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Thursday, February 13, 2014
Mother Nature has seen fit to remind us what winter is really about. She thinks we have gotten soft with the past few mild years. From what I have seen from the news and listening to the hum of the masses, she was correct. I would say on a scale of A to F, her grade for us would be a D-.
This is my first winter in over a decade that I have not had full time access to the comforts of a car. In the span of a few months I have had to adapt to commuting by both bus and bike, braving these single positive and double digit negative temperatures. These are the most important things I have learned in that time
|SLC-360 Instructor Torc Binns|
A good and comfortable base layer is a must. With a good base layer, you can focus on the other layers. Balance is the key here, knowing how many layers and of what do you need. When the cold blast hit, I over did it with a base layer, heavy pants, coveralls, insulated hoodie and my M-1 flight jacket. It made for stiff riding and overheating became an issue. I have since dropped the hoodie and went to khakis and let the coveralls cover my legs and core, the M-1 blocks the wind and lets my arms breath (the area of heaviest perspiration for me.)
Bike messenger inspired bags have outdone my pedestrian packs. I have two packs, a hiker and a military design. My hiker bag was roomy and water resistant, worked decently when I compartmentalized my gear, but I had to work my gear to match my pack. The problem was worse with my assault pack. It has too many compartments, too many zippers and not waterproof off the line.
I have purchased two bags from cycling oriented companies, The High Roller from Green Guru Gear and a Chrome Bravo. Both are top rolling closures, a large bag with carrying hardware. The High Roller is made from recycled bike tubes, storm proof and will fit my gear, not the other way around. I could easily pack my compartment bags, rain gear, food, and the like and still know all would be dry. The Bravo is a backpack style, more room than I know what to do with, bombproof and with hardware that will last forever, lifetime warranty of construction included. It can grow with my gear and is easy to access all compartments, all of which are storm proof. Between the two I have 76L of space at my disposal.
The Urban sprawl can be as challenging as any trail, sometimes doubly so. With the variations of snow, ice, rain and at times all three and add people and cars. My typical commute puts my concentration to the test but getting around has been much easier. Like on foot, cycling around a city is not restrictive as with a car and can be a lot faster. You also learn the lay of the land like no other way. Find a guide or take part in city group rides to learn the city. It is knowledge well worth the time.
Studded snow tires are a must if you are going to be riding side streets and bridges. A lesson learned at the hands of ice and sudden greetings from the asphalt. There has been nothing I cannot transverse with my snow tires and a down shift of gears. Unfortunately they will not last past the season, so having a few sets doesn't hurt.
Light yourself up like The 4th of July
With all the distractions a driver has already, watching for a cyclist or pedestrian falls to the bottom of the priority list. So help them out. Find the brightest lights you can and preferably multiple lights. I have three tail lights, one on my rack, one on my seat post and one on my helmet. I use Knog Blinders personally. They are blindingly bright and have a number of different flash patterns to get and keep people’s attention. Use them any time you are out and about, day or night
And know your watering holes. I know the location and hours of the majority of the coffee shops on both sides of the river. So I am not far from a recharge, food or shelter if needed. Getting to know the locals also can help if you get stuck in city should SHTF. The cycling community can be a valuable network in such situations.
Taking to the sprawl by cycle brings the Scouts motto “Be Prepared” to mind daily. Unlike my earlier prepping efforts, this is a daily thing, not a plan for the future. I wake up; checking the weather, temperature at that time of morning, having to decide, in a sleep fogged mind, what I need for the day, what it’s going to be packed in, thinking on the conditions will I be encountering and what routes I need to take for the safest, easiest commute.
It’s said that the city is a concrete jungle, to me it is one large obstacle course.
by SLC-360 contributing writer and
Urban Skills Instructor
Thursday, January 30, 2014
Here is simple DIY for cleaning up those old sun-bleached antlers that you may have laying around your place.
Remember: local laws can get very particular about the possession of wildlife remains. In most cases antler "sheds" are fair game for possession, but sheds with skull attached can get into a whole other area... Check your local state's laws to be sure before you ever disturb any remains you find in the wild.
If you have sun-bleached old antlers around and want to liven them up a bit, wood stain should do the trick.
I bought a couple of the smaller containers of stain at Lowes.
One was a very light stain (Natural), and the other was a darker color I liked (Provincial) to compliment for the darker areas.
The other things you will need for this project are:
- Old rag or foam brush to apply the stains with
- Surface to work on that will not stain (I just used a cardboard box)
- Old rag for drying
Apply the lighter stain lightly to the entire antler area - be CAREFUL to not get any onto the skull!
With stains, you can always apply more to make it darker; but can not ever make it lighter again.
So, let it sit a minute after your first application, and then add another coat if you think it needs it.
Once you have the "base" color finished, you will add a dab or two to the base areas of the antlers to darken those areas.
I applied a dab, then would wipe it off with a dry rag, then repeated this step several times until I got the desired effect.
SLC Contributing Writer
Monday, January 27, 2014
As I sit here looking at the 5 plus inches of snow out the window, I wanted to share the winter car prep and kit ideas.
As we discussed in the previous blog, first you need to have the basics covered. Then build from there, so for the sake of this blog we are assuming you have already read the basic one. While the winter kit will help you in emergencies, winter preparations for your car will help prevent you from possible car damage.
Car service, have your car winterized. Get a tune up, fluids checked, making sure you use cold weather additives. Making sure your anti-freeze is good to well below your areas temperature normals. In my area we use -40 degrees fahrenheit. It has been colder with wind chill but only a few times that I can remember. I also recomend de-icer washer fluid. I also suggest gas treatment to make sure your injectors are clean, your octane is boosted and moisture is removed. Tires: have good tread on your tires and be sure to check your tire pressure. Years ago I can remember people changing the type of tire depending on the season, but making sure your not running on low treads or no treads is a must even if you don't switch to snow ones for the season.
So now we have the car taken care of lets look more into a winter kit. I have seen kits that range from a few items that will just make you more comfortable to full on survival kits. The thing here is to determine what is right for the area you're going to be in. If you mainly travel in the city the odds of you being stranded over night or many nights awaiting rescue are more remote than say someone who travels coast to coast or long rural routes.
Barring a wreck or other accident that damages your car it provides a decent barrier between you and the elements. If your car still runs, that’s even better because you have heat. While a lot has been written about running your car and carbon monoxide poisoning, here we are hoping you know enough to keep proper ventilation and to make sure your exhaust is not covered so the dangerous fumes move away from you. If you are unsure or think you may have an exhaust leak “Don’t run the engine”.
Staying warm. I always pack a blanket and sleeping bag in the car year round but in winter I add an extra heavy blanket. Here I would recommend wool. It stays warm even when wet, but some people won’t use it “too itchy” so in this case it’s better to have something you will use. Extra clothes: keeping a change of clothes year round is a good idea. Gloves and a sock or knit hat, scarf, extra socks, boots. Other items I carry in the passenger area are food (nuts, jerky, granola trail mix or dried fruit) and water. Water will freeze but if you use the heavier juice bottles (washed and cleaned) and only fill the bottle ⅔ full when it freezes it typically will not bust. Placing in a large gallon ziplock will help if it does. I have 2 frozen solid in my car now with no leak problems.
In the trunk: Kitty litter- get a bag. The weight helps and it’s great to pour out for added traction. Small shovel, I got a three piece one that collapses down. Remember with this you want a good scoop to move snow with your more than likely not digging a trench.
This is just a basic winter list and not a full on survival kit. If you have the items and have done the car basic list, as well as this one you should be prepared for the basics. One other thing I recommend and do myself is pack a “get home bag” or bug out bag with me daily.
We will get to the bug out bag/get home bag list soon, also we will be having that class again this summer.
Stay Safe out there.
Monday, January 13, 2014
We've had some people asking “What to put in a winter car kit?” Let’s start with the basic kit first. Having a kit for winter (covered in the next blog) can be very important but if you don't have the basics that you should already have in a year-round kit, the winter kit would not be a lot of help.
Spare Tire: Is it inflated to the proper psi? You may think this is a silly question, but when is the last time you checked yours? It’s a good idea to check it on a regular basis. A good rule of thumb is to check it with each oil change. The idea here is you’re already at a service station of some sort, be it public or your own private garage, and if it’s low or needs air- you can get it. This also helps to remember to do it regularly. Do you have all the necessary equipment to change your tire; jack, spare, lug wrench, key (if you have locking lug nuts)? Do you know how? If not, you should learn!
Tow Strap: While towing a vehicle with a tow strap may be against local laws, having one to use for being pulled out of a ditch, the mud or a snow drift is a good idea. Make sure you have/get a strap that is designed for the weight of your vehicle.
Road Flares or Triangles: Some sort of cautionary device to put out to give advance warning to others that you are there and notify others to slow down and be careful. I also suggest having a brightly colored vest or jacket and reflective tape to be worn while working on your auto.
Flashlight: One for the passenger compartment as well as one in your trunk or toolbox for when you are working on the auto. Head lamps or lanterns that allow you to be “hands free” are a good idea here. Check the batteries on these as well at oil changes.
Fire Extinguisher: I always get a good size one. Here, bigger is better but get one in a size you can handle and be sure you know how to use it. Due to temperature changes, check it regularly as well.
Jumper Cables: These are good for your own use as well as being a good samaritan and helping others who need help. Never use these if you have no idea what you're doing! Always
refer to the owner's manual before attempting jump start any auto. Today’s cars can have computer systems attached to the electrical system and a small mistake can become very costly.
Basic Tool Box. If you’re not mechanically inclined, don't attempt anything that you’re not sure of but almost anyone can tighten a hose clamp. I know everyone jokes about it but duct tape can serve many purposes. If you have loose trim flapping or a pinhole in a hose, this will work long enough to get you off the highway and sometimes to the garage. Wire or coat hangers can be used if your exhaust pipe of muffler drops. You can wire it up to get you home. (Remember to beware of hot parts that can burn you!) While you don’t want to drive with clear plastic or a clear trash bag on your windows and may be illegal to do in some places, putting it over broken or busted out windows until the rain passes will keep you and your interior dry.