6.07.2011

THE FIRST YEAR

It's hard to believe we've been wheeling ourselves around the world for a year already, but alas, the date we left our home and life in California has once again returned to our calendars. Usually it feels like the year has flown by, like we left only a few weeks ago but as we sit and reflect on where the past year has taken us and think about individual experiences and memories it feels like we've been out here for a very long time. It's certainly been an eventful and memorable year; sometimes the adventure was so frustrating and far from fun that we would have done almost anything to get off our bikes and return to our comfortable home, friends and jobs. Those times are easy for us to pick out in our minds. Mike's least favorite day was in Patagonia when we opted to ride at night to El Calafate, Argentina in hopes of avoiding the horrendous daytime winds. However, we were still met with a nasty headwind, it was cold, we were running on no sleep and had to wear our sunglasses in the dark to protect our already wind burnt eyes, focusing on the white road lines 2 feet in front of us as we moved at a snail's pace. I have never seen Mike so exhausted, physically or mentally, as when we finally arrived in El Calafate at 6:00 in the morning. For me, my least favorite times were many along the first half of the Carretera Austral in South America. The lose gravel and washboard roads made my life miserable for a couple of weeks. I hated every minute of it, wanted to quit and go home, had at least one daily breakdown and frequently threw a tantrum and walked my bike. I will hope to never have to ride in those conditions again.

But aside from our few individual shining moments, the adventure has been fantastic. It's not as easy to pick out a favorite day. There have been far too many and therefore is impossible to distinguish one that stands out above the others. We have seen places we never thought we'd see, met people and made friends from around the globe and ultimately it has been one of the most wonderful years of our lives.

Not much has changed since we began this adventure. We're both a little more grungy, our bikes and gear are looking tattered and worn, our upper bodies, which haven't had to do any work in a year are embarrassingly out of shape and our hair is significantly longer than it was when we left. It's down to the middle of our shoulder blades and I have to braid Mike's hair in the mornings to keep his wild mop of curls from turning into dreadlocks. I can honestly say I never thought I'd be doing my boyfriend's hair for him!

The things that have changed are the ways in which we bike tour. It's been a learning process as we've gone along and we're continually figuring out how to make living on bikes less expensive and more enjoyable. Daily mileage is no longer a priority. I don't know why we were so obsessed about putting in high mileage everyday while we were in the U.S., but we were. We'd be disappointed after a day of riding if we didn't break 60 miles, but not anymore. Enjoyment is much more important than how far we go so if one of us is tired, the weather is crummy or the terrain is beating us, we have no problem quitting early for the day, which is the way it should be when you get the opportunity to travel without a schedule.

We've become pro's at “wild camping.” We rarely camped for free during the first few weeks of our trip. There were private property signs and fences everywhere and the fear of getting caught doing something “wrong” landed us in campgrounds where, though we weren't paying much for lodging, still added up over time. It has been a long time since we've paid for camping. We've climbed fences and tucked ourselves away for a night in hundreds of places we knew we weren't supposed to be but no longer do we fear being caught. Rather, once we spot a tentative location for camp, we both get off our bikes, go tramping around like we own the forest until one of us finds a place that will suffice and there we make our home for the night. I'm actually surprised we haven't been discovered and kicked out of camp in the middle of the night, but I'm sure at some point that night will come.

We have learned to live very cheaply. When we started out, we really had no idea how much money it would take everyday to travel on a bicycle but we had a goal of keeping our average daily cost to less than $50. We weren't very good in the U.S. as we paid for several campgrounds and hotels along the way and we had a horrible habit of succumbing to the temptation of buying Dairy Queen ice cream on a near daily basis. We greatly improved throughout South America since there weren't all sorts of tasty treats for us to buy and thankfully our frugal habits then carried over into Europe where we were told travel would be very expensive. However, our spending habits coupled with the extensive network of Warmshowers houses available for us to stay at every once in a while when we're dying for a shower has actually made Europe one of the cheapest places of our trip. It feels great to not spend money and we're proud to say that we've spent less in this entire year on the road than what we would have paid for a measly 10 months of rent for the house in which we were living.

We have become very comfortable with using public facilities for our own personal use. The strange looks and stares we get from locals or other tourists passing by as we hand wash our laundry or dishes at a public fountain are hilarious but then we think of how we'd react if we saw some foreigner doing the same thing back home and we'd likely have the same reaction. McDonald's typically has free wifi and more than once set up our little office in a corner of the restaurant and spent an afternoon or rainy day writing emails or working on the blog. Restrooms at fast food restaurants or gas stations also make for easy places to do our laundry as well as shampoo and condition our hair when we're in dire need. There was one time in Spain when we each spent a half an hour in a gas station restroom washing our hair. The gas station worker looked somewhat baffled when we each walked out with a towel on our head and then proceeded to comb our hair in the parking lot. Our behaviors may be a bit socially unacceptable but when you don't have the conveniences of a house to take care of some pretty basic needs you have to find alternative ways to do what you have to do.

When we first started out, a year sounded like an eternity. We had no idea how long we'd enjoy living on bicycles, but in the back of our minds we both estimated we'd be getting ready to go home after about a year, or maybe 10,000 miles which sounded ridiculously far and unattainable at the time. Well, we cruised right on through 10,000 miles and we're going to cruise right on through the 1-year mark as well with no intention of calling it quits in the near future. There's still too much of the world to see and as long as we still have a few bucks in the bank, healthy bodies and the desire to see what's around the next corner or over the next mountain we're going to keep going. We thank all of the people we have met during this year, making it enjoyable and memorable, all of the people who have helped us out financially; we've learned to make every dollar last, and all of the people who have urged us to continue, telling us that told us we're an inspiration, that we're living their dream; it makes us realize how lucky we are to be living our dream as well. We can only hope that the next year of Life On A Bike will be as wonderful as the first.


10 THINGS WE MISS THE MOST: Obviously the number one thing we miss is our families and friends, that goes without saying. We miss them beyond imagination and think about those people and how much of their lives we're missing out on every day, so I guess this is technically our top 11.
10. Mike - Running
     Cari – Wearing clean clothes
9. Mike – Wearing clean clothes
     Cari – Sleeping in a bed
8. Mike – Road biking
     Cari – Sitting on a chair and at a table to eat
7. Mike – Drinking COLD beer
     Cari – Showering whenever I want/need to
6. Mike – Showering daily
     Cari – Racing triathlons
5. Mike – Sleeping in a bed
     Cari – Salads
4. Mike – Simply having time to relax/do nothing
     Cari – Speaking English/being able to easily communicate with those around me
3. Mike – Going to the gym
     Cari – Having a kitchen so I can cook and bake
2. Mike - Swimming
     Cari – Tofu
1. Mike – Carnitas burritos from Los Charros
     Cari – Exercise other than cycling, especially swimming and working out at the gym.


THE BOOKS WE'VE READ: Unfortunately most of our books come from book exchanges and the English options are usually rather limited.
MIKE – Perfect Storm, Of Mice and Men, The Art of Racing in the Rain, Stolen Away, Jurassic Park, Zeitoun, Pirate Latitudes, Congo, Annapurna, Bringing Down the House, The Open Veins of Latin America, Apollo 13, No Country for Old Men, The Road, Swan Peak, Twilight Eyes, The Trail to Titicaca

CARI – Stolen Away, The Art of Racing in the Rain, Motorcycle Diaries, Of Mice and Men, The Runaway Jury, Two Old Women, The Snow Walker, Same Kind of Different As Me, Zeitoun, Bringing Down the House, The Glass Castle, No Country for Old Men, The Road, A Painted House, The Trail to Titicaca, Sacred Hoops, Swan Peak, The Help, Naked, A Prayer for Owen Meany


The remainder of this post is mostly fun facts from our first year on the road, compiled from the meticulous record we've kept of our trip.

TOTAL NUMBER OF DAYS ON THE ROAD: 364 (it was a leap year)

TOTAL DISTANCE RIDDEN: 10,685.3 miles (17,196.3 kilometers)

NUMBER OF DAYS RIDDEN: 206

AVERAGE MILES/DAY : 51.9 miles ( 83.5 kilometers)

AVERAGE SPEED: 11 mph

ESTIMATED NUMBER OF PEDAL STROKES: 4,274,120

HIGHEST SPEED RECORDED: 48.6 mph (descending from Mount Rushmore in Keystone, South Dakota)

LONGEST DISTANCE CYCLED IN ONE DAY: 137.5 miles (Huron, South Dakota to Marshall, MN)

SHORTEST DISTANCE CYCLED IN ONE DAY: 4.0 miles (from a campground in Sula, Montana to the banks of the Bitterroot River to find a free place to stay and take a rest day)

MOST CONSECUTIVE DAYS OF RIDING WITHOUT A COMPLETE DAY OFF: 16 (once in North America and once in Europe)

FURTHEST CONSECUTIVE DISTANCE RIDDEN WITHOUT A COMPLETE DAY OFF: 1004.1 miles (Urbana, Illinois to Narrowsburg, New York)

MOST NUMBER OF DAYS WITHOUT A SHOWER: 9

HIGHEST MOUNTAIN PASS: 9,137 ft. (Portete, Ecuador)

LOWEST ELEVATION: 2 ft. below sea level (flooded by the tide in Puerto Puyuhuapi, Chile)

WINDIEST DAY OF CYCLING: estimated 60-65 mph cross wind between El Chalten and El Calefate, Argentina

HOTTEST DAY OF CYCLING: 105 degrees F (Pierre, South Dakota)

COLDEST DAY OF CYCLING: 32 degrees F (Port D' Envalira, Andorra)

NUMBER OF MOUNTAIN PASSES OVER 3,000 FEET (that means it took at least 2 hours of sustained climbing to reach the pass): 26

NUMBER OF FLAT TIRES:
MIKE – 13
CARI – 10

OTHER BREAKDOWNS:
MIKE – 1 broken chain, 1 broken derailleur and 5 broken spokes

NUMBER OF TIRES WE'VE WORN OUT: 6

NUMBER OF CRASHES/WIPEOUTS (a crash is defined by us as a high speed, painful disaster. A wipe-out is defined by us as a time when you're going very slowly, usually not paying attention and the fall causes much more embarrassment than pain):
MIKE – 0 crashes and 2 wipe-outs
CARI – 1 crash and 2 wipe-outs

NUMBER OF TIMES HITCHHIKED: 10

NUMBER OF FERRIES TAKEN: 6

NUMBER OF NIGHTS SPENT IN A HOUSE: 105

NUMBER OF NIGHTS SPENT IN A HOTEL/HOSTEL: 51

NUMBER OF NIGHTS SPENT ON AN AIRPLANE: 2

NUMBER OF NIGHTS SPENT IN AN AIRPORT: 4

NUMBER OF NIGHTS SPENT ON A BOAT: 11

NUMBER OF NIGHTS SPENT ON A BUS: 5

NUMBER OF NIGHTS SPENT IN A TENT: 188
WILD CAMPING: 152
PAID CAMPING: 36

PERCENTAGE OF OUR MONEY SPENT ON FOOD: 33.2%

PERCENTAGE OF OUR MONEY SPENT ON LODGING: 7.7%

PERCENTAGE OF OUR MONEY SPENT ON BIKE PARTS: 7.0%

PERCENTAGE OF OUR MONEY SPENT ON TRANSPORTATION: 29.2%

PERCENTAGE OF OUR MONEY SPENT ON ENTERTAINMENT: 9.9%

PERCENTAGE OF OUR MONEY SPENT ON SUPPLIES (defined as essential things we need like toiletries, clothing, fuel for our stove, maps, etc.): 7.0%

PERCENTAGE OF OUR MONEY SPENT ON MISCELLANEOUS THINGS (defined as things that aren't essential, like souvenirs, postage, postcards, etc.): 6.0%

COUNTRIES VISITED: United States, Canada, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Japan*, Portugal, Spain, Andorra, France, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Czech Republic

6 comments:

Leslie said...

Michael,
You made fun of me for alphabetizing my DVDs. Miss you. Keep hving a great time. Oh and by the percentage spent on miscellaneous things, you have clearly NOT sent enough postcards to your sister.

sassydeshi said...

Still bringing a smile to our faces after a year of riding..... I can say that I miss you guys like crazy but I am always in awe at the adventures and challenges that you share in the blog. I love that it has been cheaper for you to be on the bikes than to have paid rent for 10 months. I hope that funds keep you biking for as long as your hearts desire. We love and miss you guys.
Steph, Ethan, Addie, Spencer and ....

Mom said...

People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don't believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can't find them, make them. ~G.B. Shaw
Keep making your circumstances! We applaud you, love you, and miss you! Your accomplishments will forever mark your world. Love you bunches!!!

Anonymous said...

Cari, the closet statistician - or is it Mike? You go! In your name, I will embrace my clean bed, bath towel, and kitchen table! Long may you run (ride)! - Bob

Bryce Wend said...

Hi Cari and Mike, congratulations on reaching your 1-year milestone! We've really enjoyed reading about your adventure and wish you the best of luck on your next leg. Thanks for being such an inspiration!
Best, Bryce and Casey Wend

Amaya said...

Congratulations on making it through your first year of bicycle touring. From the sound of things, you two are addicted. Keep on pedaling strong and have fun seeing the world from the seat of your bikes.