The story of how I saved money, quit my job, sold my possessions, and set off to endlessly travel by bike around the world. My Plan

My 3 Books
I write, self publish and sell books about touring

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May 2010 to present

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May 2008 to April 2010

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Sept 2007 to May 2008

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Nov 2004 to Sept 2006

South America
June 2003 to June 2004

AZ, Mexico, and Central America
March 2002 to April 2003

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Introduction
How Much to Bring and Weight
Some Advice About Advice
A Note to Perspective Sponsors and Gear Suppliers
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START HERE for Touring Bikes and Commuting Bicycles
Custom Touring Bicycles and Bike Upgrade Buyers Guide
Bicycle Touring Frames 
The Steel Repair Myth.
Steel and Aluminum Derailleur Hanger Repair.
Bicycle Touring Wheels
Phil Wood: The Best Bicycle Hubs

Panniers / Bike Bags
Cargo Trailers Vs Panniers
Tires for Bike Tours..
Bicycle Touring Saddles.
Women's Specific Bike Touring Saddles
Brooks Leather Touring Bicycle Saddle Care and Conditioning
Bike Computer
Touring Handlebars, Bar Ends, Adjustable Stems, and Padded Grips.
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(see all 3 book)

The first chapter from
 Down The Road in South America: 
A bicycle tour through poverty, paradise, and the places in between.

 

1 The Things We Brought to South America

On March 30, 2002 we left our comfortable, predictable lives behind for a seven-year international bicycle tour that included thousands of miles, unforeseen dangers and dozens of exotic countries. The first year we traveled from Prescott, Arizona, USA to Panama City, Panama in Central America; that journey is described in our first book, The Road That Has No End. This book, Down The Road in South America, the second about our travels, describes the South American year of our journey, during which we flew from the USA to Quito, Ecuador and rode south from June 2003 to June 2004.

Although these books are sequential, it is not necessary to read the first one to understand and enjoy this one. Information about both of our books can be found on our web site, www.downtheroad.org.

When we landed in Quito we were on track with our original seven-year plan with six remaining years of travel. But as the months passed in South America, the thought of being limited by time evolved into a new way of looking at our travels and we turned our trip into a permanent lifestyle. To date, we have far exceeded our original plan and, as you read this, we continue with our life on the road with no plans to stop. This book describes in detail how this transformation took place.

During the initial months of the trip we defined our journey by passport stamps, the number of miles completed and drawing a line on a map, but it did not take us long to learn the deeper rewards of travel by spending time with local people and learning how they lived. For example, being invited into a familyís home because we looked wet, cold, and lost became a journey deep into religions, traditions and customs different than our own. Watching up close what people cooked and how they ate spoke volumes more about the places we visited than what can be seen in a blur from a tour bus window.

Traveling by bicycle placed us on the ground floor of society, but even that was not enough. In order to absorb the culture around us, it was just as important to have time off our bikes. Riding became a means of meeting people rather than a goal in itself. This new priority cut into our daily mileage, but we gladly made the trade; when we began our travels in South America, we were not interested in the fastest route. Instead, we chose a meandering path deep into the Andes that guaranteed full immersion into the colorful cultures defining the region.

 

It was obvious that speaking Spanish would help with traveling in Latin America. We attended a three-week Spanish immersion school in Mexico, and then practiced daily as we rode through Central America. When we arrived in South America, we spoke Spanish on an intermediate level and could carry on conversations with the people we met. Conversations with locals are written here in English, but unless otherwise noted they were originally spoken in Spanish.

During our first year, we also learned travel could be dangerous. We had a few close calls - fortunately, without being harmed or losing valuables. Experiencing this criminal element taught us the basic tricks and habits of robbers, con men and petty thieves. We knew how to read warning signs by observing peopleís behaviors. We also knew city bus stations and tourist sites were far more dangerous than rural villages with no law enforcement. These lessons would be put to the test through some of the more unstable and risky sections of South America.

 

Before we left our home in Arizona, we knew we would have to travel cheaply to make our savings last by living on a total daily budget of US$20 to $25 a day. This was a huge adjustment for a couple with professional jobs, no children, and a lot of disposable income. We learned to copy the habits of locals by eating where they ate, shopping in open-air markets, and sleeping in the same hotels as truck drivers. Between cities we became experts at finding hidden places on the side of the road to camp free for the night. By the time we reached South America, we were comfortably living on a shoestring budget.

 

When we left home we hoped to publish trip photos and Cindieís daily journal on our web site, so our families and close friends could keep track of our whereabouts and calm their worries about our safety. Initially, we had no idea how to connect our laptop to the Internet. This technological convenience was not yet widespread at home, much less in undeveloped areas of Mexico and Central America. In time we learned it was more efficient to work offline, and then upload to the web site and send/receive emails whenever we found a fledgling Internet cafe. We expanded our Spanish vocabulary to include all the words associated with the frustrating task of connecting to complicated computer networks of the day.

Even though these connections were infrequent, extremely slow and unstable we felt empowered to do things we had not anticipated. We could buy and sell mutual funds, balance bank accounts, and even file taxes online while living nomadically. Our Internet presence through DownTheRoad.org grew beyond our wildest dreams and blossomed into our connecting with hundreds of thousands of interested people.

The first year of our trip abused our bikes and equipment, and we wanted to be prepared for the difficult riding conditions and scarce bike shops in South America. During our break in the U.S., I replaced most of the moving parts on both of our bikes including cables, chainrings, cassettes, chains, derailleur pulleys, bottom brackets, and headsets. I cleaned the bikes thoroughly and applied rust treatment and touchup paint to the frames and new tape to both handlebars. Along with four high-quality touring tires and several tubes, I bought a small folding tire to keep as a spare.

Knowing that much of our journey through South America would be in high altitude, we packed cold weather gear we didnít need during our ride through Mexico and Central America including hats, gloves, long sleeve jerseys and extra socks. To track our progress up and down the Andes, I bought an altimeter wristwatch that read altitude in meters. We anticipated distances between cities to be longer in South America, so we bought a higher capacity laptop battery and a larger fuel bottle for our stove. As if all of this bike touring gear was not enough, we also brought along both of our backpacks and hiking boots, as we planned to hike in Ecuador before we started cycling south. For an in-depth list of our gear, see Appendix A.

At the last minute, we threw in two books - one about writing and self-publishing a manuscript, and the other about how to get a manuscript accepted by a publishing house. These few extra pounds in the bottom of my pannier planted a seed that would grow larger than expected.

The Road That Has No End finishes with us cashing in frequent flyer miles and returning home for a short visit. Six weeks later we boarded the plane for Ecuador with the lessons we had learned in the first year, knowing it would only partially prepare us for the extreme challenges of South America. The highest mountains, coldest nights, and the most dangerous situations were ahead.

 

 

 

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