Some of you have asked what cameras we’re using and what other gadgets we packed for this trip. (Charles, I promised you an answer to your questions and here it is…finally!)
Here is an off-the-cuff, slightly rambling video showing the gear and how we carry most of it. There is also a quick tour of our hotel room in Chumphon, Thailand.
Here are some links for more info on the gear we mentioned in the video:
I didn’t mention it in the video, but we are using Apple Photos to organize the photos that we shoot. I don’t like it and find it to be very limiting. Not being able to batch edit metadata is a real bummer, so we aren’t doing much organizing. I also made the decision that I didn’t want to spend time “post-processing” images, so I am shooting JPEGs, not RAW files. I’m not cropping, retouching or editing photos. Shoot and post. That’s it. One nice thing about the Fuji X100T is that it produces very good JPEGS and has “film emulation” modes which are kind of like the filters or special effects that you might find on Instagram, but more subtle. I don’t mess with them much. I’m not after perfect images, just decent shots with minimal fuss!
I also forgot to mention two other cameras we brought with us. The first is the Sony DSC-TX10. It was a gift from Grandad years ago. It is small and waterproof. A great little camera. It is an older model and I think it has been discontinued and replaced with the DSC TX-30. This is Jette’s camera and our underwater camera. We shot some fun underwater videos while we were snorkeling in Koh Tao. We don’t have the bandwidth to post them now, but I’m hoping to when we are back in Bangkok in the next couple days. In the meantime, here are a couple of snapshots.
Jette underwater at Mango Bay, Koh Tao
Fishy, fishy, fishy, fish…
The other camera I neglected to mention in the video is a Contour Action Camera (kind of like a GoPro). It is OK, but I would recommend GoPro if you are in the market for an action camera. We used it to shoot some bike videos when we were cycling the Rhine but it has been living in our luggage lately.
As we prepared for the trip I had visions of shooting quite a bit of video and doing more polished YouTube posts. Didn’t happen. I found very quickly that I just didn’t want to spend the time and energy on editing. It just takes too much time, and I want to spend the time on this trip experiencing it, not sitting in front of my computer editing video! So, our YouTube videos are going to be rough and unedited. Sorry viewers, but hey, we’re on this trip to explore, learn and have fun. We want to spend our time doing that, not video post-production! Finding a connection fast enough to upload video is a challenge too. The video in this post took 20 hours to upload. It would have taken even longer had we not made it to Bangkok where we have speedy internet at the local mall thanks to the speedy WiFi hotspot from dtac, one of the local wireless carriers.
Regarding phones and internet, my phone is an older Google Nexus, so it came straight from Google unlocked. I can use it with any carrier. In each country we visit I typically buy a prepaid SIM card which gives me a local phone number, credit for calls and data for internet access. (Here’s an example from Singapore – they give you a lot of data! In most countries data is more limited and expensive. For example, Thailand.). It is really nice to have “always on” internet access, and I can use my phone as a hotspot in a pinch. Plans are usually inexpensive, and are perfect for using Google Maps, checking local reviews and such, but typically don’t offer enough data to do things like upload videos. It is also more secure than public WiFi.
You “punch out” the SIM card and put it in your phone.
The SIM card in Laos was hilarious. Usually the SIM card come as a punch-out from a credit card sized plastic card. Different phones take different sized SIM cards, so there are usually three sets of perforations. In Laos there were lines printed on the card but NO PERFORATIONS!!!! I had to use my knife to cut the SIM out of the “credit card”!!!
The SIM doctor doing surgery.
I’m a bit security conscious, so the MacBooks are “empty” in the sense that they don’t have our personal data and files on them, other than a few things we thought me might need on this trip. As I mentioned in the video, our hard drives and storage devices are encrypted. If we lose a device, I don’t want to have to worry about bad guys having easy access to what data is on them, or even our photos from the trip. I won’t go into details here, but if you are curious about encryption you might Google “encryption on a mac” or “computer security while travelling“. We also use a VPN when we connect to the internet. It is great for security, and also for accessing services that are limited to certain countries. For example, we could have NetFlix or Amazon think we are in the US when we are actually in Thailand and play content that they will only stream to the US. There are some other things that we do for security, but I’m not telling you what they are in a public blog post ;-). The bottom line is that if we login to PayPal or check our bank balance, we don’t want some goon getting access to our accounts!
I hope I’ve answered your questions! Feel free to ask more in the comments.
Two days ago on the 15th we hit 1,000 km!
We’ve only done about 600 km since the re-start of the bike trip in Lindau, but we’ve now done over 1,000 km on this trip overall. Woohoo!
When we hit 1,000 we were headed out of Koblenz, cold and soaking wet in the industrial outskirts of the city.
High fives for 1,000 km!!!
It was shortly thereafter that we decided to head back into Koblenz and take the train to Arnhem, The Netherlands. We’re running out of time. We really only have a few days left before we need to be back in Amsterdam to get bikes and gear packed up and shipped, and to pick up new gear for our onward journey. Our visas are expiring and we have a flight out on the 27th, but more on that later.
Also, Mila’s broken arm shifted the trip a month and we’re not well equipped for the wet and cold of Fall which has definitely arrived. Jette’s poncho turned out to be defective and is not waterproof at all. Instead it seems to like to soak up the rain and wick it immediately to the clothes underneath. Do NOT buy the Outdoor Products Women’s Poncho!
It’s morning in Arnhem and we’re about to pack up and hit the road. Our hope is to make it to the mouth of the Rhine in the North Sea at the Hook of Holland before our time here runs out.
We’ve had really slow internet connections everywhere we’ve been, so I’m still playing catch-up on the daily posts. I plan to do them as soon as I can and back date them so the date of the post matches the day it occurred.
Gotta roll! Talk to you later…
Today we rode 34.94 km from Mainz to Rudesheim am Rhein.
We had nowhere to plug in last night, and our camera batteries are dead. Photos today are from my phone, which doesn’t always like to focus, so some are blurry. C’est la vie.
I got up a couple hours before Mila and Jette and had a hot tea. It was a chilly morning and my sleeping bag had been too light for the night before. I drank the tea and walked around the campground to warm up. Alan was up and we talked for an hour or more. Mila and Jette woke up and we packed up camp and said our goodbyes to Alan. We rode back across the bridge into town to find breakfast and to get a warmer sleeping bag at the camping store we saw next door to Taco Kidd.
Jette looking cozy as we roll out of camp
Morning view crossing the bridge into Koblenz
Stopped at the camping shop
With a new sleeping bag in hand we rode over to one of the main shopping streets to find breakfast and food for the road. We were slow and it was almost noon by the time we had crossed the river again and were back on the Euro Velo 15 route headed North. There was quite a bit of construction and a number of detours along the way and we got off the route a few times. Signage was poor around Mainz and that made it easy to get off route too.
We stopped for an ice cream break in sleepy little Wiesbaden. Ice cream seems to be a popular treat for touring cyclists and there have been surprisingly few ice cream shops along the route!
Ice cream stop in Wiesbaden
Ice cream in Wiesbaden
The weather was nice and we even had a tailwind for some of the day. That’s a treat. Unlike the Upper Rhine where there were virtually no boats, and the Rhone au Rhin Canal where we didn’t see boats until the latter part, this section of the Rhine is full of big ships coming from the Netherlands, the North Sea and beyond. We saw big container ships, barges, and tankers.
Pretty skies and no more cornfields!
Along the river
More shipping traffic
Blue skies and tailwinds
We stopped for a water break at Oestrich-Winkel where this is an old crane that was once used to loading and unloading wine barrels from ships.
Human powered crane in Oestrich-Winkel
Built in 1745, the crane was powered by people on treadmills! Image two giant hamster wheels inside the crane, each with two men on them. Sound like fun? It was hard, dangerous work. Apparently it was not uncommon for the men to slip and fall in the wheels and have limbs crused by the machinery, or even to be crushed to death. I’ll pass on the human hamster job, thanks.
As we got closer to Rudesheim there were jetties built along the shore, often with little sandy beaches in their corners.
Sandy beaches and smiles
On the edge of Rudesheim, we set up camp at Rheingaucamping. We had a great location with just the bike path between our tent and the river.
River views from our mansion
The folks at the campground were nice enough to loan us an RV hookup cable and outlet so we could have power in our tent to charge our batteries! The only thing missing was internet, but at least we could charge our cameras and phones. Nice.
We had a nice dinner at the Boosthaus Restaurant just down the path.
Dinner at Bootshaus
Math before dinner
We watched the ships go by as the sun set on the Rhine.
Mila was cozy in the new sleeping bag, and I used our two light sleeping bags together. Unless it gets really cold, I think we’ll all be cozy and warm now.
Mila is healing quickly and we are planning to get back on our bikes to tackle the Rhine at the end of the month. We have train tickets to Bregenz, Austria which is just past Chur – where Mila broke her arm.
We will then make another attempt at cycling to the mouth of the Rhine at the North Sea. The catch is that we will have to do it much more quickly than we originally planned. The original idea was to make it a slow and leisurely ride with not too many kilometers (miles) per day, and the time to stop and enjoy the interesting places that we might find along the way. Regrettably the EU will only allow us to stay 90 days out of any 180 days. This means that we have to be out of the EU (actually the Schengen Countries) by the 28th of September. That gives us about one month to git ‘er done.
To help address the issues of way-too-much-stuff and overloaded bikes, we’ve bought a trailer.
Dutch trains don’t allow trailers, but this one is designed with that in mind. The wheels and the tow bar pop off and the trailer instantly becomes a big duffel bag. With some luck we can get it onto the trains.
As with everything there are tradeoffs, but hopefully the benefits of getting a bunch of junk off our bikes and onto the trailer will outweigh the costs. The pros and cons of trailers are endlessly debated and there are stalwarts in both camps. I won’t rehash them here, but if you are interested, here is one guy’s detailed analysis and a quick Google search will reveal about a million more.
Most importantly, having the trailer will allow us to shift a bunch of our load off of Mila’s bike for less stress on her arm and improved bike handling and safety. It will also shift much of the load on my bike from the frame to the trailer, which will also greatly improve the handling of my bike. I just hope the rear triangle of the frame is strong enough to handle the loaded trailer! That risk comes along with my stubbornness/madness of wanting to do the trip with the simplest “regular” bikes and not a bunch of specialized touring gear. That would be too easy, LOL!
We have lots of gadgets that need power. Most of them plug in to charge. Computers, phones, cameras (future post coming on all the “gear” we’ve packed). Instead of a whole bunch of plug adapters, before we left on this field trip we bought two universal power strips.
One of our travel power strips
Each of the power strips has a two prong Euro-style plug that goes into the wall. This is the type of plug that is used in most of Europe, South America and Asia (you can see the various plug types here. Ours is compatible with sockets C,E, and F). There are three outlets on the power strip, each of which can take just about any kind of plug. If you are curious, I bought them here.
I love these things. They are compact and allow you to plug three things into one outlet with no plug adapters. You can even let that British guy with the goofy plug charge his phone too! We’ve found that when traveling, resources like power outlets are often shared, so this can be a real bonus.
When we checked out of our hotel in Brussels, somehow I managed to leave both of our universal power strips in our hotel room. Bummer. When we got to Switzerland, we had no way to plug anything in and the only plug adapter we could find was a round thing that didn’t accommodate our MacBook chargers, phone chargers, Kindle chargers, or camera charger. We had only one thing that would plug into the adapter- a cable for another of our camera chargers. On one end of the cable is the US style two prong plug. On the other end is a what I’ve heard called a “chinese 8” or “figure 8” plug:
Figure 8 plug
I realized that the figure 8 plug looked a lot like the custom plugs on the end of the expensive Apple extension cables. So, I popped the plug portion off the “brick” on the MacBook charger and sure enough, the standard figure 8 plug slid right in!
Switzerland adapter, camera charger cord, MacBook power supply.
We now had power for the computer, and we could use the USB ports on the computer to charge our phones! Yay!
I subsequently found a Swiss power cord with a figure 8 output, so we could plug the other computer in too, without the need for a power adapter. I thought this was a great discovery, as the Swiss cord was only about $6. Cheaper and better than a plug adapter! I have a feeling I’ll be doing the same thing in the future in other countries.
Anyway, when Mila broke her arm and we decided that we would be going back to Amsterdam for a while, I ordered two more of the power strips and had them shipped to me poste restante at the Amsterdam main Post Office.
What is poste restante you ask? Much more common in years or even centuries past, poste restante, or general delivery is a service where the post office receives mail on behalf of someone and holds it until they come to claim it. In this case when I placed the order online, I simply entered the shipping address as my name, poste restante, and the address of the main post office:
GPO Singel 250-sous (basement)
Yesterday, I could see from the online tracking that the package had arrived, so I went to the Post Office, showed them my passport and picked up my package. Nice, huh?
Not all countries still use the poste restante system, but many do. It’s a nice travel secret to know!