Frequently Asked Questions
We will be updating this from time to time, as the trip progresses.
What made you decide to do something like this?
Mark: It wasn’t so much a decision, as it is that this trip is just an extension of who I am. I have always wanted to do fun adventures, the longer and more rugged, the better. I have managed quite a fair amount of activity in the relatively meager allotment of corporate vacation schedules, but this has been a lifetime in the making for me. Eventually, I was going to take off on foot, bicycle, motorcycle…something. It was just a matter of time. Now is the time. I’m ready to roll. If anything, think of it this way: I decided to stop living the corporate life for a year and be ME. Once I made that decision, the trip just happened!
Georgia: See Breaking Chains.
Are you afraid?
Mark: Yep. Sometimes I can’t sleep at night worrying about some aspect of this trip. But as my sister reminded me, if I don’t do the trip that would also keep me awake at night. And I’m not afraid of the trip itself, I worry about the dangers along the way to all four of us. Those will be minimized as much as possible before we launch and dealt with appropriately as they happen on the journey. We are a capable lot, the four of us. We’ll handle what comes. And one related note, if you feel safe sitting at home, it’s an illusion. Bad things can happen to any of us at anytime, so why not have a few “weeee” moments along the way?
Georgia: One of my favorite quotes is, “There is freedom waiting for you, on the breezes of the sky, and you ask “What if I fall?” Oh but my darling, what if you fly?” – Erin Hanson. A million times I have thought about various components of this trip with a “what if”, and I realized something about fear. Fear is designed to keep us safe, but safe isn’t always where we are meant to be. If a huge bear is running at us, fear is a healthy thing, preserving life. It tells us to trip the other person and run. But if a journey is ahead of us where we are simply stepping out of our comfort zone, then fear can be diminishing. It tells us the worst possible scenario, one that is often irrational (or preventable with planning), to convince you to turn around and run back to what you know. And if you abide, you exchange your dreams for comfort. So yes, I’m afraid. I’m afraid of a thousand things. But I refuse to allow fear to keep me from truly living my life, from thriving, from being the best me… From being free. I may fall. But at least for a moment I flew.
What are you going to do after the trip?
We can’t know what the trip will bring, or how it will change us. Most of us live as if we will live forever, but the truth is, we are not guaranteed tomorrow. Planning and being smart about things is certainly to be considered, but it flirts with a line of controlling the outcome of life. The more we control what will be, the less by which we can be amazed. When we control it, we might get exactly what we planned. But what if there was more that could have come to us had we not been so focused on creating a different path? Maybe we will find a place that overwhelms us with a sense of belonging and we call that place “home”. Maybe we keep going, knowing that home isn’t really a place anyway. With that, we will approach the end of this journey open to whatever comes next.
How can you afford to do this?
We have been carefully planning costs for this trip including such expenses as food, campgrounds, health insurance, gear items (like a tent and sleeping bags), and the custom building of bikes and a Puppy Waggin’. As such, we have a solid estimate of what the trip will cost. In order to cover that cost, we have eliminated all unnecessary expenses for the last few months and all of that extra savings has been going to the trip fund. It doesn’t cost very much to live in a tent and ride a bicycle, but with no income at all, it’s expensive.
Adding to the trip fund are proceeds from selling most of what we own, including a house, two vehicles, all furniture, household goods, and leaving only some clothes and gear that will be used after the trip.
In addition to all that, we have been so grateful to receive support from people championing for us to help make this dream happen. It is awe inspiring to be recipients of what people are willing to offer. It may be money, gear, a place to sleep, a hot meal, logo design, joining us for day rides to cheer us on, to simple words of encouragement and a belief in us that warms our spirit and keeps us pedaling on. For ways that you can be part of this journey, please take a look at our Get Involved page.
Why are you selling all your stuff and not storing it?
We aren’t selling ALL our stuff. Most of it though. We are saving the things we’ll need and use after the trip, so we don’t have to repurchase them. As with most everyone, we have lots of things we don’t really need or use and all of that is being sold, which will help fund the trip. Beyond that is a desire to be freed from anything holding us back from thriving. In many cases, the stuff we own ends up owning us. The more we have, the more time and money it takes to maintain those things, which means more time in an office to earn funds to pay for it. And in some cases, there is a void that we try to fill with stuff. We are breaking those chains in order to be freed up for a life of adventure. Perhaps Mother Teresa said it best, “The more you have, the more you are occupied. The less you have, the more free you are.”
What if there is an emergency and you are out of cell range?
We will carry a device called a SPOT. It’s connected to satellites and in the event of an emergency and our phones do not have service, it has an “I’ve fallen and can’t get up” button. We hit that, and the Mounties ride to our location.
Will you be safe?
In an online quiz, Human Score, produced by Reebok’s Be More Human initiative, there was a series of questions that asked the respondent to pick between two opposite words to arrive at an assessment of oneself with suggestions on how to become a better version of self. One question in particular caught our eye. Those who produced this quiz define safety as the opposite of freedom. Yeah, you guessed it, we picked FREEDOM. There is a certain degree of risk in this trip that is unavoidable, but we can mitigate it with prior planning. And here is a quick news flash, according to the CDC, mishaps near the bathtub, shower, toilet and sink caused an estimated 234,094 nonfatal injuries in the U.S. in 2008 among people at least 15 years old. We won’t have a bathtub, shower, toilet or sink nearby for most of the trip, so we are likely safer than you. Ponder that as you are brushing your teeth tonight. On a serious note, we will have safety guidelines we’ll follow on the bikes (for instance, yelling “DOVER!” means “move to the right like there is free chocolate on the shoulder of the road”), the bikes have been beefed up to handle the trip, and we are spending hours in the gym and on our bikes preparing our bodies. We have phones with two different service providers, the SPOT device, first aid training (packing extra bubble wrap for Georgia), and family will always know roughly where we are at on the map. That’s just a sample of our planning, which we joke has been like having a second full-time job. Rest easy, we are prepared.
How will you get up big hills?
We will ride backwards, so that way we are always going downhill. If that doesn’t work for some reason, there is a thing on bicycles called a “granny gear.” So you might say to your buddy riding next to you, “Holy cow, that’s a big hill, you better put it in the granny gear.” It means you can be spinning your legs for all your worth, like a hampster on a wheel, and be going just 3 MPH. Most bikes have granny gears. Our bikes have the granniest gears possible.
On the really, really steep stuff, having the dogs walk next to the bikes (attached with a bike-specific dog leash) rather than ride in the cart means a drop of 70 lbs or so. That’s pretty huge, and it’s our goal to get them some daily exercise anyway. We’ll always be very aware of their condition so as to not overtax them, but like all dogs, they love exercise. We are bringing paw wax (the same stuff mushers use) to keep their paws in good condition, and we’ll also pay close attention to the shoulder of the road. If it has a lot of debris, dogs will ride. Either way, we’ll go slow (if it’s a big hill, there is no choice anyway). Leading up to the trip Mark has been taking them for long walks and runs up to a few miles, so they will be in prime condition. Lastly, we can individually leg press 720 lbs. To quote The Rock, “bring it.”
How and where will you sleep?
I sleep on my side, uh thank you. Hehe. Hopefully we sleep like rocks. How do rocks sleep? They sleep hard. Seriously folks, mostly in a tent. Yes, two people and two dogs in a 3-person tent. It’s not as bad as it sounds. One dog is small, and the other is a champion snuggler. Still, it will be cozy in bad weather when all of our gear is also in there. There are also a couple of organizations that we will use to help us find hosts along the way: WarmShowers (dedicated specifically to touring cyclists) and Couch Surfing. Both organizations depend on the kindness of strangers to offer a yard, room, or meal. We are planning to contact organic farms along the way to inquire about exchanging work for room (a place to pitch the tent) and board (spare kale or eggs!). If we find a blueberry farm, we may stay for a bit.
What will you eat?
Everything! With the amount of cycling we will be doing, our caloric needs will more than double. We plan on eating what we can carry on the bikes so our food options will have to be non-perishable, compact, light, and calorically efficient. Georgia is also a gluten-free pescetarian (fish, no meat), which adds complexity to the food planning. We also hope some organic farmers will allow us to work in exchange for some fresh produce. We will be posting more about nutrition along the way.
Food storage will be tricky to navigate. We will need to carry enough food on the bikes to get us to the next place to buy food, or to the next post office. Dog food and bulk food items (such as Quest Bars, ahem) will be kept with a family member who will ship manageable quantities ahead to post office locations via general delivery.
The dogs eat Orijen brand dog food, which is a high quality but somewhat hard to find food. They dance like no one is watching when it’s supper time, so we have stuck with it. It won’t be easy to find on the trip, so that is why a few bags will be left with family for resupplies. In the event of a tragic shortage, we’ll mix in some Blue Buffalo brand purchased along the way to stretch it out until the resupply arrives. They get fed twice a day (breakfast and supper), but if you ask them they don’t know why dogs don’t get a lunch. They also get evening treats when at home, so we’ll pack those along too. Spoiled? Yep. As all dogs should be.
Why bicycles? Why not car?
When we started talking about our next adventure, we were largely focused on hiking. But why walk across the country when you can haul puppies in a cart on a bike?! We are both advocates for environmental health and want to live as organically and naturally as possible. A road trip in a car wouldn’t fit us as well as human powered transportation would. And quite frankly, it’s more challenging- we have a tendency to seek out ways to push ourselves and each other. A non-vehicle trip also puts you IN the environment. Walking or biking, you see the world at a different speed. Have you ever walked a street you have only driven on before and suddenly you notice all sorts of different things? A shop you didn’t know was there. A park that you had somehow missed. A piece of art on a building. We will experience the weather in all its glory. If there are small changes in temperature or wind, we will KNOW it. After a few weeks, we’ll be able to predict the weather better than your Aunt Mabel’s knee. And the people…if you drive from place to place, who is inspired to talk to you? But ride a fully loaded touring bike pulling a puppy cart and well, that makes folks smile. And it makes them chatty. The experience will be deeper on all levels outside of a metal cage on wheels.
What were you drinking when you mapped out the route?
Although most US-based bicycle trips head either coast-to-coast or follow a general north-south route, ours is a bit squiggly. That’s partly because there are several areas of the country we wanted to visit and frankly, a coast-to-coast trip just wasn’t long enough. For the record, it was boxed wine.
How many states will you be going through?
23, if we stick to the plan. The plan can change!
NC, SC, GA, FL, AL, LA MS, TX, NM, AZ, UT, CO, KS, MO, IA, WI, MN, ND, MT, ID, WA, OR, CA.
Are the pups really that cute?
No, much cuter in person.
How will you charge your gadgets?
Both of our bikes will have a part called a dynamo hub that when we are pedaling generates 6 watts of power, enough to charge our small devices like phones, but not enough to power say, a Vitamix blender. So if we are pedaling, we can charge stuff. More on the dynamo hub in a future post about the bike and all it’s little parts.
We will also carry a GoalZero solar panel and battery pack. We can charge the battery pack from the sun while riding, from the dynamo hub, and from a regular power source when available. It’s pretty cool!
What if you are very far from home and change your mind? What’s your backup plan?
Change our minds about what? The adventure of a lifetime? That seems highly unlikely. But, if that does happen, then we go with Plan B. Oh, what is Plan B? Good question. We’ll let you know if we ever need it.
Will you be able to do some sightseeing?
The whole trip is sightseeing, so yes. When it comes to things like taking tours of museums and such, if we can’t convince them that the pups are service animals, we’ll have to visit one at a time.
Why didn’t you leave the dogs with someone?
At no point in any of the planning did we consider leaving the dogs behind. They are four-legged and furry, but they are family. Frankly, they will probably have the most fun of any of us. They are a great source of entertainment, protection, warm snuggles when it’s cold, and they will be attention magnets. In all honesty, it’s a lot more work, expense, and hassle to bring them, but no other choice was even on the table.
Will you be able to volunteer along the way?
We hope so. It would be our preference to exchange work for meals and/or place to stay along the way. Maybe we will meet someone who needs help rebuilding their front porch, or there is an organic farm with a crop to harvest. We certainly aren’t afraid to roll up our sleeves.
What do your family and friends think of this plan?
We have received overwhelming support from everyone we have told about the trip. Although this isn’t the kind of trip some would choose for themselves, we are finding that they still support our efforts because they know it is what we want to do. Having our network of friends and family behind us is immensely comforting and powerful. Your words encourage us! Tell us what you think!