My (super weird) bike setup

I covered in my last article, How Does a Broke Person Travel, how one can travel on an extreme budget, however, I did not cover how one obtains a vehicle for traveling. You can walk, of course, in which case the only real investment you’d need to put in would be high quality hiking boots. I chose to use a bicycle, which requires a few additional things. You need tools and spare parts, as well as pannier bags or a trailer unless you plan on carrying a backpack on your ride. You can use any bike you’d like, but a touring bike is a definite plus, and I chanced upon an amazing deal at my local bike co-op, BICAS.

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I spent a couple hundred bucks on this, which is great considering that most touring bikes cost up to a thousand dollars or more. The wheels and the inner tubes are secondhand from BICAS, as is the back rack, bottle holders, and handlebar tape. The total sum of every bike accessory I got there most likely doesn’t even total $30. Try finding just one good tire for that price. The front rack was from Amazon, as were my Sunrace friction shifters. I switched from STI brake lever shifters to friction shifters because they are WAAAAYYY cheaper (the set of two cost $12), and are incredibly simple comparatively. My rear shifter is actually broken in half from a wipe-out, so I have electrical tape holding it together. Still shifts like a dream!

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As you can see, it’s not an aesthetically pleasing setup, but it does work. The top bars are crowded by the shifting cables a bit, but I mostly stay on the outside near the hoods anyway so they don’t bother me much. This angle also gives a great look at the state of my bar tape. Being that I am broke, I’ve had to improvise this setup for the most part based on what I could afford. Both the handlebar tape and the electrical tape holding it on has had several lives, enduring the hard abuse I’ve subjected it to as I’ve changed my setup time and time again. Here’s a closer look: WP_20170329_16_04_49_Pro It certainly looks like it could fall apart at any moment, but it’s perfectly comfortable.

So you can probably see that being poor doesn’t stop me from getting what I need to go on an adventure. After all, if you argue for your limitations, they’re yours. Aside from that, when you live on less, it helps you to exercise your creativity and resourcefulness. I’ve run into many obstacles along the way, but I always find my way through, almost like magic. Just when I think all hope is lost, a solution makes itself clear. This isn’t magic, though, it’s human nature. We thrive on challenge, we excel at problem-solving, and we are made to see and use patterns to our advantage. I believe that immersing yourself in nature and living a life of adventure will unlock these features in your mind, because it is what you, I, and every other person on this Earth is made for. These miraculous abilities have become stifled and dulled in our modern society, however the positive side to this is that it took hundreds, if not thousands, of years to stifle these qualities in humans collectively. Individually, you can reawaken these qualities in yourself in just a minute, by going outside and communing with nature.

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How Does a Broke Person Travel?

The answer to the question is actually simple: you travel broke!

Of course, this option sounds like a nightmare to most people, but it’s the method I’m using to travel across the country. Thing is, most of us would assume that if we were to set out on a moneyless adventure, we’d end up in a ditch somewhere starving to death in misery and destitution. The problem with that thought is that it isn’t true, especially here in America. Your main two concerns will be lodging and food. Both of these are easier to manage than you may have thought.

The first thing you may worry about lodging. On this subject, I’d like you to imagine a tribe of nomads wandering through the Sahara desert. Now I’d like you to imagine the look on their faces when one of their tribesmen says “Can we stay at a Motel 8 tonight?”

Obviously they would balk at the idea, because a tribe of nomads would likely understand mountains, rivers, lakes, and woodlands, and they would have understood that our evolutionary features are meant to tango with these geological features. Knowing this will show you that many of our modern amenities are not necessary. If you have a tent, sleeping bag and mat, proper clothing for layering, and just a little know-how, you will never have to worry about where you sleep. Of course, you’ll be cold sometimes, or wet, or otherwise affected in such a way that you will be miserable. However, if you are properly prepared, you will live and learn from the experience. As far as the law goes, I camp wherever I want, in the open or hidden, regardless of arbitrary rules and regs, and I have not once been bothered about it. I also keep a minimal presence, don’t start fires when I’m stealth camping, and I Leave No Trace, so that’s probably gone a long way in helping me.

As far as gear goes, you will need to spend some money on this unless you can trade for or scavenge supplies well enough. You need a shelter, sleeping bag and mat, and proper clothing at the least. I worked in call centers and Walmart for several months to afford these items. You can find work almost everywhere and if you aren’t finding it then you aren’t looking. You can clean a toilet or flip a burger, it won’t kill you and you aren’t a “slave to corporate America” if you are using the system to become free of the system. Corporate America becomes your slave at this point because it no longer owns you. The moment you decide to become self-sufficient and live off the land, you have taken the biggest step forward in freeing yourself from the binds of our modern society.

Finally, food. That’s an important thing, to stay properly fueled as you travel. You’d think that you’d need money for food, but you’re probably forgetting that America is the land of waste, where good food is thrown out by the bucketful. A lot of people look down on this, but I will be the first to tell you that you can have a great quality diet consisting of healthy, delicious foods, and you don’t have to pay a dime for it. So how to do this? Simple: find a Trader Joes, wait for a good time when nobody is watching (remember you aren’t the only one who does this so don’t ruin it for the rest of us with your carelessness), then jump in their dumpster and find all that good food that has past the expiration date but is still perfectly good to eat.

When you are in the wild, you may have to subsist on much less, not because food isn’t plentiful, but because you may not know how to find edible plants and wildlife. First of all, you won’t starve. Going hungry for a few nights or even a whole week does not constitute as starving. Additionally, being kind of hungry actually does some cool things to you. Your mind clears, your body adapts and begins to conserve energy better, and you begin to see colors differently. This change in perception is nature’s defense against starvation, as you can now distinguish, mostly from instinct, what plants around you are edible. Of course you should still not eat wild plants without some idea of what you’re doing. As Terry Pratchett said, “All fungi are edible. Some fungi are only edible once.”

If things ever get really tough and you’re in a survival situation, and you can’t identify edible plants, just remember that most insects are edible. Avoid weird or bright colors, which may indicate toxicity, and avoid spiders. Otherwise, if you carefully over turn rocks and logs, collect a fair amount of beetles, grubs, and other creepy-crawlies, then fry them up in oil with some salt and cayenne pepper, and you’ve got yourself a nutrient rich meal packed with protein. You may be making faces at this thought right now, but if you find yourself in this situation, you need to overcome your sensitivity right away if you stand a chance. When it comes to survival you have only two choices available to you: adapt or die.

I will have more insights to come as I delve into this lifestyle and learn more about it. So far it has provided me with a level of wisdom and freedom I had not yet imagined. I know that this is the right path for me, and if you feel these ideas inciting wanderlust and adventure seeking in yourself, then perhaps you are a fellow gypsy like me. If you think you can’t do this, you’re wrong. Throw away your worldly possessions and join me under the vast blue sky in this big, beautiful world. I promise you won’t regret it.

Bike Tour Itinerary

I’ve just figured up a rough outline of the route I’ll be taking on my tour, the distances involved, and how long it will take. The route itself is based off of Google Maps searches, so my actual route will almost certainly be somewhat different, but I am hoping to hit all the destinations listed. The times vary quite a bit based on average distance traveled daily, weather conditions, and personal preferences. I’ve figured that I would ride approximately 30 to 60 miles a day.

After figuring it all up, I can see that this is even more daunting than I had thought previously. The distance totals to over five thousand miles, and the time it will take could be up to 5 months or more. The terrain is not easy and the roads are not all made especially for bikes. This is a big trip. However, I am not deterred in any way. If anything, I can see that this is a worthy challenge for me to undertake, be it grueling, treacherous, or frightening. This is a part of the 80/20 rule. Adventure cycling is 20% physical and 80% mental. If I can get past the mental obstacles in my way, I think I’ll find that the physical challenge is more bearable than I had anticipated.

Departure                 Destination               Distance   ETA
Tucson, AZ                Phoenix, AZ              117 mi      2-4 days
Phoenix, AZ              Los Angeles, CA       412 mi      6-14 days
Los Angeles, CA       San Francisco           450 mi     8-15 days
San Francisco, CA   Portland, OR             711 mi     11-24 days
Portland, OR             Seattle, WA              194 mi      3-6 days
Seattle, WA               Missoula, MT           563 mi      9-13 days
Missoula, MT            Billings, MT             348 mi      6-12 days
Billings, MT              Yellowstone, WY     350 mi     6-12 days
Yellowstone, WY     Salt Lake City, UT   365 mi      6-12 days
Salt Lake City           Boulder, CO             494 mi      8-16 days
Boulder, CO              Denver, CO               30 mi        1 day
Denver, CO               Colorado Springs    86 mi         1-3 days
Colorado Springs    Grand Canyon         609 mi       10-20 days
Grand Canyon, AZ  Flagstaff, AZ             89 mi        1-3 days
Flagstaff, AZ             Tucson, AZ               276 mi       4-9 days
Total Distance      Total Time
5094 mi        82-154 days

Current Status

As of now, it is almost April of 2017, and I plan on leaving for my tour within the next month or two. In this time, I need to raise enough money to support myself, obtain all the gear needed to survive, and plan out my trip as much as possible. I’ve been practicing my knot tying and tarp setup skills, as well as testing all new gear I get to make sure it will stand up to my standards for when I’m remote camping and can’t get to a town readily.

So far, I have some good gear. I’ve got an excellent military style hiking backpack which holds an amazing amount of stuff (pictured below). Inside there is a camo tarp, a bivy tent, a hammock setup, and some other gear and sundries. I have a good selection of knives and a solid hatchet, but I do need a whetstone and a honing steel. Other things I need are:

  • An actual camp shovel (the plastic trowel is next to useless in the baked desert sand)
  • A folding saw
  • A camp stove that can use gasoline and other easy to find fuel sources
  • An emergency pop-up shelter
  • An emergency radio transmitter and receiver
  • Probably should replace my cheap plastic tarp with a nylon tarpaulin
  • More rope and paracord
  • A water reservoir that can hold at least one gallon

I am absolutely sure that is not a complete list, but for now that seems to be the most important gear I need before I set out. I can always use suggestions for gear such as what to take and which manufacturers to buy from. Once I have a full list of all my gear I’ll post that with pictures to show my entire setup off and on the bike. Perhaps if I do this someone who knows more than me can come along and give me some good pointers. I’ve never done anything like this so I expect to have plenty of room for improvement!

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The Journey

This journey starts in Tucson, where I have come to live for about eight months now. I have loved every moment I’ve spent in this wonderful town, and it has inspired me to follow my dreams to live off the land and travel the world. My first bicycle tour, which I am currently in the process of planning, will take me from Tucson to Los Angeles, where I will start going north up the California coastline. I will continue up to Seattle, where I will likely stay for a couple of weeks to enjoy the city life there. Then I will start going south, through the Colorado mountains, back down to Arizona where I will visit my birth town of Flagstaff, and then the Grand Canyon. Then I’ll be headed back to Tucson, where I will most likely start planning my next tour, which may be a trans-continental trip from the West Coast of America to the East Coast.

Along the way I’ll update this blog with progress, pictures, stories, ideas, and thoughts. Once I have a full itinerary written out, I’ll post that along with my plotted route. This way, not only do interested viewers know what I’m up to, but it may also open up possible opportunities for help on the trip. Some viewers may see that I will be passing near their area and decide to contact me for lodging possibilities such as places to camp or take showers. Other cyclists and tourists may decide to join up for sections of my trip so that I’m not in complete isolation the whole way through. Some people may have good ideas for detours and side trips that I might take in certain areas, and I’d gladly consider any ideas expressed to me.

In any case, I’d like to document the trip for my own purposes, so that I may learn from my own experiences and have some references for future trips. I’m absolutely confident that this will be a life-changing experience for me, and I can only hope that it may reach someone else who wants to follow their dreams, but doesn’t think they can do it. I fully believe that anyone can choose to follow what makes them happy, whether it’s getting a dream job or living in the dirt making fire with sticks. This will be my contribution towards that concept. Let this serve as inspiration to pursue your own dreams in life, whatever they may be.