What is (almost) done happening…
Cycling for Scholars at Risk
June 19th, 2022
Every trip starts with a joke. When we cycled from San Francisco to San Diego in 2019, we joked about our dream to see California without having to borrow an expensive camper van and spending the whole day indoors. “What if… what if we bike down the coast?” And then we laugh about it, this is absurd, this is impossible to organize, this isn’t even fun! And then we do it.
When we’re convinced that we want do it, we tell friends and family. My grandma (~85 years old) got used to these “vacations,” sighs and shakes her head. My mom reminds us of the heat, the distance, the mountains, all the cars, the tourist season, the… – my mom loves our bike rides (especially when we’re back home). As soon as we’ve convinced everyone, we start to plan.
Bike trips take a lot of time to organize. First, you need to decide where you want to go, how long you can go in a limited time of vacation days, and whether you really think that so many mountains are a good idea (especially for the two of us, who were raised in Northern Germany, which doesn’t raise beyond 5 meters above sea level).
Second, you need a bike. This is often very difficult, given that it’s expensive to take bikes on planes or trains. With planes, you never know if the bikes really arrive the same day as you do. The best solution for our California trip was to buy new bikes, which we rode down to San Diego and sold them there (a fair but not a good price, but we got two “free” surf lessons from the happy new owner). When we cycled from Southern Bavaria through the Alps to Geneva, we brought our own bikes from Hamburg on the train. This was obviously great but we had to take some additional train connections to find place for our bikes on the train.
Third, you need to think of a lot. You need a lot of equipment (tent, sleeping bags, bike bags, tools and extra brakes, food, medical equipment) but ideally, you don’t bring any equipment at all. The two of us (especially me) are not good at leaving unnecessary stuff at home, we love to bring our polaroid camera, a nice shirt, a book, another book… not a good idea on a bike, where you have to carry everything. Thus, we try to take half of the equipment we need, halve it again, reduce it by a bit, leave some of that, … and then we have bikes that weigh about 40kgs.
Fourth, you need to plan the trip. How many days do we have for the distance where we need to be (this time ISPP, usually an international airport)? Are there any campsites? What do you want to see? Is another old church worth a detour of 50km? Where can you get water? Where can you buy food, and what type of food can you get that doesn’t melt before you arrive in the evening? There are many questions but the most important one is to find a route that has a good balance of remoteness, safety, beautiful nature, accessible stores and facilities, and campsites.
In total, such a tour takes a couple of long Sundays to plan. But already that is fun. You gradually start to realize that this trip is actually possible. We’ll start next Saturday.