Bicycling, The Great Adventure

Ditch List

The other day I attempted my longest bike ride to date, a 65 mile trip from Grand Rapids to Cloquet (ish) in one day. It destroyed me.

I fought a head wind most of the way. When I finally turned off the busy US Highway 2 I ended up on rough country roads with steep hills for the final 20 miles. I was fried in the sun and my water tasted bad. Muscles gave out.

Me + the Giant after a 65 mile bike ride. Photo by Kira Hagen.

I made it, but that kind of a day requires some thinking about the gear you’re schlepping. (Note: the day after, at my friends’ cabin, I helped them with five hours of culvert digging in direct sun… which felt like a break.) I did some reflecting on the things I’ve ditched since setting out.

The Starting Package

Two days before I left my parents’ house in Wisconsin I thought I had everything ready to go, and planned a relaxing final day there. It wasn’t to be. On a hunch I re-packed everything the day of my departure and began thinning it.

The first things to go were my beloved sandals. They would’ve been so sweet for walking into muddy lakes to bathe, but I can’t justify the extra weight. I still miss them—in theory. I’ve never actually needed them since leaving.

I departed with 44 pounds of gear. That’s a lot, but on a bike I figured it would be no problem.


The Ditch List

In the car I chose more things to ditch. In fact, from the beginning of my quest I’ve ditched things almost every day. So here’s a complete Ditch List.

Jujutsu notes. I planned to carry these with me just long enough to finish typing them all up, so my notes on years of practice would be able to travel with me on my laptop. I intended to drop them at my parents’ when passing through Wisconsin. Instead, they are safely stored at a friend’s house as they took up just too much room.

Art supplies. I had it all narrowed down to what fit in one small waterproof jar: a set of oil pastels and some tiny tubes of goauche paint. Still too much stuff. Abandoned them at Beth’s place in Saint Paul.

Pepto. Too easy to find on the road if needed, too bulky to carry with my first aid kit. Gave it away.

Fancy shirt. My packed clothes are mostly T-shirts, underoos and socks. But I included two nicer button down shirts: one that I wore on the ride up and one stowed in my pack. I immediately discarded the one not stowed. The other may follow soon.

Tomahawk. What a great tool. Hand forged, it holds an edge and it’s super light. But light for a hatchet is still a pound or more and it’s bulky. This was the hardest thing to give up, no doubt. Beth fought me on it and tried to convince me to take it anyway. Ben arbitrated and pointed out I have a tiny, shitty saw on my multitool. So no hard need for a hatchet. I sent it back with Beth when she dropped me in Duluth.

Sunglasses. They broke on Day 1 of biking. I don’t miss them. It was annoying to try to secure them and my helmet has a visor. Eff sunglasses. Sunglasses are for chumps and Lady Gaga.

Bug spray. You’d think this would be important but in rural Minnesota you are just, fact, going to be eaten by mosquitoes. Your puny spray means nothing to them. I left it as a present at the semi-abandoned garage near where I camped my first night.

Camp Mirror. This was a cool little mirror that you can hang from a tree or whatever. Great for shaving. But I never want to shave outside (see also: bug spray) and I can put in my contacts with no mirror. It broke from a bumpy bike ride and I discarded it. Kind of sad because it’s been in the family since I was a kid.

Stinky Water Bottle. A Trek water bottle that made everything taste like rubber. Get your rubber out of my mouth, Trek. That is so not consensual. I left it on a picnic table at a gas station. In the morning it was gone.

That’s what I’ve ditched. I know I need to get rid of more. There will be a lot of off-loading in Minneapolis and Wisconsin. I’m even reducing how much water I carry.

Anything you think I absolutely can’t live without?

The Great Adventure

Sleeping in the Sky

This is me waking up in my first ever camping hammock. I’ve tried it out every night for the past week. It’s a green nylon hammock enclosed with mosquito netting on the top. So basically I sleep in a giant cocoon. Above that (at top right here) is a rain fly.

It rocks.

There are some drawbacks. It can get cold in there if the night is cool. Blankets don’t help, at least not inside the cocoon. If you can hang a blanket snugly on the outside of the hammock it will help insulate. Learning how to rig up the blanket has been an interesting process. I had some rough nights, but I think I figured it out.

For those interested the brand is Hennessy Hammock. The design is ingenious and super comfortable. I hear that ENO makes some great ones too, but theirs clock in a little heavier and cost more.

The camping hammock is one of the best engineered pieces of equipment I’ve ever dealt with. I love climbing in and falling asleep in the breeze. It truly is sleeping in the sky.

This is a piece of equipment I never could have bought if it weren’t for my wonderful donors. Everyone who made a gift, whether $10 or $100, thank you. The entire hammock and rain fly fold up to 6×11″ and weigh less than 3 pounds. I compared this to my old one-man tent today. When stowed it’s nearly 3 feet long and weighs at least twice that much.

Thank you.

Adventure, The Great Adventure, Travel

Gear Drive Results

Over the past few weeks I’ve run a gear drive here on Rogue Priest. The purpose of the drive was to raise half the cost needed to purchase high quality, reliable gear for the Great Adventure.

I’m pleased to announce that the Gear Drive was a complete success.

In the original post I set a goal of $860, and you exceeded that goal with a grand total of $870! The other half of the money needed for gear was saved by yours truly.

Over the past week, I’ve purchased the following items, thanks in part to all you wonderful donors:

  • 14″ Lenovo ThinkPad notebook computer
  • Hennessy Asym Classic camping hammock (this has built-in mosquito netting and a rain fly, outperforming most bivies and tents for comfort on the trail)
  • Apple iPhone 4, lightly used, for a bargain price of $265—and not tied to a service plan!
  • Sleeping bag rated to 25° (plenty for the places I’m going)
  • Circuit backpack from ÜLA, holds 69 liters and up to 35 pounds
  • Rope, carabiners, dry sack and other odds and ends

Of course there are still items to pick up—shoes and water bottles are high on the list—but the biggest items are taken care of and the rest are on the way. This week I’ll be setting up the hammock and testing it out.

None of this would have been possible without all the support that dozens of people showed throughout the gear drive, and my sincerest thanks go out to each and every one of you. And thanks also to everyone who tweets, shares, comments and follows along. You guys are an inspiration to me.

If you weren’t able to make a donation, there are plenty of ways to get involved. The best is to live the adventure yourself: travel freely, seek your legend and live for your ideals. If you can’t go yet or you already found your dream, help a traveler next time you have a chance.

The road is as cheerful as the people we meet.

The Great Adventure

The Gear Drive So Far

We’re on week two of the gear drive. Time for an update!

Gear matters. That’s me in 2002!

Goal: $860

Raised so far: $810~

This is amazing progress. I want to give my most heartfelt thanks to everyone who’s donated. And of course if you haven’t yet, you still can! Your gift will help me secure the equipment needed to stay as safe and healthy as possible as I undertake the upcoming Great Adventure, crossing two continents under my own power.

But time is getting short. In less than a week I’ll be heading to the outfitter to make my final gear purchases. The money raised here, along with what I’ve personally saved toward gear, will determine what I can get.

Since we have only $50 to go to the goal, there’s no doubt that every donation counts. Even small gifts add up quickly, and there are still postcards and meditation sessions available for you big spenders.

Could your gift be the one that pushes us past the goal?

Thank you!

The Great Adventure

Gear Drive

Here’s what scares me. It’s not just walking, biking and paddling farther than most people drive. It’s not the Mexico border, or the Amazon rainforest. It’s that it all starts so soon.

To calm myself I’ve been assembling my gear. Recently, readers asked what exactly I’m taking with me. What do you take to walk 8,000 miles?

The answer isn’t clear. I’ve priced everything out and I have a wishlist, but the money I’ve saved isn’t nearly enough. There are going to be some tough choices. 

Photo by Beth Varro.

Here’s the dream team:


$160 — OR Highland Bivy (like a tent coffin!)

$180 — 20°F rated sleeping bag, for my toesies.


$225 — ULA Camino Backpack (designed by backpackers, for backpackers)

$30 — A week of food… very, very simple food.


$60 — “MyBottle” water bottle with purifying straw. Sexy.

$45 — Gerber super lightweight hatchet. Perfect for home defense.

$140 — Shoes! Final pick TBA (so suspenseful)

$27 — Outdoor Research Drysack. Keeps my laptop dry even underwater!

$7 — Every adventurer carries rope.


$300 — Smartphone. (My first ever, don’t tell anyone.)

$485 — Smaller, lighter notebook computer. So’s you can still read these blog posts.

Grand total: $1659

I’ve saved $800 toward this, leaving $859 to go. And I’d like to ask you to help.

One of the things I’ve learned over and over from experienced backpackers is that gear is vital. The right equipment keeps you safe from injury and lets you tough out the worst conditions.

To help secure that gear before I go, I’ve started a donation page. Many of you have asked how you can help as I get ready to leave, and if you’re able, this is the best way. Please click below and help support the Great Adventure.

Any size gift helps. You can sponsor a specific piece of gear, or give your lucky number. The amount is totally up to you.

As a special incentive…

  • If you give $50 or more I will send you handwritten postcards from three cities: Minneapolis, St. Louis and New Orleans.
  • If you give $100 or more I’ll give you a private meditation lesson. We can do the session “in person” by Skype. And you get the postcards, too!

Gifts of any amount are truly appreciated, and will help me out every day. Thank you!