Archive for July, 2007

Hot Pitch, Coming Right Up!

Monday, July 30th, 2007

Hello from Regensburg! We finally found an internet cafe here in Germany. They seem to be few and far between in this region we are traveling through. Maybe it is because this country is more developed and everybody has an internet connection at home or maybe because all the tourists here are over 65 years old! We’ll see if there is an improvement in the Czech Republic.

We are still really loving the touring in Germany – it almost feels like we are on a luxury bicycle vacation! One of the nicest parts are the impressive network of bicycle trails the cover the entire country. These are not bicycle lanes that are part of the actual road, meaning you ride beside cars all day but have your own tiny bicycle lane. Instead, these are small roads for bicycles only – they weave through forests, along rivers, through the centers of tiny villages, and beside fields of wheat and corn. We can ride side by side and chat all day long, stopping for a picnic lunch of German bread, cheese, and meat at one of the many benches along the way. Here’s a typical lunch for us – Jamie is especially delighted by the huge selection of sausages and salami. I love the cheese.

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There are also Haribo gummy candies everywhere here. This makes Jamie very happy. Here is how he preps his bike for a long ride; note the gummy candies lined up on his handlebar bag for easy access:

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Here is another favorite snack for James. Bratwurst. Touring German style people!.


We tend to make very slow progress during our actual riding time. This is in part due to the bicycle trails – they tend to be full of twists and turns, which makes building up speed almost impossible. Also, the signs indicating turns on the trail are very tiny. We are so busy sightseeing that we ride right pass the trail signs and get lost. This happens at least a few times per day, which is really frustrating. As a result, we have finally begun to use our compass to determine which way we need to ride to re-find the bike trail. Germany is the absolute last place I thought we’d be breaking out our compass, but it has turned out to be very useful!

Yesterday we got lost and found ourselves completely off the bicycle trail, riding along a small rut in the grass next to some train tracks in the middle of nowhere. We used our trusty compass to determine that the city we could see far in the distance was in the correct direction of our final destination for the day, so we pushed on and ran into the bicycle trail a few kilometers later. I felt like Indiana Jones, finding my way through the remote wilderness of a German farm back to the civilization of the bicycle trail using only a compass!

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Another reason for our slow progress is the wind. It has been extremely windy here for the past week – just as bad as parts of New Zealand! It is great fun when the wind is behind you because you can cruise along at 20km/hr without even pedaling! Riding into the wind is miserable though. It makes the riding as difficult as climbing up a big hill, but the difference is that with the wind it can go on all day long. You never know when or if it will end, which drives me crazy. Here’s Jamie giving a wind-strength demonstration using our map:

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And here he is attempting to stay upright in the fierce gale!

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Speaking of wind, let’s talk gas. The human kind. One surprising thing we noticed in Asia is that we never farted there. I mean never. We had been in Thailand for about ten days when we both realized we hadn’t passes gas in over a week. Something about that Asian diet really worked wonders for us! But after about three days back on this diet of bread, meat, cheese, milk, and yogurt we were back to our usual gassy selves. So, if you have a hot date planned for the night you might want to choose the Thai restaurant over the German deli.

A final reason behind our slow daily progress are a all the diversions along the way. Yesterday we rode past a park with lots of fun playground equipment that we don’t have in the parks back home. For example – a zip line!!

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And a giant basket-like swing that you can lay down in, for extra scariness on those high pushes:



The scenery in the country side is very pretty with rolling hills, farmed fields, and small rivers. Every village we pass through is beautiful and almost fake looking. It is hard to believe all these buildings weren’t built for decoration in a theme park, but are originals from the 17th and 18th centuries. The Germans think it is hilarious that we are amazed by a building from 1700. They are only impressed if it was built in year 600 or 700.


They used to pour hot pitch through this mask on attackers!


We took a break from staying with German families for the past two nights and instead tested out our free camping skills. Both nights we were able to find very nice secluded spots next to farmed fields. The only thing we have to worry about before camping for the night is getting enough water for dinner, drinking, and breakfast. We can carry 6 1/2 liters in our water bottle cages, and then we have 3 3-liter water bags. We can drink the tap water here, so instead of buying water for the night like we did in Asia we find somewhere to get it for free here. Businesses like gas stations and coffee shops are the easiest, but twice we have found ourselves far from any businesses and had to get water from people’s houses. The first time we filled up from someone’s front yard hose (with their blessing), and the second time we had to knock on a few doors in the early afternoon to find someone at home. We were a little nervous about doing this, but the woman we ended up meeting was more than happy to let us use her kitchen sink to refill our bottles. She even offered us a snack and apologized she didn’t have something substantial for us to eat! These Germans are amazing!

Here are our peaceful camping spots.



I learned how to squat like a true Asian in Thailand so now I never need a picnic table to eat my breakfast in the morning!


We are about to turn northeast and head for the border with the Czech Republic. We think we should make it to Prague in three to four days.

Ein schöner Radweg

Tuesday, July 24th, 2007

Sorry for the delay, we’ve been too busy living the good life here in Deutschland to write any journal entries!

First of all, thank you to everyone who has hosted us here! Melanie, Ingo, and Ronja in Frankfurt, Thomas and Sabina in Aschaffenburg, the Stobbies Family in Wertheim, and the Kuttenkeuler family in Würzburg. We have been overwhelmed by the friendliness and generosity of everyone. We are really getting spoiled here.

Germany has been a bicycle touring dream so far; I think it would be the perfect place for a luxury bicycle touring vacation or honeymoon. The entire country is covered with beautiful bicycle paths that pass through small, romantic villages and there is a Biergarten every kilometer or so. What more could you ask for!


Bicycle touring also seems to be the national pastime here. Every bicycle shop is stocked with a full array of touring gear and bicycles. Whenever we walk into one of these, everyone looks at Sarah’s lugged steel bike and says “Das ist old skool!” No one can believe her bike is new and expensive. The bicycle paths also have extremely detailed maps complete with contour lines and descriptions of the local sights and history. It is a good thing they are written in German, otherwise we would we would probably go broke buying them all! There are even two magazines dedicated to bicycle touring here. It’s like we’ve discovered a whole new world.

In fact, it has almost been a little too easy here. I didn’t think we would have any culture shock coming here, but we did. It was a strange feeling to leave the dirty, crowded streets of Bangkok in the morning and walk out of the airport in Frankfurt in the evening to see pristine sidewalks and to feel a cool breeze on your face. It really makes you think about how different things are and how amazing it is that you can travel so far in one day. The cycling has also been very different: traveling on a quiet path meandering along a river valley and through small fields of wheat and sunflowers. After being constantly surrounded by the sights, sounds, and smells of Asia it feels a little lonely. I told Sarah that I didn’t feel like we were really traveling anymore because I need to feel like I am going to die “at least once a day” and she almost died laughing, saying those are the last words she ever expected to hear coming out of my mouth. Rest in peace Mr. Safety!


Before we flew to Frankfurt, we signed up for an account on CouchSurfing and arranged to stay with Melanie and Ingo. We ended up spending three nights with them and their adorable daughter Ronja. Melanie and Ingo completed a year-long world trip on bicycles in 2006 and we had a blast discussing our experiences with them. They toured South America and are now planning on moving to Argentina to start a guesthouse and mountain bike tour company. They are going to be in Argentina this winter so we may be able to see them again if we go there! Ingo is also an expert mechanic and he helped us a lot with some small repairs we needed on our bicycles. After three days, we were sufficiently recovered from our jetlag and we hit the road. Here is Ingo leading us out of the city.


Since then we have followed the Main and Tauber rivers to Würzburg where we are now. We have been cycling through the river valleys enjoying the scenery and stopping at small villages that look like they are straight out of a fairytale.



We have also both been loving the bread here. Every village has a bakery in the town center where they bake all kinds of bread fresh daily.


The bread is so dense it is unbelievable. We’ve added a chainsaw to our list of most-wanted gear. This loaf literally weighed 5 kilograms and Sarah almost broke her arm again ripping a piece off.


Along the way in Wertheim, we spent a night with Johann Stobbies and his family in the former schoolhouse that they live in. The schoolhouse was built in 1870 and Johann did a beautiful job restoring it. He was also absolutely hilarious and we had a lot of fun laughing and talking with him. Here is the Stobbies family minus their youngest son outside their home.


We arrived in Würzburg yesterday and spent today exploring the palaces, castles, and churches of the city. We found our first UNESCO World Heritage Site in Europe at the Residenz here.


We are staying with the Kutttenkeuler family here and have had a wonderful time eating, drinking, and talking with them. Tomorrow we will head south towards Rothenburg ob der Tauber, which suffered no damage during WWII. A rare thing around here.


Saturday, July 14th, 2007

We’re headed to Europe!

On the 17th we are flying from Bangkok to Frankfurt, Germany and from there we will head east and south to tour Eastern Europe on our bicycles. We plan to cycle through the Czech Republic, Croatia, Romania, Hungary, Slovenia, Slovakia, Albania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Montenegro, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. We have goulash, polka music, and supermodels in our future!

It was a hard decision to skip China and India. We kept debating back and forth on whether we should take the approach of attempting to see it all in one giant trip or to stick to our original plan of one year and pick and choose our spots. It feels like this may be our one and only shot to travel abroad on bicycles like this. Especially since we want to have children. The overwhelming constant among the older bicycle-tourist couples that we have met is that they don’t have any kids. We also haven’t given up on our careers or other dreams like starting a business, so neither of us was ready to commit to traveling for three to five years at this point. We tell ourselves that we can always do shorter trips in the future, but deep down I’m not really sure if that’s true. Who knows what the future will hold? In the end, we decided to go to Eastern Europe now because it is high on our list of places to travel and it will put us in a good position to go to South America this winter if we are up for it. We think we’ll be in Europe for about four months.

Right after we posted the worst things about bicycle touring, we realized we had forgotten the absolute worst thing of all: flying with our bicycles. The flights from Bangkok to Germany were around $600 on all the airlines and they all had the same baggage allowances. 20 kilograms of checked luggage and a whopping $37 for every kilogram over the limit. To get our bicycles and gear on the flight it would be a ridiculous $1850 in excess baggage charges! Once again it was going to be cheaper to just purchase actual tickets for our bicycles. Luckily, we did some research and found out that there was a UPS promotion that allowed us to send 25 kilograms of our gear to Frankfurt for $188.73 and we found out that Etihad Airlines had recently upped their baggage allowance to 30 kilograms, so we purchased a ticket with them and we think we’ll be under the limit.

We only plan to stay in Frankfurt a day or two before hitting the road, so we should have some new journal entries shortly. If you just can’t wait until then, check out this set of our favorite pictures we created on Flickr.

A Day in the Life of a Cycle Tourist: Southeast Asia

Thursday, July 12th, 2007

This is the second installment in my “A Day in the Life” series. This update covers our daily life and routine in Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos.

The thing that ruled our lives here in Southeast Asia was the heat. It is incredibly hot here, which we expected, but we were incapable of anticipating just how hot it actually would be. We have never experienced heat and humidity like this; it was rather amazing. We were here between March and July and the temperature would regularly hit 40°C (104°F) with humidity in the 90th percentile. The heat ended up determining our schedule and activity.

To beat the heat we got up very early in the morning, between 5 and 5:30am. It was pitch black outside when we got out of bed and we’d often convince ourselves that we could sleep just a few more minutes. It was always so hard to get up that early, no matter how many times we did it. We’d quickly get into our cycling outfits, pack up our panniers, load the bikes, and slather ourselves with SPF 50 sunscreen. We were able to do all this within about 30 minutes of waking, and as we finished up the pitch black sky would lighten to pale grey and we would set off!

We’d ride for an hour or two in the early morning. Although it was only 5:30 or 6am practically everyone would be out and about doing things like sweeping the sidewalks, herding cows, and setting up roadside stalls for the day. This was also prime time for getting chased by dogs. We’d get passed by rickety wooden carts full of people going to the fields to begin work for the day. The carts pulled by old tractor engines would slowly overtake us on the uphills – everyone would laugh and wave at us. Then we’d cruise past them on the downhills – they’d laugh even harder and wave again. The carts pulled by pairs of cows or water buffalo were easy prey for us – we blew past them in an instant and they never caught us again! The temperature was cool and the sun was low – this was the best time of day.

After an hour or two we’d get hungry enough to need breakfast. Each country had a slightly different breakfast routine:

Thailand – There were little roadside restaurants all over the place. We rarely had to ride more than a few kilometers to find a place to stop once we’d decided we were hungry. Oftentimes these restaurants were made of bamboo and propped up on stilts over the ditch. We were always worried the rickety floor would collapse underneath us. We ordered Kai Jeaw, which is a deep fried omelet served over rice. We drank Garfair Yehn, which is Thai iced coffee.

Cambodia – Food was really hard to find here. We were usually unable to identify roadside restaurants. Things that looked semi-promising were either deserted, full of sleeping people, or looked so incredibly dirty that we passed them by. Instead we bought breakfast from roadside vendors in the morning markets in small villages. We’d usually end up with either either deep fried doughballs filled with sweet yellow beany stuff or tubes of sticky rice wrapped up in a banana leaf and filled with coconut, red stuff, or yellow stuff. We were never completely sure what we were eating. We almost never found coffee in the mornings and had to make due with either Coca Cola or water.

Vietnam – Easily had the best breakfast food, although absolutely zero variety. We had beef pho every single day; it is a spicy, herby noodle soup that we both loved. The coffee was delicious too. We had cafe sua da which is iced coffee with sweetened condensed milk. The coffee came to the table in a little metal cup that was filled with grounds and hot water. It was balanced on top of a glass and dripped through as it brewed. On the bottom of the glass the coffee was brewing into there was a thick layer of sweetened condensed milk. When the brewing was finished you stir it all up, plop in a few ice cubes, and drink it. This was hands down the best coffee in Southeast Asia! Roadside restaurants were usually easy to find although the mountain country we traveled through was sparsely populated so we’d often eat breakfast before leaving town and starting out for the day.

Laos – Our routine here was very similar to Thailand. We’d ride for an hour then stop at a roadside restaurant. Decent looking little restaurants were plentiful (most were Vietnamese), and we went back to our morning breakfast of eggs and rice. The omelets in Laos are called jeun khai and you get sticky rice served in a little wicker basket instead of the regular steamed rice. We’d get coffee about half the time – sometimes they had it, sometimes they didn’t.

After breakfast we’d continue riding but by this time the heat would begin to rear its ugly head and we needed to stop every hour or so to avoid overheating. We’d try to find little shady spots on the side of the road to drink of water and eat a piece of fruit every hour or so. Sometimes we’d be unable to find fruit and would have to fall back on our emergency provisions of non-perishable snack food. These were almost always gross and were eaten out of desperation only: airy sugary wafer cookies, chemical-y cheese crackers, fluffy cakes with fake marshmallow in the middle and fake chocolate on the outside, etc. The best snacks we found were different types of peanut brittle that were sold in the markets here. They had the crunchy kind we were used to, but also a chewy, gummy kind with sesame seeds that we loved.

Our goal was to reach our day’s destination by around noon. At this point the sun would be high in the sky with no shadows to be found anywhere, and the villages we’d pass through looked like ghost towns. All living creatures had retreated to the shade to sleep through the hottest part of the day. No more dogs chased us because they were passed out on the side of the road looking like they were dead. Some days we ended up riding well past noon; this was always torturous.

Once we arrived at our destination, we’d immediately search the town to find a guesthouse with a nice balance between price and vermin infestation. The check-in process was usually moderately embarrassing because we would be sweating incredible amounts by this point, resulting in the liberal sprinkling of big sweaty droplets all over the counter and check in forms. Our bikes were always locked up somewhere safe, the guesthouses usually had secure garages or courtyards they let us keep the bikes in. Sometime there would even be a guard on duty to keep everything extra safe. We’d unload the bikes and begin the process of carrying all ten heavy bags up to our room. We never once stayed in a place with an elevator, and the record number of stairs we had to lug our gear up was 77 in Ho Chi Minh!

Immediately after checking in we’d take cold showers and then lay around eating a snack of fresh fruit for lunch, reading, looking at the day’s pictures, and napping. Usually around 4pm when things had cooled down a little, we’d reemerge to see the town, use the internet, and buy water, fruit, and snacks for the next day.

We’d eat dinner around 5 or 6pm at a cheap restaurant, trying to find a place with an English menu so we could have a bit of variety. We only know the names for a few dishes in each country and the menu allowed us to try new things. We usually had a beer or a fruit shake with dinner. We got used to never cooking and eating in restaurants 100% of the time here. It is going to be a shock going back to our camp stove!

By 6:30pm it would be starting to get dark. We would usually check out the town’s nightmarket and sometimes buy a desert or another snack, but we rarely stayed out late drinking or doing anything else. It was fun to walk or ride around a city in the early evening because it would be exploding with activity. The deserted streets would now be teeming with people socializing, eating, and shopping. We always commented on how strange it felt for there to be so much activity at night and how people from all age groups were out spending time together. Teenagers would be flirting and right next to them would be a mom with her baby chatting with a grandma. We always felt safe because there were so many people around.

Back at the guesthouse we’d read some more, mess around with the computer, and sometimes watch English TV. Cambodia and Vietnam had Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, and sometimes CNN. For a period of a couple of weeks, we got addicted to the Discovery Channel and watched Myth Busters every night. By 9pm we’d be ready for bed. If we were in an AC room, we would be comfortable for the night but if we only had a fan we would have to routinely turn over every couple of hours to allow our sweaty sides to evaporate and cool!

Six Months of Touring: Impressions

Monday, July 2nd, 2007

Six months into our first ever bicycle tour! Here are our impressions: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Favorite Things about Bicycle Touring

  1. Watching the landscape change as we cycle into a new region. Seeing the terrain and vegetation change slowly as you pedal along is awesome. Then there’s the drama of crossing a border into a new country on your bike. The language, culture, and people change instantly right before your eyes.
  2. The simple joy of pedaling. Riding along, chatting, singing, enjoying being outdoors and together. Stopping whenever we want to admire the view. Cruising along silently listening to the birds sing and the cows chew their cud. Being so happy we are not on public transportation. Intensifies greatly the day after a bus ride!
  3. All the attention we get from locals when we are on our bicycles away from tourist centers. The smiles, the waves, the conversations. Feeling like you are in a parade as you pass through a small village. Realizing how different most of the country is from the popular tourist destinations.

Least Favorite Things about Bicycle Touring

Sarah: The feeling of being exhausted and run-down along with the pressure of having to ride again the next day. I also hate being overheated and constantly sweating.

James: Those little moments where it suddenly hits me that I’m 27 years old, have no job and no income, and just spent $25,000 in six months.

Biggest Surprises

  1. The disparity in our physical ability and having to figure out how to deal with it. This is something we never talked about before we left, but it turned out to be a big issue because we are confronted by it almost every day.
  2. How routine it can feel some days. Get up, eat, ride, eat some more, sleep. Repeat. I keep telling Sarah we are going to have the following conversation when we get back.

“Wow, that sounds like an amazing trip. You guys must have some amazing stories!”

“Not really, it was pretty mundane.”

Cue the world’s longest uncomfortable silence.

Hardest Parts

  1. Far and away, the hardest part about this trip was making the decision to go. After that, everything was easy. Figure out where you want to go, buy some bikes, point yourselves in the right direction and start pedaling.
  2. The only real hardship we’ve experience on this trip itself is the heat in Southeast Asia. I don’t think either of us could really envision what it would be like to cycle day after day in 40 degree heat with 95% humidity. Putting it simply, it sucks.

Scariest Moments

  1. Almost being attacked by monkeys attack in Prachuap Khiri Khan. I can still hear that low guttural growling that seemed to come in waves from the treetops.
  2. Sarah’s expanding eyeball in Ranong. When I look back, it doesn’t seem like it should have been that scary, but I literally had to sit down for a while to calm down when this happened. I think it was the combination of being new to Thailand and worried about all the bad things that could happen along with the tone of Sarah’s voice as she said “uh-oh” from the bathroom.


  1. The one thing we really wish we had was an altimeter so we’d have a record of what climbing gods we’ve become. On the other hand, we considered not brining a laptop but we’re really glad we did. It’s great for our pictures, working on our site, tracking our finances, and entertaining us with movies and music on those lonely nights on the road. Its one of the things we use almost every day.
  2. As for clothes, we’re still learning what we need and what we don’t. I had to buy some padded mountain-bike shorts in NZ because my new Brooks saddle was too uncomfortable. We are both carrying heavy hiking boots that we never use but we are afraid to get rid of them, “just in case.” Sarah’s two cotton t-shirts don’t dry fast enough, get soaked in sweat, and look dirty quickly, but the capilene Patagonia t-shirts I have are great. Sarah also hates all the pants and shorts she has for hot weather riding – she says they are ugly and uncomfortable.

Best Fights

These are the most memorable fights we have had so far. Don’t worry, we laugh about them now and there have been no threats of divorce.

How Low Can You Go?

He Said: I would rather live simply and really experience a new country than have the comforts of home like expensive cookies on a regular basis. We skipped some things I regret (like a tour of Milford Sound) in New Zealand but blew a lot of money on junk food that we could be sitting on our couch in Seattle eating. Sarah on the other hand refuses to give up her precious TimTams.

She Said: I want to treat myself to luxury items like beer, coffee, and cookies occasionally on this trip. During a physically demanding trip like this food becomes an obsession and after a hard day of climbing it is not a sin to want to buy some cookies or a pint of cold beer. I want to enjoy every single day and sometimes spending a little extra money to go out for a treat enhances the trip – eating gruel and going to bed right afterwards isn’t what I came here to do! This particular fight erupted after I claimed I’d rather eat TimTams every single night and go home early than deny myself of them for even one night. This is a little extreme and not my true opinion, but it was fun to throw in Jamie’s face at the time.

What Inferiority Complex?

He Said: Sometimes I feel like we are not cycling enough on this trip. Usually on a day we only rode for a couple of hours, when we’re sitting in a hotel room with nothing to do I wonder why we just didn’t keep riding. The more we ride, the more we can see, and the more we’ll get out of this trip, right? Not according to Sarah!

She Said: I don’t want to measure myself against other cycle tourists. Each trip and each person has different things they enjoy and thus different goals for their trip. Comparing ourselves to other cycle tourists and then feeling bad about what we’re doing is ridiculous. Instead we should focus on what we want to do and measure ourselves against our own priorities and objectives.

Lose the ‘tude!

He Said: Ask anyone what their response was when we told them about this trip. “Sarah? … Really?!” It was my response too and one of my biggest concerns about this trip was that Sarah wasn’t going to like it. I was afraid she was going to want to quit after two weeks when she realized she didn’t really like cycling that much. Because of that, I’m hypersensitive to the complaining she does when riding. There are two main scenarios when Sarah complains: when it is hot or when we are climbing in the mountains. If you combine those two, there is a 95% chance that she will suggest we think about taking a bus. That never fails to annoy me because that is usually when I am having the most fun!

She Said: One of the surprises for me on this trip is how physically difficult it is for me. I thought that after six months of touring I’d be almost as strong as James during our daily rides. In reality he’s still much stronger than me which means that things that are very difficult for me are typically fairly easy for him. When we ride a really long day, do big climb, or face extreme heat I eventually I have to admit that I’m exhausted, feel crappy, and don’t want to push myself much further. Jamie accuses me of complaining at the first twinge of discomfort and says really infuriating things like “I told you this trip would be difficult for you! I was worried this would happen! You have to keep going even if it is uncomfortable! You are giving up too easily!” I respond by saying that I have been feeling “uncomfortable” for quite some time and I am now approaching my limits. After all this I then get pissed off that he’s not being supportive and saying things like “We only have 20km more to go, you can make it. We can stop and rest every 5km if we need to, but we will make it.” Instead he says things like “You HAVE to make it because there are no other options.” This irritates me to no end. At the end of the fight Jamie is also irritated because he thinks I have a bad attitude and call it quits too soon.

Little Miss Ignorance vs. Mr. Doomsday

He Said: There have been half a dozen occurrences on this trip where Sarah has ignored some aspect of planning or preparation and it has screwed us. I should have taken it as a sign on the first day when we showed up at our flight from LA to New Zealand and the woman at the ticket counter asked us why we didn’t have visas for our stopover in Australia. After about the fourth time, I realized I shouldn’t rely on Sarah much for conscientious planing. In fact, it has proved fruitful to actually do the opposite of what she says! (Much like when she attempts to give directions.)

She Said: First of all, I am not at all ignorant. That was just a catchy fight-title. I am a planner and an organizer. I do not ignore impending tragedy and simply hope things will all work out or go away. Instead I assess a situation, brainstorm the possible actions to solving a problem, and then pick the best possible course of action (with a backup plan if necessary). Once I have determined by course of action, or the research I need to complete to make this decision, I promptly stop worrying about the problem. On the other hand, Jamie likes to lay awake for hours, tossing and turning, all the while dreading the possible horrible outcomes. He gets very upset with me when I don’t join in on the ulcer-inducing fretting and instead fall asleep promptly.

Six Months of Touring: The Hard Facts

Sunday, July 1st, 2007

Today is the six month anniversary of our bicycle tour. We rode out of Auckland on January 1st and since then it has been 181 days overseas, down the road, on this crazy global cycling honeymoon.

Cycling Statistics

Cycling Days 79
Kilometers 5,013
Hours 307:40:11
Kilometers per Cycling Day 63.45
Hours per Cycling Day 3:53:40

I think the biggest surprise about these cycling stats for us is how slowly we are actually traveling. If you do the math, we are only moving at a rate of about 30 kilometers per day. Moving that slowly really is the perfect way to travel, but it also means you need a lot of time to see a country. We spent two months cycling in New Zealand and felt like an adequate amount of time would have been six months. Our big breaks do skew that travel rate a little bit; our longest ones so far have been 22 days between New Zealand and Southeast Asia (planned), 21 days in Bangkok while waiting for visas (unplanned), and now currently 12 days and counting back in Bangkok waiting for Sarah’s arm to heal.


Preparation $9075.55
Airfare $4369.82
United States $2399.52
New Zealand $4012.54
Singapore $610.38
Thailand $2154.02
Cambodia $857.72
Vietnam $771.39
Laos $793.99

Yes, we’ve broken the $25,000 barrier only six months into our trip! After getting over the initial shock of seeing that number staring back at me in Excel, I realized it isn’t that big of a surprise. We pulled the original number of $25,000 out of our ass because it was an easy number for us to stomach. During our travels though, we are averaging about $55 per day or $20,000 for a year on the road, which seems reasonable given what we’ve read about other bicycle tourists doing similar trips. In the end, we don’t expect to be 100% over-budget; Preparation and Airfare still account for over 50% of our total costs. If we keep spending at the current rate, the cost for one year will be $34,000 plus the remaining airfare.

I’ve updated the Finances page with this information along with more details. If you’re the rare individual who has read this far and is actually interested in this stuff, tell us what you want to know. Many people have told us they are interested in the financial aspect of doing a trip like this, but we’ve been struggling to decide what we should publish and what is useless trivia. Leave a comment or send us an email at jamesandsarah at erck dot org.

Gear Failures

Flat Tires 9
Failed Tires 3
Earliest Tire Death (km) 30
Time Wasted Cursing Tires 4:12:47

Other than those pathetic Panaracer tires that we swapped for Schwalbe Marathons, our Gear has been pretty good. Other items that broke are the following:

Giro Atmos Helmet: The thin piece of the plastic support system broke on the plane ride to New Zealand.

SKS Front Fender: Also on the first plane ride, my front fender cracked where it attaches to the fork. This was annoying at first and then got dangerous when tar-covered rocks would get lodged between the tire and fender and stop me immediately. I eventually removed the fenders completely and am now ridin’ dirty.

Topeak Modula XL Bottle Cage: The rubber strap on this bottle cage broke in half after about 1000 kilometers. We replaced it with one of Sarah’s discarded toe-clip straps which works great.

Cat-Eye Mity 8 Computer: In Cambodia, my cycle computer started to randomly stop recording while I was riding. Strangely, it started working again as soon as we crossed into Vietnam but then fell of my bike shortly afterwards. An unsolved mystery.

Other Maintenance: My front brake cable started sticking at 3250 kilometers and we swapped it out for a new one. Sarah’s rear cable then started sticking at 5000 kilometers and was replaced too. Must have something to do with the tropical conditions of Southeast Asia!

Bad Stuff

Crashes 8
Bouts of Severe Diarrhea 4
Dog Attacks 0
Monkey Attacks 0.5

Sarah continues to lead in the walking (pedaling?) disaster category, capturing an impressive 5 crashes, 3 bouts of severe diarrhea, and almost managing to provoke a large scale monkey attack. Here’s a list of the crashes:

  1. In New Zealand a wild goat jumped out of the forest and startled Sarah. She didn’t fall off immediately but continued to ride along gawking at the goat until she actually rode right off the road. She couldn’t get her feet out of the toe clips in time and fell down. I am not making this up.
  2. Sarah was attempting to eat a banana while riding in Thailand. She veered off the road onto the sandy shoulder and lost control of her bike. I remember hearing her feeble, wavering cry, “Jamie!” as she began to panic that I didn’t know she fell and was going to ride off and leave her lying there tangled up with her bike in the dirt.
  3. Sarah was drafting behind me in Laos, clipped my rear tire with her front, and went down. Probably the least eventful of her crashes.
  4. While climbing a steep road in Vietnam I looked back to see where Sarah was. As I turned my head I also turned my bike and ended up executing a 90 degree right hand turn and riding slow motion off the road and directly into the ditch. Luckily there were no steep cliffs around and I wasn’t hurt.
  5. The infamous Laos crash that brought us back to Bangkok. While descending on a wet mountain road, Sarah locked up her brakes and hit the tarmac, cracking her radius in the process. I was right behind her and flipped over the top of her, cracking my helmet in the process.
  6. Same day in Laos, Sarah locked up her tires and went down again on the slippery roads. I heard her fall, tried to stop suddenly, and locked up my brakes and hit the deck too!

Stayed tuned tomorrow for our impressions of the first six months!