Cycle Touring Northern Norway

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During our first cycling tour of Norway in 2013, we ran out of time to reach the northern regions of Norway. This June (2018), we chose to cycle in three regions: the Lofotons, Senja, and Helgeland (Bodo to Trondheim), so our route mostly followed Norway’s national bike route #1 between Tromso and Trondheim. Our route follows the Norwegian coast, where steep mountains drop into the sea. In many locations, the coastal road is broken up by fjords and the road must bridge out to coastal islands. The Norweigan infrastructure of tunnels, ferries, and bridges creates a crazy hopping journey through spectacular alpine/mar-time geography. I know of no other place where you can consistently ride 1200+ km of quality coastline.

We flew into and based out of Trondheim, leaving our bike containers with our Trondheim AirBnB host. Trondheim can be reached on international flights and is big enough to provide services and transportation to begin this tour. Avoid arriving on Sundays, as everything is closed. Bodo and Tromso would have been good touch down destinations as well. To get back to Trondheim (and our bike containers) after our tour, we used a combination of rail and cruise ship.

All cycle tribes are found along the route: guided sag van support, traditional bike tourers (all gear), minimalists (bivy gear/no cooking) and credit card riders (no camping gear). Because of limited services along the route, most riders are traditionalists, but you will find necky credit card riders (mostly local Scandinavians) who ride to their next accommodation or else.

There is no reason to push through this tour unless you are hell-bent for the NordCapp. With a good hiking map, you will realize that there are excellent daily hikes directly off the route. Stash your bike and head up to incredible views. Some of our best days were multi-sport; maybe 2 hour hike in the AM, 3 hours of cycling in the PM and a World Cup match with the locals. And remember, your day ends when you want it to. You are so far north (69N @Tromso) that you will only experience darkness in poorly lit tunnels.

 

Additional Notes

Traffic. The “E” highways have more traffic than the non “E” highways, otherwise, see the pictures.

Car Ferries. Ferries are a big part of this tour and not to be confused with the high speed ferries that do not carry cars. The car ferries provide opportunities for shelter, food, coffee, and rest. They run frequently, so timing is not necesary.

Food. As we don’t carry cook gear, only snacks, so we needed a restaurant once a day. There is just enough options for food along the route to travel without a stove, luckily, we only had sandwiches for dinner once. Most of the restaurants were excellent, but expensive. If you cook on your own, you can save a lot of Kroner.

Hurtigurten. This a cruise ship line that traverses the Norwegian coastline. We used it to return south after reaching Tromso. Each Hurtigurten port has a southbound and northbound call each day. The ship is expensive, but if used wisely, it can save time and get you to remote locations along the coast. You can reduce your ticket cost by not getting an overnight cabin and simply walking on at the dock without a reservation. I estimate the deck tickets at around $40-50 for each port segment. The deck experience is very comfortable and the cabins are cruise ship luxury.

Tunnels. There are about 45 tunnels on this route, so you will get used to them. I didn’t consider any tunnels dangerous, many of them have “biker in tunnel” alert buttons that you activate before entering the tunnel. Here is a website that lists all bike-friendly Norwegian tunnels.

Weather. This is purely a roll of the dice. I would add into your plans at least two weather days. This trip we had a 2 day storm with rain and gale force (30+mph) winds. Local fisherman died at sea, ferries were stopped, and cycling was not possible.

Difficulty. I would consider our pace and route to be beginner/intermediate in difficulty. Most of the riding is flat and there are no passes like in the European Alps. Our longest day was 92km but most days were half that distance. Watch the wind forecasts, as head winds can come from all directions.

Data Plan. Verizon international (from Norway) would have been $300 for each of us, so we got MyCall SIMs for about $30 for 3GBs of data each. Signal coverage was excellent along our route. You can pick one up at Narvesen convenience stores (passport required).

 

Fun Facts:

  • Ferries: 21
  • Tunnels: 45
  • Longest Tunnel: 3.2km
  • Average Temp: 50F +/-5 (unseasonably colder)
  • Flat tires: 0 (new 23/25mm Gatorskins)

 

 

Cost of Norwegian Transportation

  1. Ride (free)
  2. Hitch-hike (free)
  3. Car Ferries (reasonable)
  4. Buses (reasonable takes bikes)
  5. High Speed Ferries (bikes but no cars, irregular schedules)
  6. Rail (Trondheim to Bodo overnight train)
  7. Hurtigurten (see red dots on map for daily ports)
  8. Air (reasonable cost but not with bike luggage)

 

Redux Video Background Module

Looping video backgrounds are very popular on home pages. I decided to make a homepage module so WordPress users could quickly build one on their home pages. Users only need a short video clip and some homepage module settings to complete this task. The configuration options for this module are: 

  • Select a video (mp4) from the WordPress Media Library.
  • Add any text content or basic HTML content to be overlayed over the looping video.
  • Select the overlaying text’s color.
  • Select the opacity of the video.
  • Select the height of the video.
  • Position the Video Background module on your homepage with the Redux Homepage Layout Manager. So fast!
 

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When you decrease video opacity, an underlying background line pattern reveals itself. Decreasing video opacity and exposing the background pattern improves the visibility and readability of the overlaying text content.

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Aspen Road Bike Rides

These are the 6 standard road bike rides around Aspen. I did not include Independence Pass (Hwy 82) because I don’t recommend riding it with its negative roadway shoulders. If you want to ride Indy, do it when it is closed to motor traffic. This means early May when CDOT is still snow plowing over the pass or when a cycle event travels over the pass (Pro Challenge race or Ride the Rockies tour).

My riding stats start and end on Red Butte Drive near Slaughter House Bridge, not in downtown Aspen.

Notes:

  • Aspen Loop is mostly flat and makes the most of Aspen’s bike paths and bikeways. Easiest.
  • Woody Creek is an out and back ride. Many riders pit stop at the Woody Creek Tavern.
  • Castle Creek is the longest ride. Out and back ride.
  • Maroon Creek has the highest elevation. Limited car traffic. Out and back ride.
  • Owl Creek is a loop ride with some bike path segments. Juniper Hill is a steep 600’ segment. Ride the Rio Grande bike path if you want river views on the way back to Aspen or McLain Flats Road if prefer looking at the mountains of the Elk Range.
  • Owl Creek Mass Trail skips the Juniper Hill segment and some highway crossings via the Aspen Mass Trail. The route follows mostly bike path.

This is the Maroon Valley ride.

Switched to Ride with GPS

gps_widget
Custom widget

 I waited years for Strava to allow you to embed your rides into a website. But Strava’s engineers never listened, so I switched to the Ride with GPS iOS app. Not only does Ride with GPS allow embedding of the app’s ride maps (above) into websites with an iframe tag, but within your account profile they have a dynamic widget builder to create a custom widget with rides and ride details displayed as you desire. With Ride with GPS, you can also search other locales for other rider’s maps and all the related beta to those rides. Now group ride maps can be shared on  cycling websites.

Redux Parallax Module

After building a parallax in a client site, I decided that my clients might want to create or edit their own parallax. A web parallax is a vertically fluid scrolling of images and text. A parallax is easier to understand than to describe, so see this example parallax. I am using the Redux framework on the backend of a WordPress site for a content provider to easily build and configure the parallax. Here were my goals to create the parallax on a Bootstrap homepage:

  • the parallax’s position on the homepage could be changed
  • the parallax could easily be activated or removed from the homepage
  • the number and order  of parallax images needed to be adjustable and re-ordered
  • the floating parallax text blocks could be easily edited
  • the parallax could have an optional title
  • the height of parallax images could be adjusted
  • the opacity of the parallax images could be adjusted
  • there could be no client coding, only WordPress content provider skills required

What made my project really work was Redux’s slides field. This field allows the user to create any number of slides which each includes: an image, a title, and a text block, so you can create a parallax with an unlimited number of slides. The slides can also be reordered by dragging each slide to your desired sort order, the top slide displays first. I also added adjustments for the background images’ height and opacity. Making adjustments to the parallax couldn’t be easier.

 

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Adding images and text blocks within the Redux homepage theme options

I was surprised how little coding was required to build a parallax. Just a little HTML/PHP, a few CSS rules and no Javascript. If you would like to learn more about the Homepage Layout Manager, I have a post that introduces the Redux homepage theme option.

See the Pen Parallax by gordo019 (@gordo019) on CodePen.

See the Pen Redux config settings by gordo019 (@gordo019) on CodePen.

Benefits of the Bootstrap Framework

I started playing around with Bootstrap in 2015 when I didn’t understand what Bootstrap was or why a web designer would build websites using Bootstrap. Since then, I have built 6 Bootstrap sites and can now give five broad reasons to choose Bootstrap as a theme/framework for building a website.

Bootstrap is more than a web site theme with a unique set of styles, fonts, and page templates. Bootstrap is a framework, which could be considered a super theme (technically a superset of HTML, CSS, and Javascript technologies). Many Bootstrap developers share and contribute to Bootstrap making it more than a theme but an entire website design framework. The Bootstrap framework is an open source (read: public) project that many developers and designers have contributed to mostly via the Github social network.

Five Benefits of Bootstrap

  1. speed of development
  2. responsiveness
  3. consistency
  4. customizable
  5. support

The first benefit of Bootstrap is speed of web site development. As a web designer or web programmer, you don’t code to reinvent the wheel. Hundreds of developers have already contributed to the Bootstrap code base and all these developers share their chunks of code or design components. A web designer initially configures the web features desired, and then, the configured Bootstrap files are downloaded for initial site testing. Each configured Bootstrap site can be a unique design and each could be considered a Bootstrap theme. With all the Bootstrap resources available, the developer can quickly start creating a site structure without having to code individual site components.

 

The second benefit of Bootstrap is site responsiveness. Bootstrap is a mobile-first theme meaning it is designed for small smartphone screens but has a grid layout system which scales nicely for wider screens. Bootstrap polls the device requesting the webpage, and then, provides a mobile, tabloid, or desktop layout depending on the screen width of the requesting device. The client and developer don’t need to worry about multiple versions of the website. If your domain doesn’t have device responsiveness coding, Google will be penalizing the domain and your content may display poorly on some devices.

 
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The third benefit of Bootstrap is consistency. Your Bootstrap site could be handed over to another Bootstrap experienced developer, and the web interface would remain consistent. For example, the menubar would function the same no matter which Bootstrap developer had last updated it. This consistency also relates to the many different web browsers available. The Bootstrap site responds and displays consistently when tested with most modern browsers.

The fourth benefit of Bootstrap is that it is easy to customize. The Bootstrap developer can choose any website components (buttons, sliders, date picker, popups, etc) to create the web experience that the client desires. With lots of Bootstrap components to choose from, the developer can create a unique customized theme.

The fifth benefit of Bootstrap is support. Github has over 600 developers sharing code and ideas on Bootstrap. The framework is always evolving and improving. A standard WordPress theme might be built and tested by a single developer or small team, but the worldwide community of Bootstrap developers would result in a superior theme.

When you combine the tools of faster development, device responsiveness, browser consistency, easy customization, and a good network of online support, the Bootstrap framework offers many time-saving advantages for web developers and they can concentrate more time on their client projects.

Some Bootstrap sites:

**Bootstrap site I have built

***Bootstrap with WooCommerce site I have built

Image above from: Interneting Is Hard

Kayaking Colombia

Colombia is a mix of mountains and jungles which creates a rich area of bio-diversity. An invitation to a wedding gave me the opportunity to visit this South American country in February of 2016. The photos are from around Cartagena (wedding site), Tayrona National Park on the Caribbean coast, and kayaking in the Antioquia region east of Medellin.

I didn’t have a contact for kayaking in Columbia but guidebooks suggested visiting the town of San Gil, as it is a major outdoor sports area. Later, I came across Expedition Colombia’s website and contacted Jules Domine based out of Medellin. I asked him if he could pick us up at the Medellin airport (with boating gear) and go boating for three days in the Antioquia region east of Medellin. After a warmup run on Rio Cocorna, we boated a two day run on the Rio Samana.  Jules is an excellent boater and guide. I highly recommend his services including his fluent Spanish, English, and French. He has done the Samana many times and knows the locals who live and gold mine along the river.

Rio Samana (Norte) is a 28 mile, big water, pool drop run. It was first boated about 4 years ago (2012) and can be rafted as well. The trip usually requires two days and overnight gear. There are about 30 class 3-4 pool drop rapids and another 5 drops that would be more like class 4-4+. Beware that the Rio Samana can rise very quickly from upstream rain. At the end of the run marked by hydro release tubes, there is a class 5 gorge with an additional 5km of whitewater down to the Puerto Garzo bridge. If the hydro tubes are releasing there could be quite a bit of additional water going down the gorge. The putin is a bridge on Highway 60. There are no facilities at the putin but further down the highway at Rio Claro, there is a rafting-canyoneering resort that has a hotel and dining facilities. The take out is at bridge at a small town of Puerto Garzo with a restaurant. In the near future the Rio Samana will be damned by a hydro project.

After years of civil war and kidnapping, traveling in Columbia has improved. The interior regions and major cities of the country seem quite safe. There are some border areas that the government doesn’t seem to have total control over various groups that are still unhappy with the Bogota government. During our visit one remote region had protestors handing out propaganda literature but no violence. There are also issues along the Venezuela border with Columbian refugees being kicked out of a deteriorating Venezuela. Expect military presence in tourist locations, highway roadblocks, and at all major bridges. We found the Columbian people to be very courteous and accomodating.

Dengue, Zika, and Chikungunya are all found in Columbia. Sleep in screened rooms or hammocks with screened tops. We had RAID electric mosquito repellent dispensers which you can buy at grocery stores or pharmacies. You plug the dispenser into an electric outlet in your hotel room. Fewer mosquitoes are found in cities located in the mountains.

We did have GI problems in Colombia probably because we ate too much greasy street food. If you’re not too adventuresome, you will probably be fine. Bottled water is found everywhere.