I’ve worked my job at the hostel off and on for nine years. Nine years! That’s double as much as any other job I’ve ever worked. Much like how “maybe a few years” in Portland has turned into 14, I didn’t really think I’d be here this long. The job has its ups and downs, but I pretty much know what I’m in for every day I walk in the door. There’s not a lot of excitement with the job anymore nor much hope to move on up. Stagnant.
But my favorite thing about working here is interacting with bicycle tourists. On Sunday we had our first bike tourist of the year, a British dude by the name of Alex who rode from San Francisco here in two weeks. Yes, yes, he’s going the “wrong way”, as most (as in 95%) of bike tourists head south to take advantage of strong tailwinds. Going the other way typically means a headwind, though in spring it can go either way depending on storms. He bought his Long Haul Trucker in SF and plans to take it back to the UK with him. We talked a little bit about touring.
Seeing cycle tourists at work is the one thing I really look forward to at the hostel. But last year I saw the numbers dwindle from previous years. Now I know that it’s not because there are fewer tourists, quite the opposite. But as more alternative options for housing become available, whether it be via hosting networks like Warmshowers or Couchsurfing, or AirBnB, there are more choices for cycle tourists to stay in Portland on the cheap/free. Couple that with the fact that the hostel is always busy, it’s harder for a bike tourist to find a spot here. The demand on lodging facilities has skyrocketed in Portland over the past year, and if you think you’re just going to show up on a random Tuesday in February and find a place to stay, you’re going to be unpleasantly surprised. And it don’t get better in the summer.
Of course this is a bummer, as it is the big thing I look forward to work during touring season. I can’t tour as much as I’d like, but at least I could live vicariously through other folks on their epic bike tours. But when they’re few and far between…
This of course gets me thinking what I’d like to be doing For The Rest Of My Life. I’ll be 40 in August, and don’t think I can do the hostel racket that much longer. Yeah, it’d be nice to hit the road on two wheels for a good long time, but it’s hard to make a living from doing that.
Right now I’ve been working out logistics for the various tours I’ll be taking this year. A couple of them will be solo undertakings: the San Juans tour in May and the Iron Horse/Snoqualmie Pass in August. A couple of them will be group trips, the Post-Pepin Tour with Pondero and Graveldoc in May and the Eastern Oregon tour with Cycle Wild in September. I know that some people don’t relish this part of touring, the planning. While it can be frustrating, I actually enjoy the whole poring over maps, searching the internet, reading books.
I’ve thought about leading bike tours as a job, but while I have fun on tours of my own, turning it into work can suck the enjoyment out of things. Nor do I think have the temperament to be “den father” with a group of strangers, at least for an extended bit of time. I’ve looked into leading tours for other organizations, but honestly the pay ain’t there. Living in Portland gets a bit tougher and more expensive each year, and I don’t know if I could take off each summer and afford to come back to the city I love. At one time it was feasible, but now?
But that got me thinking: What about doing Bike Touring Logistics for money? You know, help people plan their tours, be sort of a “Bike Touring Consultant”? Some people hate the planning process, feel lost by all of that. Some people want to just ride the bike and leave the planning to others, hence the popularity of supported tours and Adventure Cycling maps. I wouldn’t be providing on-ride support, just helping folks through the pre-ride stuff. Is there a market for this? Or am I dreaming?
Sometimes I feel like I have a skill set of all this unconventional stuff and I need to figure out a way to make a living from it. Maybe by 50 I’ll figure it all out?