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Electronics

On Paula and Lorenz's honeymoon bike trip through Europe in 1985, the list of electronic equipment would have included but one item: a watch. Today, less than twenty years later, electronic gizmos are, much to Lorenz's delight and Paula's despair, scattered throughout our gear. Electronics are a key ingredient in the success of the world ride since the communication with sponsors, supporters and armchair adventurers is what makes this ride special. While it is truly a modern miracle that Anya can send homework realtime to her US teacher from an Italian Alpine roadside, electronics also have added a degree of complexity that we have not experienced before. Making all the electronics function properly consumes hours of Lorenz's time. Phone systems keep changing, batteries need charging and the correct electrical adapter can never be found (Italy has 4!! different plug types!). Downloading data is a never ending challenge which entirely depends on the good will of internet cafe owners to let questionable data from unshaven bicyclists be stored on their hard drives. The following is a list of the electronic dohickies (that is the correct technical term) that we are using on the world ride:

Film Camera:
For the world ride Lorenz chose an all electronic Olympus IS-5 film camera for the following reasons: The IS-5 comes in an incredibly small and light package (22oz), considering that it is a full fledged SLR with all the bells and whistles that the professional amateur (here is an oximoron) could want. The camera has a built in zoom lens of extremely long focal range (28-140mm) which makes the camera versatile for both landscape and close-up work. For weeks before the ride a fierce controversy raged between Lorenz' professional photographer friends concerning the correct camera choice for the ride. While the IS-5 was not considered a "professional" camera by some of the purists it was in the end decided that there was not a professional camera in existence that could do the job as well as the Olympus IS-5. Other professional cameras were usually much larger, heavier or less versatile. So far the camera has lived up to all the expectations.

Digital Camera:
We are also carrying an extremely small German made Praktica DCZ 2 megapixel digital camera in order to be able to send certain photos quickly back to the US. While the camera has performed splendidly, so far, the downloading at internet cafes has not worked at all. We bought the camera in Venice, but found afterwards that all Italian internet cafes make their hard drives invisible, so that downloads are at least in Italy impossible. Let's hope other countries are more accommodating.

T-Mobile Telephones:
We are carrying two cellular phones that were donated to us by T-Mobile, together with a free world wide calling plan! T-Mobile is the only cellular service provider worldwide that covers all the countries we are going to. So far service coverage in Greece, Turkey, Italy and Austria has been outstanding.

The first phone is a Blackberry 6710, which is actually a handheld computer that can send wireless e-mails form anywhere that there is data service (so far all of Italy, Austria but none of Greece). The Blackberry is tiny and not much larger than a pack of cigarettes. The minute keyboard (the size of a pack of gum) is actually operated with your thumbs and is amazingly efficient. This entire web page has actually been typed at various roadsides in Italy and Austria. The Blackberry has been a lifesaver(!!) since it allows us to send information and news from the road, when we can not find an internet cafe (which is a lot of the time). The Blackberry, besides being a regular cell phone, also has limited Internet access. We regularly find out about about facts, like the European weather, political situations (like the strike in France) and the release date for Harry Potter #5 via the Blackberry's web brouser. Everyone on the team uses the thing all the time and it looks like we will need to start a "take a number" system soon. Thank you T-Mobile!

The second phone that T-Mobile donated is a Samsung V205 camera phone. With it we can call all over the world, send short text messages to other cell phones (a great feature when we have no e-mail service) and take digital (low resolution) photos that we can e-mail from the phone wirelessly to anywhere in the world. The Samsung is extremely user friendly, has excellent sound quality and includes an excellent voicemail system that we use constantly since we do not leave our telephones on all the time.

Electronic Watch:
Lorenz carries a Casio G-Shock watch that includes an altimeter, a barometer, thermometer, alarm and a stopwatch. While such a watch would seem to be a bit overkill for the average American consumer, we tend to use the watch several times daily. The barometer has already warned us several times of impending storms during which we managed to find shelter in time. The altimeter has been very handy in convincing the kids that the mountain passes we were climing were almost over and during the Italian heat wave of weeks of 104F weather the thermometer told us when it was time to get off the road and siesta. The alarm wakes us every morning at 6:30 to be on the road by eight.

Other gizmos:

  • We also use a Cateye and a Sigma Sport bike computer to measure our biking progress.
  • We have two Cy-Curity bike alarms to add a bit more of a challenge for bike thiefs than the usual locks.
  • Our electronic bike lights are made by bike-planet and Cygolight.
  • Musical entertainment for the girls is provided by a Creative Nomad MP3 player.

Updated: June 27, 2003

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