We are getting ready for what we are calling our #GreatWesternRamble trip (you can follow along on Instagram). It is going to be a long rambling route in the American West with bikes and fly rods. We are driving a rental car, but hope to do a few overnight bikepacking trips along the way. Of course, the only problem is that we haven’t done a fully rackless trip yet. We’ve toured extensively with rear panniers, but this way of packing is relatively new to us and it is a bit strange (and frustrating, honestly) to be complete neophytes again. This first vlog on our Youtube Channel talks a little about our frustration with this new fangled “bikepacking” thing
The best camera is the camera that is the most readily accessible and the one you use the most. Period. We have a lot of different cameras for the work that we do, so it might seem a little strange that we’ve gone “backwards” and are using an iPhone. The truth is that we’ve shot lots of footage but they never see the light of day. The workflow of downloading them to a computer post-trip and then editing them is sometimes enough of a barrier that we don’t ever produce something from the stuff we’ve shot. In an attempt to remedy this and be more active vloggers on our Youtube Channel, we are experimenting with just using an iPhone. We messed around with it on our Lodi trip and got a glimpse of how we can use it for storytelling. Here are three tips we’ve learned so far from using the iPhone for shooting AND editing.
A funny thing happened when we decided to travel to Missoula for Adventure Cycling’s Montana Bicycle Celebration… We started thinking about all the other adventures we could add on to the trip… The places we could explore by bike, the rivers we could fish… After all, why fly out for just a single weekend, when you can re-arrange everything to go for the whole month, and bring a car full of bikes and fly rods and camping gear?
On Tuesday, we leave Portland for our Great Western Ramble. We’ve drawn up a giant loop that’s full of gravel roads and trout streams, and we’re really looking forward to exploring parts of the West that we haven’t yet seen. If you have any intel on any of these places, or if you want to meet up, give us a shout.
Our first stop is to the community of Pullman, Washington. Washington is blessed with an enormous number of railroad rights-of-way, and dedicated volunteers who are working to turn them into rail trails. When they’re successful, you’ll be able to ride from the Olympic Peninsula on the West Coast, all the way across the state to the Idaho border and beyond.
We’re joining the communities of Pullman, Albion and Colfax, for a discussion about rural bike tourism, and what the trail extension could mean for the area. If you’re local to the Palouse region, consider joining us.
The Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes + The Route of the Hiawatha + the St Joe River
From Pullman, we’ll head East into Idaho, where we’ll finally spend time exploring the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes and the Route of the Hiawatha. We have heard so much about both of these trails, and we have wanted to experience them for years, so we’re stoked to incorporate them into this trip. We’re also planning to spend some time camping along the St Joe River, hunting for trout and exploring the endless gravel forest roads.
Next up, the impetus for the entire trip: 4 days in Missoula, helping celebrate the Adventure Cycling 40th Anniversary. There is so much good stuff happening over the course of the weekend, and we’re going to see and do as much of it all as we can. We’ll also be introducing some videos on Friday evening, so come find us if you’ll also be celebrating!
The Bitterroot Valley + the Madison River
After Missoula, we’re going to make our way to some of Montana’s most famous trout rivers. While we don’t know exactly where we’ll end up, we have a whole week to poke around, so you’ll likely find us in the Bitterroot Valley and along the Madison River.
The last time we were in Montana.
Next up, Sun Valley, Idaho. We’ve only spent a week, total, ever, in the state of Idaho, and that was way back in 2011. So, to say that we’re excited to just ramble around, is a bit of an understatement. We look at photos of the riding and the fishing and the mountains, and we can’t wait to get out there.
And since Boise is apparently the next Portland, and right in line with our route back, how could we not stop? It’ll be a quick visit, for one night on July 29, but let’s grab a beer while we’re in town!
Somewhere Eastern Oregon
From Boise, we’ll cross back into Oregon and follow some sort of zig-zagging route home. A stop in the Owyhee might definitely be in order.
Give us a shout if you know of a place we should definitely hit up, or if you want to grab a beer.
Last summer, we traveled down to Lodi, California, to speak at their first-ever bike summit. Their goal was to bring the community together to take stock of the riding opportunities that already existed, to highlight the missing connections, and to build the area into a destination for bike travelers. At the time, we were impressed by the conversations that were taking place and the number of dedicated people who were involved – and that summit led to the formation of a community group who committed to keeping the bike tourism ball rolling.
Over the past year, we have continued to be impressed, as we have followed their progress from afar. They created and vetted a collection of quality road rides that vary in difficulty and experience. They built out a cycling-specific page on the Visit Lodi website, complete with GPS tracks of their routes. And they designed a beautiful and informative brochure that features some of the best of their routes (which we have since heard to be the most popular piece of information at the visitor center).
So when Visit Lodi invited us back this past weekend for a sort of press tour, we jumped at the chance to see their bike tourism progress in person (and, of course, drink some delicious wines).
In thinking about how we wanted to travel down to Lodi, we decided to hop aboard Amtrak. Lodi is blessed with its very own train station (along the San Joaquin line), which meant that we could travel almost door-to-door without the hassle of flying or renting a car.
We also decided to not take our own bikes, which was a bit different for us. You can take a bike on both the Coast Starlight and San Joaquin trains (the San Joaquin actually has roll-on service, and if you take the bus instead of the train, you can put your unboxed bike in the luggage hold of the bus) – but we knew that we could rent good-quality bikes in town, and it further simplified the travel logistics.
We tumbled off the train in downtown Lodi at roughly 7am on Friday morning, a bit bleary-eyed from the early morning wake-up. It was obviously too early to pick up our rental bikes, so we went in search of breakfast. At the diner, our server was surprised to learn that we weren’t eating before traveling somewhere exotic, but rather that Lodi was our destination – and it proved to be somewhat of a theme, that Lodi is an unexpectedly great place to visit.
Fueled up from piles of eggs and potatoes and breakfast carnitas, we walked to Downtown Bicycles, where Kenny and Ashley got us all set up on two beautifully-spec’d road bikes. Downtown Bicycles is the second incarnation of their shop, which they recently moved into downtown. It’s a comfortable and inviting space, and they do a brisk business in both road bikes and cruiser bikes.
With wheels acquired for the weekend, we set off for Lodi Lake. Lodi may be surrounded by agricultural fields, but it’s also nestled along the slow and winding Mokelumne River, a piece of which was converted into Lodi Lake many years ago. At Lodi Lake, you can find a beach for swimming, a boathouse for renting and launching kayaks and paddle boards, trails that wind most of the way around, and bank access to fish for bass and bluegill. The fish didn’t want us to catch them that day, but we did enjoy a nap beneath the shady trees before finally checking in to our hotel.
On Saturday morning, we woke up bright and early for the Breakfast Burrito Ride. The original itinerary for the day included an afternoon wine-tasting ride. But when the forecast for the day promised temperatures over 100 degrees, we all agreed that a morning ride sounded much more appealing. And the new route was a perfect way to start the day.
We rambled through the countryside right outside of town, taking in views of vineyards and cherry orchards. We followed quiet roads with minimal traffic, allowing us to pedal at a social pace and chat amongst ourselves. At the end of loop, we rolled back into the edge of town and into the parking lot of the La Campana tortilla factory. It’s one of those unexpected locations, where you order at a simple counter and everything is take-out, but the burritos absolutely lived up to the hype.
After devouring our meaty goodness in a nearby park, we all set off for part two of our active morning: kayaking on Lodi Lake. Neither Russ nor I had ever kayaked before, but we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try something new. Especially since there was a tandem kayak that would allow Russ to fish while I paddled.
As it turns out, the Mokelumne River is an excellent place to try kayaking for the first time. It’s a lazy river, without much motorboat traffic these days, so we didn’t have to overcome any strong currents or big wakes, and we were able to just ease into a rhythm and enjoy the beautiful day. (Although, Russ still didn’t manage to pull out any bass.)
As we wrapped up the active portion of the day, our legs tired from cycling and our arms tired from paddling, we felt we had earned a decadent afternoon full of wine tasting. We stopped at three different wineries, each one with a different specialty and a different feel to their tasting rooms.
Beyond the fact that they produce some of our favorite wines, what we love about Lodi wineries is that they’re friendly and accessible – which makes them easy to visit if you’re just learning about wine or simply want to taste great wines without any pretension (or if you’re stumbling in off a bike).
One tasting rolled into another, then another, each with a delightful food pairing and stories about the wineries. Before we knew it, we had moved on to dinner, a stunning and delicious event at Oak Farm Vineyards.
Our last day in Lodi turned into a lazy bit of last exploration, thanks to the sweltering 102-degree heat. We returned to Lodi Lake to hunt for bass again and nap under the big trees. We poked around downtown, stopping in at the cheese shop and the coffee shop, before indulging in some craft beers and exploring the food truck festival in a nearby park.
All in all, it was a great visit, and we loved the opportunity to see how much the community has done to enhance and encourage cycling. In fact, as we waited for Downtown Bicycles to open on Friday morning, we chatted with two women who happened to roll up at the same time. Unprovoked, they gushed about the cycling, and gave us great intel on how to get around (by bike) to their favorite restaurants and wineries.
We think Lodi is well on its way to offering a great balance of outdoor recreation and epicurean indulgence, and we’re excited to see what comes next, as the community continues to promote bike tourism in the area.
To watch the rest of our Micro Episodes about our Lodi trip, visit our YouTube Channel.
Wherever we travel, we always stop at local bike shops and play tourist. It gives us a little snapshot into the local cycling scene and also how different shops operate. We’ve visited great shops with beautiful displays and friendly staff, and others that grudgingly answer questions. Bike shops and their employees are the frontline of bicycle tourism. Who else is more qualified to be the local authority on great riding in the area than a bike shop? However, at the same time, many shops don’t see themselves as part of their local tourism industry and are ill-equipped to answer the question: “I’m from out of town, where should I ride?”
After visiting bike shops around the country over the last half dozen years, this got us thinking about how we’ve experienced bike shops as end users. For us, bike shops either function as convenience stores or outfitters. There are shops that only focus on retail and don’t bother with creating an experience for customers and visitors – these are the convenience stores. It is a wham bam thank you ma’am affair with little follow up after the sale. Then, there are shops that focus on retail, and also go the extra step to create an experience for customers and cyclists – these are the “outfitter” type shops. These shops have group rides, host events, or employees that are always eager to share their latest bike touring route or perhaps they even lead a tour themselves. These outfitter style shops also function as a third space, maybe they serve coffee, beer or have monthly gatherings and presentations. Their focus is not only on selling new product, but educating and inspiring you to use the new product. They are your guides, gurus (sometimes a therapist) and ride leaders, as well as your salesperson and mechanic.
We know that this is often a big ask for small shops with little capacity, and there are also some shops that do enough volume through online sales that they are immune to having to develop the community piece. However, with more brands offering direct to consumer, we feel that bike shops will have to offer something of value that will compete with the ease of clicking a button with your pajamas on. We think many shops can benefit by adding “outfitter” style elements from a bike tourism perspective. Any shop can curate a short list of rides that people can do in the area. It could be as simple as printed cue sheets and maps at the front counter or downloadable GPS routes from the shop website. We’ve seen a few shops go that extra step and lead actual bikepacking and bike touring trips like Topanga Creek Outpost (notice how it’s an “outpost” and not a bike shop!), River City Bicycles and their new River City Touring Club, and Good Bike Co and their guided agritourism tours.
From a bike tourism perspective, shops with an “outfitter” mentality are essential because they offer a hospitality and guiding component that is necessary for successful bike destinations. From a customer perspective, the “outfitter” mentality creates an opportunity for people to be educated/inspired on how to use the gear they just bought (“where can I play with my new bikepacking gear?”) as well as provide a support group around the Cycling Experience. This you can’t buy on the internet.
What do you guys think? What shops do you feel have the “outfitter” mentality? We’d love to know!