Tag Archives: bike camping

A Short Breather

After 8 straight days of popping awake, grabbing a quick cup of coffee while packing, crawling into horrifically stinky riding gear and hammering down the road for 4-500 miles, it’s delightful to be sitting in a Starbucks in shorts sipping coffee and typing.

The northern detour part of the east/west trip was mind blowing and exhausting. Having done a lot of travel in remote areas of the US, I’d have to say the run up through BC to Yellowknife and back takes the cake for middle of fucking nowhere. Gloriously so. Through much of the interior western US you still get frequent signs of civilization: power lines, fences, a small homestead now and again. Once we got north of Ft Nelson it was easily 500 miles of nothing but a sketchy gravel road between tiny little settlements you hoped had gas. The north is so verdant and lush it was often difficult to see much beyond the tight edge of the “road”. Now and again a break would open up and treat me to views that blew my mind. Endless miles of stunted black spruce, lodgepole pine, mixed conifer forest and marshy lakes highlighted with an endless blue sky. Signs of past massive wildfires were everywhere, often miles of burned black spruce lined the road and ran back to the edge of the horizon.

Much of the haul is jumbled in my head as there was little time to chill and take it in. Brad had a limited window for the trip and covering 3500 miles (half gravel) in 8 days necessitated hard riding and very long days. I’m looking forward to easing back to the flow previously set in the beginning of the ride. So much to see that I don’t want to miss. Road trips as a kid were the classic look out the window while dad hauled ass to get wherever the hell it was that needed to be gotten to, destination travel. Being a journey type in my adulthood has paid off, allowing me to experience a great deal even on short trips.

Yellowknife was a great surprise as a few of the remote towns we had hit along the way were methy and a little gross. Well, mainly Prince George, BC. Total shithole. Ft Nelson was a delightful surprise much like YK. It’s a very culturally diverse, open minded, and rather sophisticated little city for being a long way from anywhere. Of course we couldn’t stop at hitting the city and took a day to run out the Ingraham Trail which goes 50 miles out into the boonies and stops at a lake. During the warmer months, anyway. In the winter it is one of the many Ice Roads utilized to reach very remote villages and settlements only accessible by plane otherwise. This particular spot was made famous by being the featured road in the first season of the “reality” show Ice Road Truckers.

Spent the rest of the day checking out the tourist sites, coffee shops and a spendy, but worth it, funky restaurant for crazy good fish and chips. Then a chill evening at camp followed by the long hard grind back to Calgary.

Signs and warnings about wildlife were abundant, actual wildlife, not so much. Saw a few deer, a black wolf, 3-4 black bears, a few dozen bison and a cute little red fox trotting down the side of the Ingraham Trail with a muskrat half it’s size in it’s mouth. Didn’t get photos of much of it as it was either seen on the side of the road while blasting by or, well, only dumbass retard tourists stop in the middle of the road to take photos of bears, bison and other things that can kill you. Besides, mental images and memories are better than photos. Wanna see a wood bison? Go to where they live. Vicarious experience is OK in little doses, but if that’s all you get a change in priorities is needed. That being said, a couple shots got taken:

Being poor white trash, I headed out initially accepting I couldn’t get the bike to 100% before the trip without spending too much cash, so some replacing would need to be done along the way. Get my money’s worth out of everything. Tires were done in Calgary and it became apparent halfway through the YK haul that the drive train would be next. Had a year and over 10k miles on it so no surprise, but still stressful to watch your rear sprocket degrade at an ever increasing pace knowing it was still a long way back. Thankfully, a little adjusting of the chain and begging the gods of moto travel for mercy paid off and I rolled in with little nubbies for sprocket teeth.

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Parts were ordered from the road and should show up today or tomorrow so I can get Thumper fixed up and head out on the next phase of the haul.

Weather tended to be pretty good with occasional rain for the run up, then got very mixed and funky on the way back down. Got drenched and hammered with hail by this asshole storm cell:

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Then as we finally rolled into Edmonton the clouds looked ominous, but I figured we could swing by and be OK, but that soon proved in error and we dove under an overpass within seconds of a rain/hail/wind squall slammed into the area causing traffic to go bonkers:

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The image doesn’t do it justice. Cars just stopped in the middle of the freeway and semis dodged them with an artful skill. Amazing that no one got hit. Ended up grabbing a hotel as we had ridden 600 miles already, Calgary was 3 hours away and we were soaked and exhausted. Good call.

Lack of sleep was a constant thing as we were rather north and it never got dark. This is 2330 about 800 miles south of our furthest north location

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6-7 hours a night with regular little wake-ups kept the brain foggy, but wasn’t too hard on the mood. Mosquitoes were a concern going in and while dense everywhere, they weren’t very aggressive. Got plenty bites, but the bug shirt and hat were unnecessary. A good spritz of bug dope kept them at bay and allowed for plenty outdoor time. Only once camp in BC was bad so we hunkered in the tents after dinner and stared at phones and read.

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Time to get my butt in gear, looks like my parts will be in today. I’ll be trying to do more frequent, shorter posts to get the stuff out of my head in a more coherent manner. Honestly, this is done for me. I’m glad the few people who read this seem to enjoy it, but it is done mainly for sanity maintenance.

Hope y’all are getting the most out of your summer.

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Wrapping it up in Silicon Valley

imoutSoon, very soon.

March 10th is my release date. After a year and a half in Techville it’ll be time to huck most all the shit back into Mighty Whitey and make a final trek north to Bend. For all the shit talking I could do, and have done, concerning this place and my time on it, I have to say it’s been a hell of a learning experience and some good times have been had. Many cool places I’d have never had the interest in or taken the time to check out have been explored and enjoyed.

Desert moto trips, coastal moto trips, trail running in the Sierras, backpacking in the oak savanna, fucking about in SF, and here soon seeing 2 of my favorite comedians back to back nights in San Jose at the Improv. Bill Burr the 22nd of March followed by Doug Stanhope the next night. So damn excited I may pee myself.

These 2 fun filled nights, however, are only a precursor to the big thrills on the horizon. I’m going to drive Mighty Whitey north, fly back down to catch the shows then jump on the KLR and take off on a 3-4 week road trip all around the desert SW. Fuck YES!!!

Having taken a number of 2-3 week road trips in one of many trusty Subarus over the years, this will be my first this long on Thumper. A multi week outdoor adventure trip involving National Parks, deserts, bouldering, hiking back-road moto adventuring and general fucking about across thousands of miles of mostly desert. SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!

Being a solid minimalist, I’ll be avoiding the “Oakies heading West out of the Dustbowl” look many ADV riders seem to be so fond of. Lashing mountains of heavy bulky shit to a mildly powered bike that will be expected to handle in some tough conditions seems to be a recipe for disaster I choose to avoid. Luckily, most of my gear is higher quality lightweight backpacking kit so I should be able to pack all I need, have a little room and not have to wallow down the road like a pregnant water buffalo.

Many applications have been slung and none have stuck, so what the fuck, why not hit the road for a bit? I’ve seen images of so many cool places it’ll be good to go in person and lay my eyes upon them. Life is too short to just suck up digital content.

Plan to hit a variety of places all throughout SoCal, AZ, Utah, Colorado, NV then back to Bend. This whole thing actually came about figuring how to get my bike back north while the roads might still suck. Thought about running up the coast to Astoria, but the weather is typically shit in the spring on the coast and I’m fucking done with Cali coast trips. Then it was Death Valley for a few days which morphed into a big adventure. Carrizo Plain Natl Momument, Death Valley, J-Tree, Salton Sea then to see a high school friend in southern AZ enroute to Bisbee just in time for the Mishka Shubaly and Christene Lavene gig. Might even be able to buy a beer for Doug or one of his delightful band of misfits. May dip into Mexico for a look-see, not sure yet. Then north through Utah to check out old stomping grounds to Montrose, CO to visit friends. After that it’ll be road trip improv till I roll into me town of Bend.

Anyone along the route or who will be out and about that time of year and wants to hook up and travel a bit, shoot the shit or offer a patch of grass to sleep on I’ll be checking FB on occasion. Lots of Instagram will be happening and blog posts from time to time.

The big adventure begins roughly March, 25. Still have a few things to check out here before rolling out of Cali for good.

The Big Desert Blast w/B-Rad

After much discussion, a little planning and heaps of anticipation myself and B-Rad (friend Brad whom I met while living in Canada back in 05-07) each headed from our respective homes to Bend, OR to get 4 days of desert riding in.

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Our respective rides, I have the ’05 KLR 650 farkled to the goddamn hilt and B-Rad his ’15 BMW F800 GS Adventure with some respectable add-ons.

I cut my teeth with this bike in the deserts of Central Idaho and Central/Eastern Oregon. Most of the The Pig’s 33k miles have been on dirt since I got it in ’14 with 14.4k on it. Often it has felt fat and unwieldy when pushed, but I have come to find that’s standard when trying to ride Mx style with a KLR. It’s general dirt road/mellow trail demeanor is rather predictable and easy to manage. Fun, in other words. It’s tossible-ish, holds a line well and has far exceeded my expectations.

B-Rad is newer to bikes and has been putting on a lot of miles on the dirt roads of Southern Alberta around the general Calgary area. One drawback of Alberta’s forest lands is a lack of standard issue shit dirt roads to bumble around on.

The trip was loosely planned with a few highlights I wanted to hit, but a very open route across miles of BIG desert country. Montana is not the only Big Sky state. I was thinking 200-250 miles a day of around 6-8 hours on the bikes. I’m an endurance guy and like to go long and hard all day long, pass out, get up have coffee and get back at it. Didn’t know Brad’s style and I not sure that he did either not having done big rides in this kind of country.

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The Pour House, Good Grub

We hit the trail soon after Brad got to Bend and a last minute grocery/gas/gear/lunch round up. Headed out Hwy 20 to the base of Horse Ridge then off the roads and into the desert we go. All was going just dandy, got onto a road made from cinders which is the worst material in the world to build a road out of. It gets pulverized into a thick loose sand like grabby nightmare that will fuck you the minute you get comfortable. I mentioned to pay attention to the shit handling properties of the road then headed off. After going a bit I stopped and waited for Brad to catch up, gave it a couple minutes then headed back to see if he was having issues. Pulled up on him with the bike down, cargo boxes scattered and him standing there with a face covered with that miserable dirt. Shit. He was fine, the bike was fine, taking into account some remodeled plastics, and the boxes were fucked. Spent a while banging them back into shape so the lids fit and could be remounted on the racks. You could look down the road and see signs of the death wobble in the shit slop that initiated the wipe out. Got it all patched back together and headed out 10 miles down the road to camp out.

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Pine Mountain

Not that far from Bend, but totally alone. Having worked out here for 10 years and played for 20, this is my favorite place on earth.

Day 2 got going with coffee, some light trail riding and a few turn arounds on 2 track dirt roads. Found that the 2 tracks were no fun on a bigger bike, so got us on bigger roads and put on a ton of miles and hours getting from Pine Mountain to the Hot Springs Campground on Hart Mountain. Stops at Ft Rock State Park:

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Ft Rock State Park

The shitty meth hole known as Christmas Valley provided a gas stop, but deserved no photo recognition. Headed over Abert Rim, a childhood deer hunting spot and off down the dirt deeper into it. I love the huge spaces and empty landscapes. You need patience and an attention span to get what the desert offers.

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Abert Rim

Blasted across miles and miles of dirt roads in the hot hot heat and found an excellent refuge in Frenchglen where we got gas, sodas much needed shade and 4G!! Brad got word out to the Mrs. who is one of the best wives of friends I know who basically said, shit happens enjoy the rest of the trip.

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French Glen. Shade and data!

Headed up the shit washboard road to get to the campground that was so rough one of Brad’s boxes rattle off. Slapped it back on, got the the camp spot, pulled out the little camp chairs and slumped for a while. Came to the quick determination that 4 days of power push in the brutal heat was not gonna be fun so agreed to reign in the miles per day a bit. Have an actual vacation, not a punishment run. Hit the hot springs and chatted with a hippyish dude from Santa Barbara headed to Utah to play in a music festival and a couple from Salem checking out the desert.

Steens Mountain was the next days destination allowing for a nice long trek across more hot desert with wide open skies and tons of antelope to check out, but not too long. The plus was getting off the bikes a little earlier and getting to kick it in camp, the downside was the bazillion skeeters that fucking hammered us all night long. The views were worth it, however.

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Kiger Gorge

 

 

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Alvord Desert, view off the east side

Took our time working around the rest of the loop on Steens, taking photos and checking shit out before heading to Fields Station for a huge tasty burger and shake. So goddamn full of tasty goodness it was painful to ride. Thankfully by the time we got to the Alvord, stuff had settled and it was time to blast out hard and fast across the playa.

Saw a large group of gliders on the playa and ran the KLR as hard and fast as it would go. It’s a bizarre feeling and a ton of fun as well. Go hard and just have white slide under you for miles.

Rolled up the east Steens road to wind up the dirt part of the trip. Almost ate shit myself when a car went by and I tucked a little deep into the side of the road into deep gravel and did 50 yards of death wobble, but pulled it off. Whew! Such a goddamn nasty feeling. Figured the last night together should be at another hot springs so we hit the pavement, aired back up and headed to Crystal Crane Hot Springs. I’ve hit this place a good number of times and it is the goddamn bomb for a cheap, decent little get away. I typically spend around 95% of the time I’m there in the water, even waking up in the middle of the night and trucking down to the pool for a few hours.

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Crystal Crane Hot Springs

Saturday AM we each headed out Hwy 395, Brad north, me south. ended up going back by Abert Rim and decided to get a shot of the soon to be gone lake.

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Abert Lake-ish.

THe mud was the nastiest shit around. Took 4 days for that stuff to get off my boots. Smelled like rotten anchovie vaginas.

Ran down 395 til the JCT that heads off to Mt Lassen National Park, so took that as I’ve never gone that way and had no desire to go through either Reno or Sacramento in my soon to be worn out state.

Pulled over for a short rest, took off back into the road, went for second gear and the fuckin’ clutch cable snapped like a twig. Shit. Decided to ride it out for a while, highway doesn’t require a lot of shifting. Thought about it while heading towards Red Bluff and came up with a solution that actually worked. Called a shop and they had no cables or interest that a fellow rider might be stranded so that shop can go fuck itself. Not for not having the cable, I get that. For not giving the slightest shit, fuck ’em.  I got the below solution figured out and it ended up working fairly well the rest of the ride.

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White trash clutch cable fix

Ran I-5 as long as I could in the 100+ heat, but called the ball in Williams and stayed in the least sketchy Motel 6 ever. It was so clean it actually made me suspicious. Fuck it, A/C, ice and shitty food readily available.

Took 2.5 hours to get home the next morning and felt like i had my ass kicked. 2500 miles in 6 days with a ton of high attention shit dirt riding will take it out of ya. Ordered some clutch cables, rear sprocket and chain as they were fucked as well.

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Got my $ out of that one……

Brad made a huge push the first day and made it home Sunday AM. Had a day to rest and unpack before heading to the in-laws fancy cabin on lake Ontario.

Given the opportunity, I’d do little but ride around the West on shitty little dirt roads on a KLR 650 and check shit out. I’d thought about maybe getting an F800GS in the future, but seeing the issues Brad had with it handling in dirt, how bad the wind pushed it around and how complex it is, I’ll be happy getting a newer KLR eventually and keep keeping on.

I didn’t feel like getting a set of tires just for the trip so ran my Silicon Valley daily driver Kenda K761’s and was amazed at the off road handling capability of this tire. Dropped the air to 18 psi and it just did the job: gravel, dirt, trail, slop-nothing threw it. It wasn’t rock solid on every surface, but very predictable. Very happy with my whole setup, once again I was able to focus on the adventure, not the gear. Well except for the clutch cable, but shit happens.

Desert adventures, Aka Fuck X-Mas and all associated horseshit.

Being someone actively devoid of silly holiday traditions I chose the past few days to get the fuck out of Bend-Tourist Mecca and head into the desert. The plan was to get some ideas for trips based on the KLR and to see how the roads in the area matched the scant data available. Not well, I came to find. That will be a task with the bike after the winter. Ride the shit out of the desert with a GPS and load all that data into Open Street. Holy fuck, that was a hoot! A greater understanding of how that place was an inland sea some millennia ago instilled itself in my head after 2 days of desperate plowing down “roads” wondering which sludge hole was going to be the death of Mighty Whitey.P1010082

This was one of the small ones. One went for 500+ meters and damn near swallowed MW.

I shall pause the narrative at this point to publicly give a massive shout out to the engineer from Fuji Heavy Industries who, in the mid 70’s, came up with the concept that lead to the Subaru AWD wagon. This being my 4th Soob, I can attest to their  durability and insane dependability. I’ve hammered the complete shit out of all of mine and have never been left hanging. The fact that nothing broke this trip is stunning given the number of rocks hit, ditches jumped and super sludge ponds plowed through.

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Good on ya, Subaru!

 

 

 

 

Just being out in the middle of nowhere was worth it, however. Not being a fan of most people, the desert in winter is an excellent choice of places to be.

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Plenty good exploring got done and the camping was tops!

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First night…

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Annnnnnnd second.

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This was my favorite place the whole trip. Why, you may ask? Well, let me tell ya, pardner! The name. Strictly the name.

Which is?!?!?

JEW VALLEY.

No shit, Jew Valley.

Not a Jew was sighted, which brought about some severe disappointment. Unless my sister is right and we’re Jews, then a Jew was sighted. In the mirror. Not what I was hoping for. I wanted to see some fucking hardscrabble Hasids in their dumb fucking wool jammies and curly locks working it. Building fence and whatnot. Nope, just a watering hole, sage and way too much slop disguised as roads. Fuck.

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There was a little sun, usually a few hours in the morning followed by overcast and rain, sleet, snow, hail and odd combos of all the above at times. Beautiful. I highly recommend no one ever try this sort of thing. Keeps the rabble out of my goddamn desert.

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Smooch!

Rotella.

Putting it, and myself, to the test.

Well, that was a ball. And educational. What more could you ask for, really?

About 11AM on Labor Day I got an idea to maybe get a ride in even though I was going to give the new paint job a day to cure. Fuck that. If (when, actually) it gets goobered I can always buy another $4 can of Krylon.

Pulled out the trusty Gazetteer with the words of the guy I bought the bike from ringing in my ears, “There are bunch of sweet dirt roads between here and Stanley we ride all the time.”  After about 5 minutes of lookin’ at squiggles the plan was set: 2-3 day power ride through the backwoods of central Ideeho. Within an hour all the kit was packed, the tank topped off and my ass was the fuck out of town. My only other plan for the holiday weekend was playing Russian Roulette so there wasn’t much to lose. Goddamn slow assed fire season.

Anywhoo, I blew the fuck out, headed west towards my beloved Oregon, but alas not to it, hit Fairfield and got going north.

SIDE NOTE: I’m using my spectacular GIS skills to develop a map of all my treks on here. Not sure how that will look in the end, but a number of possible platforms are being tested. Google earth sucks for sharing. Just sayin’.

Got headed up into the boonies when the shitstorm of bubba weekend warriors ending their last breedling infested summer hoorah came flooding past. Sorry no photos, I was trying not to get run over by a fleet of Ford F-350 Diesel warrior wagons towing any number of a wide variety of trailers. In the matter of 3 miles 70-80 rigs passed by. Then, nothing.

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Smooth riding, with the occasional passer by, in to my lovely, and quite deserted, camping spot.

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Full on minimalist goodness. A few goodies will be added, but the kit list as it is is pretty solid.

Got up, made some coffee, did some stretching then headed out to Featherville, a tiny little berg hidden in the woods. Pat, hubby of Cindie of Cindie’s Featherville Cafe:

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whipped up some mean grub and kept the coffee going. Met a couple from Taos, NM who were doing a new this year 500 mile dirt road bicycle loop out of Ketchum. Turns out the dude had gotten an ‘05 KLR the around the same time I did, but only put 100 miles on it so far.

After all the gabbing and eating it was off to Atlanta. No, not that one, there is a tiny little former mining town full of gruff hillbillies and cranky old people in a cool basin in the Idaho boonies.

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The ‘road’ there had seen better days. I’m a mtn bike guy so I’m used to being able to throw some body English at my bike to get it to go where I wish in the funkiness, not so with a 425# KLR. You can do a bit, but that fucker wanted to run down the steep heavily rutted and rocky stuff. Got in some valuable learnin’ AND a good workout. After about 2 minutes in Atlanta it was time for a swim in the cold assed Middle fork of the Boise river.

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SOOOOOOOCOLD!!!!!!!! Balls instantly went up into my guts in rebellion to such harsh treatment, but it was nice to get the dust off and splash around a bit.

Made a wrong turn somewhere as a major road was fuckered to the point of closure and came out of the woods 25 miles north of Idaho city instead of 2. Got to ride down the pass through fresh chip sealing. After having spent the AM washing around on freshly graded roads. Ugh.

Kicked it in IC fro a bit, had a dude ask if I had stolen the bike as he had seen someone else on a similar one. I ignored the question then he proceeded to tell me about his KLR. I think the pope probably had one of these things.

Hitting the pavement felt really sweet once I got through chip seal part 2 and ripped down the pass to Lowman. Was thinking about camping out another night on the Boise side of things, but also wanted to see if  I could do a big power push all the way back. Got to the edge of the Stanley basin and decided there was no turning back.

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I’ve been on a number of fires near Stanley and even in the summer that place is fucking wicked cold. Wasn’t in the mood to try and not freeze my ass off even with my rather high zoot gear collection. Pushed all the way through, over Galena Summit and down into Ketchum to Lefty’s for some much needed hot wings than finished up the trip back to Bellevue.

Lessons learned? I’m pretty well dialed on gear, need more shitty terrain time to hone the skills, Kenda K270 tires rail on the dirt and pavement-ignore the naysayers, passing on this pig is an art, KLR headlights suck ass-problem solved:

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Got me a couple LED lights, and an LED taillight, from superbrightleds.com.

Most importantly: I love to ride this thing. Really a whole lot. Many adventures are yet to come.