How I Blogged Bicycling Across the USA in 2001

(This page was originally written in 2001 to describe the setup I used on my cross-USA bicycle tour.  The content on this page is now hopelessly out of date, but archived for historical interest.  My modern day version of this setup is described in an another blog post.)

When I travel, or go on multi-day bicycle tours, I like to type a log of my travels as I go.  I like to travel light, and if I’m bicycle touring, I’m usually camping, so I don’t have electricity to run a laptop.  So I use my Palm Professional (upgraded to a Palm III with the 2 MB IR card), with a GoType keyboard, and the Palm modem.  On bicycle tours I have a second Palm mounted on the bike running BikeBrain.

I’m really happy with the GoType keyboard.  Just a couple of minor gripes, though. The keys are a little closer together than on a “normal” keyboard – I found this annoying at first, but I got used to it after a while. Also, the up arrow is where the right shift key should be (I heard the new keyboard have fixed this problem). The old version of the driver (1.1) had an option to swap the key mappings, but the new version (1.5) doesn’t.  Also, the viewing angle of the Palm can’t be changed when it’s in the keyboard cradle, but that’s probably a common problem for all keyboards.

I also have the plastic key protector that goes over the keyboard, and the simulated leather pouch for the keyboard. The pouch also had two pockets on the outside – I use one of them for the Palm, and the other for the modem and cable.

I use NiMH rechargeable batteries.  When I don’t have electricity available for a recharger, I use a solar charger that can easily charge 4 AAA batteries in a day (assuming sunlight for only half a day, just to be safe).

Since I don’t have easy access to a computer to HotSync backup my data while traveling, I was a little concerned about losing all my data if the batteries were to run out.  I got FlashPro, which lets me use the ~700K of flash ROM memory that comes with the Palm.  This memory doesn’t get erased when the batteries run out – I use this space for the “critical” programs and to backup data – here’s a list of what I keep in the flash memory (link removed).

I used to have a Palm modem and MultiMail Pro 3.1 for staying in touch via e-mail.  I also had an acoustic coupler which is not shown in the picture.  It’s one of those thingies that straps on to a phone handset, and there’s a cable that plugs into the Palm modem.  This setup worked pretty well if I was staying at someone’s house or at a hotel.  But I couldn’t get a reliable connection during camping type bike tours, where I have to use a payphone or my cell phone (even with the acoustic coupler) to connect.

So now I have a PocketMail add-on device for my Palm Pilot.  It works the same as those other e-mail devices by Sharp.  You dial a 1-800 number to get your mail.  You get another mailbox ( in addition to your regular one, but you can “collect” the mail from all of your other e-mail boxes into the PocketMail box.  The only downside is that I still need my internet provider at home, plus the PocketMail service.