This post is the first one of three, explaining the changes to our trip, where we are and where we are going. These will be a little wordy, but there is a lot to say!
Where are we? Alpine, TX heading towards Big Bend National Park!
As we slowly pedaled across the great state of Texas (our eighth state!) there was a drastic change looming on the horizon, and for most of those miles we didn’t see it coming. For nearly six months, we had found solutions to every single issue and problem we had encountered. There was the time in Miami when Mark started having back issues, so he laid down in a park to take a little breather, only to find he couldn’t get up. Or the time we couldn’t find a place to camp or any dog friendly accommodations, so we ended up pitching a tent behind a police station. Many days we woke up and didn’t know exactly where we were going to lay our heads that night. Or what we might find to eat. The number of loose dogs in parks and out on the roads we had to chase off is easily well over 100. Over the course of the trip, we developed a quiet confidence that things would work out, that there was a solution to every problem, that we would overcome all obstacles.
Partly across Texas, Biscuit started letting us know he was having a hard time. We rode some short days, some long days, and on almost all of them he had some degree of difficulty that increased the further west we went. It was tough to figure out, because he used to love riding in the cart. Sticking his head out of the side, tongue out, ears flopping in the wind. Happy as could be! It wasn’t bad at first, but as it started getting tougher for him we tried all kinds of creative solutions, and nothing worked. Well, the ONLY thing that worked was to have one person ride WAY behind. His little dog brain would then become more concerned about the person being left behind than his own issues and he would be calm. Not a good solution for many reasons. After making it most of the way across Texas and arriving in Alpine, we were all set to pursue all sorts of new options, any option, to help him. Even more intense research began. In the end, we determined all of the ideas we had would be just patches to the fact he would no longer be able to ride in the cart and enjoy it. The rest of the team was doing great, but when one member is down, we rally. In this case, the rally meant adding four more wheels.
It was really the only solution. We could have packed up and went back home. Nope. Neither of us was ready for the journey to be over. We could have sent Biscuit to live with a friend or relative. That wasn’t even an option discussed. He belongs with us, period. He wouldn’t understand being left behind and didn’t deserve that because of his issues. Or we could have forced him to soldier on, which also wasn’t ever discussed. That is certainly not the way we roll.
So, in the space of three days we located and purchased a van. It may have seemed like a rash decision looking in from the outside. It happened quick, but it was well-thought out. We’ll talk more about the van in the next post, discussing why a van, why THIS van, etc. There is a lot to it, and it is worth talking about.
Due to the quick change in direction, both of us had some pretty Texas-sized mental anguish. The bicycle part of our adventure had been everything we expected and hoped for, plus so much more. We endured hardships, we laughed, fought the elements, the terrain, insects, and everything else thrown at us and in the end we are proud of what we accomplished. Six months and nearly 4,000 miles of 700+ lbs combined weight isn’t a normal tour. But we are just two normal people. Well, normal as in we aren’t any kind of athletic rock stars. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it. It took us some time to mourn the loss of that trip, and in some ways we still are in mourning. For a while, we were cool. We would roll into a town and folks would go out of their way to chat. More than once people chased us down in their vehicles to talk to us. After all, it’s not every day you see two people on bikes towing two cute dogs in a trailer. Often it felt like we were in a parade, with so many people waving or honking horns. It was amazing. It really, really was.
But, that part of this adventure is over. Draw the curtain. There are no more dogs in a cart for us. Yes, we will continue to ride, but now it’s more about fitness than a bicycle tour where we ride every mile between points A and B. The change has been hard in some ways, but it’s been amazing in some others. First and foremost, you should have seen Biscuit when he first saw the van. Somehow, he knew it was for him. He loves it and he is back to his normal floppy-eared happy Biscuit-self. As for us people, it’s safer at night and more comfortable. That might sound a little odd, since our entire home is still only 10’ by 4’. We even bought an inexpensive ice chest and now we eat things like fruits and veggies. Mmmm. Little things. And the van allows us to actually SEE the country we are traveling through. Make no mistake, traveling by bicycle is by far the best way to immerse yourself in the environment. You feel every degree of temperature change, every hill, every bump in the road, the wind direction, and you sure don’t miss seeing much at 9 MPH. But we never did get to DO much because there was no place to leave little dogs. Or something cool was 20 miles off course and that was 4-6 hours out and back for us, nearly a full day. Since getting the van, we have been to 10 parks that we wouldn’t have been able to visit on the bikes. Not to mention resolving one dental emergency.
Speaking of that dental incident, it forced us to remain near Carlsbad, NM for a week while a crown was made. We actually sped up the process by driving the mould to Roswell and the crown back to the dentist, all in the van! That downtime allowed us time and space to talk about and process the changes that had been happening and how we wanted to approach the future. Through those discussions, we realized that this entire amazing country is now open to us. We can go anywhere! During that week, we went to Bottomless Lakes State Park, Valley of Fires, Three Rivers Petroglyph Site, White Sands National Monument, and Brantley Lakes State Park. It was great! Now we see our life transitioning from one centered on the bicycles, to one centered around van life. We are still working it out ourselves, but one thing is for sure, adventure and freedom is still on our horizon. Biking, hiking, climbing. All of it.
After all of that, here we are living the van life. Embracing it for all it’s worth because that is how all of us should really approach each day. This hasn’t gone how we planned, but it’s still going to be great because we believe it will be. Once again, the entire team is happy and healthy. As you might imagine our budget is now all out of sorts, but we are working on that as well (more on how we will resolve that in Part 3).
Hopefully this helps to explain a little better what led up to buying the van. In the next post, we’ll talk about the van itself and why it fits with our future visions.
Stay with us, y’all!
Mark, Georgia, Junebug and Biscuit