So after a few months living comfortably with all the food and luxury you’d expect to come with working and living in French ski chalets, we decided to do something slightly less comfortable….ride over 10,000km on a pair of cheap bikes with no training, experience and very little preparation. Yeah we like to mix it up a bit.
A cycling trip is something that’s always been in the back of my mind to do, but I never actually thought it would happen…I blame Kelly.
We had originally discussed cycling across Canada in the next 2 years sometime and thought it would be a good idea to see if we liked it by taking a small trip on bikes.
It started out as cycling around Iceland, then changed to riding around Croatia and Montenegro, then to Croatia from France and then one day Kelly walked in and said, “So I’ve had an idea….” Which usually means she’s been thinking of something slightly mental and isn’t sure what I’ll think of it.
Turns out she thought cycling to China just a couple of months after a serious knee injury was a good idea…I fully agreed!
So the ‘small trip to prepare for the bigger trip’ actually became quite a lot larger than the bigger trip and we had a matter of weeks to get our shit together and get organized!
We went on a furious eBay spree and ordered all the finest (cheapest) cycle crap that china had to offer. Seems a waste of postage now that we’re cycling back to china with all the gear.
Seemed like the last few weeks of work cleaning toilets and cooking mighty feasts (in that order) for rich ski tourist types dragged on forever and we were itching to hop on the bikes and ride off in search of a bit of adventure and silly times.
We were both pretty nervous seeing as Kelly was still limping badly from her knee injury and neither of us had a clue about how to fix any problems that may arise with the bikes and the fact that it decided to start snowing again a couple of days before we left…the weather can be a harsh little dick.
Nevertheless we didn’t let anything stop us from rolling down the hill from the ski station that had been home for the past few months and out of the alps, even when Kelly’s cheap shitty panniers broke several minutes before we set off for the first time. Gaffa tape saved the day!
The first hill down was pretty nerve racking, was still freezing cold and fingertips went numb and could barely pull the brakes plus seeing as we hadn’t actually rode with the bikes loaded up with all our crap was a bit scary, but we survived!
The first day on the bike I knew I had found something I loved. The freedom of being able to zip down hills with your home and possessions strapped behind you and travel for as far as your legs will take you made me giddy and excited like a dumb child with a pet turnip.
We found a park outside Albertville somewhere and set up our tiny green tent that would be our home for the next 7 or 8 months and my excitement grew as I realized that from now on anywhere with a free patch of ground could be home.
France was an excellent introduction to the world of cycle touring; it is set up for cyclists with excellent roads, drivers that respect people on bikes, beautiful country side and cycle routes through most towns.
We were pretty keen to see some new scenery after spending quite a while working in France so took the shortest route out to Italy. The shortest route due to the mountain passes still being covered in snow at the time was actually a huge detour that took us in completely the opposite direction and then back into the alps for a grueling mountain pass but hey, we like a challenge. Balls out!
It was a bit of a reality check when we finally began ascending to the pass into Italy as we’d had pretty much flat cycling for the first week and were then faced with the shitty fact that hills exist and we will have to climb them. I think we did pretty well tackling our first mountain on a bike even though the wind decided it hated us and changed to blow icy cold fury in our faces at the steepest point.
It was on this first mountain that hunger kicked in. We’d eaten pretty well for the first few days and hadn’t felt too much more hungry than normal, but once we hit this hill every fibre of my being was screaming for a snickers. This is when we started attacking French sticks like vicious badgers. I’ve never experienced the kind of hunger pains that happened on that mountain, I felt like I could eat all the stinky cheese in France and still not be full.
We kept motivated by promising ourselves a huge pizza and beer as soon as we crossed into Italy and continued and eventually conquered the 2067m col du lautaret pass and then the second (much easier) col du something le something pass into Italia!!!
We felt victorious…we could do this whole cycle touring thing and eventually, possibly make it to china! The celebratory pizza and beer tasted ten times better as we felt we’d earned it….plus we’d been living off cream cheese and baguettes for a week and my guts were in need of some grease.
We shot across Italy in less than two weeks as we are both tight asses and traveling on a pretty low budget so were attempting to make it to the Balkans as quickly as our feeble legs would take us so we could munch on some cheap fatty burek and live like biking Vikings.
Italy was just as much of a beginner cyclists’ delight as France with flat roads and relatively easy wild camping plus amazing countryside and mind-blowingly good coffee.
The only down side was the weather. The past month we worked in France it had been abnormally sunny and warm for the time of year with very little snowfall or rain, but of course that all changed when we got on a bike.
We were followed by constant rain and storms all across Italy and it was slowly crushing our spirits. The first time we got caught in a sudden downpour we didn’t even stop to discuss what to do, if we should stop and shelter or just continue, we just pushed on through the rain. The first and last time we did that.
As I mentioned we are poor stingy folk who can’t afford the fancy waterproof panniers and German designed cycle gear weaved from genuine goat scrotum and carbon fibre so everything we own ended up wet including our tent and sleeping bags. Miserable soggy times.
When we did get a sunny day though, the cycling in Italy was glorious. One of the highlights was riding around Turin past poppy fields and rolling green hills. Kelly may disagree as she unfortunately got her front wheel jammed in a tram track in Turin and came off the bike injuring her shoulder and straining her neck as well as bumping her bad knee…she now had knee, shoulder and neck problems to deal with for the next few weeks cycle but like a trooper she pushed on!!
Managed to find some pretty awesome wild camping spots in Italy, random farmers fields, outside a salami factory, a beautiful tree grove and in desperation one night a ditch 2 meters from the side of the main road. Nothing like waking up to the sound of rats gnawing at the burnt on pasta chunks you left in you pots outside the tent!
Due to the rain and storms we did have to cave-in several times and stay in cheap hotels so our budget took a bit of a firm bumming, but we still did alright and thanks to the fine folk at the discount supermarket chain Lidl we ate like royalty gorging on chocolate, granola and pesto pasta constantly.
It was all a bit surreal still and I don’t think it had fully sunk in that we were actually doing it and following through with a crazy idea to jump on bikes and just go, but it kind of hit home when we finally reached the coast and clocked up the 1000km mark at Rimini!!!
We were on a massive high that day after cranking out our biggest day yet (107km), reaching the coast and going over the thousand km mark and treated ourselves to a cheap but amazing hotel room complete with buffet breakfast!!
After our first buffet breakfast experience of the cycle trip in Turin we had made it our number one priority to seek buffets wherever possible. We are like mighty pterodactyls at a buffet; swooping down with skill and precision to fill our plates and selves full of more food than the hotel staff thought possible for any human to fit inside them. In fact, we are a more skilled and terrifying to any buffet than a simple minded pterodactyl…we have hands and backpacks and we will sneakily fill them with enough food to keep a pair of hungry cyclists fed for several days.
Mountains of cheese, boiled eggs, slices of cake, pastries, bread rolls, containers of jam, honey and nuttella all slip into our bags unnoticed (or noticed, we don’t really give a shit) and we eat until our bikes strain under our weight.
So that was it, we had finally crossed our second country on a bicycle and hit the thousand kilometer milestone that we weren’t even sure we could achieve. All that was left was to turn the bikes south and get to Ancona to catch the ferry to Croatia…yeah that’s right a ferry. No it’s not cheating…jerk.
Decided against riding north and then looping south through Croatia as we have a slight time deadline and thought we could shave a bit off that way. Plus catching ferries makes me feel like a fearless pirate.
Phase 1 complete!! We had thought of France and Italy as the ‘training period’ for the rest of the trip and we’d shaped up well! No flat tires, hadn’t been arrested for wild camping and hadn’t cycled off a cliff. All bonuses.
Now for the Balkans…there’s no hills in the Balkans right? Right?!?!
le monal village, finally hiked up from sainte foy ski station yesterday
racoon feeling relaxed in manuel antonio national park, cost rica
Felt strange leaving Nevada and returning to California after over two months of driving around the U.S and 6500 miles covered, the road trip was coming to an end!
Set off early in the morning from the motel parking lot we’d spent the night sleeping in and enjoyed our traditional breakfast meal of yoghurt and a banana in the car park and a ‘shower’ in a Wal-Mart bathroom sink.
Passed through some pretty bleak looking towns on the way into death valley and could feel the temperature changing as we got closer to the park…was starting to understand the name ‘death valley’.
Stepped out of the car at the visitor’s centre and thought my internal organs were going to melt. It was only 8.30 and was already in the mid 40s.
We had considered camping in Death Valley but with the insane temperature and after getting a glimpse of a few of the campsites (rocky dessert floor with no shade whatsoever, would have been like setting up a tent on a bbq hot plate) decided to just pass through.
Crazy landscape; beautiful, but desolate and scary. Tried a short hike through a canyon but lasted about 20 minutes before we turned back.
From death valley we ended up napping under a tree in a shady park in a small town called lone pine for several hours before finding a state park outside bishop and parking the car next to a river in the hills and sleeping in the tray of the truck again. Cooked a tin of mushroom soup for dinner…I deserve several Michelin stars for the fine cuisine prepared on this trip.
Then set off for one of the national parks that I’d been looking forward to the most on this trip, Yosemite!
Arrived and luckily managed to score one of the only tent sites left in the park. Back to bear country! Had a camp fire for only the second time on the trip which was cool….charred all the pots and pans and melted my jacket sleeves but that’s all part of the fun.
Within the first ten minutes of our first hike in the park saw two rattlesnakes, the second of which was roughly the size of a bus and in the middle of the path. Luckily Kelly spotted it before I walked into its mouth.
Yosemite was beautiful and possibly my favourite park after Yellowstone. The hike up to glacier point was well worth the 4 miles of uphill hiking and switchbacks to enjoy the amazing view of the park. Had the perfect view of all the waterfalls in the park, the half dome mountain peak and the valley.
Continued on to do the panorama trail, about 13 miles and my second favourite hike of the trip….plus we saw a grouse doing a funky sex dance on a rock and a wolf in the middle of the path! Wasn’t expecting to encounter a wolf, neither of us really knew what to do, just stopped and stared at him while he stared right back about ten meters in front of us so I did what any good tourist would do…tried to take a photo. He was too fast and ran off, what a jerk of a wolf.
We were planning on climbing the half dome mountain to experience the silliness of having to pull yourself up a cliff face by a chain attached to the rock and no harness, but apparently people die and stuff so you need a silly permit. Yogi bear was right; park rangers are dirty tits.
From Yosemite we were planning on camping/sleeping in the car in king’s canyon and sequoia national park, but it had been our longest stretch without a bed or shower and were both feeling the effects of over 2 months of living like stinky bums so caved and went to a motel.
After 5 nights of camping/sleeping in a car and hiking a hot shower, clean bed and several cold beers feels like a powerful full body orgasm. We stopped in somewhere called Tulare after seeing a sign for a cheap motel and walked around looking for somewhere to eat.
Found a Mexican restaurant that brought me out a plate of food containing a burrito, a taco, a chili relano, rice, beans and a salad plus a stein of blue moon beer. The plate was spectacular. It was honestly the size of my torso, I have no idea how they expected me to fit a plate of food inside me that was actually larger than my body, but I am forever grateful for the opportunity they provided me with. Every man should no his limits…I was defeated and had to ask for a takeaway box…Mexican breakfast the next day was excellent.
We were in wind down mode from the trip now, it was coming to an end and we’d be back in los angeles in a few days to return the car that had been our home for the last couple of months.
Had some stuff to take care of before returning the truck to my mate, the tent and sleeping bags had become pretty filthy and stinky and needed a thorough clean. There was nothing else to do but assemble the tent in the motel car park, strip off to my shorts, get half drunk and clean the tent with a dish cloth. Got a lot of funny looks from the weird characters living in the motel.
In the morning visited sequoia national park and had a walk through the biggest trees on earth! Saw general Sherman the largest tree on earth….was more obese than big. Don’t get me wrong it was pretty big, but it was more fat than massive. The other trees in the park were more impressive I thought. General Sherman was just a big fatty.
From sequoia it was time to go back to the beginning and return to l.a! it had now been about 2 and a half months since we first arrived but felt like a year ago.
We were going to attempt to sleep in the car one last night in Ventura but couldn’t find anywhere suitable to sleep plus the weather had turned to shit so that kind of destroyed our plan of hanging around on the beach until dark.
On top of that my navigating skills had slightly failed us and led to a bit of stress and tension between the two of us. All in all I think we did extremely well considering we’ve been traveling together and around each other 24/7 so only a minor incident or two is pretty good going really.
We decided to just head to a cheap hostel in L.A, but having experienced la peak hour traffic previously thought it best to wait it out in Santa Monica until it cleared up.
Eventually arrived at our hostel in Inglewood…what a weird place. Possibly the strangest hostel I’ve ever stayed in, felt like a shit motel molesting an even shitter hostel in the face. Some pretty sleazy dodgy characters and a funky odour in the dorm room….but it did have a ‘continental’ breakfast. Blueberry muffins are very continental you know.
Managed not to get shot in Inglewood, got the truck cleaned and all of our shit out of it and made the sad journey to Redondo beach to return it to Ryan.
Was pretty weird handing it over to him, it had been like our home for a few months and we’d both become kind of attached to it. Amazingly nothing had gone wrong with it the entire time and didn’t have any accidents so returned it to him in the same condition…apart from the fact that it smelt like 2 aussie’s sweaty bum cracks and it had done a few thousand more miles.
So that was it, all that was left to do was get completely fucking drunk.
Had a massive binge session with Ryan and Andre who we’d stayed with at the start of trip which took us across many bars throughout Hermosa beach and culminated in a huge cake fight between myself and Kelly in the middle of a crowded bar. Not really sure how or why that happened or who’s cake it was. I do remember washing my tshirt in the sink of a bar bathroom packed with people and being amazed that we weren’t kicked out.
Woke up back in Inglewood with cake jammed deep in my ear canal, a horrible pounding headache and a wallet that was severely lighter than the day before. At least a good time was had.
Had originally thought that we’d head straight to Mexico from l.a but with the severity of the hangover only made it as far as San Diego. Glad we stopped in San Diego though, really cool town, friendly people and good food. It’s a shame that the public transport from Inglewood to the greyhound station actually took us a lot longer than the bus ride to San Diego.
So it’s all over now, the road trip is dead! No more car and no more U.S.A for us. It’s a pretty odd feeling, it seems like it’s all done because we’re leaving the states but really it’s just the beginning of the rest of the trip; Mexico is where the real trip begins!! Met some awesome people in the states and got to catch up with some old friends, all in all was an amazing time.
Hasta luego U.S.A, hola Mexico!!!!!!
Salt lake city was already surprising us before we’d even arrived; sent some couch requests on the day we were heading there and had 2 people reply saying we were welcome to stay with them that night. Pretty amazing, usually hard enough with giving a few days notice let alone on the same day.
Decided to go with a family with 4 kids which we were slightly concerned about after the experiences in Eugene staying with children, but turned out to be a good choice. Good people who took us in for a few days and took us out hiking and to a family dinner with some pretty amazing food. If a Mormon ever offers you funeral potatoes, eat them with your face as quickly as you can!
As we were in town on a Sunday decided to go to watch the Mormon tabernacle choir perform…I don’t really know why but it seemed like the thing to do at the time. Was pretty interesting anyway. Tried to start a circle pit but they weren’t into it. Didn’t appreciate me yelling requests either; I thought they’d at least know ‘master of puppets’.
Got some cool tips from our couchsurfing hosts about where to go so headed to capitol reef to check out the petroglyphs and canyons. Kelly said it was her favourite drive of the trip….she went a bit psycho and drove us through a canyon at top speed yelling that she wanted to recreate the final scene from Thelma and Louise. What a nutter.
Ended up driving to calf creek in the same day only to find the camp sites full but found an excellent spot in the state park and slept in the tray of the truck again. Calf creek was awesome, did a cool hike through a canyon to a spectacular waterfall. It was a hot day and all we’d talked about the entire walk was how we’re definitely jumping in the water when we get there…the water was like ice but still glad we did it even though we were in for a total of 5 seconds. Felt liberating like kissing the titties of god.
Bryce canyon was amazing, beautiful deep red rock formations that glowed in the sun. awesome hiking through the valley of these weird formations that stick up out of the ground, some pretty intense switchbacks that made my thighs feel like exploding at some points but one of the best hiking spots of the trip so far.
Camped in Bryce, had our new favourite meal tinned vegie chili with parmesan cheese. If master chef ever does a camping show I shall surely take the crown.
Zion national park was next for what was definitely the best hike of the trip for me up the narrows. When hiking the aim is to usually keep your feet dry at all costs otherwise things can become pretty unpleasant….not on this occasion!
‘Hiking’ the narrows is actually wading through a river for many many miles. Some people hire wetsuits and specifically designed gear…not us, we’re dicks! Just wore our regular hiking shoes and jumped into the icy waters and started heading up the canyon. Such a good day, at first we were all cautious of getting the rest of our clothes wet and careful not to slip on rocks but by the end of the hike were pretty much charging through rapids at top speed and soaking ourselves intentionally. Best hike ever!
We were going to call it a day then, but decided to attempt angels landing hike too. Did the majority of the hike straight up mountain side path and made it up to the ridiculous section where you climb alongside the mountain without a harness hanging onto chains drilled into the rock. It got absolutely stupid coming to the end which was pretty much vertical and an extremely narrow path with a sheer drop either side off the mountain with people trying to pass each other coming in both directions.
Decided it was too much for one day and our legs were slightly fucked from the narrows so turned back. Yes we wimped out but I’d rather be a pussy and still be alive….saw a lady with a six year old girl walk past us. Made me feel pretty shit.
From Zion we made the shitty journey back through the park during public holiday traffic…took over an hour to make a 20 minute journey.
The trip from Zion to the Grand Canyon in Arizona was the most desolate and boring one of the trip. The longest stretch of nothing we’ve seen so far…and Kelly needed to pee so was pretty uncomfortable for several hours.
Arrived to find all the campsites were fully booked but tried the trick of going to the state forest outside the park where you’re allowed to camp wherever you like for free! God bless America.
Found a good spot and slept under the stars in the tray again and then went and checked out the grand canyon; natures great glory hole.
Hiking was pretty intense, completely exposed to the baking hot sun for a good seven hour round trip hike into the canyon. On the way back up I was beginning to feel light headed and dizzy…don’t mess with the Arizona sun!
Was worth the effort, I can understand why the grand canyon is so famous it’s a pretty incredible place and I don’t think it can be fully appreciated by just standing on the edge and looking in.
That night we decided to get rid of the bag of marshmallows that had melted, reset, and then melted again several times in the car to form one extremely large pillow sized marshmallow. It was a savage display involving us tearing chunks of mallow out with forks like wild beasts and toasting them over the flame of our shitty gas cooker. Good thing the camping is nearly over because we pretty much covered and baked marshmallow onto all our gear.
So that was it, decided not to head any further south from Grand Canyon as at this stage we’d been traveling for around 2 months and had to return the truck soon and get the hell out of the country before immigration hunted us down.
VEGAS TIME! Let the stupidity begin.