The Adventure Dispatch

Back in the fall of 2014 I was offered the opportunity of a lifetime, to join the Specialized Adventure Dispatch Team, do what I love with those I love, and share my stories along the way. The last two years have been some of the most memorable, meaningful, and educational years of my life. This year, Specialized sent the camera crews out for Tom and I's version of an overnight camp-out. Me being me, I set out to find a place in Northern California I had not been. I wanted it to be some-what of a close drive to our place in Petaluma, and I had to avoid the snow since this whole thing would be happening in early March. I had heard whispers of the Lost Coast of California and quickly learned that the infamous hiking trail could easily be paralleled with some dirt roads in the King Range. After plotting the route in Ride With GPS and landing on a 75 mile ride with 11,500 ft of climbing I knew this was not going to be an easy, but hey, the pictures would be great, right? The closer we got to our date, the worse the weather forecast became. These cameramen were on a tight schedule, it had to happen, it was going to happen, even if we had to ride through a torrential rain, wind, and hypothermia in one of the wettest climates of California. 

And that's just what we did... 

In retrospect I was a little over ambitious with this route especially since there was a camera crew following us around. Works of art take time, lots of it! If I ever find myself being followed by a camera crew again, I will heed the advice from my fellow Adventure Dispatcher Teammate, Benedict Wheeler, AKA @Ultraromance and only go on a 4-mile ride, maybe even ride in the support van a bit ;)

To learn more about the Lost Coast Ridge Trail, visit Bikepacking.com

How-To: Streamline Your Tent Pole Storage for Bikepacking

image.jpg

Assembling our Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 is a breeze. The tent uses a unified group of individual pole sections, so it’s just one bundle of sticks. We have used this simple method for storing tent poles for a long time and it works. Easy on, easy off.

The downtube of the bike is home to many cables, straps, bolts, accessories and happens to be close to some important moving parts. The key for good storage here is to securely locate the goods out of the way of moving cranks, chains, and keep in mind that a suspension fork allows the tire to travel closer to the bottom of the bike throughout its travel.

For securing our tent poles we use 5mm black elastic cord. It’s available many places, can be tied and untied, and has a nice poly kind of casing to keep it tough. We use 3 loops at intervals which are held in place by neighboring etcetera. Once the loops are stretched around the poles they wont really move, so placing them next to a strap or item that will keep the loop generally located for quick packing is the goal here. The loops are sized so that when tied they are “just” loose around the downtube. This makes it easy to get a finger between frame and loop but keeps things tidy enough when you’re traveling without the tent poles. We use a simple square knot to secure the loop to the downtube. If your bike has wires or hoses which need to be free from the influence of poles or pressure, hang an untied trial loop around and/or under different points, with and without poles and you’ll find a way around interference.

To load the poles, arrange them into a bundle, inline to eliminate poking and snagging hazards. Hold the bundled poles tightly in one hand as you stretch the middle of the three cord loops open, away from the frame, and insert the end of the bundle, releasing the loop as you slide the poles toward the second elastic loop. The final loop can then be stretched or slipped around the free end of the pole bundle. Spin the cranks slowly by hand to check for interference and rearrange anything that looks “iffy”.

Step One: Tie three loops around your bike’s downtube where they are useful, safe, and not impeding other functions.

image.jpg

Step Two: Gather poles into a unified bundle.

image.jpg

Step Three: Insert end of bundle through middle, then bottom loop. 

image.jpg

Step Four: Secure the third elastic loop, check for protrusions and interferences. 

image.jpg

Step Five: Ride on with your streamlined bikepacking tent pole setup! 

image.jpg

SBW x Cascadia

Originally posted April 19, 2016

We're hitting the road again and hope you will follow along as we explore the back roads of Cascadia by bicycle. 

Over the next month and a half we will be following a combination of three routes through the Cascadia region; The Washington Backcountry Discovery RouteThe Trans Canada Adventure Trail, and the Great Divide Mountain Bike RouteClick here to view our complete route. This will be our first time touring in this region and we are very excited to get to know the land and the people. We hope you will follow along as we share our journey with you. Find out where we are by following our SPOT

Ride On!

The Trans-America Trail

Originally posted January 2016

“If, as I believe, the most important fact for Americans is America, the main part in the education of an American citizen is to know America” (Dr. S. M. Johnson, Tales of a Pathfinder, 1920).

The Background

The incentive for a transcontinental bicycle ride is different for all of us. For some, it’s a life goal to experience the country from the seat of a bicycle. Some people do it for a taste of adventure, to live a simple life for a while, to spend some time in the great outdoors, and to welcome the unknown. Regardless of the calling to do so, the simple act of equipping a bicycle with basic essentials and then pedaling it across a continent is something a lot of people take on. Throughout my years working in bike shops, I have had the pleasure of assisting many individuals setting out for this kind of journey. Inspired by their stories, I imagined doing the ride myself one day to truly experience this place I call home.  

When most people consider doing a trip like this, the challenge is timing. The time it requires to complete the journey can take anywhere from one month to four months, depending on the route and speed of the rider. This certainly was a big factor for Tom and me. To complete a cross-country tour would require us to close our business for a number of months. Another barrier was the prospect of riding a paved road route and sharing roads with large vehicles traveling 55-80 mph. I do not imagine a long, healthy, and enjoyable life cycling on roads where semi trucks are buzzing past me, which is why Tom and I travel on dirt roads. Riding on dirt roads is a lot like riding on a bike path, but with the diversity of hills and curves that back roads often have. Most of the time you have the whole road to yourself allowing you to ride side by side and to actually hold conversations with your partner. Stopping, to take in views, to take pictures, or to picnic, is a carefree, and often, a car-free experience. So we waited for the right time, to one day ride across the country, not by way of highway, but by dirt roads and back roads.

The opportunity finally presented itself a little over one year ago while I was searching the internet for dirt road routes in the North Carolina and Tennessee area. I stumbled upon a link to www.transamtrail.com, the official website for a dual-sport motorcycle route following dirt roads across the country. My interest was piqued and I spent weeks obsessing over any information I could find about the route. I was skeptical. All the information I had read, photos, and videos I had seen, depicted dirt roads I was familiar with riding. Why could I not find any accounts of cyclists attempting the route? I dwelled on this for a while, thinking there must be a reason why cyclists don’t ride this route. Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that I had to learn for myself and decided that one-day we would use this route as our guide for riding across the country.

Serendipitously, that someday came sooner than we expected. Around this same time, we had reached a point with our business where we needed to make a change. We were feeling the result of the growth of our business and some associated sacrifices in our freedom and quality of life. We needed some time for a fresh perspective. We decided that now was as good a time as any to make this journey. We worked, we prepared, we went on a handful of 3-day bikepacking trips, one 7-day bikepacking trip, and by July we had ended the leases at both our home and our bike shop. Our affairs were somewhat in order and we were as ready as we would ever be. On August 1, 2015, we departed on a 5,000-mile, 87-day journey across the country along mostly dirt roads. Equipped with a GPS file of the route, some basic information, and an itinerary designed for motor vehicles, we set out for the greatest physical and personal journey of our lives which proved to be an adventure of discovery, survival, and enlightenment as we found our way across the country along the Trans America (Dirt Road) Trail.

The Route

Not to be mistaken with Adventure Cycling’s popular paved road route from Astoria, Oregon to Christiansburg, Virginia, the Trans America (Dirt Road) Trail, was designed for dual-sport motorcyclists. The original route, created by Sam Correro, starts in Tellico Plains, Tennessee and ends in Port Orford, Oregon. As the route has become more traveled and popular, other people, like www.GPSkevin.com, have contributed additions to Sam’s original route to connect the coastal states of New York, North Carolina, and an alternative finish in Los Angeles, California. Overall, the route follows mostly dirt roads, some smaller paved roads, and occasionally ATV trails, with the percentage of dirt roads increasing to about 85-90% of the route the further west you get.

Since the route was established, over 8-years ago, every summer hundreds of dual-sport motorcyclists make the journey. For them, it can take anywhere from two-weeks to two-months to cover the entire route. The route is structured to pass through small towns with gas stations and/or motels with distances between those towns ranging from every 30 to 160 miles. Many dual-sport motorcyclists can complete the entire route without spending one night outdoors. To complete the route upon a human-powered bicycle is quite a different experience. Speed and distance separate our experiences. While traveling by power, a twist of the throttle can fix a wrong turn or chase down supplies that seem inconveniently out of the way. The motorcyclists’ need for gasoline was very much the same as our own need for food and water. 

We packed our dirt road touring bicycles with basic necessities for shelter, clothing, food, water, and repair. This included a tent, sleeping mat, sleeping bag, a minimal layering system of clothing good for everything from the hottest days to the coldest, enough storage capacity to hold food for a three day period, and water bladders to store up to 6-liters of water per rider. We also carried a water purification pump and water treatment tablets. All this meant we could take up to three days to travel between towns, camping along the way, until we would restock in town.

Since we wanted a coast-to-coast experience, we combined GPS Kevin’s North Carolina addition with Sam’s original route. Ultimately, we rode from Morehead City, North Carolina into the Great Smoky Mountains, across Southern Tennessee. We dropped into Northwest Mississippi, pedaled across Arkansas, over the Ozark Mountains, and dead straight across Northern Oklahoma and the Panhandle. We rode into the gulches of Northeast New Mexico, climbed up into Colorado, up and over the Rocky Mountains, before we dropped down to ride across Utah, and from basin to range northwest across Nevada and the high desert. We tapped California before riding northwest again, across Oregon, where we came to the end of the trail in Port Orford, Oregon.

The Ride

I’m dreaming about home, my cat, and my bed. I tell myself, it’s time to wake up to get ready for work. When I finally open my eyes I’m greeted with crisp cold air, that I can only feel around my face because my sleeping bag is tightly wrapped around my head. I’m warm and I can smell coffee. Tom woke up early to watch the sunrise and to start cooking breakfast. It’s getting brighter by the minute, which means it’s time to get moving. It’s going to get warm soon and we have a big day ahead of us. We have to make it to the next town to restock on food, water, and to enjoy a good night’s rest and shower. It will be our first town in two days and 140 miles. After this town we have another stretch of 140 miles before we reach civilization again. How long will that stretch take us? Two days? Three days? I burrow into my warm sleeping bag again. Tom tugs at the tent door, carrying what has become my favorite meal of the day, a cup of instant coffee and a bowl of apple cinnamon granola cooked in hot water, a sort of crunchy oatmeal. I drink and eat then I’m ready to greet the day. I change my clothes, pack up sleep stuff and the other remaining contents of the tent, and break down the tent. Once I’ve gotten things packed away, I walk down to the stream to help Tom carry the water he has been pumping.

We’re ready. It’s a beautiful day. We’re in Northern Nevada and we’ve been on the road for over two months. I know how far we’ve come, I’ve witnessed it, I’ve lived it, but it doesn’t feel real. I look down at my skin. I’m tan, darker than I have ever been. I take a sip of water. It has a faint taste of dirt, or does it? Maybe it’s because I know what it looked like before we purified it. I add a packet of instant iced tea powder into my water bottle. Better than dirt. I think back to New Mexico, and the windmills that made filling up with clean water a joy. Every place should have windmills, I wish. Many places did at one point or another have a well of some sort, but we’re in the year 2015 now. Very few people live in these places anymore. There is no one to maintain the wells, let alone drink the water from them. Except for the occasional recreational ATV rider, cattle herder, or TAT rider, why else would someone be out here?

 Our road takes us through a ranch, where we stop and speak with the owner who gives us a 6-pack of Gatorade. We drink two each while talking with him and pack the other two away. He offers us another 6-pack, we’re good, we say, as we thank him and make our way down the road. I can’t help but compare the generosity of people in rural Nevada to the people we met in Oklahoma. I can only assume it’s because of the remoteness of the land, the lack of population, and limited resources that people look after one another. I compare this to our time in Colorado, where we were just two of a million recreation seekers and there was no reason to stop and chat with one another.

The sky is clear and there are few clouds. The temperature will rise to 90 degrees today. We apply sunscreen to dusty skin and keep moving. The temperature reminds me of beginning in North Carolina and the heat through Oklahoma. We’ve been lucky with the weather though. It’s now snowing in the Rocky Mountains. We managed to avoid the snow. If it rained now, the dusty silt of the road we are riding, would turn sticky-wet like clay, like it had that day in Mississippi. I think about the constant crosswind from the South we had seen across Oklahoma and how fast it would push us when we turned right, to the north. I try to forget how slow we would move headed into the wind. It could have been worse. We’ve been lucky with the weather.

I stop to take a picture. I can see for miles and no person, house, or vehicle is in sight. We’re in the Great Basin, and I’m on top of a range looking straight at another range with a basin in the middle. It looks drastically different than what lies just behind us. How is this possible? I’m entertained.

We keep rolling and finally make it to the town. I’ve made it a habit to Google the town. Population 500, it says, a typical result. There is a grocery store, a gas station, a restaurant, and a couple motels. We have choices! We make our way to a motel where I’m greeted by a puzzled look on the face of the clerk at the motel desk. I’m dusty, clad in dirty riding gear, with a distinct sunglasses tan, and explain that, “We’re riding the Trans America Trail. Do you ever get folks coming in here on motor bikes?” “Absolutely”, they say, “but never anyone on a bicycle! You’ve ridden all this way?” This script-like conversation with every motel clerk across the country temporarily connects me back to the reality of the trip. We have come this far and we only have 700 miles left to go. Again, I think back to Mississippi, my lowest point, where I thought I wouldn’t make it to the end. “Stay the course” Tom would say, and that’s just what we did.

The End

On our last day, the clouds opened up, dumping inches of rain upon us and flooding our campsite. Rather than staying put for another day, we looked at this as a sign to finish our journey. That day, October 26, 2015, with over 5,000 miles and 300,000 feet of elevation gain covered, over 87 days, we celebrated in our soaking wet clothes on the coastal beach of Port Orford, Oregon at Battle Rock, the official terminus of the Trans America (Dirt Road) Trail. Life, as we know it, will not be the same, at least for a while. We will be processing the lessons we have learned for months, if not years. One thing, I know, is that we saw America. Not the America seen from a car, but the America where towns are connected by dirt roads, where families, three generations deep, are still ranching the land, and where towns of just 500 people live. This is an America that I read about in history books, where not too much has changed in a very long time. This is an America that many people overlook entirely, traveling city-to-city along the big highways, but I assure you it’s still there, albeit fading slowly, and I am eternally grateful for having witnessed it. You surely will not regret making the trip yourself. 

 

More From Our Ride

The Trans America Trail Route and Alternatives

Our Complete Gear List

The Details: Food, Water, Dogs, Bugs, Wildlife, Trail Magic, Etc. 

Updates From the Road

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

The Finale

 

Trans-America Trail: The Details

Originally Posted January, 2016

Food

Soul food, barbecue, mountain burgers, open faced roast beef sandwiches slathered with cafeteria gravy, chili burgers, pizza stix, corn dogs, Subway, Pop-Tarts, fruit snacks, Biscoff cookies, oatmeal, Clif Bars, Red Vines, ice cream, V8, bananas, ramen, Easy Mac, and dehydrated meals. These were staples that fueled our ride across America. We purchased our food from gas stations and truck stops, local grocery stores, and the endless aisles of Walmart. Fresh fruit and vegetables were luxuries for us in most parts of the country and we began to consider food as a fuel source, rather than a source of nourishing nutrients and pleasure. Occasionally, we would have some extraordinarily satisfying food. Bavarian French toast comes to mind. I’m a big fan of French toast and conducted a study of French toast, across the country, by ordering some at every breakfast establishment we patronized. After having a delicious dinner at the Country Hearth Restaurant, we decided to visit again for breakfast. I had scoped out the breakfast menu over dinner and noticed that the restaurant was known for their homemade cinnamon rolls. This started an internal debate within me that continued all night long… do I order the cinnamon roll or should I order the French toast? By the time we were riding to breakfast I still hadn’t decided, but thought I might as well order the French toast and get the cinnamon roll to go. As I walked through the door, I saw the freshly posted listing of the specials for the morning. On the list was Bavarian French toast, which is a homemade cinnamon roll, sliced in half bun-wise, and cooked into glistening French toast perfection, served with two pieces of bacon on top. It was a perfect combination and will go down in history as having been the best French toast on the Trans America Trail, according to me.

 Pie Shop

According to Google, the Pie Shop in De Valls Bluff, Arkansas is known for “Made from scratch buttermilk pies” and “The best pies on the planet.” We would have to ride a mile and half off route to find out for ourselves, but the sound of a piece of homemade pie sounded perfect at the time. We followed the directions while rain drizzled, but could not find the Pie Shop. We circled back and found a little building tucked away, behind someone’s house, bearing the hand painted words “Pie Shop”. At the sight of the building, we could not help but feel like we had been lured into some kind of strange trap. Despite our skepticism, we approached the door and saw a sign that said the proprietor of the Pie Shop was working at Craig’s BBQ that day and that we could be served slices of pie at Craig’s BBQ. So we went to Craig’s BBQ and got ourselves some buttermilk pie, chatting with a local who had been hunting squirrels on his rainy day off.

Dogs

From North Carolina to Arkansas we were constantly on the defense against wild packs of family dogs. One particular encounter with a dog turned out to be the scariest experience of our entire trip. We had just crossed into Arkansas from Mississippi when we made a turn onto a road and noticed a group of 5-6 men shooting guns in their front yard, on the side of the road, while drinking Busch Lite. As we entered that scene, a large white bull mastiff dog ran from the men, into the road, and charged us head on. The dog, which looked to be around 100 pounds, with a head the size of a cannon ball, was not barking or growling at us, but blocked us, stopped us, and moved very close to us. There was no tail wagging involved and it was apparent that this dog was serious as he mirrored our every move. Adding to the tension of the situation, the gunshots from the group of men on the side of the road had not ceased, even though it was obvious to them that we were having a hard time with the dog. In an effort to get some help, I called over to the men and asked them to call for their dog. Rather than helping us, they suggested that we attempt to outrun the dog (from a dead stop) on our bicycles. Sensing that we weren’t going to benefit from any action on their part, I started a flat out sprint, while Tom corralled the dog with his bike and forced him into a ditch, creating enough space for Tom to mount his bike while running and start riding away. We sprinted for what felt like 2-miles until the dog was out of sight. I will always remember the adrenaline pumping through my blood after that scenario.

Weather

Leaving in August, we knew we had some very hot days ahead of us. As expected, during the first week in North Carolina, temperatures reached 110 degrees. We rode through the heat again in Oklahoma, and even for a short time in Nevada, where temperatures were still in the 90’s. For a while, we experimented with leaving at 4 a.m. to get a jump-start on the heat of the day, but ultimately settled into a rhythm with the sun, waking just before it rose, taking breaks in the shade during the hottest hours, and finishing our ride with enough light left to make camp and cook as the sun set. We focused a lot on staying hydrated and making use of any shade we came across.

            The only other bad weather we had was a series of thunderstorms and rain in Tennessee and Mississippi. At times, we felt very close to where the lightning was striking and often there was nowhere for us to go, so we would tuck into the woods and wait for the storm to blow over. The conditions after the rain were the worst. A day after the last storm blew over Mississippi we were riding along a freshly tilled road when it turned to mud. This mud stuck to everything that it came into contact with, including our shoes, our tires, and our bikes. For 4 miles we walked and carried our mud-laden bikes until we reached the next road that was in much better condition. Later, we learned that conditions were much worse ahead in Oklahoma, and had we been there, instead of Mississippi at the time, we would have been facing a lot more than just 4 miles of mud.

Road in the Distance

When we rode through the dense forests of the Ozarks, we could hardly see 100 feet in front of us. Around every turn there was something new and unpredictable. You are constantly guessing what lies ahead. At times in Utah and Nevada, we could see the next 30 miles of our route, stretched out before us. Everything was predictable because we could see what the terrain looked like. Some days, like this day in particular, we spent the entire day looking at our future. Understanding how far you are traveling in a large space can make you feel very small in the enormity of the landscape.

Sharing the trail with motorcycles

            We loved sharing the route with motorcycles. Because they are all traveling a similar rate of speed, Motorcyclists are lucky see another fellow traveler during their journey. As cyclists, going much more slowly, we got to see almost all the motorcyclists running the route from August through October because they would pass us. It was always fun to talk to them because, like us, they were on a journey of a lifetime and what was significant or difficult for us was just as significant and difficult for them. We would exchange tips and tricks and seeing them really made us feel part of the TAT community. Most of them knew there were a couple cyclists on the route and were tracking our tire tracks for days before finally catching up to us. This particular day was pretty special because it came after a low point. We were literally out in the middle of nowhere, 60 miles in on a 100-mile day, when these guys rolled up on us. The guy next to me in the picture is Casey Folks of Best in the Desert Racing, who was traveling with professional endurance motorcyclist, James Embro, and a group of their friends. They were headed to the same town we would be staying in that night, only they would be there in one hour, and we would be there in four. We told them to save us a beer. They kept the restaurant open for us as we rolled into town in the dark, treated us to a big meal, and when we learned that all the rooms in the town were booked, they invited us to stay with them. We continued to share campsites and motels with TAT riders we met along the route. 

Trail Magic

            We were riding through the Panhandle of Oklahoma on a considerably windy day. The wind had been coming from the South during our entire time in Oklahoma as we were traveling west. On this particular day, our route took us 40-miles south, directly into the wind. It was rough and slow going. We saw that we would be crossing the same creek twice and planned to camp along the second crossing, downstream. At the first crossing, Tom had spotted a few small trout and had hopeful thoughts of enjoying some creek side comforts. When we finally rejoined the creek, it was just a dry bed. All of the water had found a home upstream, irrigating dry fields or watering cows. We had been relying on that water source for cooking and drinking that night so we started to feel a little desperate. When we finally saw a car, we waved them down and asked them if they had any extra water.  They said no, and carried on their way. We then came across a house and went to find their hose which was being closely guarded by a dog growling and showing his teeth, so we continued to ride on. At a fork in the road, we had a choice to get off route and ride to the highway in search of some water or to continue on the route and hope for the best. I saw a green area with trees in the distance, which meant there had to be some water around there somewhere. We rolled down the hill and the road took us right through a ranch with a water spigot in the front yard. I knocked on the door to ask permission to use the spigot, and the man who opened it greeted me by saying “Hello! Come on in!” I was a little shocked and explained that all we wanted was some water and to camp on their land somewhere, but they insisted on having us stay in their spare bedroom. We obliged and enjoyed a much-needed shower, a cold beer, and respite from the road in the good company of Gil and Mary, who told us about what it was like to live in No-Man’s-Land.

Bugs

Bugs were only an issue through New Mexico. Tom seems to be completely immune to bug bites, where I tend to have allergic reactions, so dealing with bugs was a big deal for me. Prior to our departure I was sure to get some prescriptions to manage the ill effects of bites. Sure enough, in North Carolina I got a few bites that blistered pretty badly, then in Tennessee we stayed in a questionable motel crawling with bugs. I woke up the next morning with bug bites on my face, the most demoralizing feeling and look ever. Tom seemed to have made it out unharmed once again, until 24 hours later, a bloom of bites appeared all over his forehead. In Arkansas we had the biting horse flies that haunted us 24 hours a day. This picture was taken after my last encounter, when I fell asleep with my arm against the net of our tent. I woke up with 25 mosquito bites on my arm. We counted! After this, bugs were never really a problem, maybe I developed some immunity, or maybe there were just fewer bugs out west.

Water

We didn't run into water scarcity issues until we reached north central Oklahoma, where ground water ceased to exist. We learned this the hard way one day with some heavy miles ahead of us, 110 to be exact. We knew it would be hot, we knew the ground water was becoming scarce, so we pre-hydrated and stuffed our bags and pockets  with as much water as we could carry. It would be enough on a cooler day, but with the heat in the high 90's we kept our fingers crossed for some body of water along our path that day. Sadly we had no such luck. We had crossed Oklahoma's threshold and the water we were searching for was deep within the ground only to be pumped by the loud generators to irrigate the fields. We ran out of water that day with 20 miles to go. It wasn't a pleasant feeling, it never is. It taught us that we had to figure out a way to get enough water through these long sections through Oklahoma, even if it meant we would have to go from ranch to ranch and ask for it. And that's exactly what we did for a few days. The ranchers were used to it from the motorcyclists and very friendly. Eventually in Western Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Colorado, we were able to use windmills that were still operating. In Utah and Nevada we relied on natural springs, reservoirs, and local ranches. We used our MSR Hyperflow Microfilter most of the time, but in the cases of pumping reservoir water, or water from cow troughs we would pump the water, add a half an aquatab to it, and cover the poor taste with some Crystal Clear Ice Tea. 

Mechanicals

Anyone who knows me, knows that my mechanical skills are fairly unpracticed for the type of riding I do. I’m lucky; I’m married to a professional mechanic who also happens to be my riding partner. He takes his job seriously and prepares our equipment for the long haul. Throughout 5,000 miles our first and worst mechanical happened in Colorado, when I kicked up a large rock while pedaling, lodging it into my rear wheel and breaking one of my spokes. I was riding a wheel with straight pull spokes, which allowed Tom to conveniently replace the spoke within 5 minutes. The damage I did to my wheel with that rock caused two more spokes to break later in the trip, one in Nevada, then one on our last day in Oregon. I did not get one flat the entire trip, where Tom had four. We carried three extra spokes, three tubes, a shift cable, three small bolts (to replace any in case of a failure), a chain ring bolt, a replacement derailleur hanger for each bike, two pairs of brake pads, a spare derailleur pulley, needle and dental floss, some zip-ties, oil for chains, and a thimble’s worth of grease. For tools we had a hand pump, a tiny Leatherman Squirt multi tool, and a bicycle multi tool with a chain tool and spoke wrench. This small list of items, combined with some ingenuity, would allow us to temporarily solve many problems and get out of most jams.

Wildlife

We thought we were in for an adventure full of wildlife sightings when we saw a bear on the first day of our trip. Unfortunately, it was to be the only significant wildlife sighting. We saw many commonly seen creatures like raccoons, turtles, dead armadillos, antelope, horses, and deer. The most frequently encountered creatures we interacted with were cows and snakes. In the mornings, snakes would be sunbathing all over the roads. There were big ones and medium sized guys, but the ones that spooked us were the tiny, fast, and squiggly baby snakes. As much as we were on the look out for them, there were still times where we would be riding side by side and notice that we had just rolled past a large snake that was lying in the road between us. As a sudden chill went up our spines, we reprimanded each other for not paying attention. We learned from the locals that these sunbathing snakes were not too much to worry about unless they were coiled up. After so many miles, and so many snake encounters, we became fairly desensitized to the presence of snakes. 

            We had a love-hate relationship with cows. On one hand, they were a constant throughout our entire trip, the calves were cute and, at times, I think Tom was really trying to speak to them. On the other hand, they were always in the way. There were the freedom cows, on the loose, which would be quite surprised by our quiet and sometimes rapid materialization, often causing them to overreact and run straight through their barbed wire fence back to safety. Then there was the issue of wild camping and upsetting the surrounding cows who would sound an alarm, giving away our position. There were even impenetrable herds of cattle blocking our path. If you should happen upon such a sight, it is possible to part the sea of cows by merely moving straight ahead, often resulting in sheer chaos, but clear passage.