About two months ago Laura and I rode through Seattle and visited Martina of Swift Industries. We are using her front panniers on our tour and were very excited to meet her. Laura and I always try to support independent artists and makers (being so ourselves). It was a great pleasure to spend an afternoon with Martina and learn the story behind the bags. Perhaps the most gratifying thing was to know that she was so hyper conscious and vigilant about maintaining a socially conscious business. Enjoy! Also, we still need more leads, so send them our way.
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Hey everyone! We thought we’d let you share in our little celebration today… It’s our anniversary… seven whole years!
When Russ and I first started dating, neither of us rode a bike. I had an old mountain bike that I’d gotten for my 15th or 16th birthday that sat around and didn’t really get used much. Russ was actually on speed skates! We’d spend the afternoon going up and down the beach path, Russ skating alongside me as I ran (or sometimes rode the old bike). It wasn’t a very good pairing, but it got us outside and spending time together. We’d also go on adventures via the light rail into LA or (insert horrified gasp here) we’d hop in my car and drive somewhere.
We have changed a lot as people over the past seven years. And if you’d told us seven years ago that we’d be selling all of our stuff and riding bicycles around the world, I bet we would have been a bit dumbfounded. What do you mean ride a bike around the world?
But, as much as the details have changed, our relationship has always been full of adventures and explorations (to the point that our running joke is why do we always end up finding the ghetto?). We both have a sense of wanderlust and curiosity about what else is out there that drew us together… and keeps us together.
So, when it dawned on us the other day that our anniversary was fast approaching (we’ve been a bit focused on other things lately), Russ joked, “Wanna go somewhere?”
And, tomorrow, we will, as we’ll be back on the road. But, today calls for a toast to this incredible journey and partnership that we’ve been so fortunate to experience.
Thanks everyone for coming along with us!
(P.S. I would put up photos of the “old” us, but they’re all packed away in boxes. So, use your imagination!)
After four days, I am coming out of the fog of a very nasty cold. I’ve been hesitant to use the F word (Flu), but now that I’m on the other side, I can admit that it sure felt like the flu. Serious ick. The silver lining of being sick while traveling, as Russ said, is that we’ve had some extremely generous hosts here in Sacramento who have opened their homes and let us just sit and wait it all out. Thank you all!! It just proves to me that this world is full of amazing and graceful people, if you are simply open to meeting them.
As I’ve been making my way through this cold and Russ’ hand has been healing, I have taken the opportunity of lots of down time to work on jewelry. As we’ve mentioned before, finding the balance of touring time and working time has been tough. When there are so many amazing places to explore and so many fascinating people to connect with, it’s hard to set aside the time to work (even though it’s an extremely enjoyable work).
So, in a weird way, Russ’ burn and this nasty cold that hit us both allowed us to stop moving and be slightly anti-social enough to catch ourselves up and do some work. For me, this has meant opening up the studio pannier and finishing up a massive pile of half-done jewelry. Mutliple pairs of earrings (twelve of which are now up in my etsy shop), with more on the way. A few more pendants are just waiting for me to take decent photos. And I’ve also fit in a head badge.
Like with so much else in this journey, I have had to change my expectations with my jewelry making. I went into this trip thinking that it would provide me the opportunity to work on more complex pieces, i.e. one piece that might take me a long time, but which I could send off to a gallery with a high price tag, and slowly make the transition to that style of making. Instead, as time has been hard to find, and as I’ve been thinking extensively about finding a way to continue funding this endeavor, I found myself drifting over to the side of pieces that are smaller, not as time-consuming and more affordable. (These are the things you’re forced to think about as a self-employed artist.)
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with the route I’ve taken, and don’t think I’m unhappy about it. I’ve simply had to re-think what I’m able to do while traveling. Plus, as a jewelry maker, let’s be honest… Christmas is my biggest opportunity for a paycheck… and it’s just around the corner… so I have to get stuff made and in front of my audience, quick.
We get a lot of questions about how it’s working out for us to work as we go… and this is where I am at the moment. I have been blessed to work in some amazing locations… a picnic table in the redwoods, the backyards and coffee tables of various hosts, a beautifully set up garage studio of a reader and fellow jewelry maker. And while I’ve learned that it’s really difficult to continue making jewelry in the same manner as I used to, I’ve also discovered that I can actually create in some pretty un-equipped locations. Like with so much else on this journey, figuring out how to make jewelry as we travel has been a continual learning process… and I will, no doubt, continue to change and evolve my style and work habits as we continue down the road.
For now, I am enjoying this time in Sacramento to work, work, work, print stuff out at Kinko’s, and ship out new stock to some sellers I’m working with. I invite you to check out what I’ve finished up so far (and to keep checking back as I keep finishing up the half-done projects in my bag).
Laura and I get lots of emails about the different bits of gear we are using and how they are all holding up. We thought we’d do some product highlights of things we find that work pretty well. For full disclosure’s sake, we’ll let you know if it is gear that has been given to us as a review sample. We’re pretty honest and don’t have a whole lot to gain by blowing smoke here. Also in the spirit of full disclosure, we are participating in some affiliate links. If you purchase something through the links on the site, we’ll get a little pocket change to keep our trip going. Good for you and good for us!
The fact is that when you are on the road long enough, you and your stuff is going to get dirty. Real dirty. This is where something like the Sea to Summit Kitchen Sink comes in real handy. It is essentially a foldable wash basin that packs down to something the size of a short stack of pancakes.
We have the 20L version (if you’re gonna buy one, get the big one and erase any existential doubt) and it is large enough to wash almost every stitch of clothing we have in one go. You could also use it to wash dishes or as a face/body basin when no shower is present. We have also used it to keep meat and drinks cold in camp. Fill it up with some icy river water and you have crude refrigeration.
We really like ours. Sometimes there is no sink at a campsite, or if there is, it is really small. We probably wouldn’t take it on a short weekend tour, but on tours longer than a week it would probably find its way into our panniers.
First off, thanks for all the kind words regarding my hand! It’s nice to know that people have had similar experiences and that it’s not the end of the world but part of the great (and sometimes painful) learning experiment – life. While my hand is healing and Laura is getting over the cold (same one I had a few days ago), we’ve been hanging out in Sacramento. We’ve been really fortunate that during this time where we both have to convalesce, we have had some homestays from some very generous people.
Two of those people are Logan and Tammy. They are a great couple who have been following our journey for awhile and who hope to do their own similar bike adventure in the future. They are both interested in simple living and the tiny house movement. Tammy has a blog, Rowdy Kittens, that covers a lot of simple living news.We’ve had some great conversations during the last few days and it has been a great joy getting to know them.
Today, we did a portrait session in the park. They are both car free so the three of us rode our bicycles (naturally!) to the shoot. The weather was perfect and the warm colors of fall were just starting to spread throughout the trees.
Burnt hand and all, I still feel blessed to be where we are and to have met all the great people along our strange slow journey.
Two days ago, I became my own cautionary tale. I want to blame it all on my head cold that has been slowing my reflexes and clouding my thinking, but a great part of what happened just came down to carelessness. After three months of being on the road, of setting up camp and breaking down camp, of preparing and putting out fires I had a moment of bad judgment and paid for it.
I was getting the cook fire ready. I chopped up some wood into kindling and fuel. I built a teepee and lit the fire. Some of the wood was a little damp from the recent rain so had a hard time catching and threatened to go out. I thought that I’d give it some help and poured a little denatured alcohol from our canister over the fire and thats when everything went wrong very quickly. The wood came to life in big blaze. So did the canister. So did my hand.
I remember that instant looking at my hand and seeing it on fire and thinking that this couldn’t possibly be happening, that this was some bad dream, something caused by my cold. It all seemed very plausible that I was hallucinating this, until I FELT my hand burning.
I panicked and dropped the canister and stamped the fire on my burning hand which seemed to take forever to do. The thing with denatured alcohol is that sometimes you can’t tell if there’s a flame or not. The more rational part of my brain finally kicked in. WATER. I ran to the picnic table and found some water and dumped it on my hand and on some of the small flames on the ground.
When the panic was over we did virtual triage on my hand. I too a photo of my hand with the iPhone and emailed it to Laura’s brother who is a paramedic and gave us advice while over the phone.
It hurt like hell for the rest of the day. I joked a little with Laura and told her that, “the good news is that relative to my hand, my cold doesn’t feel that bad; the bad news is that my hand hurts like HELL!” The rest of the evening was pretty quiet, thinking about what just happened and what could have happened.
In my head, the whole thing played over and over again with varying results. In one version I was smart enough not to pour the alcohol. In other versions, things went horribly wrong, I panicked even more, managed to douse myself with burning alcohol and set myself ablaze in this campground 50 miles from any hospital.
When it got dark and all there was night and my hand that hurt like hell, I felt my fist pang for “home”, whatever that meant. I was frustrated and angry with myself. I wanted to pack it up and stop playing at adventurer. What a stupid rookie mistake. It was then that it really hit me that there was nothing to come back to. That this tent, in this campground, somewhere on the Sacramento delta was home. If we were on vacation we could just call it short, but we are traveling and this is the difference. I remember something that was written on a food box at a hiker/biker campsite somewhere on the coast. It was written in Latin but whoever wrote it also provided an English translation – “Your mistakes are your only true possessions.”
Maybe he burned his hand as well.
I wasn’t sure if I could ride the 40+ miles into civilization but we had to. Laura lovingly bandaged it up, we put on big heaps of Neosporin and I had to relearn how to maneuver my 110lb bike with one hand and one brake. I could lean part of my burnt hand on the handlebar, but I couldn’t operate the brake. Fortunately, the terrain was flat so I didn’t have to shift with my bad hand. However, we did ride a few hours on washboard gravel roads, moving at 5mph, bumping up and down and inside I prayed that I wouldn’t burst any of the blisters I had.
We made it to Davis. My hand and arm were sore from leaning on the handlebars in such an awkward way, but we made it.
Now we are in Sacramento and the last few days and the next few days will be a regimen of daily unwrapping and rewrapping the burns. Every time I see the blisters they are big ugly reminders of my mistake and of what it means to travel the way we are traveling and to live the way we are living. Any choices and mistakes we make are ours. I suppose it’s really no different than our prior lives, except for the fact that often the results of our choices are more immediate and dramatic.
Sorry to be such a downer in this post, but I really am frustrated. I’m having a hard time with the limited mobility, with the stupidness of the mistake and how much it could tragically affect our trip. But ‘cest la vie. I am still alive. We are still on the road. I’ve got a good hand and can use one brake and I would still choose to do what we are doing than anything else.
Hi internet world! Today, we are in Davis, CA… exploring a bit and checking out all the bike infrastructure that we’ve heard so much about. Then we’re headed to Sacramento this afternoon for a few days (or possibly longer, as Russ is nursing a bit of an injury). If anyone out there is in Sac and wants to meet up for coffee or a beer, let us know!
Since we are going to be in town for a few days we are hoping to have the opportunity to ply our trades. So if you’re looking for a great new portrait or some food photography, or if you want to check out some unique hand-crafted jewelry in person, contact us.
From Sacramento, our rough plan is to start riding back down to Long Beach. We’re taking an inland route (that we haven’t quite figure out yet, but we’ve heard that Highway 49 is nice). If you have recommendations or if you’re along our route and want to connect, shoot us an email! We’re really enjoying all the time we’ve been able to spend meeting up with new people along the way, so don’t be shy.
Laura and I left the Bay Area today, staying one more time with our hosts and new friends Adam and Julia in Berkeley (thanks guys!). We did some groceries at Berkeley Bowl where we met another follower of our blog who gave us directions to the Rockridge BART stop so we could avoid the hassle of transferring trains with fully loaded bikes (thanks, nameless reader!). From there we made our way to Walnut Creek to stop by Rivendell Bicycle Works, a company that I have always liked and inspired my other blog, Epicurean Cyclist.
We got off the Walnut Creek stop and pedaled in the general direction and got lost in a maze of garage spaces before stumbling into Rivendell HQ. As we pulled up, as if on cue, someone with a beard and a Legolas with leaf attached to the top tube (who we got to know later as Vaughn) greeted us with a “Welcome to Rivendell”.
One thing that struck me instantly, was how simple and “lived in” the place felt. It had the feeling of entering your favorite used book store or camera store. Wooden shelves, boxes with hand written labels, a pleasant sort of pleasant insulating clutter that made you feel at home. For a company whose products are often scrutinized and fetishized, the actual people and place had a more laid back, blue collar than ivory tower feel to it.
After checking out the showroom we stopped by the office to where the magic happens. It was a single open room where Jay fielded customer calls, Grant and Dave worked on the next Reader and other administrative tasks were carried out.
We got to talk to Grant about our tour, our bikes, photography and Etsy! As much as Grant is often characterized as a Luddite by some, he had a digital camera, knew about Etsy, and was navigating around QuarkXpress that had the forthcoming Riv Reader. I know that none of this should come as a surprise, but often people with strong personalities and ideas get transformed into caricatures of themselves. Grant, who I sometimes kiddingly refer to as “the Great GP” on EC, is but a mere mortal who has thought deeply and felt deeply about bicycles and has created a business out of it.
For me, it was a treat to meet the man you coined the term S24O. I remember reading the article in an issue of Adventure Cycling and making up my mind to do one S24O per month. Laura and I lived in Los Angeles, so it was serious work to find good S24O opportunities. However, by doing one a month, it planted the seed for our current adventure.
While there, we also got to meet other members of the Rivendell team like Vaughn and Robert who work in shipping. Their main responsibility is to make sure that all the wonderful things you order make it from Walnut Creek to your front doorstep. Everything from Nitto racks to Tagua nuts.
I also got a chance to talk a little with Rich – saxophone player and wheel builder. He’s the man who builds all the custom wheels for Rivendell (who also use to live in San Pedro, a few miles from Long Beach). He said he recently built his 4000th wheel.
We left Rivendell when there was a break in the rain (Mark added spikes to our pedals while we were at lunch for a lot more traction!) to a motel down the road. It was a great experience to meet the people behind a company that has really inspired a lot of our adventures.
We’ve been spending a few motionless days in the Bay Area which has allowed us to catch up on some basic housekeeping but also collect our thoughts. One of the unexpectedly poignant moments of the trip for me (Russ), was climbing the hill from Sausalito, turning a bend and seeing the Golden Gate Bridge in all its glory. It wasn’t the first time I’ve seen the Golden Gate. I’ve driven through it a few times on car road trips. Somehow, this time it seemed different. Larger. More profound. I got a little lump in my throat as I slowly realized that we had just ridden 1800 miles and were at San Francisco’s doorstep.
Instantly, I thought of our friends Michael and Chris, who are in their 50s, great adventureers in their own right and who have been touring or travelling since the 70s. A few days before our farewell party, Michael asked me what he should bring. I asked him to dig up some photos of himself and Chris when they were younger. I wanted to see what they looked like when they were younger, before the beard, the wrinkles, before the mask of time had shaped them into the people I knew now. I had a need to see them when they were our age.
I needed, I suppose some reassurance from those that have had adventures before me, that we would come out fine on the other end.
So Michael (the bearded guy!) found some photos. Below is a photo of him in 1976 crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, one hand holding some M&Ms and the other raised in triumph. When I look at the picture, I can hear his distinct full laugh travel through time and space.
I realized when I saw the photos of them when they were younger that Laura and I are part of a continuum and that we are carrying on a tradition. Beyond just bicycle touring, we are joining a long tradition of travelers, of explorers of various magnitude, people who are innately curious but are not content to let the curiosity dwell in a single zip code.
When we got to the bridge, I had that image of Michael in my head and wanted to do homage to them.
So Michael and Chris and all our fellow travelers on the road or in between travels, we salute you!
Over the past few weeks, we’ve had a lot of time to wear and use all of the stuff that we brought along with us. And think about what works and what doesn’t. Even with all the trips we’d done prior to this journey, and all the time we had to fine-tune our packing, you just don’t know how things will really work out until you go out and do it (and use them).
Some things have already been shipped back. I sent home a pair of rain pants that I decided I didn’t really want to lug around, because I really don’t enjoy actually riding in them. Plus a rain jacket that wasn’t really waterproof anymore, and replaced it with a tighter-fitting (thus, better for cycling) Marmot DriClime Catalyst windbreaker. Russ realized that the video quality on the iPhone is pretty darn good and shipped back the Flip camera. He also let go of his rain jacket (for the same reason as me, swapping it with a Marmot DriClime Windshirt) and a pair of jeans and an extra camera lens.
Other things are being actively replaced at this moment, while we have some downtime in the Bay Area. Yes, we have already been to two different REIs. Yes, they have taken a lot of our money. And, yes, we’re really excited about the new items and the packing changes. The Gear Page has been updated, but I thought I’d also highlight some changes here.
This is my exciting new REI duffel bag. It’s also my biggest gear change. I am the food carrier of the two of us. And, for the past many weeks, I’ve been utilizing my rear left pannier. It’s sort of always where I’ve carried food, so it seemed perfectly natural. But, each time we go to a market and re-stock, that pannier gets stuffed to the brim and becomes extremely heavy, throwing off the balance of my bike. One couple that we met on the road used an Ortlieb duffel to carry all their food and cooking equipment. And, we thought, how brilliant. It sits across the back rack, making it easier to keep things balanced. Plus, everything is in one place and there’s only one bag that smells and needs to be strung up into a tree. My new bag isn’t anything fancy, and it certainly isn’t waterproof, but this is what I could find at the Berkeley REI and I figured inexpensive was the way to go to see if it would work out for me (it will, after all, completely change the weight distribution on my bike).
I also picked up a fancy new Marmot Venus down jacket. 800 fill. On sale. Does it get any better? I’ve been thinking about picking up a down jacket at some point and I just couldn’t pass up this deal. There it was, sitting on the rack, exactly the color I’d want, in my size, nice and warm. I feel much better equipped for winter now.
I also swapped out my pants. I had purchased a nice, new pair of jeans to bring along on this trip. I figured that, after all the time being sweaty and dirty, it would be well worth it to have an article of clothing that felt “normal.” Except, there’s a reason that jeans aren’t recommended for travel pants (beside the obvious that they’re heavy and don’t dry quickly)… they just don’t hold up somehow. So, after ripping a big hole in my jeans, I swapped them out for a fancy new pair of Lole Traveler Pants. Simple and extremely comfortable… I highly recommend them already.
As for Russ… the biggest piece of new gear he’s acquired is the Kelty Noah’s Tarp. It took a really long time for us to first figure out to successfully stand it up… where to place the stakes, how to tie the ropes, how to keep the stakes from pulling out of the ground (Russ purchased new tent stakes that have more ability to grip the ground when pounded in), how to make sure that there’s actually enough space underneath it so we can stand up and not be hunched over… but now, we can put it up in a quick 10-15 minutes. We haven’t yet put it through the paces of rain and wind and storminess (thanks, in part to lack of storms and being indoors when it did rain recently)… but it promises to help us stay dry and give us a place to sit up at night (when it gets dark at 4:30pm and we don’t want to be constantly stuck in tent). (FYI… the tent poles are sold separately.)
Then there’s the radio. Kaito KA-1102 shortwave radio. It has a digital tuner and scanner, so it’s able to find frequencies automatically and lock onto them (unlike a dial that can slip). It came with an external antenna, which really helps improve the reception when you’re under a thick canopy of trees. We haven’t been successful in finding actual shortwave broadcasts, but the AM/FM capabilities have allowed us to keep up with world happenings via NPR (which is great for pulling us out of that totally disconnected bubble). Oh, yes, and it comes with it’s own fancy moccasin-looking leather case.
There have been plenty of small changes, as well. New pairs of cycling shorts for Russ. Leggings for me. A harmonica. Travel pillows. LED lantern. Lots of Sea-to-Summit dry bags. Several books that have come and gone.
One of the things that we laugh about is the way that we expected to become completely non-materialistic after getting rid of all of our stuff… and how it’s proving to be totally the opposite. Apparently, we’re not those people who are able to rise above “having things” and, actually, we look on with a bit of gear lust every time we see something that we like. Fortunately, we also actively want to limit how much we carry, so the two desires seem to temper each other, and we’re able to hold off our stuff wanting, for the most part. But, I have no doubt that we’ll continue to collect things and swap them out for other things and roll down the road with very heavy loads.
Full Disclosure: As a part of the AvantLink referral program, purchases of the above-linked items support our journey. Thanks!