Friday, December 28, 2012

Cost of Biking

A lot of people that I meet on my trips comment about how expensive it is to travel, or how they wish they could do it, or even that I must be a millionaire.

So I decided to break down the total costs of the trip. I already had all of my camping gear, including stuff like a tent, sleeping bag, clothing, etc, so this is just the cost of the biking.

Bike: $450
Racks: $70
Panniers: $130
Tools: $65
Pump: $30
Maintenance: $15
Add-ons (mirror, pedal cage, reflectors, etc): $68
Replacement tire: $27
Misc (gloves, helmet, etc): $87
Total equipment: $942

Campgrounds (4 nights on California coast):$19
Hostel in San Diego: $22
Total lodging: $41

Total food: $479

Total Cost: $1462

Number of Days: Aug 22-Dec 12: 112 days
Cost per Day: $13.05

However, now that I have all of my equipment purchased, any future bike trips will be just paying for food, lodging, and any maintenance. That means roughly $5-7 per day. That's pretty reasonable for anybody.

Granted I was stealth camping or on public land most of the time, which saved a ton of money, but so can anyone else. Warmshowers helped out a bit as well, providing free places to stay in some towns. Even just staying in camprounds could up the price by $10-20 per day. I am used to camping in the woods, so I am fine not at a campground, and that adds up to a cheap way of traveling for me.

And no, I am not a millionaire :)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Reassembly and Homebound

After getting in to the Greyhound station in Rochester NY around 8:00pm I had the fun job of putting my bike back together. Fortunately there were only 4 other people in the small station, so I didn't have people wandering around me all the time. The greyhound employees were also behind a wall from me, so they didn't have the opportunity to yell at me.

Overall it took about an hour or so to put the bike back together, making sure everything was working as I went along. The other people in the station gave me some strange looks, but went back to normal disinterest after a bit.

Since the station was in the middle of the city I had to ride out for about 10 miles to get to a good spot to camp. Along the way I ended up having to re-inflate my tires 3 times. Apparently the slime that had been holding my tires together doesn't like freezing temperatures. It probably doesn't distribute properly in the tire to seal any leaks. While its not fun to deal with flats at any time, it especially sucks when its dark out and freezing cold.

After setting up my tent for the night I changed out one of my tubes for my last spare, and called it a night. The next morning I did the last ten miles to my parents house, and the spare seemed to hold. Now its time to do some long needed maintenance on my bike, and try to enjoy the holidays.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Another Greyhound Adventure

After spending my last night on the bike trip, my host drove me and my boxed up bike to the Greyhound station around 7:30am, since she had to work around 8:00. I knew the bus wasn't supposed to leave for several hours, so I checked in my box and waited. The bike box actually weighed in at 53 pounds, over the limit, but the station attendant let it slide, which probably saved $40 in overweight charges.

Then the fun began. The bus coming in to Roswell was more than two hours later, coming from El Paso. According to the driver it was due to icy roads, but that doesn't really account for all the time. Then, leaving Roswell we were traveling around 30mph down an absolutely clear highway. Finally one of the passengers complained and the driver said there was engine trouble, and it was smoking, so we pulled off the side of the road for her to check something.

When we pulled back on the road the smoking had stopped, but we were still only doing around 30mph, even with the pedal all the way down. The driver announced over the PA that we could either limp along the highway towards Amarillo, or wait for a bus to catch us from El Paso. The Amarillo option was faster, so that is what she was going for.

When we got to the next town the dispatch called her and told her to stop the bus there, and they would send another bus from Amarillo, which would take about 3 hours. Fortunately there was a McDonalds close by, and a Dollar General.

When we finally got to Amarillo we were 8 hours late, so they had to reroute everyone. They did give complementary meal tickets, but they were for the in-station restaurant, which was typical really bad food. When I finally got rerouted they sent me through St. Louis and Cleveland, instead of through Memphis, and I would have to wait about 5 hours for the next bus.

The positive side of the reroute was that from there on out I was on the newer style of bus, including electric outlets and wireless. Also, for some reason the baggage handling policy was different on that schedule, so the handlers would actually move my bike box over to the new bus for me. Usually you have to move it yourself.

The really bad part of the reroute was that instead of getting in around 10:30am in Rochester, I would be getting in at 8:00pm, well after dark. Originally I was planning on riding all the way to my parents house that day (~20 miles), but the darkness changed that around.

Monday, December 10, 2012

One last night

I decided a little while ago that I would be temporarily ending my bike trip, for a couple of reasons. Originally I was going to be working in Florida for the winter, but that fell through. The company wasn't able to figure out if they could insure me or not, since their insurance company never responded to more than a month of calls and emails.

Ending the trip is a bit more complicated than I had originally thought. I had to figure out where I was going to end it, try to set up a warmshowers host, tear apart and box up the bike, and buy a greyhound ticket. Boxing up the bike was definitely the most complicated part of the process.

I ended up deciding on Roswell NM partly because of the greyhound schedules and partly because of warmshowers. If I had ended the trip in Carlsbad it would have meant an extra day on the bus, since the first bus schedule would have taken me back to El Paso, then a roundabout route from there. Instead, I can go more directly from Roswell, and save myself that extra day.

Then came the dilemma of the bike. I figured that any bike shop would be able to supply a bike box, so I wasn't too worried about that aspect. However, when I got into town there was only one small bike repair shop, and they were closed. It seemed likely that they wouldn't have a box anyways, given the type of shop.

I tried behind a Sears, but all of their cardboard was crushed right away, so I went to the dumpsters next door behind a family dollar. Their cardboard wasn't crushed, but it was smaller boxes than I would have liked, but I would have to make due. I ended up grabbing a couple of bigger boxes and tying them on the back of the bike.

Fortunately when I got to my warmshowers host she had planned ahead a bit, since I had emailed that I was hoping to box up the bike. My host had saved several boxes, including a wheel box left behind by previous bikers when they had ordered a new wheel online. Probably the best part though was that her neighbor was visiting her, and mentioned that she had just gotten a mattress, and still had half of the box left over.

I ended up using the mattress box, plenty of packing tape, and a bit of rope to keep the box together. It wasn't a perfect packing job, but after taking the bike all apart the box fit relatively well. The torn apart bike was all taped together, in hopes of reducing damage from greyhound baggage handlers.

And the next morning was a perfect ending to the trip. I had avoided snow the entire trip, and on the last morning I woke up to a wonderful view:


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Another National Park day, this time just a day trip to Carlsbad Caverns. In the caverns there are a few options for which caves to explore, including self guided and ranger guided trips. I decided to go down the Natural Entrance and then explore the Big Cave, which are both self-guided trips. That covers more than 90% of the actual caverns, so I didn't miss much by skipping out on the ranger guided trips.

The first thing I was impressed by was the sheer scale of the caverns. In the Natural Entrance, you start going down a steep path, and then you just keep going down further and further. Looking up in the caverns gives you a feel for the scale of the caves, but they are gigantic.

Then you start factoring in all of the 'decorations' of the caves, which are the stone structures that have been created over thousands of years. A lot of them are pretty plain, but some are actually quite intricate, with all sorts of ripples, folds, and coloring. The whole cave is lit by electric lights, but in an appropriate way. The lighting lends a feel of being in a cathedral, and everyone tended to talk in whispers.

Probably my best pictures:

See the rest of my Carlsbad pictures here.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Guadalupe Mountains National Park

I just spent the last three days exploring Guadalupe Mountains National Park, finally spending a night in one of the parks. They allow free backcountry camping, so I left my bike at the visitor center and took off for two nights to go backpacking for a bit. The only catch is that there are no water sources in the backcountry, so I had to carry all of my water with me. I had already been doing that on the bike, so I had enough capacity, but it was still pretty heavy. Good thing I'm in good shape from previous backpacking and now all the biking.
I left the visitor center in the afternoon and hiked about 4 miles up 2000 feet to a campsite called Pine Top for the first night. Thankfully there were a bunch of trees in the area, because it was pretty windy all day long. Camping in a bunch of trees is definitely a nice change from what I have been doing. Also, getting away from any traffic noises was a nice reward for the steep climb up.

The second day I went for a day-hike from my camp, on a loop called The Bowl, which is basically a big depression on the top of the mountains, which has been home to a Ponderosa Pine forest. There was some fire damage from a forest fire in 1990, but the forest has regrown quite a bit since then.

The last day I hiked back down to the visitor center, then went on a day hike from the visitor center to a place called Devils Hall, which is a natural stone staircase at the bottom of a steep canyon with nearly vertical walls.

See the rest of my Guadalupe pictures here.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Border Patrol

Today I passed through a Border Patrol checkpoint, one of several that I have been through. They seem  to be permanent checkpoints, but they aren't actually at the border crossings. I think they are just to systematically check for any non-citizens.

This particular check was interesting because it was in the middle of nowhere so they were pretty surprised to see a biker. It was at least 150 miles of nothingness between the towns, so they wanted to make sure I had enough water, etc. Since I knew the distance, I had prepared by taking an extra gallon of water with me. I think they didn't realize the kind of distance that someone can cover on a bike, thinking that I would be out for a week or so between towns. They did offer me extra water just in case, but I didn't need any more, so after they confirmed I was a US citizen they let me pass.