The healing process is painfully slow, especially when it interferes with larger plans. Laura has been resting her ankle and is progressively becoming more active with it. The whole experience has really shown us how fragile our bodies can be and the tenuousness of our plans and schemes. The good news is that it is healing and we’re expecting a departure date of this Wednesday. Ultimately, it was the right decision for us to have her convalesce in Portland than try to to push off at our appointed launch date.
While she has been resting, I took the opportunity to do an S24O this weekend with my friend Joey. Like most endeavors, it was decided that after a few beers on Friday that we should leave “early” the following morning and go bike camping. Early is relative of course. I was off to a slow start and had to quickly rearrange the bags from “fully loaded touring” mode to “overnighter,” which consisted of leaving most of the electronics at home and carrying pots and food.
We met up around noon (“early” is relative remember) at the Rose Quarter transit stop and took the MAX train to Gresham, an outlying suburb of Portland. I got a chance to try out my new Garmin Vista HCx that I picked up at the REI sale along with the City Navigator SD card. It is admittedly not as easy to use as Google Maps on the iPhone. Once you get past the clunky user interface and invest some time, you realize how robust it is. Some of the absolute no-brainer advantages of the Garmin over the iPhone is its amazing battery life, great reception and weatherproofness of the unit. Running a real-time GPS application on a smartphone will drain its battery life in no time. It is also no secret that AT&T has absolutely terrible reception and because of this it is easy to be left out on a limb if you use a smartphone as your primary navigation. I was able to record the route and post it to Bikely with relative ease.
After some flat riding in Gresham and a quick dip to a tributary, you pick up the Historic Columbia River Highway and pass through the small town of Corbett as you work your way uphill to an overlook near the Portland Women’s Forum. The grades are reasonable and the climbing is extended over several miles. From the overlook, you get an amazing view of the Gorge and catch a glimpse of Vista House.
From Vista House, the road twists and turns, dumping elevation quickly until you are almost level with highway 84. From there the road undulates in gentle rollers and you past several falls. Perhaps the two most popular are Multnomah Falls, the second tallest year-round water fall in the United States and Horsetail Falls, where a scene from The Road was filmed. Caution is needed, especially at Multnomah Falls, because of the high level of tourist traffic coming from the main highway that may not be looking out for bicycles.
Once you are past the falls, it is a short ride to Ainsworth State Park. Ainsworth has several RV sites, but also a few “walk-in” tent sites that are more covered in the woods. Firewood, flush toilets and showers are available, making it a great comfortable place to camp.
The next morning, we got a truly early start and left camp around 8am and climbed the switchbacks up to Vista House and made our way back to the MAX stop in Gresham. We got back into Portland by around 11:30am. The S24O to Ainsworth is a great retreat from Portland and offers the cyclist a good mix of rural roads, scenic byways, a satisfying climb and descent that is only a few hours out of town, making it a perfect bike camping option.
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.
Our bags are half-packed and we’re ready for Austin. If you’re going to be in town and want to meet up, contact us! The response to help us out with homestays in Austin has been amazing. So thank you again, Texas!
Aside from NAHBS, food and visiting with bike people we connected with the last time around, we’re also hoping to do a little work. Laura has just relaunched her site and business to focus more on custom headbadges. While she’s not planning to carry her tools with her on this trip, she will be passing out cards at NAHBS and is always happy to connect with folks in town to talk about the finer points of making headbadges.
Note the Freewheeling Bicycles shirt under the apron : )
I’m bringing camera gear to do reporting for the NAHBS site, but to also do some photography work. We’ll be on a tight schedule once we get into town, but we’re always happy to connect. So shoot me an email if you want to do some family portraits or need other photo work. Every bit helps us prepare for the next leg of our trip.
Speaking of which, I know we’ve been vague and hinting about where or what we’re doing next. We’ll have some fun news to announce around NAHBS weekend that should delight and surprise some readers. If anyone wants to get together while we are in town, send us an email, or a message on Twitter or Facebook. We always love meeting up with readers to talk about touring!
Good gear need not break the bank. For all the bells, whistles, technical fabrics and wonder widgets outdoor companies are creating these days, sometimes the most practical gear is simple and inexpensive. One bit of gear that we have that truly embodies this idea is our O2 Rain Shield Jacket.
Rain jackets are a hotly debated topic. There are many competing space age materials (Gore, eVent, etc.,) vying for superiority. Unfortunately, a lot of this gear comes with a big price tag. ShowersPass jackets (the alleged gold standard for jackets, though their Storm Pant is a big disappointment) will easily set you back a few hundred dollars. During our trip we’d constantly hear about a “cheap, tyvek-like jacket that works great”! We finally decided to try out the inexpensive O2 Rain Shield Jacket ($25-$30) when we were in the South and getting rained on every afternoon.
The first thing you’ll notice about the O2 Rain Shield Jacket is how amazingly light it is! It is easily half the weight of more expensive technical jackets and perhaps even lighter than some “ultra light” jackets on the market. They can be compressed down into a small bag that you can have on you at all times. They’ve been described as fragile, which sort of implies that they’ll disintegrate if you look at them funny. While they are sensitive to tearing, proper mindfulness when folding and unfolding them should help them last for quite a while. We’ve had ours for about 6 months with regular use and they are still functional but are starting to show some tears. If yours does tear, the universally accepted repair method is tape. Duct tape or clear packing tape for the fashion conscious : )
The jacket comes in two models, with and without a hood. The bike shop where we got ours only had the hooded version. The hood adds some bulk and creates a dilemma when riding (do I fold it under the jacket, wear it under the helmet, etc.,) but extends its usefulness while in camp. The jacket also has a longer tail which covers your behind while crouched over the bike.
As far as controls, the bike has a drawstring cord in the hood and a zipper. That’s it. While we are a fan of pit zips for venting, the O2 jacket is so lightweight you can ALMOST get away without pit zips depending on weather conditions. The jacket does feel like Tyvek that has been impregnated with a waterproof breathable layer. In light rain, the jacket is waterproof. In heavier rains, the jacket will saturate a bit but still keep you AS dry as those $$$ jackets while only spending $.
The jacket has no pockets and provides little in the way of warmth on its own, though zipped up it will trap body heat in. If riding in a cold rain, we would wear a wool long sleeve shirt and a thin fleece jacket or sweater beneath it. The added layers will keep your skin off the claminess of the membrane and provide warmth.
The O2 jacket makes a great touring jacket where intermittent rain is expected. It is light enough that it doesn’t pose a huge weight penalty and inexpensive enough that you’ll be able to eat proper food on said tour. We rode through several months with the jacket and it exceeded our expectations for its price range. The O2 also makes a great commuting jacket where you get occasional rain. It’s small and light enough to always have with you. If you live in perpetually wet climates (for example, Portland), where the jacket will get daily heavy use, you’ll probably want to look elsewhere.
However, given its remarkably low price, light weight, waterproofness and did we mention the remarkably low price the O2 Rain Shield Jacket is a jacket that every bike tourist should be able to afford!
WHO IS IT FOR:
-tourists on a budget
-touring through intermittent rain
-commuters in intermittent rain
-can tear with heavy use (but repairable with duct tape)
We had a wonderful presentation at Bikes Not Bombs world headquarters last night! We managed to fill the room and use up every spare chair they had available. It was wonderful to meet some readers who have been following us from the very beginning of our trip up to now. It was also great that so many people that had attended had never been to Bikes Not Bombs before. Here are some snaps from last night.
Rolling up into BNB HQ.
The quiet before the storm.
Workstands and parts used by the youth programs. BNB has been one of the most organized bicycle non-profits we’ve ever seen!
Youth program leaders debrief after taking some kids out on the street.
Time to set up the chairs.
The room started to fill up quickly.
Mohammed and Abdul, two youth educators, helped out with the raffle tickets for some awesome giveaways.
The Bikes Not Bombs staff that was on hand at the event. Thanks guys!
It was a crowded house with about 65 attendees making for a great lively discussion.
Some lucky attendees got some snazzy new Klean Kanteens for their bikes.
We got to meet some of our longtime readers. This is Laura with Bill, who made a two hour drive from Cape Cod to see us. He’s about to embark on his own cross-country bicycle tour in a few months.
For us, the best part of the presentation is the one-on-one discussions afterwards. It is really humbling and heartwarming to hear from people who have been inspired by our journey to take their own. I don’t think Laura and I had any inkling about what our simple bike ride would morph into after all these months. You don’t get the sense you’re reaching as many people as you are when you’re writing a blog post at a campsite in the middle of nowhere.
Thank you to everyone who attended last night or any of our other events and presentations. If reading our site or attending one of our presentations has inspired to hit the road, we’d love to hear from you via email or in the comments!
When we started this trip, we really didn’t have a “mission” in mind. We weren’t riding for a charity or a cause. We wanted to ride because we wanted to explore the United States. Over the course of the trip, however, we found that bicycle travel was a truly liberating experience that hardly anybody tried. People ride their bikes fast down the road or on a trail in the mountains, but bicycle travel is not actively encouraged by the bike industry (with few exceptions).
The more we traveled, the more we found that we had a unique opportunity to really inspire people to get on their bikes and explore. This website and our Facebook fan page have been great tools to share our experience, but we wanted to go a step further, so we started doing presentations. The presentations let us directly answer questions about bike touring and also provide a great way to meet up with our readers!
And yet, getting people excited about touring through the site and presentations isn’t always enough. So we hatched this idea in Austin to actually take folks on an overnight trip with us, to REALLY show people how great bicycle travel can be. And then we led a second one in Durham (thanks Jack!). Everyone that has joined us on one of our overnight bike trips has had an “Aha!” moment, as in “Aha! Why didn’t I do this before?”
If you can’t attend a presentation or join us on an S24O, but you have specific gear questions, Panniers & Peanut Butter is the next best thing. We hope after you read it, you feel prepared and inspired to hit the road on your own!
Panniers & Peanut Butter has been out for less than a month and has already been a great hit. Thanks to all of our wonderful readers and supporters who have already bought a copy! Also, a big thanks to EcoVelo, LetsGoRideABike, BikeCommuters, RocBike and CarFreeAmerican for posting about the release.
CarFreeAmerican recently posted a review of the book. Here’s an excerpt:
Whether you are an arm chair adventurer, a S24O tourist(get the book to find out what this means), a multi day bicycle tourist, or an adventure cyclist, you will, I promise, love this book.
Laura and Russ take turns with the writing which gives this book the rich uniqueness of feeling like you are sitting across a picnic table from them. They keep it simple, only sharing information about the equipment they are using, how it works for them, and what they like best.
They added some information I have never seen in other books about bicycle touring. A section on their Porch, fun. A surprisingly fascinating section on tying knots with a link to videos on how to tie knots, off beat and extremely helpful. The Office, answers the question what equipment is needed to document the tour while on it.
If you’re curious about bike touring and want to learn what has worked for us over the last 14 months, get a copy of Panniers & Peanut Butter. It’s 75 pages, full of tips, reviews and photos (about 30 megabytes, so download it somewhere with a good signal). Of course, we’re also happy to answer any questions you have via email (as long as we’re not in the middle of nowhere).
We have one more presentation in the works for Boston at the end of October (more details forthcoming). After that, we’re going to take a few months in Portland (Oregon) to work and figure out where we’ll tour next! (And, hopefully, release a few more books!)
Nearly fifteen months ago, we turned the lamp off in our apartment for the last time, left the keys on the counter, and pedaled away. We had slept in the living room on that last night because the apartment was empty and it was kind of spooky to sleep all the way back in the bedroom. After many months of dreaming about this trip and an extremely harried six weeks of moving everything out as quickly as possible, we were finally on our way. A long time has passed since we left our previous lives, enough time to forget what it was truly like, but we haven’t forgotten the experience of making that intentional change to living the way we are now.
Over these past many months, we have been extremely fortunate to be able to stay with dozens of generous and kind people across the US. All sorts of folks with different backgrounds and different living situations. And each time we step into a home, we find ourselves comparing this place where we will stay the night to some nebulous idea of a future home-of-our-own. ‘Could we live in this type of place?’ we wonder. After all the effort to get rid of everything many months ago, it is strange to even wonder about settling into an apartment again. We shudder at the idea of again accumulating all the accoutrements: lease, utilities, pots and pans, towels, furniture. It all feels so unbelievably foreign and burdensome.
Yet, we have also discovered that the urge to “have” does not go away. I do not want to buy more things and haul them around with me on my bicycle. But I also have a love of reading that can easily manifest itself into three paperback books at a time, each of them tumbling around in my pannier. And I cannot express how much I truly and deeply miss having a refrigerator and an oven and sleeping on an actual mattress. We ride through towns with a a great bike culture and we long for lighter-weight bicycles of our own, perfect for bombing through city streets. We laugh about how we did not reach that level of minimalist nirvana, of rising completely above the desire for stuff. Rather, like other cycle tourists we know, we have become mildly obsessed with our stuff, knowing that we have to carry each individual thing, so it all needs to work really well and serve an extremely useful function.
There are a lot of ideas milling around on the internet about how to achieve minimalism. Many of them fall into the “count your things” category. I recently stumbled onto the 333 Fashion Project, in which you cull your wardrobe down to just 33 items and wear only those pieces for 3 entire months. It’s a fascinating idea, and I love to see folks rally behind a project that will help them think more critically and live more mindfully. I also chuckle a little bit because I’ve been living my own 15-15 Project:15 items of clothing for 15 months. Of course, it’s not a contest, but it does give me pause. Do we need something bigger than ourselves to tell us when enough is enough?
Ironically, neither of us were self-defined minimalists before this trip. We had so much stuff spread all over our way-too-big apartment. Every attempt to cull a few things just ended up in frustration and resignation. Now, though, as we begin to think about slowing our momentum and staying in one place for the winter, we realize how nervous we are about the possibility of collecting stuff again. I think about the things that we might find ourselves wanting and needing over the winter – sheets, towels, blankets, u-locks, a better rain jacket – and I cringe at the idea of purchasing and owning all these items, finding a place to put them when “at home,” and getting rid of them all again when we hop back on the bikes. All of this has made us realize that minimalism isn’t about the actual stuff you own (how much or how little), but about your relationship to that stuff (your thought process upon purchase and awareness of its impact on your life-at-large). And it’s also not something we can just check off a to-do list, it’s something that we have to continually think about and work on, even when everything you own has to fit on a bicycle.
After nearly 14 months of traveling the US on bicycles, we have finally put together a comprehensive guide to all of our gear, with great photos from the last year, and road-tested tips that we’ve discovered along the way (how to find electricity on the road, the virtues of the tortilla, etc.,) Today, it is available to the world!
We’re really excited to release Panniers & Peanut Butter and we hope that it makes bike touring more accessible and inspires you to put together your own touring gear, finagle the time, and hit the road!
Panniers & Peanut Butter is 75 pages long and goes way beyond a simple list of our stuff, or even a technical look at the pros and cons of different items. It’s chock-full of photos, tips, stories, lessons – and probably everything you could want to know about all of our gear.
Panniers & Peanut Butter is a downloadable ebook. You will receive a file in a PDF format, which should be readable on any computer, iPod/iPhone/iPad, and Nook.
Price per ebook is $20. (Payment is through Paypal, which also accepts all major credit cards.)
Upon purchase, you will be directed to a link, from which you’ll be able to download the file.
Thank you to all of our readers, followers, supporters and friends around the US and beyond! You have inspired us to keep traveling and exploring and inspiring others to get on their bikes as well. See you on the road!
Food. So simple, yet so complicated. On this journey, we’re always thinking about food. Sometimes it’s as simple as daydreaming about our next meal or figuring out what to pick up at the market. Other times, we’re stressing about running out of food or lamenting the seeming lack of control over our daily intake or worrying about the sustainability of our eating habits.
The truth is, even after a year on the road, finding and eating food is still a complex and often-troubling issue. We have to consider portability and our lack of refrigeration, as well as all the facets of eating healthfully. And the further we travel and the more I think about the issue of food, the more I realize just how spoiled we were in Long Beach, with our daily farmers’ markets and whenever-we-wanted-it access to high-quality, organic ingredients.
Sometimes, I’ll be in a market, trying to figure out what to buy, and I’ll think about how different my purchases would be if I had daily access to a kitchen, especially a refrigerator. It’s a weird thing to think about, because I don’t actually want to own a refrigerator, I just miss the comforts one allows. Yogurt, fresh meat, ice… all luxuries that I never really thought about a year ago.
Then there’s the issue of storage. I don’t really want to lug around 40 pounds of food every day, so I choose to buy only what we’ll eat in a 1 or 2-day period. And, subsequently, put us at the mercy of what’s available on a day-to-day basis. Staples that we used to eat a lot in Long Beach (such as quinoa, lentils, fresh spinach) aren’t as readily available in small town markets.
Then there are issues of health, which are wide and deep. I think about the ways that I would choose to eat in a situation where I wasn’t moving constantly… and it involves a lot of fresh vegetables that don’t keep well in a food bag, whole grains that take a long time to cook, meat that doesn’t survive 90-degree days. Ironically, while I feel stronger than ever before, I don’t feel as healthy as I did a year ago, because I don’t have the same control over what I eat.
And don’t even get me started on issues of sustainability. I have been deeply schooled in the lesson of what passes for food in most of this country. Organic, locally-grown, ethically-raised… How about meat that’s not purple and vegetables that don’t come out of a can?
So how do I take all these many different thoughts and locate foods that meet all the above criteria, while maintaining enough nutritional calories and some semblance of my own food belief system, and not make myself totally crazy? The answer is… I don’t know, I’m still figuring it out. In the near future, when we cross the ocean to Asia or South America, I’ll figure it out all over again.
At the base of this dilemma, of course, are all of the concessions that I’ve made over the past year. In the name of being able to eat through the myriad small towns we’ve explored, I’ve had to set aside my personal food politics, and look to the grey areas. When a half-dozen bruised apples in a basket make up the whole produce selection, you can’t afford to choose ‘organic.’ And, really, when I want to meet people where they are and make connections, how can I possibly project my set of ideals onto a situation that has no chance of supporting them?
But when my stomach grumbles because it’s full of sugar and hasn’t seen a green vegetable in days, I realize that I have to find a grey area within the grey area. There has to be a solution somewhere, a way to eat from small town offerings that leaves me feeling energized and confident in my choices, a way to stop longing for the comforts of a built-in kitchen and make amazing meals from just what I can carry.
In a way, all of these challenges open up an opportunity to grow, to learn. Food choices no longer come easily, so I have to put on my thinking cap and re-educate myself about a subject I thought I knew perfectly. As we get ready to enter our second year on the road, it seems the right time to take stock and have “beginner’s mind” about what it could be like to eat while we travel. We’ll share our food changes as we figure them out. In the meantime, if you have ideas, feel free to share. Here’s to thinking more about food!
One of the problems while touring is what to do exactly with your fully loaded bike with XXXlbs of gear when you need a short break on the side of the road. One could always “tip the cow”, so to speak, and gently let her down on one side. But sometimes, for example when its raining and the ground is muddy and there is no street post to lean the bike against, it’s nice to keep the bike upright while you take a break or run off to take a photo.
Truth be told, few kickstands are up to the task of keeping up a fully loaded bicycle with front and rear panniers upright. We have tried, with limited success, two flavors of the ubiquitous Pletscher kickstand. Laura has the single legged kickstand which has bent under the weight of her bicycle and is rather finicky. I’ve been using the double legged version of the kickstand which works, but has a bad habit of working itself loose. There is also something that seems a little troubling about applying all that weight to the chain stays while it holds up my 100+ lb bike. I do like it however, because it acts as an ad hoc repair stand holding the rear wheel up off the ground when unloaded.
An interesting solution to this is the Click-Stand, a collapsible pole (similar bungee system to modern tent poles) with a curved cradle that holds up your bike near the seat stay cluster. The Click-Stand’s weight is negligible and collapses down to something that could fit easily in your pannier or even your handlebar bag for easy access. Each Click-Stand is customized to fit your bike, so you have to send in some basic measurements (namely the height of the top tube from the ground).
The Click-Stand is usually sold with some elastic bands that depress the brake levers. This arrests any wheel movement so the bike won’t move. I don’t use them. My rear wheel has a wheel lock and I prefer using a leather toe strap wrapped through my front wheel and around the downtube.
The question is, does it work? Yes. Surprisingly, yes. My bike weighs probably around 110lbs but the Click-Stand holds it up with ease. The tubing appears to be fairly thick and sturdy and doesn’t buckle under the weight. There are a few things you do have to get use to. It’s not the quickest stand to deploy. I have to wrap my toe strap around the wheel and the bike first (takes just a few seconds), then prop the bike up with the actual stand. All told, it probably isn’t THAT much slower than using my Pletscher where I have to dismount first to get it to work. One other caveat is that the stand works best on solid pavement. I’ve propped it up on dirt and after a few seconds the bike began to topple over because the stand was burrowing into the earth. You could easily remedy this by finding a rock first, or a little flat piece of plastic to disperse the pressure.
Another caveat is that it works best if you DON’T have a frame pump under the top tube. Fortunately, I have a park PMP-5 which is an adjustable frame pump. I’ve figured out a way to mount the pump nestled in the rear triangle of the bike – getting rid of the need of having to remove the pump every time I used the Click-Stand.
A great SECONDARY use for the Click-Stand that we’ve discovered is as a pole for our tarp! We usually use it to give us a little additional height on the low side of our tarp shelters. You can use a tree and the Click-Stand to make a good ridge line for a tarp to lay over. I usually tie a clove-hitch over the cradle and stake it to the ground. This isn’t an officially approved use of the Click-Stand and I’m still testing it out, but so far it has worked splendidly.
-can hold up a fully loaded bike very effectively
-can be used to support a tarp shelter
-less expensive than a double legged Pletscher
-Not mounted to the bike
-Takes a few seconds to deploy
-Can’t use a frame pump mounted to the top tube
-Not readily available in bike shops
I highly recommend the product. I think it’s effective and works well and simply. There are some quirks that you have to get over, but if you can deal with the extra seconds to lash a toe-strap and unfold the Click-Stand, I think you’ll like it. An unexpected plus is that it can be used when erecting a tarp shelter!