Five years since The Big Tour

Hello folks. Today is Friday May 27. And exactly five years ago today, April and myself packed up our belongings, returned our apartment key to the property management company, and hit the road on our big Cross-Continent Bike Tour. Five years! Wow. Time does fly. At times it seems like we just got off the road, and at other times, it’s a lifetime ago.

Since I have not had children, bought a house, or hit the Powerball jackpot, it’s safe to say that the four months on the road, on the bike is the biggest thing I’ve ever done besides moving across the continent. After hearing about other folks’ big bike tours, I never thought I’d be able to do one, until I did one. Yeah, we didn’t get all the way to the Atlantic as planned, but we got pretty far nevertheless.

Last night I looked over some of the blog entries from the tour. (You can too, just dig through the archives from May 2011 through October 2011.) Memories came flooding back. Man, it was a great time. Yeah, sure, we were broker than we hoped, always stressing about money. And sometimes we questioned what the hell we were doing. But we did it.

It took me a few years to reach some sort of closure with the tour. We were bummed that we didn’t get all the way across. But we went slower than we thought, and my itinerary was a lot more ambitious than practical. We got into the Midwest in later September, running low on cash and enthusiasm. I’m sure if we really, really, REALLY pushed ourselves we could have made it at least to the Atlantic. But in retrospect, I’m glad we didn’t push ourselves. But I always had that lack of completion hanging over me, the idea that we somehow failed, that others looked at us as failures. And we promised ourselves to “finish the tour” at some point, start in Chicago and head east.

But over the past five years, that desire to finish has all but faded. Sure, I’d like to do some touring in the Northeast and especially Atlantic Canada at some point. But now it would be more out of a desire to do that, not to “finish” a tour from 2011. Because, yes, that tour is done. Anyways, there’s other tours I’d like to take up first, like stuff around the Rockies. Or a bit of the Southern Tier during the winter.

And yes, there is still a fire in me to do a longer tour. Not four or five months, but maybe two. The Cross-Continent tour made me realize that I’m no Heinz Stucke or Lael and Nick. I like having a home base, and there are only so many days in a row that I want to live out of the metaphorical panniers. When will that big tour happen? I was hoping that I’d have done one by now. At best I can aim for next year. But realistically it might be two years. As I get older, I worry a bit more about stability. And as Portland gets more expensive, it gets tougher to give up something like reasonable rent at the place I’ve been living for 2 1/2 years. I don’t want to “put all my stuff in storage again” and start anew.

That was probably the toughest thing about the 2011 tour: Coming home. On one hand, it was a huge relief. On the other hand, I had hoped things would be different when I got back, we’d find a new place to live, I’d find a better job. Things were different, but not in the way I had hoped. We slipped back into familiar patterns despite not wanting that. I ended up getting my old job back, which was/is good/bad. Portland has felt different in the five years since I got back. It was changing before we left, but the break from the Rose City made the changes feel more stark. Portland got bigger, busier, more expensive, more fancy. I’ve definitely been frustrated by some of those changes, but it’s still the place I love. And sometimes I do want a change, but for the life of me I haven’t figured out where else I’d want to live.

I’m glad we did the tour. We got to see some cool places, and meet/hang out with some really cool folks. It’s nice to prove to myself that I could pull off something like biking day after day for months on end. Over the years, the hardships of the tour have faded with time. When I think back, I don’t first think of the time that April’s chain broke in the middle of Saskatchewan and we spent two hours trying to hitch a ride. Or the Big Agnes pad that would leak no matter how many times I replaced it. No, I think about things like cresting our last mountain pass (Sunwapta) in the Canadian Rockies and the glacier we’d see soon afterward. The wildlife. The sunsets. The canola fields. The time we crossed the Mississippi River by foot, so what if it was at its source? Those were great moments, and I own them all.

If you want to check out the photos from that tour, go here.

And if you don’t want to wade through a bunch of old posts, this post from when we hit 1,000 miles on the road is a good encapsulation of my feelings.

On meeting Heinz Stücke, and bike touring in general

On Friday Heinz Stücke came to Portland. Don’t know who he is? Click on the hyperlink to his name to get the Wikipedia version. He’s a German man who’s basically been on a continuous bike tour since 1962, over 50 years! He’s definitely the most “bike toured” person in existence, who has been to every country in existence (so he believes.)

Heinz had a talk at Clever Cycles, which I found a bit surprising since the default place for bike talks these days is Velo Cult. But Heinz is riding (and is sponsored by) Brompton, and since Clever is Portland’s Brompton dealer, it makes sence. With a bike tourist of his pedigree, I figured that the event would be packed, but there was less than 20 people there, which I found surprising. (Was the promotion that bad? Or does he need to tour with a dog to get attention? I heard the Bixby event there the night before was well attended.)

I bought his book and had a couple words with Heinz, mostly about where he’s heading next. (He’s going eastbound to Salt Lake City, and he may use extensive sections of I-84 to get there. I get the feeling with him that the bike is the tool to get to where he needs, and he’s not necessarily about finding remote gravel roads between destinations, which seems to be the flavor of the day.)

Then he did his talk, about two hours of rambling narratives of adventures over the years, interspersed with fielding questions from the audience. Many of the questions fell into the “What’s the best/What’s your favorite” category, which, I dunno, I’d find it hard to distill 50+ years of touring into a single best moment. And Heinz apparently felt the same way, mentioning how it’s typical for Americans to be concerned with superlatives, when “best” can mean many different things: Best landscape? Best weather? Best food? Best people? Best riding conditions? Etc.

Also, Heinz took umbrage when an audience member called himself a nomad and thought Stücke was one as well. I don’t think that person liked Stücke’s reply, as he left shortly thereafter.

But maybe the most enlightening moment came when someone asked him if he had a “home”. To someone that’s been on the move for so long, his definition of “home” is any place that he’s staying more than one night!

It was a fun little talk. It was great to finally meet possibly the most legendary living cycle tourist this side of Dervla Murphy. (Will she come to Portland soon? One can hope.) Of course I always get a little envious and jealous of someone who has travelled so, so much. But would I trade shoes with Heinz Stücke? Most certainly not. I realized that my capacity for being on the road is longer than most folks, but not as long as others. After a few months out, I want to come back to a home base. I’m no Lael and Nicholas.

But do I want to tour more, and more often? Yes. I’ve got some shortish tours planned this year, but they are all shortish. It’s been almost five years to the day that April and I left on our big cross-country journey. Five years! Wow, time has flown. While I might not want to try something that ambitious again, I do want to get on the road for a few months. Obviously, this won’t be the year. But maybe next? Or the one thereafter? I’m not getting any younger.

In the meantime, I’m all about seeking adventure where I can find it. I’m lucky to live in a place where that’s easy to do. So here’s to more summer adventure. And good luck, Heinz!

Three Speed Camping Weekend, June 3-5. Register NOW!

Society Of Three Speeds

18429404065_d614a34288_kHello friends. With all the hecticness of the Lake Pepin adventure taking up a good chunk of this month, I’ve been behind on things (I’ll be writing about it soon! But in the meantime, check out my instagram stream for stuff.) And one of those things is reminding you fine folks that it’s just two short weeks until we do our Three Speed Camping Trip!

Yep, the weekend of Friday June 3 through Sunday June 5, we’ll be taking our trusty and laden three speeds out to Ainsworth State Park in the beautiful Columbia Gorge. It’s about a 25 mile one-way ride from the end of the MAX in Gresham. And there are many a waterfall to be seen as well! We’ve booked a site that can hold about eight folks, so registration is capped at that for now. And the other sites are already booked, so eight is enough!

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Midweek bike camping at Battle Ground Lake, 28-29 June. Register NOW!

12799639894_d1be9771cf_bHey all! Pedalpalooza is just around the corner, and like every year, there’s a BUNCH of stuff I’m doing for it! We’ll be getting into all that soon. For now, I wanted to let you know about a camping trip I’ll be “leading”.

I did a midweek camping excursion for a few years, but didn’t last year, so I wanted to bring it back! This year I decided to hit up Battle Ground Lake in Clark County (SW Washington), one of my favorite local camping spots. It’s just a 25 mile ride from the northern reaches of Portland on moderate traffic roads. And not only does Battle Ground Lake have nice rustic walk-in sites, but it’s got a…lake! So you know where you can go if it gets hot.

The date is Tuesday June 28 and Wednesday June 29. Here’s the deets:

You can either come on the “group ride” departing after noon on Tuesday June 28 from a MAX stop in North Portland. The “group ride” will feature one stop for supplies (food and libations) and possibly a break for food/snack/etc. Or you can come up on your own and meet us at the campground.

We’re looking at about $10 per person to cover the cost of the campsite(s) and firewood. Food, etc is all your responsibility.

Departure on Wednesday will be casual, so you can either leave with a group or on your own. I intend on getting lunch on the way back.

Are you interested? You can register via my Eventbrite page. I’m limiting the trip to 16 participants. If you have questions, feel free to email me at But remember, you still will need to register to join the trip.

Hope to see you there!


Pepin report to come…soon!

Hello all! I haven’t really posted much (if anything) about my Minneapolis-Lake Pepin trip. I didn’t expect to do much blogging on the road, and yep, I didn’t. I did take some photos that I posted on the way, so go over to my instagram to see them. I’m still working on posting more photos, and writing up something encapsulating the whole trip. Expect that by next week, as right now I’m sidetracked by getting all my Pedalpalooza ducks in a row. And more on that soon!

For now, hold yourself over with this postcard report.mplspostcard

Heading east on (a different) iron horse

Right now I’m on Amtrak’s Empire Builder, hurtling through the High Desert Darkness east of Pasco, WA. Spokane is the next stop, where the two sections of the train meet. It’s been interesting, this whole sleeper car business. For one, I got to use the Metropolitan Lounge, the pre-boarding area at Portland Union Station. It’s one of the few first class lounges in the entire Amtrak system, and it’s in my home town.  I’ve known about it for years, but this is the first time I’ve ever been able to use it! Free coffee and priority boarding! Of course, I was maybe 30 years younger than most folks there, but whatever.

And on board I get free coffee and bottled water! Free meals! A shower! And a little compartment just for me, and of course moosemoose. I think I may get spoiled.

It was good and sunny, so a good view as I went through the Columbia River Gorge. Tomorrow it’s supposed to rain as we cross the Rockies at Glacier National Park, so I’ll miss that. But I should be getting the best night’s sleep I’ll ever get on a train!

It’s too late to turn back, here we go…Pepin!

wp-1462685188937.jpgHello friends. Later today, I’ll be hopping on Amtrak’s Empire Builder train and heading east to the Midwest! I’ll be enjoying the new-to-me luxury of a sleeper car all the way to St. Paul Union Station! I’ll spend a few days there, then head to Red Wing on Friday for the night. The Lake Pepin Three Speed Tour will happen this coming weekend, May 14 and 15. It should be a good time, and if the long-range forecast holds, it will be perfect weather, sun and clouds, high in the low 60’s. Then I return to Minneapolis for a day before I get on the westbound Empire Builder to Portland, this time in lowly coach.

Last night was the last minute packing extravaganza, squeezing everything into as tight a space as possible. It always seems like too much, but everything I’m packing, I’ll use. I’m getting away with basically my Carradice Camper Longflap with an extra small shoulder bag. I don’t normally bike with a shoulder bag, but once I get off the train, much of the stuff will be sitting at my friend’s house. And unlike a bike camping tour, with Pepin I don’t need to carry everything with me the whole time. Also, originally I thought I’d camp, but I decided against it, since I didn’t want to haul out a bunch of extra gear.

25872375115_a559586e7d_oThis will be my Raleigh Superbe’s Pepin debut. Despite hoping to get more stuff done to it, it’s not all “there” yet, but will work fine for the trip. I wanted to get the front wheel rebuilt with a modern aluminum rim, but the shop didn’t get the rim in on time, so the wheel build will have to wait until I get back. (I have an alloy rear wheel I can throw on there too.) I did get the bike wired up for lighting, and it works fine, more on that later. There was a little bit of a scare for a bit, as the lights weren’t working, but I tried a different light and it works. It’s not as classy looking as the B+M Retrotec, but it’ll do!

As always with any trip like this, I’m stressing out a bit. But hopefully when the train pulls out of Portland Union Station, those worries will melt away. I’m looking forward to having a good time! I’ll try to report here as much as possible, but stay tuned to my flickr or instagram accounts for more up-to-date as-it-happens dispatches.

Sale extended until Saturday night

mooemoose loves packing orders and mailing stuff!

mooemoose loves packing orders and mailing stuff!

Hey kids, since it’s been going so well, I’ve decided to keep the sale going a little longer. So you still have a chance to pick up some good deals on zines, comix, and buttons. The sale will now end at 11:59 PM Pacific Time on Saturday May 7. You can:

  • Pick up the zine and comix four pack for $8
  • Or the New Old Stock comix two-fer for $4
  • The newest Zinester’s Guide to Portland for just $4
  • Five packs of buttons for $3

So check out the deals over at my store.

And please note: I cannot guarantee that I’ll get stuff shipped before I leave for Minnesota on Sunday, so orders may not go out until about the 20th.