In case you missed it, we’re finally ready to hit the road! Six weeks, to the day, from when we had planned to head out, my ankle is finally strong enough and we are heading East! (And we are very excited!) We made a few adjustments to our original plans, based on some connections we’ve made over the past few weeks, and we wanted to share our (tentative) route with you all.
While it would have been a beautiful route, we have decided to forego our original plan of leaving Portland via the Columbia Gorge. In our conversations with folks at Cycle Oregon and TravelOregon, we’ve heard so much about initiatives to entice cycle tourists to Eastern Oregon towns. We decided that we had to check this out for ourselves, and share our findings with you all!
So, from Bend, we will be heading East along (mostly) the ACA TransAm route. Since we love to freestyle our route planning, we are open to diversions, but it seems like a great way to get from Bend to Eastern Oregon to Missoula (which we know we want to be our next big stop). If you happen to be in or around Eastern Oregon or Central Idaho (along the TransAm route), or you know of something amazing that we should see or experience or people we should talk to, drop us a line. It looks like we’ll be headed through Prineville, Mitchell, Dayville, Mt Vernon, John Day, and Prairie City (Oregon), before rolling into Baker City for a few days. Then, we’ll likely continue on through Cambridge, Council, New Meadows, Grangeville (Idaho) and up and over Lolo Pass into Missoula.
Our Big Adventure on Small Wheels is finally ready to roll, and we’re thrilled to have you all along for the ride!
When you’re recovering from an ankle injury and slowly expanding your cycling radius, Oregon in June is a pretty good place to “have to” hang out. Over the last few weeks, we have moved beyond the frustration of the initial set-back, and we have taken advantage of this extra time to explore and sink in to the bikeyness.
In June, all of Portland’s bike community comes together for Pedalpalooza. It’s a celebration of bike fun and, after hearing so much about it, we were thrilled to be able to participate. We joined in the rambling madness of the Midnight Mystery Ride (a large late-night social ride to who-knows-where). We cheered on the cargo bike race, bike parade, and criterium at the Cirque du Cycling. We DIY-ed red felt beards in support of Portland’s red-haired citizens at the Ginger Ride. We shared tea and a hill-climb with other folding bike enthusiasts. We toured the Irish pubs and read passages from Ulysses on the Bloomsday Ride. And, last but not least, I stripped down with 8,000 or so other cyclists for the World Naked Bike Ride.
In between Pedalpalooza events, we piled all of our gear (in its new configuration) onto the Bromptons for a short trip out to the coast. We took the Wave bus to Tillamook and rode north to Rockaway Beach. In Rockaway Beach, we met Maureen and Jeff, owners of Sea Haven Motel & Guest House, and talked with them about the impact of cyclists on their business. (Hundreds, if not thousands, of touring cyclists zip by every year, and they’re on a mission to bolster Rockaway Beach and entice these cyclists to stick around… stay tuned for a more in-depth video interview.) We were thrilled to stay in their lovely property and use it as a base to explore Wheeler and Manzanita (to the north). From Rockaway Beach, we headed south to Cape Lookout, our favorite campground along the Oregon coast. All told, we rode 80 miles, up and over some hills, and my ankle passed with flying colors!
On Sunday, we finally bid our farewell to Portland and headed east to Bend. After the coast trip and riding around Portland, we were both confident that my ankle had become strong enough to finally hit the road! We decided to head out to Central Oregon to visit my brother for a few days and flip the proverbial coin to decide where to head next. In Bend, we’ve ridden up to Pilot Butte for the sunset, and out to Tumalo Falls – two beautiful local rides with a lot of climbing.
After five and a half weeks of resting and healing, we’ve finally given my ankle a (mostly) clean bill of health, and we’re happy to announce that our delayed trip is finally getting started! From Bend, we’ll be heading east along the TransAm Route to Missoula, MT. It’s a bit of a change from our initial plan, but we’re eager to log some miles, and we hear there are some small towns in Eastern Oregon that are making major changes to attract cyclists!
Thanks to all of our incredible readers for your support over these past few weeks! Updates from the road are coming soon!
My Brompton and I are stopped at an intersection. The light turns green and I push down on the pedal with my right leg. But the bike doesn’t respond, at least not the way it should. To get any momentum, I have to slam down on the other pedal with my left leg. Slowly, I get up to a roaring 7mph, telling myself to simply be content that I can pedal continuously at that speed without any pain.
That was a week ago. Today, I’m up to a more respectable 11-12mph. But I still have to rely heavily on my left leg to get moving from a stop. It’s a weird experience to push down with all your might, only to have the pedal swing anemically underneath you. My ankle is healing and limbering up again; my focus now is building strength back into those muscles and tendons. Slowly, but surely, day by day, I’m putting myself through my version of physical therapy, and I’m regaining my ability to go for a ride on my bike.
For the last week, we have been in Corvallis, Oregon (my hometown), staying with my Mom. It’s a city with a lot of cyclists and some of the widest bike lanes and best-planned, best-laid-out bike infrastructure that we’ve seen. But it comes with its ironies. The lack of obvious bike “culture” has made us wonder if the sorts of bike scenes we’ve found in Portland and Austin are actually born of strife. Since bike lanes have been around for decades in Corvallis, cycling is simply a part of everyday life, not something to fight for. There was no need for Critical Mass, so nothing galvanized cyclists into a group (in Portland, ex-Critical Mass cyclists formed Shift; in Austin, they formed Social Cycling ATX). It’s an interesting theory, and makes us wonder what it’s really like as a cyclist in Denmark and Amsterdam.
Tomorrow, we’re headed back up to Portland for a few days of Pedalpalooza madness. Amtrak’s Cascades line has allowed us to travel back and forth without too much trouble, and has provided even more proof of the value of long-distance public transit. On Monday, we’re headed to the coast on a short transit-supported trip, to continue exploring the link between cycle tourists and rural economic development. We’ve made some interesting connections and look forward to sharing them with you all. With any luck, the following week, five weeks after my injury, we’ll finally be able to head out on our big trip.
Yesterday, as I sat slumped under a black cloud, I realized that I needed to make a choice. I could either continue to mope around and feel crummy about my inability to do what I had planned and hoped and expected. Or I could move on, and re-frame how I think about this injury and what it means. Because, I realized, the only truth in this whole experience is that my ankle is sprained; everything else is subjective and up to me.
And then I had to chuckle, because I’m apparently not nearly as skilled at going-with-the-flow as I would like to believe!
Early in our last trip, we made the decision to not plan. When you plan, you feel attached to it, sometimes chained to it, and you’re not as able to enjoy the spontaneous other opportunities that come along. When we thought about heading back out on the road, we were really looking forward to getting back into that mindset. Little did we realize that we would get exactly that wish, in a completely different way than we expected. Which is truly ironic, because how can you plan to stop planning?
For the past week and a half, I’ve been lamenting the inability to stick with our plan. Yesterday, I realized that I needed to give up the plan, to say ‘okay, life’s a fact,’ and embrace this new situation. But what does that mean? And how do I actually get out from under these black clouds?
I talked with my Mom recently, and she pointed out something that I’ve missed until now… physically, I’m at a beginner’s level. I can ride 10 miles, max. I’m exhausted after just 3 miles. And hills? Forget it. I just don’t have the strength right now. The only path out of my ankle sprain is the same one that all beginners must travel… start small, do what I can, and slowly build up my strength.
Which is where the shift in thinking comes in handy. I can either be frustrated by my beginner-ness, or I can embrace it the way Buddhists do. What if I accepted my current situation and set out to have fun anyway, in whatever way I’m able, without heaping any shame on myself for not doing more? What would it look like to have an incredible adventure when I can only ride 5 or 10 miles?
This is where my head is now, as I try to shake these dark clouds. If it takes six weeks for my ankle to heal properly, I’ll give it six weeks. I’ll stop forcing it to heal on my timeframe, and let it tell me when it’s ready for something bigger. But I’m not going to just while away my time on the couch anymore. The more I ponder this injury and what I am capable of doing, the more I realize that it’s still possible to explore this great big world of ours – I just have to do it 5 miles at a time.
What would an incredible adventure look like to you, if you could only ride 5 or 10 miles?
Every time I sit down to make a headbadge, I seem to cut my hands somehow. On our last trip, I had semi-permanent bruises on the backs of my legs, from all the times my pedals would raise up and bite me. My first aid kit and I are friends; and I’ve gotten quite good at slapping on some Neosporin and a bandaid and pushing through. But, try as I might, there is no pushing through an ankle sprain.
The doctor said I could get back on my bike after the first 72 hours, but he forgot to mention that it would be an excruciatingly frustrating experience.
I have been latching on to possible new get-out-of-town dates to give myself something to think about other than how weak I feel and annoyed that I’m in such a state of limbo. I thought, for sure, I’d be able to leave this weekend. Except, when I actually got on my bike on Friday, it was a completely pitiful experience.
On Sunday, we joined friends at Sunday Parkways. I rode the very leisurely women’s ride, and had a great conversation with a reader (Hi Gretchen!). I thought, for sure, since I was feeling so good after 10 miles, that we would be able to roll out this week. I talked Russ into planning for Wednesday. Then, last night, we went for a short ride, and it became entirely too obvious that I wasn’t as ready as I had thought.
There are hundreds of books on the psychology of sports injuries, my brother tells me. After the emotional roller coaster of this past week, I have no doubt.
It is a humbling experience to not be able to do the things that would normally be so easy. When you’re me, and oh-so-good at always being strong and in control, humble is not a positive experience. There are moments when I can focus on the silver linings and the many things for which I am grateful about this set-back. And then there are the other moments, full of darkness and tears.
At the heart of it, I hate the waiting. I waited for years before I was finally able to make my dream life happen. And I waited through a long, wet winter before we could get back on the road. To wait, now, for some nebulous time in the future, feels like the Universe is taunting me.
They say that life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans. I keep thinking that there’s a lesson in all of this that I am still blind to.
The Voice of Reason says to wait a little while longer, to let my ankle heal and get stronger. It says, this weekend is Memorial Day, you don’t want to have to fight for road space and campsites anyway. It’s hard to quarrel with logic, even when I want to. So, we are waiting until at least Monday before we do any serious riding. But this endless sitting is wearing on me, on both of us, so we are considering a short transit-and-bike trip in the meantime. Seattle? The Coast? Klamath Falls? We’re hoping to find an example of bicycle tourism positively affecting a local community/economy, so please email us if you know of a great place in Oregon or Washington.
With our temporary set-back because of Laura’s ankle, we are enjoying the beautiful sunny spring weather that has appeared, suddenly, here in Portland. Sure, it would be great to soar down the road on the Bromptons in this sunshine and warmth, but sitting outside and soaking up some much-needed Vitamin D takes a very close second.
As we make the most of this waiting period, we wanted to say THANK YOU to all of our amazing readers and supporters! We are blown away by your kindness and generosity!
For starters, Thank You for all of the well wishes about my ankle! Your support and stories and compassion have helped me keep my sanity and gently work on healing (which is coming along quite nicely, other than the not-being-fully-able-again part).
We also want to say Thank You to everyone who donated to our Big Adventures on Small Wheels fundraiser! The last day of the fundraiser was our intended departure date, May 15, and we raised $6,126! Thank You also to everyone who told friends, re-tweeted, posted on facebook, and generally made some noise! Every penny raised will help us connect with advocates across the country and start some much-needed conversations about multi-modal travel.
We’re hearing from advocates nation-wide and collecting stories about your experiences with bikes and rail. We’re watching trends and finding opportunities to bring people together. And we’re excited to start making some great things happen!
We’re also seeing reports that show the economic impact of cyclists and bike tourists. We have long suspected that small communities could benefit, economically, from cyclists, and we’re excited to see this idea gaining traction.
We’ll be out on the road soon, so please send us your suggestions for people to contact and questions to ask. Also, even though the official fundraiser has come to a close, if you’d like to support our travels and our goal to increase and improve multi-modal travel, please consider sending a donation through the yellow paypal button on the right or buying an ebook, poster, headbadge, etc.
The good news is that my ankle isn’t broken. The bad news is that, instead of pedaling out of Portland as planned, I am house-bound, with my ankle wrapped in a brace.
We rarely ever injure ourselves in some sort of spectacular event. No, it’s always the little things that get you. Sunday morning, as I was packing up my bike, I decided to just grab the bungee cord first. As I trotted down the wet stairs, my right foot slipped out from under me, and I crashed to the ground. An involuntary scream, louder than I’ve ever heard before, rushed out of my mouth, and I laid on the concrete, sobbing, thinking ‘no, no, no, no, no…’
Your view of an event changes depending on where you stand, and two people can live through the same few moments and have rather different experiences. For me, the experience was full of anger and embarrassment and desperate wishing that there was a rewind button. For Russ, standing on the outside, the experience was one of feeling helpless and searching for meaning.
I would like to say that my fall caused me to think deeply and introspectively about how precious life is. But, honestly, as the searing pain subsided and I sat with ice on my ankle, I could only think about how utterly stupid I felt. In one swift and klutzy action, I had completely ruined our ride-out-of-town plans and forced us to change our much-hyped start date. Maybe I can just wrap it up really well and it’ll be fine and nobody will ever know…
As injuries go, I suppose I got lucky. A simple sprain that will heal on its own over time. Wonderful neighbors and friends who drove us to the clinic. Insurance that actually picked up part of the tab. But, as I wait for my ankle to heal, I am forced to simply sit still and wait. It’s a frustrating irony that I am required to be nearly motionless when I should be cycling across the country.
So I sit here, trying to think of the silver linings. I am grateful that it gave us the opportunity to spend more time with our friends here in town. I am grateful that it wasn’t a lot worse (including how easy it would have been for me to hit my head on the concrete as I slammed to the ground). I am grateful that our plans and other external forces are flexible enough that we can stay in Portland, in this apartment, while my ankle heals.
And I think of this: Sometimes it’s not the cars on the road that will get you, or the most-hyped diseases. Sometimes it doesn’t matter who you are or what you have planned. Sometimes you just slip, and things change. Life is short and wondrous and has an incredible knack for making sure that you never take it for granted.
But that’s just my side of the story. Russ was outside when I fell, so he didn’t see it happen, he just heard me suddenly start screaming…
It was the day we were supposed to leave and set off on our next big adventure. Truth be told, I was feeling a little reluctant to leave in the morning. It was warm and dry inside and decidedly the opposite outside. I was still a bit melancholy about leaving all our friends. I had the usual doubts, and was questioning our general sanity and wondering what it was, exactly, that we were doing, leaving things behind again.
My bike was more or less packed and I was waiting for Laura to finish loading her Brompton. I was staring at the sky and wishing for better weather.
It was then I heard a dull thud and Laura screaming from down the stairs. In that instant, my heart sank and the gentle balance of the day had been broken. I ran downstairs to see a sight that everyone dreads – their loved one, crumpled up on the ground, sobbing in pain and fear. I didn’t see any blood and, not knowing what else I could do in that moment, I held her and tried to comfort her. I felt completely helpless and hopeless, wanting to make things somehow better, but not knowing how.
After the initial shock of what happened, the reality of the situation began to set in. We were not riding off today as we had planned. Life had its own agenda for us. There was a bit of guilt about letting our readers down, about changing the plans of our friends who were going to ride out with us. But there was really nothing we could do, we weren’t leaving that day.
It’s funny all the things that run through your head. All our ambivalence about leaving was gone now that we couldn’t go. I thought it strange that we managed 10,000 miles across the country with hardly an injury and here we are, literally minutes from pushing off, and Life decides to step in and change our itinerary.
The intricate and delicate balance of our lives was laid bare. Our intentions, dreams and hopes hang in the ether like a giant mobile, with nothing but our willful delusion of control holding it all in place. A sudden change of direction and everything teeters towards the edge. One moment we are preparing for adventure, the next I’m rushing over to our neighbor’s house asking for a ride to urgent care (thanks Scott and Martha).
At the end of the day, Laura thankfully just sprained an ankle. No blood. No broken bones. Despite that, the whole incident made me re-examine our trip and the choices we’ve made in our lives. I thought about, if for some reason she couldn’t join me, how different and hollow the experience would be, how much it means to me that we share our adventures together, and how that I don’t regret our decision to set off and travel by bike two years ago.
In the end, what started as a pretty challenging day ended well. Our friends who were going to ride out with us came over and brought food and drinks. We didn’t have a chance to organize a farewell party, so this was a perfect impromptu one, given the circumstances. We ate and we laughed and we felt lucky to have been dealt a pleasant surprise after the more somber one in the morning.
Assuming that all goes well, we’re aiming to leave Portland on Friday. Cross your fingers for us!
“Are you ready for more adventure?” Russ asked me, as we rolled down a quiet road on our way back from Corvallis last week. “What are you looking forward to?”
This has become a common exchange between us over the past few weeks, as we consolidate our belongings again and prepare to head back out on the road. In part, we’re having this conversation to make sure that we’re still in line with the one and only parameter of our travels – to keep going as long as it’s fun. Two years ago, we decided that we didn’t want to impose any artificial time constraints; we wanted to get everything that we possibly could out of this opportunity, and be able to cry uncle at any time. So, are we still having fun, do we still want to do this? Yes.
We’ve also been having this conversation because our preparations for this second trip are decidedly lacking in the same giddiness and exuberance that we experienced two years ago. We aren’t bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, hyper about every little detail. Rather, our decisions are much more serious and conscious. This lack of bubbly excitement is easy to mistake for a lack of interest, which leads us to wondering… How can we want to do this trip, but not feel ridiculously over-the-moon?
The answer lies in the fact that this is our second trip. We’ve moved up into the varsity leagues. We know exactly what we’re getting ourselves into, and what we’re leaving behind. As curious and intrigued as we are about what we’ll find on this next trip, there isn’t the same sort of giant mystery that was waiting for us two years ago. It makes this upcoming journey feel much more ‘adult’ – all of the cards are out on the table, and we’re still choosing to do this.
It’s an interesting experience to stand at the edge of a great adventure and know that your excitement lies in the subtleties, instead of an overarching exhilaration for everything.
Lest you start thinking that I have some sort of bad attitude about this next trip, know that I’m actually quite enjoying not being the giddy teenager. I like feeling like I’m making a well-thought-out choice to walk toward something new, instead of running away. I like this place of knowing that I could truly choose anything at this moment, and I choose to travel on my bicycle. I like that I’m not as drawn to the sparkly newness, and have the perspective to appreciate the small things. I like that we’re on the other side of the learning curve and can use our energy for bigger projects than learning how to hang food or pick a route or choose a good stealth camping spot.
So just what are we looking forward on this next trip?
Creating Compelling Content. We’ve found our voices, we’ve learned what we’re realistically able to create while we travel – now we get to take it further and build on what we’ve started. Writing, video, headbadges – we’re looking forward to creating a work routine in the midst of our travels that will enable us to follow through on all those projects we hoped to do the first time out.
Food. By the end of our last trip, I was feeling ill from not eating well, or even consistently. As I get ready to give up our “real” kitchen, I’m trying to not be nervous about the roller-coaster of eating while traveling. There’s a collective belief that you just can’t eat well while traveling, and it’s probably so well-known because it’s so easy for it be true. But I’d really like to prove it wrong, and find a way to eat healthfully and consistently, even as everything else is in flux.
Fishing. Russ has cast his line in all sorts of bodies of water where you would never expect a fly fisherman. Finally, we are headed through the north, and all those Mecca-like trout streams in Montana.
People. As always, our biggest excitement lies in the simplicity of meeting new people from all walks of life – having conversations about things we’ve never really thought about and finding friends in far-flung places.
If you’re excited for our Big Adventure. Small Wheels. trip and support our goal to invigorate bike and train travel, consider making a donation to allow us to go further and create inspiring videos along the way.
Packing for the next tour has meant a lot of scrutinizing of all of our gear. The Bromptons are great and handle a load well, but they do impose a limit on how much you can (or, rather, should) carry. After riding out to the coast on our recent shake-down trip, I had two thoughts… First, I am impressed that we were able to whittle down our gear enough so that it fit in just the front Touring bag and a Carradice saddle bag… Second, I am still packing way too much stuff.
Yes, the irony of this statement is obvious to me. My entire life has been shrunk down to just two small bags, and yet it is still too much, too big, too heavy.
On our last trip, I was happy to have all sorts of miscellaneous little luxuries… a radio, an extra pair of pants, a frisbee, paperback books, etc. On this next trip, though, luxuries just seem ridiculous. My luxury for this trip is my Brompton, and the fact that I really get to do nothing but ride it around through stunning scenery. My luxury will be the ability to take everything off the bike and carry it all onto a train, without killing my arms and without having to make multiple trips. My luxury will be the ease with which I can pedal across the country, because I won’t have an enormous amount of weight holding me back.
So it’s back to the drawing board, back to scrutinizing everything. I will continue to shave off extra weight and bulk. And I will enjoy every moment of the strict culling of stuff, because I have come to realize how little I truly need to be happy on the road. Good food, a sweater that keeps me warm, laughter, the exhilaration of soaring past waterfalls and elk… these are my luxuries now, and they are so much more enjoyable than a bag of miscellaneous things.
If you’re excited for our Big Adventure. Small Wheels. trip and support our goal to invigorate bike and train travel, consider making a donation to allow us to go further and create inspiring videos along the way.
Two years ago, we were weeding through piles of dishes, shelves full of books, closets full of forgotten knick-knacks. We were waiting for the official announcement of my layoff and trying to figure out how to actually make the leap to full-time travel. We were preparing ourselves to say goodbye to our friends, to carry our entire lives on our bikes, to make an enormous and unknown leap. Suffice it to say, preparing for this next trip is a completely different experience.
After rambling across the country for 15 months, we feel like we’ve become hardened travelers. The idea of heading back out into nothingness isn’t something we need to steel ourselves against, and the details of life on the road aren’t overwhelming like they were two years ago. Instead of figuring out health insurance or a home for our couch, we can focus on how to structure our work flow on the road so that we can actually accomplish everything we want to do. We feel like we’re able to be much more pro-active in our plans for this next trip, and think about the bigger picture.
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Besides the work we’re doing to combine trains and bikes, we also want to route our journey through lots of unique places. Which is where you come in… On May 15, we leave Portland. Aside from plans to be in Missoula, Montana around the first of June, we have very little of our route planned. So we’re asking for your suggestions. Do you know of some funky little places we should explore or interesting people we should interview? Do you have a favorite burger joint or coffee shop? Send them our way!