Parks to the west of Paris – video

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This is another video test from a few days ago. I was travelling west through the many parks and woods leading from Paris to Versailles.

It’s telling that large parts of these parks simply cannot be accessed because they’re private. On the east of Paris, you can’t access for the lack of useable paths, on the other hand. It’s a shame as all of these parks of forrests are very well tended to, and when you can find a path through them, it’s a great experience.

Another thing I realized again is that we French love perspective. Very long, straight paths leading up to the horizon, from the Champs-Elysées to the gardens of Versailles, are the common marks of french architecture. We love geometry, and we love Nazca-type plans. That might also have been an effect of the state of french towns, which do not, in general, have long straight streets as in the US. People in power maybe wanted to experiment, just like they did when they redesigned Paris.

 

This time I’ve put the camera on top of my helmet. A bit more difficult to focus at the start, but it keeps my ears from being torn apart by the headset. Disadvantage though, the camera is moving a bit and that creates a lot of noise. I need to glue it somehow to the helmet.

Also, no more acceleration, rather some impressionist bits and pieces to recreate the atmosphere of the place. It’s pretty hard to select which part though and reduce it down to a few minutes only. Also, filming while moving remains a challenge : I crossed the path of a small dear at some point, but it doesn’t even show up on screen. I searched for it picture by picture but it was just a bit too far.

All in all, I think I’m getting somewhere. It still needs a lot of editing for every shot, but the result is better.

Conference in my place of birth

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I came back yesterday from a short, one-day trip to Vannes, Brittany, for a conference in a technology school, IUT Vannes. This day was organized by students and they invited a lot of people around the subjects that mattered to them, like cyberdefense, online personality, online payments, etc. About 20 different professionals were gathered and had talks and conferences on their jobs.

I did a short presentation on video games, production, financial questions, and some predictions on the future. I was invited four years ago as well, on the same subject of course. I don’t quite remember what the question were at the time, but I bet they also were around how to work in this industry, what kind of diplomas to have, what is expected and so on.

For developers as for any other jobs, diplomas are only a safety for the employer on the skills possessed by the person (and not even so in some cases). Its an assurance you won’t have to train the person in the basic knowledge in his field. But that’s only the first screening done when looking at a resume. If the diploma or the school is well-known, its a plus, of course. The second point for me is about the personal projects, done within the school or with friends. It shows the motivation and the interest around development, working in a team… It needs to be presented online and not just lines on the resume itself, where many things can be affirmed without proof. Then I look at the interest for video games : what kind of games does the person play, how often. It’s essential in a creative industry to be attracted by what you are working on. I had one student during this visit that was willing to develop video games but declared himself to not being a gamer – a rare situation ! Finally, the important criteria is personality, measured during an interview. When you reach this step, it already means you made the cut above 15 or 20 other resumes, so be prepared – and relaxed at the same time, a difficult paradox 🙂

As during my previous visit, many students were interested in the subject. Before the conference itself, there was a short informal talk in a classroom, and it was packed with probably 50 of them. It’s easy to attract interest with video games.

This discussion, as well as the conference itself on video games, was shared with an independent web developer, who worked one year on a personal video game project. It’s very hard working independent, and alone, on a project like that. I also measured again how well informed you get to be when you work in a large company, with many information newsletter on the state of the market, on technologies, cinema, etc. I hope the rss page I made with the sources used in these newsletters will keep me on par. More probably, I will drown in too many data 🙂

 

Another thing during this trip occured to me, it’s the differences in my life that happened in just four years. Early 2010, I was just married from october 2009, the trip to the conference was embedded in a holiday in the region, we were living in Paris and probably starting to discuss buying an appartment at the time (we bought one a year later), Heroes Kingdoms had been published in France a few months before after three years of work, and even with mixed results we were preparing to push to other markets, the team also was starting to work on another free to play project, and I still had a good, available manager. On the other hand, I also just entered a deal which proved to be a terrible investment :p And all in all, I was four years younger 🙂

These changes, and how life can evolve quickly, wether you want it or not, are a cornerstone of this trip and this blog, and I’ll certainly come back to this experience.

Fire sale

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Today I finished rummaging through all of my stuff and classify between “to keep” and “to sell”. I had started that process a couple weeks ago, but was not quite finished. I’m happy I found the courage to do it today and process clothes, cooking & dining equipment in these categories. There was a real lot of stuff. Probably the equivalent to ten standard moving boxes. Its this huge pile on top of the bed, and in front of it.

It’s not easy parting with stuff like that. Most of it is actually useful, or *could* be useful, at some point, someday… So it’s really the same process as for the packing list I’m working on. If I go through the list with an eye of “will I need that ?”, I’m keeping most of everything. This time what I did was “did I ever use that ?”. That was the end of the line for more than half of cutleries, plates, cooking equipment, towels, and all of the drapes :p Regarding clothes, I also suppressed anything I havent worn over the last year, and then some. I’ll buy some new ones when I come back – I’m certainly not giving enough of a profit to the clothing stores anyway !

So, all of this will be put on sale next saturday, in a local fire sale where people try to either empty their attic or make a profit from it. I’ll clearly be in the first category. I’ll sell everything at 1 or 2€, or even give away a large part of it.

It’s really impressive how much we can buy, store away, and never use at any point.

Weighing my options

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I’m working on a particular piece of preparation : weight. Not especially my own, no, although it would help in said subject. I’m weighing all of the stuff I’m planning to carrying around on the bike.

When thinking about that point a month ago, my rule of thumb was that I shouldn’t be carrying around more than the weight of the bike, so about 15 kgs (or 33 lbs). That seemed to be already quite a lot.

Then a couple days ago I started writing down the weight of the stuff I already had, and the stuff I’m planning to get. And figures started building up *very* quickly.

Camping equipment, only the tent / sleeping bag / mattress was already closing in on 5 kgs.

After putting all clothes on the scale it was showing 4,5 kgs.

I have a good kilo of electronics :p

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The bike equipment (cleaning, maintenance, spares…) I estimate at 3kgs.

I was astonished to see that front & rear panniers, plus handlebar alone were about 5kgs.

Food-wise I’m counting 2 liters and another kilo of snacks / canned food.

All of the health equipment is a bit less than 2kgs.

Finally all of the 13 maps and business cards is a bit more than half a kilo.

So, all in all I’m clocking more than 23kgs !! Way more than what was already too much. And in this count I’ve already struck down many items in my initial list : sketching book, chair, headlamp, walking shoes, hand sanitizer, cooking equipment, …

 

I’ve searched around and found some amazing stuff like this guy : http://ultralightcycling.blogspot.fr/ who goes around all over the planet on a TOTAL, bike included, of 15kgs.

Other resources on the subject :

http://www.adventurecycling.org/adventure-cyclist/online-features/ultralight-touring/

http://www.worldbiking.info/wordpress/bicycle-touring-gear-list-world-biking/

http://www.bikepacking.net/

 

A second look on the drawing board and I’ve reduced the total of the gear to 18kgs, down 5kgs :

– I’ll be looking for lighter panniers, a smaller tent, lighter / fewer tools

– I removed from the list the clothes & stuff I’m wearing – kind of a cheat, but I’m used to its weight already

– Also fewer change items (the guy doing the ultra light only has a spare set of socks !)

Well that’s about it for now, I still have a long way to go to reduce it all another 3 or 4 kgs.

The count by family would then be : camping 4, clothes 2, electronics 1, bike tools 2.3, panniers 3.5, food 3, health 1.7, maps/cards 0.5

 

A good rule of thumbs I’ve read is to use panniers to carry more than three times their own weight – in other words, panniers / containers should be less than a quarter of the total weight. So with a 15kgs objective, panniers should be around or less than 3,5kgs.

450 kms in a week

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Apart from friday, which was (mostly) a walking day, this has been a strong preparation week 🙂 I’m reaching a total of 450 kms in the week ! This is very close to my objective of 500 kms a week for the trip.

Sure, I’m feeling tired this evening, but nothing particular. Today I had a leisurely stroll through Paris, to the other side of town, and coming back home at random. This was a very pleasurable 40kms, which used to be the maximum I was doing before.

After the 100kms I did yesterday I felt I was able to ride several days long distances. Over the previous days I had one 80kms ride and three days of 70kms or more. I’m starting to know my way around eastern Paris quite well :p

Ok, I realize that all these distances have been done on an empty bike. When I’ll have 20 kgs of gear on top of all that, it will be a different matter. I still have a month and a half to reach this level. And before that I need the final bike plus all said gear 🙂

Walking

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Yesterday has been the first day in two weeks where I didn’t really ride around on a bike – since my birthday. That felt like landing on a different planet !

I actually did a small ride, about 20 kms, to and from the agency where I’m doing my skills check. But it was really short compared to the previous days, where I went far way from Paris, with 70 to 80 kms in the day. This is the level I want to reach on average during the US journey, so I’m pretty happy I already reached that, and was able to maintain it.

But yesterday I had some errands and people to meet so I was back to walking and using the subway. It was suddenly very strange ! I was not on the road anymore, and thus not seeing things with the same perspective. I was also going sooo slowly 🙂 I sometimes felt like that when I had been using a car for a few days, but after two full weeks that was a really strong difference. I’m wondering how it will feel after six months of biking 🙂

By the way, all public transportation in Paris were free yesterday, to push people away from using cars, due to the level of pollution. Le Monde has a great picture on the subject : http://www.lemonde.fr/planete/article/2014/03/14/deux-photos-pour-se-rendre-compte-du-niveau-de-la-pollution_4383325_3244.html The weather has been clear for a week, with no wind (apart from the usual headwind when biking :p), and so the pollution clouds stayed on the spot instead of going to the countryside where they enjoy them.

Adventure Cycling Maps !

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I received this morning the 14 route maps I ordered from the Adventure Cycling Association 🙂 They were warning about a 60-days overseas delivery delay, but they made the trip in less than two weeks.

These maps plot very well the trip I will do through the US :

  1. San Francisco – Santa Barbara, CA
  2. Los Angeles, CA
  3. Here I’m missing the bit between LA – Las Vegas, NV – Flagstaff, AZ
  4. Flagstaff, AZ – Cedar City, UT
  5. Dolores, CO (maybe a detour to Denver ?)
  6. Pueblo, CO
  7. Alexander, KS
  8. Girard, KS
  9. Murphysboro, IL
  10. Berea, KY
  11. Christiansburg, VA
  12. Richmond, VA (then of course Washington, Baltimore)
  13. Conshohocken, VA (then Philadelphia, New York)
  14. Windsor Locks, CT
  15. Boston, MA 🙂

That makes a total of 12 states, perhaps a bit more with the small states on the east coast (small but beautiful ! 😉 ).

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The maps are really nice and detailed with all sorts of useful informations for cyclists, including elevation, weather reports, directories, etc. They are supposed to be untearable and waterproof. I’ll see that on the field 🙂

Only default I see, apart from the price (12$ each, member price), is that there is a one page addendum for each map :p This print is less than two years old though. Well, things change fast I suppose.

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I wanted to do a pic with all maps open on the ground, but I don’t think I have enough space around 🙂