Jun 6, 2014
I’m about to start what may be the hardest trip of my life.
My good friend Abe Greenspan and I both have long-distance bicycle touring experience. We like long days on a bike seat and even longer days climbing mountains.
So, in a ridiculous attempt to satisfy both of these desires, we are riding our bicycles from Portland, Oregon to Seattle, Washington, with the goal of climbing and skiing huge volcanoes that are (kind of) “on the way.” We will be entirely self-contained, carrying everything from food and water, to solar panels and maps, to crevasse rescue gear and spare brake pads. Oh yeah, and our entire ski mountaineering kits.
In order to carry all of this equipment, our not-specially-designed-touring-bicycles will each have 4 panniers, 1 additional bag, and a single-axle tow-behind trailer. On my short test ride, I was barely able to get enough speed to shift out of the granny gear on flat ground, and was almost entirely unable to stop while going downhill. The brakes are weak, the frames are overloaded, and my leg muscles are insufficient.
But this is the kind of challenge that I like.
Tonight, I start the trip from my garage on my fully-loaded bicycle. I will ride it from my house near the bottom of Utah’s Big Cottonwood Canyon to the Amtrak Station in downtown Salt Lake. The thought of even this ride intimidates me, let alone all that is to come.
I will then ride the Amtrak train for 16 hours to Sacramento, where I will be stuck with all of my gear for a 10-hour layover. Finally, Abe will join me as we take yet another 16-hour train ride to Portland, Oregon. We will get off, retrieve and assemble our rigs, and start pedaling toward the big mountains…2 days after leaving Salt Lake.
Flying to Portland is faster and cheaper. Driving to Portland is faster and cheaper. But I’ll choose mass transit, because if I wanted fast and cheap, I wouldn’t be riding my bike to the base of huge volcanoes in order to climb and ski them. This kind of micro-adventure is what has sucked me into the lifestyle that I am living. And perhaps no brand represents this as much as Black Diamond Equipment, based right here in Salt Lake, a city where they design, build, and test their equipment before making international marketing campaigns in the mountains 10 minutes from their office. I appreciate their support of my train tickets and of trips of all shapes and sizes.
We expect plenty of steep, unmarked, gravel National Forest roads. We expect our stomachs to be full only on the off-chance that we are presented with a free all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet.
Provided intermittent cell service, I am going to do my absolute best to offer you live story-telling from the road via my social media outlets. The links to these are on the top right of this page. I do not expect to be updating this website from my iPhone, because that sounds heinous and I have clumsy fingers.
On the slim chance that you follow hashtags, I will be using #PedalToPeaks.
You don’t need big budgets, helicopters, chairlifts, jets, or even cars to have an adventure. You don’t need a passport, a driver’s license, or superhuman fitness. And you certainly don’t need $4-per-gallon gasoline for your car. Heck, we barely even have a map. But the challenge that I’m expecting to encounter is so great that I am unaware of exactly what I’m getting myself into. After well over 6,000 miles of combined bike touring experience, the only thing we’re expecting is a slow, difficult, incredibly rewarding road. A road that will likely seem to feature nothing but headwinds, roadkill, glass in the shoulders, and semi-trucks. .
…And some steep skiing from tall , small summits would be nice, too.