Heading West

I forgot how much can happen in a short amount of time when bike touring. In the last 3 days, Kait and I biked to St. Paul, took an Amtrak to Spokane, and biked to our friend’s cabin at Spirit lake, Idaho. In transit, we met people from all walks of life, cycled through downtown Spokane in the late hours of the night, slept on the side of the road, battled logging trucks, and drank bad wine.

It’s good to be at the cabin, to not be in a constant state of motion, if for no better reason than to get ready to bike again tomorrow.

Taking a break from the train in the middle of Montana.


Biking in Idaho.

It begins

Kait and I are 30 miles into our big bike ride, and we’re off to a great start. With the exception of realizing that we forgot a few key things (the electric cord for my laptop, her Road ID), we are in good shape, enjoying each other’s good company, making jokes, and avoiding the dark rain clouds hovering over St. Paul.

I’m beginning to realize how much fun it is to bike tour with someone else. Sure, it’s just day one, but already we’re having great conversations. More important, Kait’s laughing at my jokes. We’ll see how long that lasts.

Kait and Pig on the Marrakesh. 

Packing up Kait’s stuff

Kait graduates from St. Olaf College today! But before we watch her receive her degree, we have to pack up all her stuff (as happens when college graduates leave their academic institution for the last time). Her landlord is going to let her store a bunch of boxes of whatnot in the attic, and her friend is letting Kait store 3 of her bikes, and her bike trailer, in a garage across town. When Sue and Evan drive back to Milwaukee tomorrow, they’ll take the rest of Kait’s stuff–along with Kellogg, her cat.

And the rest of her stuff will go into the panniers on her new touring bike, the stuff she’ll be living off of for the next 6 to 7 weeks. Her bags are packed, and she’s ready to go. All we have left to do, before biking up to St. Paul tomorrow morning so we can catch a train to Sandpoint, Idaho, is watch her complete her undergraduate goal.

I’m proud of her–proud of who she is and who is becoming–and grateful that she wants to go on a biking adventure with her Dad.

We agreed that each of us can bring one “comfort item” on the trip. Kait’s comfort item is Pig.

Planning for a big bike ride, part IV

Every other month, I get a copy of Adventure Cyclist, the magazine published by the Adventure Cycling Association. This month’s cover story is about a couple who did a bike tour in the Himalaya region of northern India. It’s a great article, a true inspiration to those of us who simply bike tour around the states.

The bike ride that Kait and I are going to embark on this Sunday will be a bit more of an adventure than any we’ve done before, simply because we’ll be out there for a longer stretch of time (6 or 7 weeks). Maybe this is a baby-step to some future adventure where we also bike through the world’s most remote, scenic locations.

It’s good preparation to read the stories of other bicycle tourists. I look forward to the stories Kait and I will soon be able to tell.

The inside spread.

Planning for a big bike ride, part III

On Saturday, I packed up all the bike touring gear and loaded it into the panniers to simulate a bike ride on a fully-loaded touring rig. I wasn’t sure what I brought on the last trip; then I remembered that I made a list of what I brought last time–and published it in the book I wrote, The Descent into Happiness. I grabbed a copy and flipped through the pages until I found the list on p. 90-91.

While putting the gear together, I kept flipping through the book, recalling all the experiences that took place on that adventure. It’s something I didn’t think about when the book was published, how I would eventually be an audience for the book.

On Sunday, I took the bike out for a test-ride. It was a familiar experience, but it was one that I hadn’t had for a while. About 30 miles into the ride, I pulled over on the side of the bike path and sat on a bench. Then I had an idea for the book I plan on writing for the ride that will happen this June/July, so I took the laptop out of the rear pannier and started putting the ideas down into words. Again, it was a familiar experience, writing on the side of the trail, but it was one that I hadn’t had for a while.

I’m glad I wrote a book on the last big bike ride, because I don’t think I can go on another big bike ride without having a writing component to it. Writing while riding enhances the overall experience so much, because it isn’t just about the experience of the journey; it’s also the experience of documenting the journey. And documentation, a reflective activity, forces the rider/writer into a heightened state of awareness as to what is happening and what is being learned.

Because I’ll be biking with my daughter Kait on this upcoming trip, I’ll have to develop a new protagonist. I’ll also have to learn more about writing dialogue and character development. Assuming this happens, then I can look forward to learning more about writing and riding. The last big bike ride had a big learning curve; I’m sure this trip’s learning curve will be just as steep, but at least it will begin in a familiar place.

Parking the bike on the side of the path so I could write a page or two. 

Planning for a big bike ride, part II

You don’t want to pack too much stuff on a bike tour. Every ounce of  stuff you bring is an ounce you have to carry. That’s why bicycle tourists spend a bit more money on lightweight tents, sleeping bags and whatnot.

But then you have to balance that out with what you want to have with you for six weeks on the road. I did a pretty good job the last time I toured; the only thing I didn’t really utilize were the spices I brought for cooking. My plan for that bike ride was to make my own meals the entire time. I did that, for the most part, but instead of cooking from scratch, I’d just buy a can of Dinty Moore Stew. And there’s no need to spice up Dinty Moore, because it’s good as is.

This bike tour is different in that I’m not going solo; I’ll be touring with Kait, and she likes to prepare food (and eat “real” food). With that in mind, I went to the spice store and purchased some garlic, a California pepper, a lemony salt, and Arizona Dreaming (a dash of the Dreaming makes anything taste better). Yes, these spices will take up some space in the pannier, and it will be added weight, but the intent is to eat well while on this ride, which means making your own food, because most of the small towns we’ll be biking through will only have the culinary option of bar food. That’s not a knock on bar food; I enjoyed traveling solo because I could feast on it. But this is a different trip, in large part because I want to enjoy the good company of my daughter, and what better way to do that then make food, and eat food, together.

In preparation for the trip, I also downloaded the digital version of a bicycle cook book–Bike Camp Cook. Some good recipes here, as well as solid advice on the culinary art of bicycle cookery.

To save weight, I transferred the spices to plastic containers.

Planning for a big bike ride

In a week, I’ll be heading on a train to Idaho with my daughter Kait so we can bike to Washington, then Oregon, and then back to Minnesota. Preparing for such an undertaking is no small matter–and, it’s a ton of fun. This morning, I broke out all the gear I used on the last tour I did 2 years ago and combined it with all the new stuff I’ve been ordering on Amazon for the last couple of months. I got a new water filter, bear spray, cooking stove, set of allen wrenches, and camera. Everything else I already had, which is a nice thing about bike touring: once you have the gear, you have the gear.

A Ziploc bag holding 55 Starbucks Vias, Italian Roast. 

Questions and Comments

I like to improvise when I teach. It keeps it interesting, for me and for the students. I walk into the classroom, knowing what we need to cover that particular day, but I don’t know how we’ll discuss it. That’s when the improvisation kicks in.

A month or so ago, I came up with the idea of “The bag of questions and comments.” Basically, the students can write down on little slips of paper any questions and/or comments they have about the material we’re covering that day. In doing so, the bag represents the collected intellectual capital of the class; and, the student can protect their anonymity, thus allowing them to be a bit more bold when it comes to questions and comments. There are 2 rules that we follow:

  1. I have to answer any question asked
  2. I have to read any comment submitted

The rules make it all the more interesting, and risky, because students have asked questions such as “What’s your greatest regret?” or “What’s the meaning of life?”

I told the class early in the term that my favorite all-time question is “What’s that all about?” You can ask it of just about anything, a way of requesting further information or explanation. And that’s what I want my students to ask for. The other day, a student wrote “What’s that all about?” and put it in the bag of questions and comments; it enabled us to go back through all the other questions and comments and delve in a bit deeper.

Example “Q and C”.


The road I live on is lined with trees that reach over the streets. The squirrels jump from tree to tree, moving about the neighborhood without ever touching ground. They run along the phone wires too, but the real joy is watching them jump from one tree to another.

I notice it more when I walk Rush, because he loves watching squirrels. I’m sure he wishes he could climb trees so he could chase them in 3 dimensions.

This morning, I watched a squirrel bound about until he was too far to see. What was left was the trees, lit in morning sun. It would be good to navigate the trees like a squirrel.

A squirrel’s version of I-94.

Victor Earhart Finds a New Hill

I’ve been thinking about purchasing a long-board. Rush could benefit from having someone go on a run with him as opposed to a walk. But I’m not big on running anymore, so something else had to fill the gap. That’s when I thought about the possibility of purchasing a long-board, a possibility that became a probability when I watched the YouTube video Victor Earhart Finds a New Hill.

Do I want to be Victor Earhart? Let’s just say that I hope to be that flexible, and that daring, when I’m sporting a gray beard.

Tomorrow, I won’t go for a walk with Rush. We’ll go boarding.

Bought a Sector Nine for me and Rush.