Mrs. Grumby writes most of the posts on this blog, primarily because she is more disciplined and articulate than I (me?). Generally, I am a bit of a lazy slug. I mean, cut me some slack. It’s hard to motivate myself to write after working long, grueling days in the coal mine*. But the other night Mrs G suggested a topic that sparked my interest- Gilligan’s Island! Ha ha! Just kidding, although I easily could write a thorough and eloquent post about the underrated show that consumed so many of my hours as a youngster. But instead, today’s post is about our upcoming nomadic retirement on bicycles, which essentially means that we will be on an indefinite 10 mph road trip.
It will be my second long road trip, and my second time being voluntarily without a home base. The first occurred in 1992 when my old pal from the coal mine* Steve and I quit our jobs and drove from St. Louis to Alaska and back over about 2 1/2 months. Since that life-changing sojourn, my life has been mostly conventional; jobs, houses, cars, dogs, a “cat” and retirement accounts; but there has always been the drive to get back on the road. Like Willie Nelson. Or Jack Keoruac. Or Thelma and Louise. And now I have another shot at a true nomadic life and we are both anxious to get started. I’m not sure how long we will continue, but the benefit of financial independence is that if or when we get tired of tramping around on our Surlys, we will do something else.
*I have probably never worked in a coal mine.
(Mrs. G here – Mr. Grumby is definitely not a lazy slug and his day job is waaaay more mentally taxing than mine. I’m sure the readers are very happy that his wit and humor are back at grumbysonthemove!)
Wheels of Perseverance
Bicycle nomading is a thing, and we plan to do it for awhile. Maybe two months, five years or anywhere in between. Also, is “nomading” a word, or is it one of those nouns that has been “verbed”, like into a verb, like the hotshot young punk MBAs do in corporate America? “Hey Kyle, let’s language that memo in a way that it can be greenlighted later. But make sure to identify the unlocks so we can leverage the accounts and onboard some creatives.” Sorry about that little tangent.
Anyway, our blog friends Curtis and Jenny began their retirement on bikes in Anchorage almost two years ago and are in Medellin, Colombia now, still heading south. And while we aren’t riding from Alaska to Patagonia, at least yet, we decided on bike touring for the first phase because it sounds like an excellent, relatively low cost way to travel and really experience the world rather than watching it from the window of a speeding car or, gulp, a cruise ship.
The Metaphors of Discovery
Very soon, Mrs. Grumby and I will jump off of the Cliffs of Insanity into the Sea of Uncertainty, drive the Uhaul of Possibilities to a Wedding of Marital Bliss in Denver, across the Windy Plains of Flatness (Kansas) and then on to Land of New Beginnings*. There we will unload our Possessions of Imprisonment at Aunt Bee’s Lab of Dental Awesomeness, jump on our Bicycles of Freedom and see this great country of ours (America) at 10 miles an hour.
Somewhere north of Kansas City, Missouri we will jump on the Adventure Cycling Association’s Lewis and Clark Trail, which follows the Corps of Discovery route established in 1549 by Vasco De Gama. Haha! Just kidding! It was, of course Lewis and Clark, back in 1803.
*This is probably the first time Missouri has ever been referred to as the Land of New Beginnings.
A Grueling Journey
(See what I did there?)
I re-read Undaunted Courage, by Stephen Ambrose not too long ago and watched the excellent Ken Burns Documentary about Lewis & Clark. Based on that research, it’s possible our trip will be somewhat easier than the original expedition.
Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery used 18th century technology, like boats carved from trees, heavy muskets and Rush’s Thunderbolt pills. They had to contend with grizzly bears, angry natives and syphilis. (That is true- look it up).
Our biggest threats will be drivers flying by us at 80 miles an hour while shoving double Whoppers down their throats, slurping Super Big Gulps and texting their BFFs. Yes, we will be sleeping outside, cooking oatmeal (gruel), staying in cheap motels, fighting mosquitoes, hauling ourselves and 80 lbs of bikes and gear across the plains, against headwinds, through heat and rain, up and over the Rockies and other big mountain ranges for a total of 95,000 feet, and all the way to the ocean. But we get do it with 20th century conveniences like camping stoves, steel-framed touring bikes, down sleeping bags, smartphones and delicious cheddar Goldfish. I expect our journey will be difficult, unnerving and probably miserable at times, but mostly it will be awesome.
…with elk sufficient to winter on.
By the time we reach Fort Clatsop on the Oregon coast around the middle or end of August, where Lewis & Clark wintered in 1805-1806, we will have ridden somewhere near 2800 miles. We figure an average of 40 miles per day, allowing days off occasionally. It’s not likely we will winter on elk, but you never know.
We’ll dip our tires in the Pacific and ride back to Portlandia for a couple weeks to catch up with friends, dental technicians, physicians and micro-brewers. From there, the plan is to either ride down the coast or load the bikes on Amtrak and head to San Diego, where we will attend yet another wedding in September. Well, Palm Springs actually. Then we will head across the Southern Tier route, which traverses California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama and ends in St. Augustine, Florida.
Journals and Ledgers- Money on the Road
Managing our money will be important to the success of our early FIRE journey. It’s simple math. Our plan is keep expenses low for years 1 and 2 to minimize the need to draw from our portfolio. Our cash savings account will fund those first years without tax consequences, aside from interest we earn. This money will be supplemented by taking dividends, rather than reinvesting, from our index funds VTSAX and VBTLX, providing a respectable percentage of our income.
Mrs Grumby is already having PSWS (Premature Spreadsheet Withdrawal Syndrome) and we haven’t even left. We considered lugging a laptop because she really, really really wants to be able to track expenses. It is fun for her, and who am I to stand in the way? But cell phones will suffice, so I am on the lookout for an Android expense tracking app that is simple to use. If you have a recommendation, let me know.
(Mrs. G here again. Hoping to find an expense tracking app that displays subtotals by category and by day, month, or year. We’re also interested in tracking random daily information like lodging type, mileage, elevation gain, etc. – if anyone knows of a more free form database app.)
Camping and Lodging
I read a bike touring blog where the guy traveled across the US in about 75 days, averaging $16 a day, mostly by sleeping free whenever possible. I don’t think we can achieve that goal, but we do plan on freeloading as much as possible, within reason. We will stay with cousins in Omaha and Missoula. Many city parks allow free camping, and often churches and fire departments offer free accommodations cycle tourists. In addition, Warm Showers hosts put cyclists up overnight for free as well. Camping is free in many national forests, especially in the western US, and we might stealth camp now and again. We will stay in fancy motels when the mood strikes as well.
Undaunted PorridgeWe experimented with some meals on our Shakedown Trip to see what might be viable for a longer expedition. Staples were porridge (oatmeal) for breakfast, peanut butter for lunch and lentils, couscous, veggies and pepperoni or salami at dinner. Dense, nutritious and cheap. We will eat out when the mood strikes and when the situation calls for it. Subway is a great option because two footlongs can supply two meals each. And we are confident enough in our camping Mise en place** that we won’t go hungry. One of the great things about burning crazy amounts of calories is that we can indulge ourselves with ice cream, oreos and delicious beer when we feel like it.
**I don’t really know what that phrase means, and it doesn’t sound like something that hardy adventurers would use. It actually sounds a bit annoying. Here’s another annoying word: Milieu. That one actually makes me want to punch someone in the forehead.
Fancy word guy: “Oh look Muffy! The opossums have gotten into my milieu!”
The Cogs of Discovery
One of the most common responses we have gotten is shock. “What the hell are you doing that for?” “Aren’t you afraid of bears/cars/creepy lurkers?”. We have a healthy respect for bears and cars (terrible drivers), but not too worried about creep lurkers. It goes back to acceptable risk, and assuming that we are more likely to be injured or killed on this trip ignores the more common risks associated with ‘everyday’ life, like auto travel, being sedentary and eating Wendy’s 6 times a week. By riding defensively, being visible and using common sense, risks are minimized.
What’s after this, you ask? I’m not sure, but we might buy a van or Sprinter or some such and live in a van down by the river. We will post our trip journal on a great site called Cycle Blaze, and I will publish the link to our journals when I have it.
So there it is. What do you think? Are we nuts? Are we awesome? (There is only one correct answer. Choose wisely).