a round bag replacement out of the 800 denier material!

 

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 The black bag has a nice cinch strap just like the old bag. It weights quite a bit more, but it is a LOT more durable. I stuff the tent into this bag, along with my sleeping bag, sleeping mat, and some clothes! Unfortunately, I realized that running it lengthwise against the rack was making the unicycle too rear heavy. So, instead of strapping it parallel with the rack, I strapped it perpendicular:

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This pulls more of the weight closer to the center of the unicycle and makes it a lot more stable. It is more difficult to mount, but I quickly adapted to doing a slight side push. Eventually I’ll make some videos of me doing this…

The last bit I did was to sew up a tiny little bag to take up some empty space under the seat: 

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The little bag is big enough to stuff a spare tube and a few bars into it. In the above picture you can also see a standard Topeak under-seat bag that I had on my road bike; I just sewed on an extra strap and put it underneath the uni to hold my basic tools.

That is it! This is my current setup for the Arizona Trail via a KH26 mountain unicycle:

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Unipacking: Designing Panniers for a Unicycle: Research


In April 2017 I’m planning on riding the Arizona Trail via my unicycle. This will involve unipacking: carrying all my supplies for a self supported off road adventure over the course of hundreds of miles. First I needed a better custom handlebar that is more comfortable for long distance muni riding. In “Creating a Custom Unicycle Handlebar Part 1” I talk about my goals for the handlebar and compare it to some old designs. In Part 2, Fabrication I have a video of me fabricating the new handlebar. Definitely watch that if you are interested in creating your own designs. I encourage you to copy what I did and expand upon it to make it better for you!

Now, it is important to never ignore what other people have done before you. There have been discussions on unicycle panniers from as early as 2003.  Back in 1992 Mark Schimmoeller road across the country on his unicycle and wrote a book, “Slowspoke: A Unicyclist’s Guide to America.” I’m not the first person to do unipacking or unitouring, and there are a few notable people out there that have done awesome trips. Unipacking is doing an offroad unicycle trip on a smaller wheel; usually a 26” or 27.5” mountain unicycle. Unitouring is a mostly on road tour on a 36” unicycle. The setups need to be slightly different, as a mountain unicycle will encounter more rough terrain, steeper terrain, and difficult tight switchbacks. 

Cary Gray and his massive unitouring.

He has taken his 36” unicycle over 15,000 miles, so he definitely knows what he is talking about. Check out his unicycle details page and the video below detailing his unicycle setup:

 

I first learned about Cary Gray back in 2013 when he won the Kris Holm Evolution of Balance Unicycle Grant. One of my close local friends, Nathan Hoover, helps support the grant, and I recall him talking about this crazy adventure that some guy proposed. Check out details on the grant at http://evolutionofbalance.org

Cary is one of the first people to create unicycle panniers, having done so in 2012. His panniers are massive, but allow him to take all weight off of his body and put it on the unicycle frame:

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The general idea is to strap on some custom panniers to the front and rear handlebar that can distribute the weight. The front panniers have to be thin enough to not rub on your legs, and the rear can be larger but might make it more difficult to mount.

Having weight off your body is a huge win: you will get less “saddle sore” and less overall fatigue. I know this from personal experience: if you have a heavy backpack, then any additional pedal effort is multiplied as you stand up on the pedals and take your weight out of the seat. When your weight is in the seat, it is a TON more than usual, and over time this wears down your buttocks and crotch.

Also be sure to check out Cary’s older wordpress page on “My Gear”. It has a lot more details and pictures on exactly what he has done. Cary: Thanks for sharing! It is inspiring. I hope to meet you some day.

Ed Pratt and his World Unicycle Tour

Check out Ed’s Facebook page and Ed’s YouTube channel. He also has a page highlighting his unicycle kit. I’m going to copy a few pictures here in case the site ever goes down. Ed got ahold of Cary and had him make some custom unicycle panniers:

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Cary’s sewing skills are lightyears ahead of mine, and they they are packed with a ton of great ideas on how I should make my own. The attachment mechanism can be seen below; a straight bar that supports the main weight of the bag with a fender to prevent it from rubbing on the tire, along with maximizing vertical space. 

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This type of setup seems to work pretty well for people. It does require a taller person to be able to ride it; you can’t lower the seat anymore than shown in the pictures, so a person of my height at 5’6” wouldn’t be able to ride it. If you are taller it will also waste some space under the seat.  

I hope to try and meet up with Ed once he reaches North America.

Divide By One: Gracie Sorbello and Matt Burney

Website: http://divideby1.blogspot.ca

Back in 2009 Grace and Matt did the Continental Divide on unicycle. This is an awesome self supported adventure that preceded Cary’s efforts but were also supported by the Kris Holm Evolution of Balance award.  They choose to go on ungeared 29’er mountain unicycles, and carried most the weight in traditional backpacks with a few bits of water bottles attached to the frames:

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This was an incredible feat of strength and endurance and goes to show you that you can do long distance mountain unicycling adventures without heavily modifying the unicycle itself. 

Matt’s video below shows a lot of awesome shots of them riding and their setup:

 

I’m going to opt for more weight off of my body and onto the unicycle; it is way more comfortable. 

I met Matt and Gracie in Berkeley a bit after the adventure. 

 

Sid and his 3000 miles from Northern Alaska to Montana

Check out Zero Point Sid’s Facebook page. I met Sid back in 2008 the we did “Uninam”: A supported 500km unicycle tour through Vietnam. Sid has consistently done insanely long adventures since 2006. His last adventure is along the historic Dalton Highway.  Sid is mainly doing what I consider unitouring. Check out one of his first few pictures:

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He has a rear rack that allows strapping stuff on top, along with a typical backpacking backpack for carrying the rest of the stuff. The video below shows him in action along the highway:

 

 

 

 

Anne-Sophie: Monocyclette – One Wheel Across Patagonia

Anne So’s website used to be at http://monocyclette.ca but it seems to currently be down. Luckily you can still go to https://www.facebook.com/Monocyclette.ca/ and find a lot of cool stuff about there 2013 4600km trip through Patagonia. Anne So is one of the first people I know of to do true unipacking. A lot of the paths she did through Patagonia were on paved streets, but a ton of it was also offroad and required a wheel smaller than the standard 36. She went with a 29er, which is a nice alternative to the 36 for steeper off road climbs and also provides a ton more tire options.

You can also find her on twitter.

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She had a custom frame made that goes with a front and rear rack system. This is actually a great idea, and I have plans to make a dedicated custom unitouring frame that incorporates some of these ideas.

An iconic picture of her on the start of the adventure illustrates how hard it is to ride with a full pack and strong headwind:

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Last year in 2016 Anne-Sophie Rodet joined forces with Kelli Jenkins Carley and did a true lightweight unipacking adventure through the Swiss alps.  In 2016 they won the same grant that Carry won.

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They went super lightweight by dropping down to the bare essentials, but went with the rear mounted rack system on (I think) 26” unicycles. This is one of the first true unipacking adventure: small wheels, self supported, weight on the frame, and all insane off road without hardly any pavement.

I’ve been friends with Anne-So for many years, and it is always a pleasure to hang out with her. 

Jamey Mossengren and the Colorado Trail

Jamey is the reason I’m going to do the Arizona trail and he is spearheading the effort. Back in 2015 he unicycled the entire 500 mile Colorado Trail; all self supported and a lot of it by himself.  Check out Jamey’s Blog for some great details on the adventures.

His unicycle has a rear rack supporting the weight, and a front bag that fits underneath the seat:

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Jamey is tall, very tall. That allows him to run a handlebar bag vertically under the seat post. There is no way that someone of my height could do something like this. This is some true unipacking: lots of weight on the unicycle, and out on the trail for long periods of time.

I’ve known Jamey for many years, and I’m looking forward to doing the Arizona trail with him!

Others

I know a lot of other people who have done supported and unsupported unitouring and unipacking, but the above people have more of an internet presence and press coverage.

Next, we will see my designs and efforts!

 

 


Unipacking: Custom unicycle handlebar, part 2


In my last post, I talked about the setup and why I want to make a new handle bar for my KH26 geared mountain unicycle. Here’s a video detailing the construction of it:

 


Unicycle handlebar evolution over time


Here’s a few pictures that go with my last video and post:

My previous KH26 handlebar that I had made:

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Older handlebars:

 

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Post modifications, and experimenting with strapping a tent under it:

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The tent here doesn’t work; it is too large and rubs on my legs. Continue on to newer posts that will talk about a custom bag I’m making!


Unipacking: Creating a custom unicycle handlebar, part 1


I’ve been making custom unicycle handlebars for over 10 years. I’ve refined the shape quite a bit over the years and I always have been tending to go wider and wider, and more mountain bike in style.

Some of my original designs include the “Unibar”, which I fabricated from old bicycle handlebars:

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The old bike handlebars were really strong, but the metal base plate added a lot of weight to the overall design. I also didn’t really like the angle very much. Check out a few more pictures and the Sketchup 3D file: http://www.corbinstreehouse.com/blog/2007/12/unibar-version-3-sketchup/

Some other experiments I’ve done (this isn’t all of them!):

* Basic T shape for my Corbin V36 unicycle. I didn’t like the angle (there was none!)
* V-Shape for the V36 – my current preferred handlebar.
* Brake Protector for the V36; a modification to protect the brake; it works pretty well.
* Munibar: A custom close handle muni specific bar. I liked the comfort, but it was too heavy. 
* 36er initial handlebar: This put too much stress on the seat and flexed too much.
* 36’er adjustable handlebar: This let me figure out what geometry I liked. I rode this for a few years.
* First basic T-Bar: The first of my design that is a basic T for bar ends and attaches to the frame. Made from old bikes.
* Basic T-bar: I started making this “basic” shape that allows attaching bar ends. I made a few of these, and they work pretty well.
* Brake adapters: These allow the brake to be inline with the bar ends.

The “basic T” shape became a standard for what production handlebars have become. However, most production handlebars still attach to the seat, such as the KH T-bar. I dislike this, as it flexes too much, and requires your seat to be extra beefy and reinforced to avoid breaking. Instead, attach it to the frame and start making the seats lighter. 

 I made the original handlebar for my KH26 back in 2014: http://www.corbinstreehouse.com/blog/2014/07/new-corbin-unibar-unicycle-handlebar/ and now it is time to hack it up into something new!

Enjoy the first video in the “making of” series:

 


The Arizona Trail on Unicycle


I’m in the process of preparing for my next big trip: The Arizona Trail on Unicycle.

The Arizona Trail splits the state almost in half with an 800 mile vertical line from Mexico all the way to the top of Arizona. My friend, Jamey Mossengren, spearheaded the idea to do the trail. I’ve always loved doing adventures, and this sounded absolutely epic. 

I’m going to coin a new term: unipacking. Unicycle + Backpacking = Unipacking. Biker’s already have a similar term: Bicycle + Backpacking = Bikepacking.  This differs from bike touring in that it is all offload, and the setup is usually slightly different. While bike touring (or uni touring) you generally have the advantage of riding on roads and going through lots of towns. This makes it relatively easy to find food and shelter, and pretty easy to load the bike down with heavy panniers that contain all the essentials. With bike packing and unipacking you have to carry with you everything you would need: tent, food, clothing, and people usually go minimalistic with just essential gear. You will forgo the normal panniers and opt for tricking out the frame with small auxiliary bags to carry the essentials. And you will get to ride awesome trails, without having to deal with cars and modern civilization. There are tons of great resource out there on the subject; one easy example is http://www.bikepacking.com

So, follow along on my blog as I document my adventure and setup my unicycle in just the right way!

The map below is a copy from aztrail.org showing the overall route:

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V36 Handlebar update – brake protector


My handlebar has been working really well, but I wanted something to protect the brake lever. So I welded on a little half moon to protect it, and threw on some black spray paint over the rust:

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My cycle computer broke; they always seem to fail after a few years. This one lasted a while! 1575 miles on the ODO.  Back in August of last year when I rebuilt the geared 36 wheel the computer had 694 miles. So, I’ve put nearly a 1000 miles on the frame in the past 9 months; it took me 1.5 years to get the first 700 miles…so I’ve definitely been riding it a lot more!

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The Corbin V36 Unicycle


Back in 2012 I decided to make a V36 unicycle. I’ve kept breaking handlebars, mainly at the point where they attach to the seat base or the main seat post tube. The “T” unicycle design isn’t strong enough, and a V is clearly the way to go. I’ve been riding the unicycle for the past 4 years, and have at least 1000 miles on it (probably a lot more). It works quite well, but has a little too much side to side flex that can probably be cured with some larger main post tubing.

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Here’s a collection of the posts describing the unicycle:

Making the V36 — this documents my jig and some of the initial tests. A single seat post tube was too flexy.

V36 mod 2 – I brazed on a second tube to make it flex less. This helped drastically! I also brazed on the disc brake mount.

V36 after powder coating – a nice shiny red! I used this style handlebar for a few years, but it provided too much wrist pain on long rides.

V36 handlebar experiments – part 1  – the T style handlebar works, but not quite a comfy enough angle. I cut and re-welded it several times.

V36 final handlebar. – this is what I’m currently using, and is shown above. I liked a more forward angle in order to push the slight V back a bit. Very comfy for my hands, especially with the soft grips. Today I added a brake protecter (post coming soon!)

V36 handlebar update – brake protector. – I welded on a brake protector to avoid breaking the brake during falls. So far I haven’t had any hard falls on it to really test it, but I also put on a new Shimano XTR, so hopefully it will work!

Another update in May 2016: I moved to 135 cranks as a test.


The 93 mile unicycle ride adventure


A few weekends ago I decided to do a long unicycle ride. Up to this point, the longest ride I did was around Lake Tahoe, which is no short ride topping in at over 70 miles with a bit of climbing and at a much higher elevation than my normal sea level riding. It was incredibly tough, and I did it before the invention of geared unicycles. 

Check out the complete ride stats on Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/570160115

93.2 miles, 8:20 minutes of moving time (about 10 hours total time out), and 8,134 ft of climbing. Not too shabby! I really want to shoot for a 100 mile ride now, and the ultimate adventure will be 1 wheel, 10 hours, 100 miles, 10000’ of climbing. It would be insane, but we have to have goals! 

I feel like I’m currently in “medium” shape, working up to “good” shape for this years UNICON in San Sebastian, Spain. I pretty accurately remember how I was feeling at various points on the ride, and I’m finally going to write about it before it fades from my memory.

From my house, there is a long steady up along Summit Rd, which turns into Highway 35 (Skyline Blvd)…and then it gradually just keeps climbing until I hit Castle Rock state park. After that point, it is some downhill until the top of Highway 9. Along the way, I was munching a little bit of food to keep me going; mainly dried pineapples and some nuts. I recall taking a break after the first hour of riding, which is shortly after I passed Black Road, and then again at the parking lot at the top of Highway 9 where it intersects with Highway 35. I was trying to pace myself and get the cycle meter to average 10mph; that way I could shoot for 100 miles in 10 hours of riding. It was difficult to do with all the uphill, and I was averaging about 9 or so at that point. 

After I passed 9 I started to question if I’d be able to do the entire loop; my legs weren’t feeling all that great after 20-30 miles, and it was going to be really hard to do the entire thing. But I kept going, and stopped at the Palo Alto city side to take one of the few pictures I captured: 

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I was originally thinking of going all the way to La Honda (84), but once I hit the top of Alpine Rd I saw a few bikers and asked them if it went down to the Ocean. They said it did, and that it was really an awesome way to go. I was sort of wanting to take some sort of short cut at the point. My legs were doing okay (but not great), but I knew I wasn’t even at the half way point.

I’m so glad I went down Alpine! I’ve never been down the road before, and it was amazing. The long downhill was pretty tiring though, as I had to keep spinning. I was passed by a group of bikers once I got to 84; they commented about how I was crazy. Little did they know how far into the ride I was!

84/La Honda was tough. It was mostly downhill, and I stopped every hour to rest a short bit and eat some food. I brought an Avocado for high fat/energy — I’m not sure that was the best food choice. Shortly after I stopped I saw a small store/food place in San Gregorio. At this point I was seriously questioning the sanity of what I was doing, and what I would do to get home if I couldn’t make it. I was starting to dread the possible hills along Highway 1 back home. I pulled in and got an expensive drip coffee and chocolate bar. I gulped the coffee down, rested a bit, and headed back on the road, feeling super re-energized and back to being strong again (coffee!!). 

I hit highway 1 and started heading south. The coffee and food was kicking in, and I pounded up the ~8% grade hills with no trouble at all. The scenery was amazing along the coast, and it was an incredibly beautiful day!

I stopped every hour or so to just rest my bum, and re-energize. It was tough, and I was leaning over the uni handlebar and just pounding away at the pedals at a slowish speed. I passed by Ano Nuevo and thought about the elephant seals. 

At this point, I was looking forward to hitting Davenport. I hadn’t ridden this part of 1 before, and there were a lot more ups than I expected, making it difficult. But past Davenport and to  Santa Cruz I’ve ridden a lot, and knew I could make it. So, once I hit Davenport I pulled into the cafe and got an espresso and piece of pie. It was lovely! The food and caffeine kicked me awake again, and I started pedaling towards town.

I hit Santa Cruz in no time at all; still riding not super fast, but not super slow either. I thought about the easiest way home…and figured I’d do the short hill climb up Graham Hill Rd until it hit Felton. I had to take a break going up the largest climb…and motivate myself to keep going. Once I was at Felton I knew home was in reach and started cruising up the back roads to my house.

At this point, my legs were done. I had to walk some of the steep bumpy back roads. I could have forced myself to ride, but I was nervous that I would be tearing up my leg tissue. In the end, I think I would have been fine, as my legs weren’t ever really super sore during the next few days. More “tired” than anything else.

The ride was tough, but I made it!

Four days later, I did the 20 miles to work one morning for “unicycle to work day” and 20 miles back! Ultimate training. Unfortunately I’ve slacked off the past week and a half and need to get in the habit of doing some more longer rides again.

 Here’s an overview screen shot from Strava:

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Unicycling Tesla Road Trip to Sedona Arizona


I still really enjoy mountain unicycling. We used to have an annual event in Moab called Moab Muni Fest, but the organizer decided to call it quits. People would do an informal one for a while, and this year someone threw out a new location: Sedona, Arizona! I went to college in Prescott Arizona for a few years, and did a trip or two to Sedona. I recall it being very beautiful, but it was so long ago that I don’t remember much. I have every Friday off from work (I work part time), and I decided to drive my Model S out there. My friend Ashley came along, and I met up with another friend Aaron who came back with me.

This was my first really long trip in the car. I think it is better to drive as fast as you can, which takes more energy, and then to charge a little longer. At up to about 110kW up to ~50% battery, the extra energy spent driving fast can easily be made up in a few minutes. 

Flagstaff charging station (my car is the red one):

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It was the first time I took the car to less than 10% (9% at one stop), and I got used to it.  We had one scare when the GPS tracking went crazy and said the wrong percentage estimate for the destination.

 

I left Thursday after work, camped in Mojave national park (pitched the tent right off the road/freeway off a small dirt road), and left early Friday morning to make it to Friday’s ride.

Friday’s ride, at one of the arches (Devil’s Bridge); I made it to the top right when most people were going down. STRAVA ride details 

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Saturday’s ride, Broken Arrow Trail , doing some of the Hog’s wash (etc) trails. Not long, but lots of fun and tiring. Fun highlight was seeing a girl walking her cat!

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And, my favorite caption…”I’m the Tesla hobo”. I would eat by campfire at the stations while the car charged. It worked great and saved money on food. 

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