Adventure Prep, Fellowship of the Wheel, Spotlight

Help Us Launch the Fellowship of the Wheel

Fellowship of the Wheel bicycle

I’ve never been a whiz with videos. I can write, I can draw, I can even kind of sing—but shooting and editing videos is just not something I grew up doing. That’s why I’m particularly proud of the one I just shot for the Fellowship of the Wheel funding campaign. Once it was edited and live, I sent it to a few friends to get their reaction, and the consensus was “it’s cute!” (That’s a lot better than the consensus for my last video, which was “you need a better microphone.”)

This campaign aims to raise at least $1,200 to cover costs such as a support vehicle in the border region, a portable wi-fi device and more pre-adventure training. The goal is to keep us safe and keep our risks to a minimum.

Many thanks to all of you over the past week as I planned the campaign; your comments on the prospective rewards, both here on the site and privately, have been immensely helpful. I made a few small changes to the rewards list and I believe we’re offering some very gratifying perks to contributors. The goal with almost all of them is to help our supporters feel closer to the Adventure and participate in it from home.

I hope you’ll take a look at the campaign, check out my attempt at a video, and consider throwing your support behind us as we gear up. And, of course, please share the campaign link with as many people as possible to help increase awareness. Click here to take a look.

Thank you!

 

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Adventure Prep, Fellowship of the Wheel

What Do You Think of These Rewards?

Yesterday I asked for help choosing rewards for a Fellowship of the Wheel crowdfunding campaign. The funds we raise will help defray group expenses, like a support vehicle that will help us stay safe in the riskiest leg of the adventure.

After a lot of thought and many good suggestions, I have a draft list of rewards. What do you think?

$1 – Moving Thank You

Your name is inscribed in a booklet and carried across Mexico, traveling with me on my bike! I will say “thank you” over it every day. (Okay, I might forget some days, but it will definitely be a lot of thank yous.) It’s almost like you make the whole journey with us, but with less sweat.

$15 – Behind the Scenes

You get the Moving Thank You PLUS you receive exclusive access to a weekly video log, posted at every rest stop (10 videos total). You will see firsthand our triumphs and challenges every step of the way.

$25 – Story Collection

The Moving Thank You and Behind the Scenes PLUS you receive advanced supporters-only digital copies of four short stories written during the journey, inspired by the places we visit and the people we meet. These stories will bear my signature “magical realism” style and tell the tales of the secret places of Mexico.

$35 – Post Card

What is better than a handwritten postcard from a wanderer in a faraway land? You get the Moving Thank You AND I will send you one post card from Mexico, in my own sloppy but adorable handwriting.

$50 – Take Me With You!

You get EVERYTHING ABOVE! One post card, all the stories, all the video logs, and we carry your name across a nation. Stop stalking us!!

$50 – Blessings to the Wind

Moving Thank You PLUS name the person or cause you want blessed. I will perform two offerings for you: one to the sky gods at the famous pyramid of Chichén Itzá, and one to the chthonic gods at the underground river (cenote) beneath Valladolid. I reserve veto power so don’t ask me to pray for Hitler!

$75 – Moar Adventure

You just can’t get enough, can you? You get EVERYTHING above, the post card, the stories, the videos, your name carried 2000 miles, AND I make offerings for the cause of your choice at two of the spiritual wonders of the world. Are you satisfied yet??

$100 – Pen Pal

You get MOAR ADVENTURE and I will send you a full handwritten letter in addition to the postcard. I don’t write chit-chat, it will be good. It will be at least one page long and likely several, as I write until my poor millennial hand cramps up.

$150 – Autographed, Inscribed Adventuring Shirt

This is THE t-shirt I wore every day while I cycled all 1,800 miles of the Mississippi River, from the source to the Gulf. It’s an irreplaceable World Domination Summit shirt from the first ever WDS. At that conference I told the camera I was going to live my dream by bicycling the Mississippi River, then I put on that shirt and did it. This shirt is faded, stained, worn down and was with me every minute.

I have hand inscribed the shirt with an adventure quote in gold ink, and will autograph it for you. It will arrive framed and ready to hang (or wear). Plus, you get everything in Moar Adventure.

Me setting off in the t-shirt in question. Photo by my mom!

Me setting off in the t-shirt in question. Photo by my mom!

$150 – Autographed, Inscribed Adventuring Shirt (Texas Edition)

After I did the Mississippi, I turned west toward Texas and the Mexico border. This time my cycling shirt was a custom-made Rogue Priest baseball tee, with long sleeves to protect from the sun. You will be the proud owner of THAT SHIRT! The night that I crossed a train bridge and had to race a speeding train, I wrote this shirt. You can still smell the fear maybe.

This will arrived hand inscribed with a different adventure quote in gold ink, autographed for you, and framed for display (or ready to wear). Plus everything in Moar Adventure!

$200 – Digital BFF

You get everything in Moar Adventure PLUS I will video call you from the road. This is not a quick hello call, this is a one hour video call (or two half hours, your preference) from the road on the ride across Mexico (I mean, I will be sitting down, not actually ON the bike… you get the idea). We can talk about anything you want or I can just tell you the latest crazy misadventures. What is it like talking to someone in the field on a real adventure? This is your chance to find out!

$250 – Vodou

Did you know we practice Vodou in New Orleans? You get everything in Moar Adventure PLUS I will send you a hand painted, ritually blessed piece of Vodou (voodoo) artwork. I paint veve’s, which are ritual symbols used to invoke the spirits of Vodou. You will receive one 10 x 13″ veve on handmade paper loaded with good juju. You can pick the spirit or I can let the spirits choose. I will prep this veve for “activation” to bring the spirit into your life, or just leave it as a nice piece of art. Your call!

$500 – Masterpiece Vodou

Everything in Moar Adventure PLUS one full size Vodou veve painting on canvas. This will be a layered, splattered, energetic piece of artwork in bright Creole colors. You can choose the spirit or I will ask them for you, and I can ritually prep it for “activation” if you want to bring the spirit into your life. Would fit perfectly over a home shrine or just use it as a one of a kind piece of artwork, painted by a real New Orleans Vodou initiate (that’s me).

$1000 – Personal Adventure

Wanna have an adventure, but don’t want to bicycle across Latin America? Come to the most Latin city in the US and let me be your guide. You get everything in Moar Adventure, plus I will be your personal tour guide for a full day and evening of exploring New Orleans. We can bike it, walk it, streetcar it or drive it… and I will tailor the adventure to your tastes. I can show you a hidden boardwalk through a silent bayou where I guarantee you’ll see alligators. Or we can explore beautiful bars, great restaurants and unforgettable music. We can even coordinate it so you can attend a real Vodou ceremony at a local temple.

You pay your own travel costs, and I will make sure you see a side of New Orleans most visitors never see.

Please leave a comment and tell me what you think of these rewards. In particular I wonder two things: which of these rewards do you like the most? And do the dollar amounts seem right for them?

Your comments will help me make the strongest list of rewards possible, so I hope you’ll take a moment to share your thoughts. What do you think?

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Adventure Prep, Fellowship of the Wheel

Bringing the Fellowship to Life

“I’m really excited about the prospect of exploring Mexico, rediscovering biking, meeting new people and doing some good thinking and talking and breathing.”

That’s a comment from one of my potential co-adventurers for the Fellowship of the Wheel. I’ve spent pretty much all my waking time over the last two weeks working on, thinking about, or promoting the Fellowship—and it seems to be paying off.

We have a small roster of interested folks now. Pixi, whom you may remember from the Texas ride, signed up from the beginning; she’ll be doing at least the first leg with me and as many more legs as possible. Then I got word from two personal friends of mine, separately, who are both interested in the last leg or two of the trip. And just in the past 24 hours I’ve had four (!) total strangers contact me declaring their interest.

This is exciting.

Photo by Lili Vieira de Carvalho

Meanwhile I’m working on logistics. Joining us on the Fellowship is completely free (you pay your own travel costs), but there are expenses I’ll need to cover. That has me considering a Kickstarter campaign so that I don’t have to pay entirely out of pocket. These expenses include:

  • Support car. During the first three days, I’m planning to have a support vehicle tail us. That way if we have a mechanical problem we can get a ride to town before dark. $300.
  • Fuel. $350.
  • Wi-fi. During our break days I will be catching up with clients and working, which requires wi-fi. Although internet is pretty ubiquitous in Mexico, I don’t like to take chances. I plan to invest in a portable wi-fi device, likely a dongle from local carrier Telcel. $100.
  • Data plan. $200.
  • Training & education. It’s been suggested to me that now would be a good time to take classes on bicycling safety and bike repair. The more knowledge I have once we’re on the road, the better. $250.

That’s a total of $1200 to crowdfund. Is that doable? I’d like to think it is, but I’d love your suggestions about what kinds of rewards to offer. The ideal Kickstarter rewards are things that aren’t physical, so that there’s little cost involved in delivering them: perhaps exclusive access to a video log of the journey, for instance. I was also thinking postcards from Mexico would be a good reward, and at higher levels we could do physical things as well. But those are just some basic ideas. What would you like to see as a reward for people who support the Fellowship?

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Adventure, Adventure Prep, Ask Me Anything

Advice for a confused dreamer?

Diego asked:

I just decided to take a break for four months to go travelling in Asia. My younger self applauds my decision, but at 29 I have this niggling feeling at the back of my mind that I’m somehow trying to escape. I’m not one to be influenced by others as we all leave our lives differently, but I still find it difficult to fully ignore the fact that others now seem to have it “sorted out”.

The question is, what advice would you have for this slightly confused dreamer who’s about to leave a pretty stable job to try and find some adventure and maybe even some purpose?

Are you really trying to escape? I felt this way when I started but very fleetingly—mainly just because other people told me I must be “running away.” But I never really felt that. I felt I was running toward something.

My advice for someone about to leave their stable job is to make very, very sure you have enough savings to make your new start. I left my old job on a deadline I had set for myself, but it would have been smarter to wait one year longer. I wasn’t willing to do that, and I don’t regret it, but I probably wouldn’t have regretted having a better starting situation either. It took me two years to build up a good freelancing income and finances are still precarious sometimes.

Adventures are always more fun when you know you can eat, sleep somewhere safe, and survive a few months between jobs/clients.

But ultimately it’s all up to you. If you believe the time is right, then no one else can tell you it’s the wrong time to go.

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Adventure Prep, Bicycling, Mexico, The Great Adventure, Travel

Here Are the Dates for Biking Across Mexico

Finally! I’m excited to announce the route and dates for the Fellowship of the Wheel, a group bicycling trip across Mexico. We will wander, we will make new friends, we will eat new foods and maybe we’ll even learn a little about the purpose of life… at least, that’s the plan.

Although this kid seems to have a head start. Photo by Jorge Organista.

The whole trip will take 80 days. Most people can’t take that long off of work, so I’ve broken it down into much smaller segments. You can come along for as little as three days of riding, the whole two and a half months, or anywhere in between.

Each segment ends with a few rest days, so we have a buffer if we fall behind. Here are all ten segments:

#1: The Border Dash

You’ll get to see three Mexican states. The terrain will be wide open scrub land, and we will cross a mountain range on the third day!

  • Starts Saturday, November 8 from Nuevo Laredo.
  • 3 riding days totaling 205 miles. Map.
  • This section is for experienced cyclists.. The first day will be 80 miles and then about 65 on the second and third days.
  • This is the most intense segment of the trip. Because the border area is dangerous, we will cross it as quickly as possible and sleep in hotels at night. You should read the safety information at the end of this post.

We will then take three rest days in Arteaga, a pretty town of 6,000 people on the outskirts of the major city of Saltillo.

#2: Dust Country 
  • Starts November 14 in Arteaga, COAH.
  • 4 riding days and 183 miles. Map.
  • The first day will be an easy 25 miles. The longest one will be 64 miles, then 45 mile days after that. It is gentle, flat terrain.
  • We will pass through some small rural towns and likely camp out in the town centers near churches.

We will end in Matehuala, which is near the famous desert town of Real de Catorce known for the shamanic traditions of the Huichol natives. There is a bus from Matehuala to Real de Catorce which we can take during our three rest days.

Real de Catorce has internet! I’m hoping we see this sign a lot on our trip. Photo by Michael R. Swigart.

#3: The Midlands
  • Starts November 21 in Matehuala, SLP.
  • 138 miles in three riding days. Map.
  • Expect to bike about 55 miles on two of the days, with a short 28 mile day in the middle.
  • I expect to camp out in the towns along the way or use hotels, depending on what’s available in each town. That will also be the policy for much of the rest of the trip (except rest days, which will typically be hotels).

We’ll then get to spend three rest days in the city of San Luis Potosí, where I can play tour guide because I used to live there! This is one of the safest cities in Mexico and has a great historic downtown.

#4: Silver Land
  • Starts November 27 from San Luis Potosí, SLP.
  • 4 riding days and 121 miles. Map.
  • This is a great section for beginner bicyclists. It’s all easy biking, just 25-37 miles a day. 
  • We should get some dramatic vistas in this area although the road will still be mostly flat.

We end in the stunning town of San Miguel de Allende, one of Mexico’s most popular destinations. It’s a colonial-era town built on the wealth of its silver mines. Three rest days to explore it!

Views like this! Photo by Michael R. Swigart.

#5: The Bajía
  • Starts December 4 in San Miguel de Allende, GTO.
  • 3 riding days and 135 miles. Map.
  • The last day is the longest one, going 58 miles.
  • This is a generally affluent area of Mexico with a large middle class.

We’ll take three rest days in Tula, a major city known for its well-preserved pyramids and colossal statues.

Note: If you want to see Mexico City, you could take a bus there from Tula. It’s very close.

#6: Aztec Land
  • Starts December 10 in Tula, HID.
  • 5 riding days and 227 miles. Map.
  • Expect 45-55 mile days.
  • This will be the most diverse leg of the trip, going from the affluent central lowland to small rural towns to a final climb up a mountain range.

We’ll end in the mountain city of Xalapa, the capital of Veracruz. There are museums and parks and we’ll have three rest days to enjoy them. Plus you really can’t have a cooler name for a city than Xalapa.

Is it cheating if we use mules? Photo by Elena Marini Silvestri.

#7: The Magic Road
  • Starts December 18 in Xalapa, Veracruz.
  • Total of 6 days (5 riding days and 1 beach day) and 177 miles. Map.
  • Mileage varies from 35 to 55 miles per day. Our last day is a mere 7 miles!
  • We’ll start off downhill and then follow the Gulf Coast, with a stop on Midwinter at the beach town of Boca del Rio. At the end we’ll come through a forested area to a city on a magic lake.

This leg ends at Catemaco, Mexico’s City of Sorcerers. I plan to take a full eight rest days there, using the time to meet some of the local magical and spiritual practitioners. And we’ll spend Christmas and New Year’s Eve here!

#8: Agua Dulce
  • Starts on January 1 in Catemaco, VER.
  • 6 riding days and 209 miles. Map.
  • Most days are less than 40 miles; there will be one 59 mile day.
  • Most of this leg will not be in view of the Gulf, but in the forested areas about 20 miles inland.

We’ll take three rest days in Villahermosa, the capital of Tabasco. This city has a lot of history and holds the world’s leading collection of Olmec artifacts.

#9: The Beach Road
  • Starts January 10 in Villahermosa, TAB.
  • 7 riding days and 259 miles. Map.
  • Other than one 60 mile day, these are all 40 or less.
  • You should really look at the map link on this one. Much of this segment will be on road just 100 feet from the beach, and we’ll be exploring small coastal towns including two that are literally islands. Plus for two days we’ll be biking the edge of a wildlife reserve.

We’ll take three rest days in Campeche, the gateway to the Yucatán Peninsula and Mayan culture. It also has a 17th century fort built to repel pirates.

#10: The Yucatán
  • Starts January 20 in Campeche, CAMP.
  • Total of 7 days (6 riding days and 1 pyramid day). Map.
  • This is all easy days of mostly 35-40 miles. Even the longest day is only 47.
  • We’ll be in the heart of the Mayan empire. We will bicycle directly past the massive pyramids of Chichen-Itza and will take a day to see them.

We will end in Valladolid, one of my favorite towns in Mexico, on or around January 26. For me, this will be home for a while. But before you fly out, we could all take a beach day at Cancun…

Photo by Wonderlane.

Safety Information

There is a lot of misinformation about the dangers of traveling in Mexico. Much of Mexico is very safe. Here is what I wrote about safety last time:

I planned this route using the advice of two native Mexicans, one of whom is a former security editor for a major news publication. I also drew on crime data from researchers at Stanford University and a variety of watch groups. These sources helped me avoid most high crime areas. Contrary to American perceptions, the violence in Mexico is concentrated along the northern border and a few other hot spots. To complete the adventure requires crossing that border area, but the rest of the trip aims to avoid major crime zones.

With that said, we will do everything we can to travel smart and minimize risk. I will provide a more in-depth section on safety soon.

Missing Information

I wanted to get this itinerary out right away, so that I can start contacting cycling groups. But I realize there’s a lot more information I should provide to help people plan. Here is my to-do list of info I need to pull together:

  • “Must have” packing list (including biking essentials)
  • “Nice to have” packing list
  • How to take a bike on a plane
  • Basics of traveling in Mexico
  • Expanded safety information

Is there any other critical information you think I should provide?

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Adventure Prep, Bicycling, The Great Adventure, Travel

Preview of the Ride Across Mexico

Photo by Leandro Neumann Ciuffo

I promised that today I would have more information about the route for my cross-Mexico adventure. For those who don’t know, this is a bicycle expedition to cross all of Mexico powered only by the human body. It will start in November and anyone, regardless of skill level or experience, is welcome to come. I’m breaking it into small segments so you can do just a few days, or you can come for a longer stretch.

Planning the route has not been easy. In order to provide individual 4-7 day segments, I need to chart out every mile in advance. It try to end every segment in a larger town that has hotels, some culture and some cool things to see. That way we can spend a few days there, which gives some wiggle room for starting the next leg in case we’re running late.

That’s meant a lot of time on both the Spanish and English versions of Wikipedia researching the towns along the way. For example, one promising route ended in a town that turned out to be best known for its oil pipeline; I switched to a different route toward a little colonial gem instead. Anyone on this adventure will definitely experience the day to day life of rural Mexico, so adding a few tourist destinations seems like a nice balance.

Unfortunately, charting out these segments—and choosing dates for them—is a project that’s not yet finished. But I do have the overall route, broken into seven major legs, and wanted to show it to readers. If you’re even 20% interested in coming along, it’s time to start planning.

The seven legs are below, but first a note on safety. I planned this route using the advice of two native Mexicans, one of whom is a former security editor for a major news publication. I also drew on crime data from researchers at Stanford University and a variety of watch groups. These sources helped me avoid most high crime areas. Contrary to American perceptions, most of the violence in Mexico is concentrated along the northern border, as well as a few other hot spots. To complete the adventure requires crossing that border zone, but I was able to keep the rest of the trip away from major crime zones.

So with that said, here’s a rough map:

Click or zoomable Google map.

Click for zoomable Google map.

Each of these major branches has its own unique character:

Road A: Border Run

This single three-day run is the section I suspect will get the least interest, but it’s also where I’d most value companions. We’ll start at dawn from the border city of Nuevo Laredo and cover a whopping 82 miles in one day. We’ll use a major Mexican highway with a wide paved shoulder, which is heavily policed by federal forces. We’ll check into a hotel in a small town before dark, rest up and leave the next morning for another 60 miles to Monterrey. Finally, on the third day we’ll cross a small mountain region to neighboring Saltillo, effectively getting us out of the border zone once and for all.

Road B: Central Highlands

This section is harder to plan. While the crime rate drops to almost nothing after Saltillo, and the major highway is still well policed, now we’re in scrubby highland desert with very few towns. This will be a section where we’ll need to scope each village as we approach it and decide where we’re going to stay. Many nights we’ll camp in a town, which was surprisingly easy in Texas and which other cyclists tell me is both easy and safe in Mexico. (Fun fact: this probably means camping next to churches!) This section will have several 4-day legs and ultimately end at the tranquil colonial town of San Luís Potosi.

Typical bicycling days in this section will be an easy 30-45 miles, which will also be the pace for much of the rest of the trip.

Road C: The Bajía

This section crosses part of the Bajía, or Lowland, one of Mexico’s safest and most affluent regions. One leg will pass through San Miguel Allende, a beautiful silver mining town that has become a haven for expats and tourists.

Road D: Aztecs and Mountains

So far we’ve been heading toward Mexico City, but I intend to avoid biking through it. I also want to skirt away from the surrounding cities which have high crime rates. Instead, we’ll stick to more rural areas and head east back into the highlands. Ultimately we’ll cross Mexico’s eastern mountain range at the city of Xalapa. This leg will have some serious uphill pedaling, but beautiful terrain and at least one town (Tula) with stunning pyramids and Toltec statues.

Road E: To the Gulf!

We’ll start with a long downhill run toward Heroica Veracruz and the Gulf shore, then a day at the beach town of Boca del Rio. After that will be a few days of short rides through buggy coastal marshes. The end of this leg will take us to Catemaco, Mexico’s City of Sorcerers perched beside a magic lake.

Note that this route is specifically charted to take us far south of the cartel activity concentrated further up the Gulf shore.

Road F: Beaches and Oil

I’m not sure what to expect as far as scenery on this section. On the one hand, we’ll be hugging the shoreline and might get some great stops at beach towns. On the other hand, this isn’t a tourist region and we may see more refineries and offshore oil rigs than white sand and piña coladas. The terrain will be blisfully flat, however, making for relatively easy biking depending on the wind.

Road G: The Yucatán

This is the last leg, the final run to victory! The Yucatán is my favorite region in Mexico for so many reasons. Beautiful terrain, ancient pyramids, hidden cenotes (underwater lakes), Mayan art and culture, and the best food in the entire nation. Our route will be mostly inland, crossing some deserts and skirting at least one national park and wildlife refuge. We’ll pass through the popular tourist city of Merida, bicycle right past the famous Chichén Itzá pyramids, and end in the peaceful colonial town of Valladolid.

I chose Valladolid because I have warm memories there and because it’s affordable compared to bigger tourist destinations. I plan to rent a home and spend several months writing. Of course, we should have a celebration first when we arrive, and beach cities like Cancún and Tulum are just a 1 hour bus ride, if you need some R&R after the long pedal.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

The Fellowship

I have interest from at least three people in joining for part or all of this journey. I hope to announce dates as soon as possible, but the journey will start in early November and take approximately two months. We’ll reach the Gulf around the beginning of December and likely be in the Yucatán for Christmas.

I’ll locate nearby airports for each leg so that arriving and joining us is as easy as it can be. But I don’t know what to plan unless I hear from those interested. So here’s what I need from you, dear readers: which of these segments sounds most attractive to you? Is there a part you can picture yourself doing? And who wants to brave the difficult Border section with me?

Of course, if you can’t cycle a leg, you could also meet up with us in one of our rest stop towns and just hang out for a few days. What do you think?

Please leave a comment or email andre@roguepriest.net to share your thoughts or express interest.

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Adventure, Adventure Prep, Bicycling, Texas, The Great Adventure, Travel

On the eve of my first group adventure

Photo by Arturo Sotillo.

Friday morning I take out a bicycling group for the first time. This is the last leg of the US, and the first of my recruit-fellow-adventurers policy. Three days, three people, 125 miles. It’s a weird feeling.

For starters, people now call me “leader.” It’s a role I’m comfortable with, but in the past it was always more formal. As a younger man, the teachers who meant the most to me were the ones who enforced a strict master-apprentice relationship. That was the only way I knew how to lead. But that approach depends on having a lot of authority behind you, and it isn’t well suited to free adults. These days I prefer a partnership of equals, where I may guide or nudge but ultimately everyone makes their own choices. The problem is I have no experience leading that way.

Thankfully, a look at my two co-adventurers says not a lot of leadership is needed. Both seem pretty self contained. I can show them how to change a tire or I can talk about road safety, but for the most part I think they’ll be fine.

I do wonder if they’ll need moral support. On a long bike trip, the beginning and end are fun but the middle is the passage of darkness. That’s when you’re a long way from home and still have a long way to go. On a three day trip, will that still apply? I don’t know. Waking up that second morning, tired and sore but not even halfway done, could be the roughest moment.

Most of my time is spent thinking about safety. On my own, I can abuse myself as much as I want. I know my body pretty well, and I can push it to levels that most people would shy away from. If I want to keep going in the dark, or the rain, or against a strong wind, or with no food—I can.

With a group that’s no longer my right. To some degree I have to think about what my people need, even if they won’t say it out loud. I’ve never so thoroughly considered heatstroke, bike safety or equipment as I have in the past eight weeks. At the same time, I have a commitment to finish this trip powered only by my own muscles. If one of them has a crisis, I not only have to get them picked up and driven to safety, I then have to continue on my own.

It’s been fun to see how different people prepare for a trip. Pixi is organized and planful, asking equipment questions well in advance and demanding checklists for what to bring. This is a quality I really admire and aspire to. Blake’s style has been more like mine: plan it in the abstract but put off the details until crunch time. I’ve forced myself out of that habit: I’m the one who has to be ahead of everything here. Blake has expressed amazement at how much I pre-plan. Heh.

If there’s anything that surprises me, it’s that both of my copilots are totally following through. While I never had reason to doubt them, I’m just used to the reality that most people flake out on most things. Of the three people who wanted to come kayaking with me, zero ever showed up; but of the two who wanted to join this bike leg, both will be gathered around the bikes by the time you read this message.

This is particularly amazing considering both had huge setbacks. Pixi got her bike ready months ahead of time, only to have it stolen our weeks ago. When I read her email I was sure it would end with Sorry, but I think I’m done. Likewise, Blake was gifted a beautiful 1970s Schwinn from his dad, which barely wobbled out of the garage but survived a 30 mile test ride. We took it for routine maintenance and cleaning at a bike shop and 24 hours later it was a pile of scrap.

(Old bike fans: it will be resurrected one day. The head bolt was rusted through and snapped, and some other components were kaput as well. The shop in question isn’t used to working on v̶i̶n̶t̶a̶g̶e superior bicycles, but Blake is dedicated to getting the parts and fixing it.)

This is where a lot of people would have thrown their hands up, especially with the added cost, but Blake bought a brand new aluminum-frame touring cycle meaning he’ll probably outpace us all. Meanwhile Pixi hit the garage sales and successfully combined two non-functional bikes into one functional bike, even rebuilding a back gear cassette together with her boyfriend.

Ironically, while my bike is named The Giant, Blake’s is a Giant brand. I’m going to call it the Little Giant until he comes up with a name that doesn’t infringe. I don’t know what Pixi’s bike’s name is, but it seems like she has good taste in adventuring names, so I expect big things. Of course, there will be before and after pictures of all three of us.

I don’t really know what to expect from these next three days. Even with all the planning, all the new equipment, and two friends at my side, we’re heading to towns we’ve never visited and anything could happen. To me that’s where adventure comes from. Adventure is the unknown and embracing it wholeheartedly.

No one in the world knows where they’re going; an adventurer has no choice but to admit it.

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