On March 1, 2014, I headed to Monrovia, CA and braved the storm in Los Angeles along with about thirty others who were interested in hearing Johnny Lam and Errin Vasquez talk about bike touring. It was great to see many other women there. I did not know exactly what to expect, other than learning if bike touring was something I could really do. I mean, it is something that is definitely in the back of my mind, but after seeing two extremes, I am much more confident that this is something I can accomplish. In fact, I have already begun thinking about the plans for my first bike touring trip. The class answered a lot of my questions, but also left me thinking about more things I would need to learn and how I could apply the experiences Johnny and Errin shared to what I want to do personally.
The class really helped me think about what I would need to make a trip like this happen, and it really helped that Johnny and Errin had completely different approaches to bike touring. While Errin was more DIY, Johnny was more REI. I gained valuable lessons from both approaches. I think one of the most important lessons I took from all of it was, that anything I bring, I am carrying with me. That means that the really cool trailer/tent thing I saw on Pinterest a year ago is completely out of the question. Both Johnny and Errin made it pretty clear that carrying something like that with me is going to be more trouble than it is worth. Especially if there is a lot of climbing on my trip. So when I take my trip, I am really contemplating what my sleeping accommodations will be. Will I take a page from Errin’s book and find a nice place under a tree to put my sleeping bag? Or will I get a small tent to have shelter from any storms that may come my way? Personally, I think it is worth the trouble to bring something light and easy for shelter and protection from some pesky mosquitos. I liked that Johnny showed how he could fit both his sleeping bag and a small tent on a rack on the back of his bicycle, and I will very likely copy his exact approach. On top of the neatly packed tent and sleeping bag, Johnny also had a container that he strapped on to carry several gallons of water. Since I drink a lot of water in general, I will definitely be copying this part of the set up as well.
What About Coffee?
With water comes food, both Johnny and Errin had small stoves for heating up water, which only made me wonder about how they each solved their problem of getting coffee. Being the coffee snob that I am, I will have to definitely look into getting a small French press. It may sound silly, but this is probably the most important item for me to carry if I am going to be spending the night somewhere. I also either need to learn how to drink my coffee black, or figure out a way to keep my almond milk cold. But the whole set up got me thinking about what kind of food would be easiest for me to pack. Am I willing to eat a cold burrito like Errin? I mean, biking definitely makes you hungry, but what would be easiest and lightest to pack for food that I can just grab and go? Johnny brings oatmeal, but I am not a huge fan of that. I eat a lot of fruit, but that can get heavy. How much food can I fit in one pannier? And will I take the lead from Johnny and organize all of my things by “room” using one bag for the kitchen, one bag for the bedroom, another for the living room and have a garage bag? I do not have the front racks that Johnny has, so maybe a frame bag like the one Errin made would better suit my storage needs beyond the two panniers I would be able to carry on the set up I have now.
“You Bring It. You Carry It.”
With food and kitchen type items in one pannier, I would put my bedroom items in the other. I would also try to take a lead from both Johnny and Errin and make sure that what I do bring with me can serve multiple purposes. I will also have to look into getting clothing items that are made from wool. According to both Johnny and Errin, items made from it do not smell, so this will definitely be good to remember on a several day bike tour. It was nice to see that Johnny carried wipes as that is something I keep in my bag regardless for my daily commutes. Also, given that both are gentlemen, we really did not touch on any type of female products, so I will have to consider whether I want to wear or even bring make-up. How will I put it on? Will I be able to find places to wash my face and brush my teeth? What if I want to do something wherever I go, how will I do away with the helmet hair? I mean, it seems illogical to bring my flat iron and hair dryer for the trip. I am already telling myself this new mantra, “you bring it, you carry it.”
I think that, like Johnny and Errin, my style will evolve from trip to trip, but they both definitely inspired me to realize that this is something I could plan out and maybe even do in the next month or two if I wanted to. I really do not need any special equipment, I already have one pannier, I just need another and a way to carry a lot more water. Some of the Adventure Cycling maps wouldn’t hurt and neither would a way to charge my cell phone sustainably. One other thing I took from this class was that I can pretty much make anything. If I need a homemade cell charger, Pinterest and Google are merely a few clicks away to teach me. I expect that my first bicycling tour is only a few months away at best. I am ready to put my bike and my body to the test and see where my legs can take me, what I will see and what I will learn from the experience.