Earlier this month, I spent some time with a very well-known bicycle tourist, Darren Alff of Bicycle Touring Pro. Darren has been traveling since he was 17 years old and has been on the road for extensive amounts of time. He’s been through 40 different countries and biked over 100,000+ miles in the process. Even though his accomplishments would be considered an incredible feat, he was a very humble individual whose passion for bicycle touring is evident the moment we first met.
I arrived in Oxnard on April 4, 2014 after pedaling over 28 miles from my Adventure Cycling Association LTC training in Buellton, California to the train station in Surf, California. My Amtrak train stop was supposed to drop me off at Camarillo, but a fatality on the track terminated the southbound train at Oxnard. I let Darren know of my minor hiccup in travel, and he suggested we meet half-way between the Camarillo and Oxnard station. I proceeded east while he proceeded west, and we met at one of the fresh fruit stands on the side of the road next to one of the many farm lands.
A Riding We Will Go
As soon as we greeted one another, we set off towards a local college in Ventura County, the California State University of Channel Islands (CSUCI). We talked about bike touring and he was intrigued about my LTC training. To my surprise, he told me he went through LTC training a while back with Adventure Cycling Association. This took place a long time ago when bicycle touring was not as mainstream as it is right now. He didn’t like the group mentality and preferred to travel alone. The loss of flexibility was his biggest concern as he liked to have side adventures when the occasion called for it. I can see his point, but I guess I don’t have such strong opinions about it as I usually go with the flow and really don’t mind staying on track with the plan…but I digress.
Before we reached CSUCI, we took a quick stop over at what is called the “Scary Dairy.” Apparently, this abandoned structure was once a thriving dairy farm back in the days, but it is now a fenced-off abandoned building overrunned by random graffiti, broken windows, and permanent holes in the roof. I wondered why the city did not tear this down. I suppose this may have been because of budgetary reasons. Darren took a few photos of me. I might add that these were really good photographs which I’ve downloaded and may use for official promotional purpose in the future.
We finally rode into CSUCI. It was my first time there so I was amazed how clean the campus was. Students were shuffling from one class to the next as we rode the quiet 2 lane roads through the campus. Darren also had the chance to take some great shots of us riding. We finally came to an open area where I decided to have our interview. In this interview, I ask how he packs for his tours, how he picks his tours, and where he is planning on going next. Check out the 5 minute video below.
The Interview Video
As you can see, his packing philosophy and travel preferences are unique to his own needs. I was rather surprised that he doesn’t bring a stove or cooking utensils. I was even more surprised to learn that he rents rooms rather than roughing it like many bicycle tourists would do. This goes to show that people will do what they want and there isn’t a right or wrong way of doing it.
Food and Activities
Darren then took me to his local favorite restaurant called Olas in Camarillo. This is a Mexican restaurant in which Darren daydreams about whenever he is on his travel. I bought him lunch for his hospitality and we enjoyed it at a nearby park. After our late lunch, we biked through parts of Camarillo that I haven’t been through and stopped by his parent’s house. He graciously offered to drive me back home if I joined him for a 7:30PM showing of Bicycle Film Festival. We had a great time getting to Downtown Los Angeles even with the bad Friday traffic. After our film, my bike, panniers and I were transported home. I couldn’t thank him enough for the ride and the company. We’ll be hanging out again for some trampoline dodgeball in a few weeks. I can’t wait!