kingdomexperiences

The Nuances of Bike Travel

By: Quinn Campbell

I squeezed my truck between the trees. Peering past a rain streaked windshield and frantic wiper blades, I looked up at the canopy of evergreen bows which I hoped would shelter my home on wheels from the steadily falling rain. Shifting into park with a sigh, I listed to raindrops, undeterred by the trees above, plopping heavily on the roof. Opening the driver’s door and stepping outside, I surveyed my campsite for the evening. My breath plumed thickly, and the rain, falling ever harder, created a constant backdrop of noise in the otherwise still woods. I spread grime coated riding gear throughout the cab of my Chevrolet Silverado, in a half hearted attempt to dry things out, and worked on accepting the fact that it was going to be a soggy couple days. I chained my bikes to the roofrack, out of habit more than necessity, and grimaced at their perpetual exposure to the elements. Deciding to forgo dinner and avoid the cramped hassle of cooking inside my 78 x 65 inch home, I crawled into the bed of the truck, and called it a night. I lay perfectly still in my sleeping bag. The whine of a few massive British Columbia mosquitos broke through the otherwise continual drone of pounding rain. Wandering in the abyss of thoughts that comes just before sleep, I could hear my dad saying, “Life is all about compromise.” A phrase I’d heard from him on more than one occasion. With that in mind I fell asleep, managing to ignore the mosquitoes and the driving rain and the all-consuming dampness and focus on how good the dirt would be tomorrow afternoon.

A month and a half earlier, I’d left my home of Marshfield, Vermont to embark on a summer long bike trip across the United States and up to Whistler, BC. Like most words of wisdom that are imparted upon us by our parents when we’re young, I’d always taken that phrase with a nod of the head and passed it out my 2nd ear. But nothing gives you more time to reflect than traveling solo across the continent. Miles of solitude, 4,407 of them, to be be exact, gave me plenty of hours to think about the place I call home and the people who’ve given me advice along the way. And at some point in my time behind the steering wheel, I realized that for the most part, if not all the time, our parents really know what they’re talking about. I’m not sure what embodies compromise, and my father’s saying, more than a life on the road in search of pristine singletrack and word class riding destinations.

Mid day snack break.                                                            Whistler, BC.

About a year and a half ago I decided I had to spend a summer in Whistler. But I shortly realized that the only way I could afford to live in Whistler was if I worked essentially every hour of my stay. So I compromised. I gave something up –a house, and the security and comfort that comes with four walls, a roof, and indoor plumbing–  in order to get what I really wanted, the opportunity to rip bikes all day, every day.

For the last three months, and the next two, I’ve lived out of the back of my pickup truck. My bed is 30 inches wide, and not quite long enough for me to stretch out fully on. My clothes live in a bag on the floor and get washed when I notice that people don’t want to ride in the gondola with me. My kitchen is a small cooler, that perpetually smells like beans, a 6 gallon water jug, and a two burner stove that I can almost never find a level spot to use. My shower, the rivers of glacial melt, which are as close to ice as you can actually get without becoming a solid. And Regardless of my craftyness with a silicone gun, it’s always wet inside when it rains.

Life in the woods.

The lack of an actual house trickles down in compromising affect. My bikes live outside, constantly exposed to the elements and in danger of being relieved by a passerby. And I’ll guiltily admit that they don’t receive the same level of kindness as they do at home. Extreme frugality being a side effect of multiple months on the road. When I run out of chain lube, or my suspension wheaps for new seals, I juggle my options and decide that I’d rather have chicken every night. However, I’ve decided that being a little cramped, a lot stinky, and having occasionally clapped-out bikes are all compromises I’m happy to make, because what I get in return is more than worth the hassle.

Tailgate/ table/ work bench.

My days start in the woods. I usually wake up to the sound of morning birds, hidden in the tall British Columbia evergreens. Crawling from my sleeping bag and dropping the tailgate I get to examine the early morning scene. The last month and a half I’ve been watching BC fog lift from the valleys and hover delicately around snow capped peaks. But when I was traveling across the states, my morning view was often a high desert sunrise. The open tailgate and back window framing a masterpiece of watercolor skies and rocky outcroppings still in shadow. And then, while cracking a few eggs into my cast iron pan, I get to decide exactly what I want to do with my day. What trails do I want to ride? What peaks and rivers do I want to explore? Where do I want to drive to? I’m constantly exposed to the new and exciting.

Early morning in the Colorado high desert.  

Each time I park at a trailhead my body fills with the jitters of a kid on Christmas morning. Every new trail a present, full of turns and descents completely different from those in states before. And with every new riding location, I get the opportunity to meet the people who call those trails home. Whether it’s home for a night or two, like me, or where they’ve learned to ride and cultivate an addiction for two wheels and a path of dirt. If I’m lucky, I get to spend an evening around a campfire with people I met hours before. We lounge on tailgates and camp chairs, telling stories of how we got here. Whatever food we’ve found in our funky smelling coolers is mashed together and used to refuel spent legs. When the firewood runs out, or I’m too whooped to fight my drooping eyelids, I’ll crawl into the truck bed and fall asleep, with excitement for the next days adventures. That routine, in my opinion, makes abandoning normalcy and the comforts of home, well worth it.

You never know who you’ll meet. There are rippers everywhere!  

Though I’d highly recommend it, it’s important to note that your bike travel doesn’t need to be a multi month voyage across the continent and into a different country in search of the best trails. Just take a chance, make the compromises required, and give yourself the opportunity to explore something fresh. Put yourself in a situation to make new friends, discover new trails and have a campfire with some strangers. Even if that means letting go of a bed for a few nights, or a house all together.