Thursday, October 31, 2019

Long Weekends

So at this point, it's no surprise that I've been spending every one of my weekends doing longer rides.  I really just need lots of miles to keep/increase my fitness level so that's pretty much what I've deemed worthy of my focus from now until December.  Most weekends I make a plan to ride somewhere far with my fully loaded bike, then return.  Pretty simple.  But this past weekend was different.  I had a couple of rides scheduled that I have been doing every October for the last couple of years.  It's with a group called Honor The Warriors and if you click that link you'll see what they are all about.

To sum it up though, they take veterans out on bikes throughout the year and the weekend in October is the big one.  As an Army Veteran, their cause is near and dear to me.  So like every year, I took that Friday off and met the group near a park just a few miles from Uptown Charlotte.

Even though this is a "fun" ride, I still used it as training.  So I brought my full bikepacking setup.

After talking about the route, we got ready to roll.  This ride is unique in a lot of ways, but one of the best things is that the local Sheriff's department provided an escort and blocked off traffic along the route.  These guys were awesome.

We took off just after rush hour, so as not to cause too much of a traffic disturbance.  We rolled through the usual Charlotte neighborhoods...

And eventually we ended up at a school right in Uptown.  While we were rolling up, you could hear the kids screaming to welcome us.  We made our way inside...

The students (5th graders) put on a presentation for us, which included the Pledge of Allegiance, a song, and some poems that thanked us for serving our country.  It was touching, and I'm sure there were some tears in the room.  We eventually moved outside, where the kids spent time with us asking questions and looking over our bikes.

We had to say goodbye to our friends so we could head into the heart of Uptown Charlotte.

Then we meandered through the streets towards the local community college, where a catered lunch was waiting for us.  We all sat back and enjoyed the food, conversation, and views of the city.

After a few group photos (I can't find them yet), we gathered up and headed towards the Sugar Creek Greenway.  I had the honor of being asked to lead our group down the greenway towards Freedom Park, which was an awesome experience.

For some reason I didn't take any photos at Freedom Park, even though we hung out there for quite a while.  We gathered up again, taking surface roads (with the police escort of course) back to the park where we started.  Even though the distance was only around 18 miles, it was an absolute blast.  It was like being in a five hour parade around Charlotte.  I got to chat with some old friends and I made a few new ones.  And the best part?  I would get to hang out with them all the very next day.

Since I don't post on here every day anymore, I'll just get right into day two...

I was up Saturday morning at the crack of dark.  I had to be at the Veterans Memorial Park in Mint Hill by 7:30 a.m. for the 8:00 a.m. departure.  I grabbed some coffee and hit the road.  I was rewarded for being up so early on a weekend...

There were three routes scheduled that day, a 15, 32, and 66 mile.  I usually do the 32 since road riding bores me, but since I need to keep up my mileage I opted for the 66 mile route.  I had this thought that it would be easy, since I'd been doing rides this long (and longer) on a fully loaded mountain bike.  With a road bike, I knew it would be a piece of cake.

We took off early and I ended up in the front.  While that wasn't unusual when I was doing cross country mountain bike races, it was kinda odd on a road ride where I was outfitted in baggy shorts alongside kitted up Strava dudes.  Plus, we were pushing 20 plus miles per hour.  Who gives a shit.

I kept up that pace for a while, then I remembered that I'm training for endurance, and more importantly, I was out there to have fun.  I backed off of my ridiculous pace and let the super serious crew roll on by, no doubt with them laughing about how the baggy shorts dude couldn't keep up.  I don't use Strava, unless it's in my truck.  They can have that nonsense.

Anyway, once I eased into a comfortable pace I started looking around.  The route was beautiful, taking us out towards the Uwharrie Mountains.  I really was having a great time, which is rare for me when I'm on skinny tires.  I only stopped twice, and used one of those stops to take a photo.

The route was well planned on quiet, country roads.  There were two fully stocked aid stations, as well as a couple of convenience stores if I needed anything (I didn't.)  A few hours later I rolled into the finish, feeling much better than I normally do when I come back from a bikepacking trip.  It wasn't easy, but I felt pretty good.  After that I sat with a few of the warriors from the other rides and had a delicious lunch and watched as more people came through the finish.  I guess I wasn't going that slow, but it didn't matter.

I love this event and hope to keep doing it for years to come.  Riding bicycles with fellow veterans and sharing stories, food, and making memories was a great way to spend my weekend.

Now, it's back to bikepacking.  In case you hadn't heard, I'm doing a big ride in Florida.

See y'all next week sometime.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Overnight Alright

When I left off yesterday, I was settled into my hammock for the night.  The ride to the campsite that day was hot.  Real hot.  It wasn't really an issue since I like the heat.  Once I was setup for the night I did everything I could to cool off though, which mostly consisted of drinking fluids and a wonderful wet wipe whore bath.  I was comfortable in my hammock for sure.  Even though it had been hot all day, once the sun went down the temperature was quite pleasant.

My setup was pretty simple.  I had my hammock with the rain fly over it.  There was a zero percent chance of rain, but I wanted to set it up anyway for "practice" since I know that December in Florida can be wet and I will most likely need cover down there.  I had a little inflatable pillow that packs away small and is very comfortable.  It wasn't supposed to be too cool that night so I had no sleeping bag, instead packing a couple of those emergency space blankets in case of you know, emergencies.  Besides, at this point the only sleeping bag I owned is a big bulky one that I got in the Army sometime back in the 90s.  Not ideal to pack on a bicycle at all.  And other than some fleece pants and a t-shirt that I wore as pajamas, that was it.  I figured I'd be good.

I was tired from being out on the bike in the hot sun all day and my setup was awesome for relaxing.  However, I wasn't sleepy.  Since I was sort of in civilization, I ended up watching Netflix on my phone until I got sleepy.  That took a lot longer than I thought, but I finally dozed off somehow.

Sometime in the wee hours of the night I woke up chilly.  Not freezing, but very uncomfortable.  Even though I didn't think I would need a blanket or sleeping bag I'd neglected the fact that I needed a liner in my hammock.  All of my body heat was escaping through the bottom and I couldn't go back to sleep.  While that was a dumb mistake, somehow I had the foresight to put one of those space blankets in the pocket of my hammock.  I grabbed it, and in the darkness of night I'd managed to remove it from the package, unfold it, and wrap myself up like a burrito.  If you've ever unwrapped one of those things, you will understand how difficult that was.  Anyway, I figured that I would be good to go and would fall right back asleep.

That did not happen.  I tossed and turned (normal for me anyway), but every move I made in that blanket sounded like I was in a fight with a potato chip bag.  I was so annoyed and couldn't stop thinking about how I needed at least a lightweight sleeping bag from here on out.  Lesson learned.  Eventually I fell back asleep and didn't wake up until daylight peered through the opening in the rain fly.  I woke up, answered the call of nature, and started tearing down my campsite.

Whatever chill I fought in the darkness was gone with just that little bit of sunlight.  I wasn't too tired and for some reason felt like I'd managed to get a decent amount of sleep.  While not an ideal night in the woods, I already had several things upon which I could improve.  As I munched on some shitty, processed breakfast pastry thing and a large can of coffee/energy drink combo I finished packing up everything and rolled out of the campsite towards home...

It was only a little over twenty miles to get home, and I was pretty excited about the route I had planned.  Lots of gravel roads through beautiful forests.  As a bonus, it was so early in the morning that I had those roads to myself.  Definitely the best kind of ride.

My biggest concern before my first overnight bike trip was how my legs would respond after riding all day, sleeping in a hammock, and riding again the next day.  It turned out not to be a big deal.  Sure, my legs were a little tight and my ass was sore from the saddle, but spending time in a hammock with my legs elevated made for a good next day bike ride.  The first part of the ride home was pretty hilly with some punchy climbs thrown in for good measure, and I had no issues at all.  I was exploring the woods in the early morning hours on a beautiful day, having a blast trying to figure out where these mystery roads would take me.

Trespassing?  Who gives a shit.

Eventually my time in the forest came to an end and I wound up near the airport here in Charlotte.

I don't live too far from there which meant that my adventure would soon come to an end.  I was a little disappointed, but very happy that I'd done something like this.  As I spun through the last couple of miles towards the B-43 Worldwide Headquarters, I starting going over what went wrong/right for my first overnight bikepacking adventure...

Distance:  I had really underestimated the amount of mileage I could do for this trip.  I've been spending every weekend since May putting in big miles, but for some reason I was afraid of not being able to get home if I pushed to hard before I camped for the night.  What a crock of shit.  Next time I do an overnight trip I'll push myself harder.

Gear:  During each ride I'd done up to this point, I've been carrying everything I needed for an overnight trip, even though this was the first one.  Weight is not an issue since I'm used to it now, but I realized that after waking up cold in the middle of the night I should probably invest in a lightweight, pack-able sleeping bag of some sort.  And it wasn't just about the cold either.  The emergency blanket should be used for just well, emergencies.  The noise from that shit was irritating AF and it slid around so much during the night that it barely kept me warm.  That was the biggest lesson learned.

The actual ride:  I had no issues with the ride and total distance whatsoever.  I felt good the whole time, and that's no doubt because I've been riding so much with all my shit on the bike.  I know my body pretty well at his point too, so staying hydrated and fed is something I don't even worry about anymore.

Overall, it was an awesome trip.  Even though the end game here is to drag my ass across Florida, I think I may have found a new hobby as well.  I really like camping anyway, and riding my bike to/from makes it moar better.  

The next step in my "training plan" is to build up to even longer distances as I begin planning the next big overnight trip..  

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Getting Prepared

So, now that you know why I've been doing the amateur homeless person thing, I can start getting into more of the specifics.  My friend James from down in South Carolina does the bikepacking thing quite regularly, so I've been hitting him up with random questions and soliciting advice for things that I hadn't figured out on my own.

Spoiler alert, I usually make my own decisions and then tell him what I'm planning to do.

One thing I didn't really think about for the whole "suffer across Florida thing" was the camping aspect of it.  I've been camping quite a bit, and I've even used my hammock sometimes.  For the Big Florida Bike Death, I figured all I would have to do was ride a bunch and build up to some crazy mileage... and camp at night.  Easy AF.

Then James hits me with, "You need to do some overnights."

For some reason, that clicked and I didn't even question it.  I mean it makes sense to practice for the way I would be riding down there but that wasn't really what I was thinking.  What I really needed was to see how my body would react to riding all day, sleeping in a hammock, and trying to ride again the next day.  Doing back to back rides from my house after sleeping in my comfy bed wasn't going to cut it.  I needed to really camp.

Since my last long ride was out to Crowders Mountain, I figured that would be a good route to do again (but camp in between of course.)  I didn't want to have my sleep interrupted by camping someplace I shouldn't though so I looked for a campsite to reserve (for safety or some shit.)  The weekend I had planned didn't have anything available.  I looked at nearby Kings Mountain State Park in South Carolina, because the smart guy I am said I could add some extra miles no problem.  Well, they were all booked up too.


I found another campsite here in Charlotte (at the McDowell Nature Preserve) that fit the bill, except that it was only a twenty mile bike ride away.  I really needed to ride a much longer distance that would test my body and camping setup so I had to come up with a plan.  I started looking at some of my past routes and got slightly creative.  I figured I could just ride a really long distance the first day, camp, then ride the twenty plus miles home the next day.  It wouldn't be a death march for day two but at least it would be a big enough ride to see what kind of toll riding the day before and sleeping in a hammock would take.  I reserved my spot and planned my route.

I was ready.

I knew it wouldn't take all day to ride the forty five miles I had planned for day one, so I left around noon.  The heat of the day would add to my suffering and could be beneficial to my "training."  It was still summer when I did this (last month), so it was plenty hot.  I meandered along my route and made it to Gaston County...

Even though I end up on the road quite a bit, I'm getting really good at finding shit off the beaten path.  The combination of roads and not so roads will be similar to Florida anyway, so it's all good.  Anyway, I finally made my way back to the little greenway over there and took it to the end.

Then, more roads.  At least I manage to find lightly traveled roads, and it's not like I'm taking the most direct route anyway.  A couple of hours in I decided that food was required.  I carry some snack stuff with me, but in Florida I will be "living off the land", which means stopping at commercial establishments is okay.  Piss poor planning at this point in my journey (I was sort of in the middle of nowhere) left me with two options... Random Mexican Restaurant or Subway.  Usually Mexican food and bikes pair well together, but that would be a shitty idea for a bikepacking trip.  Pun intended of course.

Who gives a shit.

Subway it is.

They also sell water and that popular sports drink, and as you can see I stocked up.  I still had a long way to go but plenty of time.  With a full belly I pedaled through the southernmost part of the county looking for anything to keep me motivated.


And then I finally did see something that kept me going, but ironically I had to stop to get a picture of it.

I crossed into South Carolina, and at this point my superior Google Maps scouting led me to some more off the beaten path type stuff.

I may or may not have been trespassing.  I'm not sure.  I didn't see any signs so it's okay.  Well, except this sign...

After I popped out of the woods I was in "civilization."  And let me tell you, it sucked.  I was in the Lake Wylie area and it's busy AF down there.  Drunk boaters driving all over the place looking for post-lake food would normally make for a dangerous situation for some dude riding a bike piled full of bags of things.  Luckily there were sidewalks to keep me safe.  I tried to quickly get through that mess, but not before grabbing some provisions for the night.

All stocked up, I grabbed a picture of the lake and saw the woods where I would be staying.

One big final climb and I made it to my destination.

Riding into the park, I felt a little sense of accomplishment.  I had to stop at the gate to check in, and the lady there said, "Where is your car?"

"I rode my bike here."

"From where?" she asked.

"I don't know.  I've been out for hours."

She just kind of shook her head and walked away.  It was a boring conversation anyway, and I needed to get my camp setup before dark.  It didn't take long before I had a home for the night.

I felt pretty good but I was tired.  I'd ridden a little over forty five miles and I was hot, sweaty, and hungry.  I cleaned myself up (wet wipes are awesome), ate some food, and just relaxed in my hammock hoping to fall asleep.

That would prove to be more difficult than I thought...

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

We All Need Goals


I wasn't completely honest when I said I started bikepacking because I wanted adventure.

Well that part is true, but what really happened was this...

I was tired of the same ol' routine; driving to a trail, riding some singletrack, and driving back home.  I really did want to have some adventures, and the road bike sorta did it for me for a while because I could ride all over the place and check out the scenery, all while getting some miles.  I tried to do some of that on my mountain bikes on the way to the local trails too, and then I remembered an event I'd heard about the last few years.

So instead of just stumbling into bikepacking, I intentionally decided to become a bikepacker/amateur homeless person just so I could do this:

Yes folks, without any prior bikepacking experience I decided to go all out and set a goal of riding across my former home state in an event called the Cross Florida Individual Time Trial, or C.F.I.T.T. for short.

Here's some information from the Singletrack Samurai website:

The Cross Florida Individual Time Trial is Florida’s Premier Off road Ultra Endurance Event. It is a one of a kind coast to coast bikepacking/Ultra Running challenge, the only one of its kind in the United States.

The route is 250 miles of mixed terrain: Singletrack, forest road, paved roads, bike trails, double track and grassy abandoned easements.  Typically the event includes the use of the Fort Gates Ferry in Welaka, Florida.  In the event the Ferry is not running, riders can expect a detour north Thru Palatka.  The ride takes place on the  Coast to Coast Northern Cross Florida route and can be ridden at anytime.  The Second Saturday in December, Riders from all around gather for a grand depart and go at the route at the same time. 

Now for the important stuff, the rules...

1. You must complete the route under your own power. Once you set foot in a motored power vehicle you are voluntarily withdrawing from the challenge. THERE are exceptions made to this rule in cases of medical emergencies.. If you are injured and need help, get healthy and you can rejoin the course at your convenience.

2. There is a no drafting rule in effect.

3. You must be able to safely carry yourself the length of the route. You can only obtain supplies from commercial establishments along or near the route. You cannot pre arrange any kind of support or supplies and there are no SAG vehicles allowed. NO TRAIL MAGIC ALLOWED. THIS MEANS ANYONE OFFERS YOU ANYTHING YOU SAY NO.

4. There will be 3 checkpoints that you are required to provide photographic evidence for. Some checkpoints may require video documentation. In an effort to prove that you passed these areas you can either email your pics and videos or you can post them on your facebook wall for me to see and verify.

5. You can take as long as you need to complete the challenge, there is no time limit and no cut offs. Every rider/RUNNER will start participate in a mass start in they start with the group the day of the event.

Most of this stuff is common to ultra endurance type events.  This will be my race/ride, and I am not to receive help from anyone.  That's fine.  The key rule up there for me is number five...

Take as long as you need.

I know a few folks that have done this in just one day.  My goal is three days.  That's still a lofty one considering that I've never ridden this far on any kind of bike.  And that's why I've been spending so much of my time riding with a fully loaded bike.  I'm trying to get ready for this dumb idea that just randomly popped into my head.

On the surface, this looks like it could be a real hoot.  Riding a not so direct path across the state where I spent most of my life won't be easy, but I'll get to spend some time back in the Florida that I actually miss...

The parts without too many people.

Can I do it?  I have no idea.  With a little less than two months to go, I'm still preparing myself for the sufferfest.  Now that you know why I've been posting about bikepacking, prepare to see my progress in future posts as I ramp up to do something that may very well kill me.

Okay, not really, but I guess there is a chance of that.

Tune in for my not so precise training plan, including longer rides and gear testing.  In the meantime, check out this little video that does a pretty good job explaining what my dumb ass is attempting to do.

It's old, but you get the point.  See y'all back here soon.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

I'm Only Happy When I'm Suffering

Just so you can keep up, this is part two from the last time I posted...

More climbing.  That's what you get around here, especially near Crowders Mountain.  My legs hurt, mostly because this was the longest ride I'd attempted in a very long time.  About two miles into my return trip, I started having regrets about not camping overnight.  But then I did something I've done a million times...

I embraced the suck.

My legs hurt.  It was hot.  My bike was loaded with everything but the goddamn kitchen sink.  Who gives a shit.  I had to get home under my own power.  So I kept going.

I made a brief stop to check out the view though.

After a little while, my legs felt sort of okay.  I remembered back when I rode all the time and this type of mileage wouldn't have been shit to me, so I used that memory to keep pushing forward.  The plan was to build up to something bigger, and you can't grow without some pain.  I started looking for little victories.  That shitty road section, the steep ass climb, the energy sucking grassy easements.  Anything that I could tell myself was progress.

Even signs...

Though it's sorta right next door, Gastonia seemed forever away.  But it was closer to home.  I was taking a different way home and made a wrong turn that put me on the main drag, but at least I had the safety of side walks.  I stopped to check the map to correct my course (to get TF out of civilization as much as possible), and when I turned around I saw a shit storm brewing.

Almost literally.

Okay, maybe I didn't think actual shit would fall from the sky.

That was some ugly sky action creeping up on me.  Before I had a chance to make a plan, it started pouring rain.  I had a rain jacket with me, but pouring rain turned into a storm that a light jacket would not repel.  High winds, lightning, and stinging rain sent me for cover.  Since I was in "civilization", cover was easy to find.  I darted towards a bank drive through to wait it out.

My legs didn't need a break, but I also didn't need to get struck by lightning.  However, since my legs felt okay I was worried about taking an extended break.  So I used my time wisely to stretch.

After what seemed like forever (which was only about 45 minutes), the rain slowed and the lightning stopped.  I kept going because I had to.  With the sky still looking really ugly, I took my chances and got off the main drag.  It was barely sprinkling at this point, and the cool rain felt good to me.  After some more cut-through shit I found myself crossing one of the two rivers in my path on the way back home.

That was another small victory for me, but I was actually running out of energy.  I was so close to home but daylight was fading.  I pressed on through the hurt, eventually crossing the Catawba River and making the climb back towards home.  A power line cut and a shitty road section later and I was home.  The whole thing took me over ten hours, including the time I waited out the storm.  The time is important, because my goal is to improve upon this in the future.  Little victories, remember?

I'd completed a hair over 50 miles, which was the longest bike ride I'd done in quite some time.  Despite some bad weather and a little discomfort I was home safe and sound.  The important lesson I learned that day was that I could actually do all that in one day, as opposed to the stupid plan I had of doing an overnight and riding it in two days.  I also learned that I am actually happier when I'm suffering.  Or at least when the suffering is over.

I still had an overnight trip on my mind though, but I would have to ride a longer distance to make it worthwhile.  So, I started planning some longer day trips to build up to an acceptable distance for an overnight.

I'll get into that next time I guess, and maybe tell y'all what the big goal is.

Friday, October 4, 2019

So Why Bikepacking?

Other than just needing some adventure?  Well...

Who would want to ride for so long that their ass goes numb, every part of their body hurts, and they can barely see straight?  Well, I would.  I mentioned in the last post that I am an idiot.  There's more to it than that though.  The simple fact is, I ride a desk all day inside a climate-controlled environment.  I get up and walk all over my building, up and down stairs on occasion, but mostly, I sit.  Our bodies are not designed for that shit.  Everyone wants to take it easy, relax, etc., but is it really relaxing when you don't do a damn thing in the first place?  I'm not saying that having a job like this isn't difficult, but it's not hard on the body.

I know most people (here where I work and I would venture to guess most other places as well) do the following:  Wake up, climb in a little box on wheels, drive to another box, sit all day in that box, and when work is over climb back into that box on wheels, and ride back to the home box for the night.  Sure, there's eating, laundry, etc. but lets face it...  They are in a box all damn day.  Those same people complain about the weather (right now it's too hot, but soon it will be too cold.)  But why?  The weather makes you uncomfortable for what?  Maybe fifteen minutes out of the day while you get in/out of the aforementioned boxes?  And you need to relax? 

GTFO with that nonsense.

Some days, I spend all day inside those boxes too.  You know, because life.  I guess that's fine sometimes.  But most people I see spend the majority of their lives this way.  I guess it's because they don't want to be uncomfortable.  Or they just like bitching about anything and everything.  I'm no expert though.  Who gives a shit. 

Anyway, back to bikepacking.  When I decided to suddenly become a bikepacker (or amateur homeless person, thanks Dicky) I went all in.  The rides got longer, the bike bags multiplied, and I suddenly figured out what kind of shit I needed to put in those bags.  I started with short day trips, but I knew I would eventually get to using this:

I've slept in that hammock in The Pisgah before, but not because I packed it on my bike and rode there to do it.  So naturally I wanted to do an overnight trip, and my pal James told me I should (because of the big plan thing I haven't talked about yet.)  I didn't want to ride way too far, camp, then ride home (for fear of not having the legs to actually make it) so I planned something small(ish.)

I found a good route of mostly back roads and off-road to Crowders Mountain State Park, west of here.  I figured at twenty five miles out and twenty five back I'd be okay, and with all those trees I could throw up a hammock pretty much anywhere.  I know, fifty total miles in two days doesn't seem like much, but for someone that had been riding very little it was a huge step.  My fitness was like my love for riding...all but gone.

With a solid route and all my gear loaded, I was ready.  Then some home stuff took away my second day, my my stubborn ass wouldn't change the plan (much.)  I'll just ride out there, set up the hammock as if I were camping, pack it up, then ride home the same day.  I wasn't sure if I had that distance in me, but you know my motto... Who Gives A Shit.

I took off, meandering through some back roads across the river towards the monadnock that is Crowders Mountain.

I took some quiet roads...

Grassy easements...

And even a greenway conveniently heading in my direction...

About fifteen miles in, I stopped for food/drinks at the last sign of civilization.  Then I looked up and saw my motivation for the day...

After that it was back roads and even a really backwoods dirt road I stumbled upon.  I took a chance with it, even though there were shotgun shells scattered everywhere and dogs running around.

I made it out, hit a little section of paved road, then a steep ass climb finally put me at my destination...

I was pretty tired, mostly because that was one of the longest rides I'd done in quite some time.  I set up my hammock, ate my lunch, and relaxed while I wondered if I had the legs to get home.  I sorta felt okay, but I really wish I could have just slept in that hammock for a while.

After digesting my food and getting re-hydrated, I packed up my hammock, etc. and started my journey towards home.  My legs felt like shit.

Tune in next week to see what happens next, even though it's pretty obvious that I'm not still out there.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Trying To Stay Regular...

I attempted to get back to blogging a while back and stopped again.  No excuse.  I'm just plain lazy and forgetful.  I'm really trying, Ringo.

Well, I'm trying again.

So let's just jump right in.  I've been pretty regular on the social medias during my hiatus at least, posting pictures of rides I've been doing.  And yes, I've been riding...  a lot.  Those that follow along know that I've changed things up a bit but only a few know exactly why.  I have some big shit planned (coming up in a few months), but there is a reason why I started planning this big shit.  And not just so I could write the work "shit" repeatedly.  Shit.  Uh, I mean, who gives a shit.

I always used to say, "I ride all kinds of bikes, but I'm primarily a mountain biker."  I said that shit like it meant something special.  And it did (to me), at the time.  I loved riding in the woods on trails more than any other kind of bicycle riding.

Noticed I said "loved."  I somehow got into a funk and just got burned out on the whole scene.  Local trails were boring to me.  Mostly because everything is pretty much the same nowadays (with few exceptions.)  People want that fast, smooth, and "flowy" shit, so everything you see is just that.  But it's boring.  I like that stuff sometimes, but when that's all everyone wants to ride (and build) it gets old really quick.  And I really don't get it either.  Most folks I see are riding full suspension machines built for them thar hills because they are "comfortable", but my full rigid singlespeed is just as comfortable to me.  I enjoy suffering though.  I'm also an idiot. 

And that's the other thing.  Everyone keeps jumping onto the next "new thing", trying to play keep up in a game that's designed (by bike industry people) not to be won.  And honestly, it's not just prevalent in the bike world.  People do that all the time in everyday life.  Some may call it clever marketing, but I think people are just sheep and want what everyone else tells them they should want.  I'm no innovator or trendsetter by any means, which I guess explains why I don't feel the need to stay with the times.  But if this shit keeps up, everyone will be riding electric bikes on paved paths and pump tracks, comparing Strava times likes it's an old fashioned dick measuring contest.  No, thank you.

Anyway, this is not a rant and this is just like, my opinion , man.  I made the conscious decision to do my own thing, because trying to do what everyone else does is just so exhausting.  Racing was fun for me when I did it, and sure, I miss riding with most of my bike friends.  But while they are worried about their PRs and how much travel that new bike they saw has, I just want to go on adventures.  That's really what this is all about...

Adventure.  I yearned for it.

When I was a kid I rode my bike everywhere and is was always an adventure.  When I started riding again as an adult, I was able to capture that feeling of adventure again.  Eventually, I started being like everyone else and didn't even notice that feeling was gone.  But when I was stuck in a job that kept me traveling all the time, I managed to find some adventures every time I went to a new city.  Unfortunately, that turned out to be the only time I was able to ride.  Once I was free from traveling for work, I decided I would try to do more adventure riding.

It started with the road bike, mostly because loading a bike on my truck, driving to a trail, and riding in circles didn't seem like much of an adventure to me.  But the road wasn't really doing it for me.  I wanted more, and I definitely missed being off road. A buddy of mine told me about a shortcut to the trails near my house, so I started exploring that area.  Those boring (I've ridden them a bunch over the years) trails became fun again, because of how I got to them.  Not having a predefined path to ride was exciting...

I started doing that for a while, and the destination didn't even matter anymore.  I was having adventures in the woods, instead of trying to see how fast I could finish a particular trail.  Then it dawned on me...

Is this what those bikepacking people do?  I wasn't sure since I had never really paid much attention to it before.  I thought it was just another form of gravel grinding, i.e. dirt roadie shit.  Maybe it was, but it was starting to look fun to me.  It was riding a bike, and bikes are supposed to be fun.  I needed to find my fun again...

Could this be it?

Just like everything else I do, I jumped right in.  I did a little research, made some ridiculous plans (more on that later), and even asked one friend who I knew had some great knowledge about bikepacking (shoutout as promised to James.)  I took a bike that hasn't seen much use since I stopped racing, and starting putting some bags on it.

What was I supposed to put in those bags?  I had no idea.  I just knew I needed bags.  Then I started planning rides.  Hours of staring at Google Maps, local knowledge, and a little luck allowed me to find some cool(ish) routes.  I hit paved roads, gravel, powerline cuts, and singletrack.  And even some bushwhacking for good measure.  Riding bikes was fun again.

This was a dramatic change for me.  I had been in a funk and bikes just weren't as fun as they once were.  I remember being on a trail, even riding with friends, wishing we would hurry TF up and get to the end.  I was never in the moment, instead just going through the motions.  Once I started these new little adventures though, hours would pass before I would realize that I was tired and probably should start heading home.  It was a huge difference for sure.

And it was only the beginning.