A Year on a Bike

On April 2, 2017, I left south Florida and began this amazing journey. Yes, it’s been a whole year since I started my trip. I will provide a summary and some statistics later in the post. But first, a recap of the latest news.

I left Ciudad Juarez and rode 20 km to the US/Mexico border crossing. The road passed right next to the border wall in many places:

There’s something ugly about the wall. To me it is a symbol of how groups of humans seem unable to get along with other groups different from their own. It’s tangible evidence that says “you are different from us and you are not welcome here. In fact, we are going to physically keep you out.”

I have been listening to a lot of history podcasts lately and it amazes me how humans throughout history seem intent on killing each other. Whether for territorial gains, wealth, politics, personal fame, revenge, or whatever, we can’t seem to work out our differences in a civilized, fair way. It has to come down to violence. Well maybe in a few hundred thousand years we will evolve into more peaceful species.

I finally crossed the border back into the USA in New Mexico after almost five months in Mexico, and boy it felt good. The first thing I noticed was the roads: new, well maintained, no trash, nice wide shoulders. As much as I liked Mexico, riding a bicycle in the states is definitely easier.

As I headed north I passed through a number of pecan orchards (groves?) Apparently they have theft problems because I saw a lot of these signs.

Not sure what these trees were but they looked like they were over-pruned. I guess they will grow back but it looked funny.

New Mexico has vineyards? Who knew?

This orchard of trees was flooded by irrigation. Seems like overkill but I guess they know what they are doing.

I finally tried out a couple house sharing apps in order to save some money. I got spoiled in Mexico where I could easily get a cheap hotel room for less than $20. In the USA it’s tough to find one for less than $60. So in Las Cruces I searched couchsurfing.com and found Justyn, a nice college engineering student who accepted me into his house for a night. He was super friendly and we went out to a local restaurant and later played video games a watched a movie. Here is Justyn in front of his house.

Continuing north I came across this sign. Yes, please share the road, people. Thank you!

Near white sands national monument I camped out near a lake. It was super windy though and sand blew into everything, including my bowl of ramen noodles. The joy of camping.

As I went north I climbed up onto a high plateau, about 7000 feet in central New Mexico. It was tough: 75 miles of cold strong headwinds. Not a tree for miles. I had ice in my water bottles one morning when camping.

As I dropped down into the Albuquerque valley, I tried another home sharing app, warmshowers.org. This one specializes in matching up bicycle tourists with hosts. I lucked out again and was hosted by Tom and Pat Fritts, two wonderful people who have traveled quite a bit themselves. They cooked a delicious dinner and we traded many travel stories.

Here I am soaking in their hot tub. They were so nice and hospitable. Thanks again Tom and Pat!

I passed by this tree that looks like it belongs in a horror movie.

I finally arrived in Albuquerque and got on some nice bike trails. Here is one I rode on for about 10 miles.

I stayed a couple nights with my old friend and ex-Boeing colleague Bill in his great place in northwest Albuquerque. He is a fit 70 year old who rides his bike to the gym daily.


The Year

Well it has been quite a year. On the whole it has worked out more or less as planned. I rode from Florida to Michigan for our family reunion in July, then to Denver to see more family, then to Phoenix to see my aunt and uncle. I spent the cold winter in warm Mexico and now am headed back to Denver as the weather warms up. Looking back, following are some of the highlights of the past year.

  1. The Blue Ridge Parkway. If you get a chance you should take a drive on this. It is one of the most scenic roads I have ever been on. As I mentioned, it is unique due to the restrictions on road crossings and development along the parkway. Few commercial establishments, no stop signs, no traffic lights, no commercial vehicles.

  2. Ontario, Canada. I had trouble in Ontario, trying to take a shortcut through the bush. As you may recall I got stuck for four days on some awful two track roads and had to retrace my steps. But other than that Ontario was great. Miles of unspoiled wilderness, great local food, nice people. I even saw a moose.

  3. Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. I may be biased here because I have been going to the UP for years, but Lake Superior never fails to impress and awe me. It’s been may years since I had the chance to camp right near the lake but I managed to do that  four times this trip. Fresh cool air, waves crashing on the rocks, bathing in the cold water…it’s a great experience.

    Of course, the highlight of the UP was our Kilpela family reunion. As usual, it was a great time to catch up and make new memories.

  4. The West. I’ll say Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico. I love the desert. Even though I got sick of all the RVs and campers zooming past me on narrow roads, there were plenty of quiet, desolate spaces where I camped in dry, scrubby fields with only roadrunners around. The great weather and wide open spaces were breathtaking. It’s a magical area and worth a visit.

  5. Oaxaca, Mexico. Just go. Culture, food, art. What else do you need?

  6. Mexico’s Costa Chica. This is the Pacific coast south of Acapulco, mainly the states of Oaxaca and Guerrero. Dozens of small fishing villages where you can get a great cabana right on the beach for $5 and a delicious fish or shrimp dinner. Then just  sway in a hammock watching the sun set and listening to the waves crash on the beach.

Those are highlights so far. Some stats of the first year:

  • Total miles cycled: 10,289
  • Days cycled: 262 out of 365 (72%). This is a lot fewer than I planned, only 3 out of 4 days.
  • Miles per cycling day: 39. Again, fewer than planned. I planned on 50 miles per day. Oh well.
  • Highest mileage day: 82 miles
  • Hotel/motel nights: 215 (59%)
  • Camping nights: 104 (28%)
  • Other: 46 (13%) (cabins, B&B, houses, etc.)
  • Major issues: My rear hub exploded in Virginia and I had to limp along until I got a new one in a bike shop. My saddle rail broke and had to replace it. I fell once and almost cracked a rib in Tennessee. I had three broken spokes and some other minor failures. Got sick a couple times. But all in all, no major catastrophes. Knock on wood.

Anything else you would like to know about the trip just drop me a line or make a comment. Stay tuned for year two!

3 Responses to “A Year on a Bike”

  1. Ben Kilpela says:

    Enjoyed the whole year, Kev. Keep up the good work. I follow every post. How are the finances holding up?

    • Kevin Koski says:

      Hey Ben, thanks for keeping up. I don’t get nearly as many comments as 10 years ago before Facebook. Times change fast. As for finances I was pretty careless the first six months, staying in a lot of hotels. When I checked my bank account I realized I was way over budget so I have been staying in warmshowers.org, couchsurfing.com and air bnb lately to save money. Its good because I also have someone to talk to other than myself, which helps with the sanity factor. I have considered trying to advertise on the blog but not sure how to go about it. Otherwise I accept donations, but they have been few and far between.

  2. JoJo says:

    Looking forward to seeing you Kev. Like Ben, I follow regularly and look forward to commentary and pictures. You’re an interesting writer, photographer and historian. But sorry, can’t send any money…. ha! Love ya! See you in a couple weeks.

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