I think I was looking for some epiphany to come out of this trip, but there was none. I did learn a few things though.
First, some stats:
- Total miles traveled: 5,159
- Days traveling: 19
- Most miles in a day: 561
- This was highway travel back. A good day on the trail was about 200 miles.
- Least miles in a day: 103
- We rode several hard mountain passes this day.
- Normal time traveling per day: 11 hours
- Best gas mileage: 59.1 MPG
- Driving home, with a 50 MPH wind at my tail for part of it.
- Worst gas mileage: 34.4
- Mountain passes
- Average mileage: 48.6
- Longest distance between fuel stops: 197
- Highest altitude driven: 12,640
- Highest altitude camped: 9,400 (approx.)
What I Learned, Observed, or Reinforced:
Being alone is OK
I was in the company of other riders for most of the trip. That is unusual for me. Other riders naturally go at other paces. I had to stop often so the slower guy ahead of me could get far enough away that I could hit technical sections at my (faster) rate. I had to keep an eye on the guy behind me to make sure he hadn’t crashed or broke down. I had to be aware of where I stopped so the guy behind me had enough room to get through the rough patch without running into me. It’s easier riding alone. It’s also riskier because nobody would be there to help if I had trouble. Which I did, but I managed anyway. It’s lonelier too, being left to my own thoughts. But, that can be a good thing.
Know where you need them, what should be put in them, where to put them, and how to tie them up.
Pooping in the Woods
What more natural thing could there be? It’s not hard once you realize that the tried and true squat is the way to go, but don’t forget to put bug spray on your bum first. Trust me on that.
When I first set out, I thought my gear was at the bare minimum. A few days in, I shipped 13 lbs of stuff back. I still had things I never touched. You don’t really need much. One of the points of a trip like this is to escape your everyday life… why would you want to pack its trappings along with you? I’ll share my packing list in a few days.
Camping on the Cheap
National Forests, National Grasslands, and BLM land is mostly open to free dispersed (wild) camping. It’s great. You will rarely see any other people. Find a place with fresh water for your filter and you are set. For the days you just must get a hot shower, state parks and RV parks are a good choice. RV parks are great… many offer simple cabins to get out of the rain, and they have laundry, flush toilets, hot showers, camp store, free wifi, and other amenities.
There is nothing better to hone a skill than to do it for 11 hours a day every day. It’s even better if you can learn some tips from somebody else. Then practice it.
I did a lot of prep work on my bike before I left and I’m glad I did. I had zero issues.
Out west, the elevation of the town is just as important as the population is in Midwest towns. As I progressed from Utah to the Midwest, the printed elevation kept getting lower and lower. Once it was around 3000 ft or so, it didn’t seem important enough to print on the sign anymore.
Sounds good in theory, I mean who wouldn’t want to stay dry? The problem is that if it’s hot and raining, the rain suit may keep the rain out, but it will also keep your sweat in. You’re getting wet either way.
Do not wear cotton when you ride. It will keep moisture on your skin, which will then get rashes and fungus. I knew this much and was quite happy with my riding clothes. Bonus: They are resistant to holding on to odors and they dry quickly after washing in a creek or sink.
I used an old Android phone for my GPS unit. It had no cell service connection, but it did have a large micro SD card where I stored offline cached map tiles for use with an app call BackCountry Navigator. This setup was way more useful than my friend’s full fledged Garmin GPS. I used USGS topographical maps in the app which was invaluable for finding alternate routes around obstacles, National Forest lands, established camp sites, and jeep roads that went up into mountain draws with running water.
I decided not to pack my pistol with me. I figured it would be a problem considering the inconsistent laws in various states and towns. I also figured that my can of bear spray would be good protection against bears and people alike.
Everybody I met and talked to was great. So many folks would come up to me at gas stops to talk about how they used to ride, or wish they could do what I was doing, or just ask about my experience. I think we got cased at a state park one night, but seeing how we were minimally packed, there was nothing worth stealing. We didn’t have laptops or cameras or much of anything that a pawn shop or heroin dealer would be interested in. I did keep my bags in my tent with me at the more populated places anyway.
I want to do this again. I should have done this earlier. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my trip. If you have any questions or comments, please post something below and I’ll do my best to answer.
Keep the shiny side up!