There is an undeniable romance to bike camping. Escaping the everyday routine under your own power, sleeping outside, the sense of adventure; even the easiest S24Os are thrilling. I’ve had the opportunity to experience this romance on plenty of weekends and holidays, but it had long been my fantasy to sneak in a work-night bike camping trip.
Thanks to a recent spate of unseasonably dry and sunny weather in Seattle and two gung-ho coworkers of mine, I was able to make fantasy reality.
Michelle Cassell and Ryan McAfee are multimedia journalists-turned-adventurers exploring America by bike. As the journalism industry continued to falter in 2011 and the duo continued to struggle to make freelancing work, they decided to set off on a cross-country bike tour from Virginia to Oregon. They documented their trip in videos that became season one of their America ByCycle bike travel series. Now they’ve started on their second trip and second season of the show. I spoke to them as they and their new touring partner Alex visited Seattle early on in their Canada to Mexico West Coast tour. We discussed the inspiration for their first tour, their experience as completely novice touring cyclists, their backgrounds as journalists and their goals for the video series, and more.
At the start of the tour. All photos courtesy of Chris Figureida.
Bike tourists often talk about metaphorical highs and lows. An amazing sunset over a breathtaking vista, an endless climb on an empty stomach; they’re the moments that help capture the essence of the ride in its retelling. When Chris Figureida tells the tale of his latest adventure, he has a very literal low and high to which he can point. The low: Death Valley, the start and end to his tour. The high: 17,200 feet up Mount McKinley, the highest peak in the United States and the halfway point for Figureida’s 5 month, 7,761 mile, round-trip bike tour.
According to Figureida, a half-dozen or so other cyclists have done the ride from Death Valley to Denali. He says he is the first to ride it round trip. The 31-year-old set out on this tour in large part to raise money for the American and Canadian Heart and Stroke Associations and Rotary International’s Polio Plus. He raised about $4,000 on the ride. But he also took on this journey to sate his strong sense of adventure as an avid mountaineer and bike tourist.
Figurida set off from Death Valley, California in March of this year. He rode through Nevada and Idaho, across Canada, and eventually up the desolate, icy Alaskan Highway to Denali National Park. The plan was to then ski 60 miles to the Mount McKinley base camp before summiting the peak.
Recently, I had the opportunity to see a screening of Reveal the Path, a new documentary from Ride the Divide executive producer Mike Dion. Ride the Divide follows a handful of racers during the 2008 Tour Divide. For those unfamiliar, the Tour Divide is a 2,700 mile, self-supported mountain bike race from Banff, British Columbia in Canada to Antelope Wells, New Mexico on the U.S.-Mexico border. That style of self-supported mountain bike racing and riding is called bike packing.
Reveal is, in many ways, a sequel to Ride the Divide. Though it’s not about racing, the film follows Tour Divide alums Matthew Lee (five-time winner), Kurt Refsnider (2011 winner), Dion (he competed in the 2008 race, though he did not finish), and the film’s producer, first-time bike packer (and Ride the Divide director) Hunter Weeks on a bike packing journey, riding and camping on trails and remote mountain roads across Scotland, France, Morocco, Nepal, and Alaska.
Posted in Bike Touring, Mountain Biking, Reviews
Tagged adventure cycling, bike packing, cycling documentary, cycling films, hunter weeks, kurt refsnider, matthew lee, mike dion, reveal the path review
Ellee on tour. Photo via author’s website.
Portland, OR’s Ellee Thalheimer is an author, freelance travel writer, and avid bike tourist. Her newest book, Cycling Sojourner, is a guide to multi-day, self-supported touring in Oregon, the only one of its kind for the state. I reviewed the book last month then finally got a chance to talk to Ellee as she wrapped up her book tour and some exploratory bike touring for another potential touring guide. We spoke about her past experiences touring nationally and abroad, her background in writing, her process for Cycling Sojourner, and more.