In July of 2015 we moved from a 1,400 square foot house with 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and an oversize double garage to an 880 sq. ft. apartment. Four months later, we downsized again and moved to a 670 sq. ft. apartment. With the goals of shortening our retirement horizon and simplifying our lives, we jettisoned most of our belongings and took the plunge into an ongoing adventure in downsizing.
Our next downsize will happen when we retire early, on or before January 19, 2019 (one one nine one nine!). We will once again whittle our belongings down to whatever we can fit in a modest storage space in Sister Grumby’s basement (thanks Dee Ann!). Then we’ll hop on our touring bikes and ride around our beautiful US of A.
The Monthly Downsizer is a once-a-month post that documents our continuing process of intentional reduction. Here’s a link to last month’s post.
In July we did a practice run for the ultimate downsize, packing all that we needed to live for 10 days into 4 pannier bags and 1 handlebar bag. We also put my tour expense forecast to the test … keep reading to see if we came in at the $83/day target!
How much stuff can you carry on two bikes?
Here’s what we took with us on our July trip. This was a test run for what we will take with us on our Early Retirement tour which is … EEEK! … coming up soon. Altogether our gear and food weighed about 90 pounds:
- Mr. Grumby’s bags and 3 full water bottles – 50 pounds
- My bags & water bottles – 40 pounds
Including the weight of the steel frame Surlys and our clothed bodies, we propelled about 440 pounds over the course of our 230-mile ride. This was a workout that created daydreams about apple fritters and super-size milkshakes!
Here’s a peek at what we packed. Brace yourself … it’s remarkable how much stuff you can fit into 4 panniers and one handlebar bag.
Clothing, Shelter, and Food
Mrs. Grumby’s Clothes
- Keen Newport sandals & Crocs
- 2 pair no-show socks, 2 pair warm wool socks, 2 undies, 2 sports bras, & 1 regular bra
- Bike shorts – 2 pair, 1 pair running shorts, 1 pair pants (with roll-up snap)
- 3 short-sleeve shirts, 2 long sleeve shirts
- 1 windbreaker-type jacket, solar sleeves, warming sleeves
- Fleece: hat, vest, neck gaiter; plus glove liners and buff
- Rain gear: jacket, pants, gloves
- Helmet (with sun brim), bike gloves, & sun hat
Mr. Grumby’s Clothes
- Keen Newport sandals & Waldies sandals
- 1 pair low socks, 2 pair warm wool socks, 2 undershorts
- 2 pair bike shorts, 1 pair shorts, 1 pair pants
- 2 cotton t-shirts, 1 capilene t-shirt short-sleeve shirts, 2 button-down short sleeve shirt
- 1 capilene/wool long-sleeve shirt, 1 long-sleeve button shirt, 1 fleece pullover
- 1 windbreaker-type jacket, solar sleeves
- Down vest, hat, buff, & liner gloves
- Rain gear: jacket
- Helmet, bike gloves, sun hat, & surgical cap (sun protection under helmet)
Shelter, Beds, & Nighttime Stuff
MSR Hubba Hubba tent
- Thermarest NeoAir Trekker mattresses
- Two 3-season down sleeping bags
- 2 Cocoon silk sleeping bag liners
- Pacific Outdoor Equipment inflatable pillows
- Head lamps
Kitchen & Food
- 2 fuel canisters (one 16oz and one 8oz)
- JetBoil stove, trigger lighter, & 2L pot
- Folding bucket
- 2 mugs & 2 stainless steel pint cups
- 2 one-quart ZipLoc storage containers (double use – storage & bowls)
- 10 sandwich size ziploc bags for storage
- Plastic utensils & 1 steak knife
- Can opener
- Small cutting board
- Coffee cone & filters
- Sea salt, cinnamon, & tajin
- Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds, scrubbing sponge & small shamwow
- Empty bottle for soapy water
- Empty bottle for rinse water
Food & Water for 2 Days (an example from the first couple of days)
- 6 full water bottles (16-20oz/ea)
- Extra water storage: 2L Nalgene, three bladders with 5L total capacity, & 6L dromedary
- Water filter and steripen
- Breakfast: coffee and oatmeal with nuts & dried fruit
- Lunch: peanut butter sandwiches, apples, & carrots
- Snacks: granola bars & cookies
- Nuun hydration tablets
- Dinner: couscous, lentils, & veggies – with a salami & parmesan cheese
Gadzooks! What Else Can You Possibly Carry on 2 Bikes?!
Toiletries, Personal Hygiene, First Aid, & Misc.
2 Camp towels & 7 bandanas
- Dr. Bronner’s castile soap
- Folding “kitchen sink” for soaking/washing clothes
- Moisturizing lotion
- Sunscreen & lip balm
- Toothbrushes & toothpaste
- Chamois butter (saddle sore prevention)
- Nail clippers, tweezers, small scissors
- Mrs. G’s bag o’ vanity: shampoo, conditioner, small mirror, earrings, ponytail holders, brush/comb
- First aid kit: bandages, antibiotic ointment, pain relief, saline eye wash, duct tape, etc.
- Misc: mosquito repellent (Kite & Deet) & head nets
- Straps, bungee cords, rope, and carabiners
- Gerber multi-tool
- Bike lights – 2 front and 3 rear
- 2 mobile phones (for photos & emergency calls), plus one old phone for GPS
- Battery pack
- 2 Kindles & Mr. G’s iPod (for listening to his favorite Elvis tunes)
- 2 power cords for re-charging
Bike Repair Stuff
- Frame pump
- Tire levers, patch kit, & spare tubes
- Fiberfix spoke
- Bike-specific multi-tool (various allen wrenches)
Money Matters (because it does, you know)
Expenses on July Bike Trip
When I put together last month’s estimate of expenses on tour, my prediction for average daily spend was $83.
During our July trip our average daily spend was $67.
- 1-way minivan rental to get from Portland to Bend $62 (most covered with AmEx reward points)
- Two 1-way train tickets from Eugene to Portland $52
- Food – $26/day (restaurants – $134 total, grocery stores/markets – $124 total)
- Lodging – $28/day (7 nights camping – $82, 2 nights in hotels – $202)
- Other -$17
Excluding the car rental and train tickets, our average daily spend was $56. Since non-bike transportation is not likely to be a frequent expense, we’ll have some wiggle room to spend a bit more on tasty restaurant food and comfy rest days at Airbnbs and hotels.
July Bike Trip Summary
Route: Bend to Eugene via Sisters, Aufderheide Drive – FR19, and North Shore Road – FR 5821
- Distance: 230 miles
- Number of days: 10
- Average mileage per day: 23
- Shortest day: 3 miles
- Longest day: 47 miles
- Elevation gain: 12,600 ft.
- Elevation loss: 15,009 ft.
- Campground nights: 6
- “Wild” camping nights: 1
- Hotel/Airbnb Nights: 2
- Number of traveling cyclists encountered: 8
- Good days: 9.5
- Bad days: 1/2
The People We Met
When we arrived at our first campsite we met Brian from Tacoma, a mountain biker on his way to Truckee Bike Park. Along the way he was stopping at other parks to make sure to include some great jumping with his daily rides.
The next night we stayed at Creekside Campground in Sisters, OR and met three cyclists who were wrapping up their journey across the USA on the Adventure Cycling Association’s TransAmerica Trail. Holly from York, England was taking a generous 4-month sabbatical from work; Jim from Colorado, who had spent the past 8 years working in Singapore, has been inspired by the FIRE community and sounded like he was ready to permanently retire; and Keith from Ohio retired a year or two ago from a long career in coal mining. They were all contagiously happy and we had a great time talking with them at the campsite and riding with them the next day over McKenzie Pass. Keith and Jim also offered some helpful tips on how to reduce the weight that we carry on our bikes … another downsizing project!!
After we parted paths with Holly, Jim, and Keith we met 3 travelling mountain bikers on the McKenzie River Trail. We had received some not-so-sound advice from a couple we met on a water run that our touring bikes would be perfect for the trail. The first mile was definitely not appropriate for our wide loads and we were ready to turn back when these trail angels rode up and assured us that we could make it to Paradise Campground without too much trouble. We were so grateful that we didn’t have to turn back and loved the ride into Paradise the next morning.
Spectacular Scenery at 10mph
We were first inspired to do this ride by Grant’s Getaways’ feature on Aufderheide Drive. Mr. Grumby designed a route that included both this scenic forest road and the McKenzie Pass Scenic Bikeway. We had both driven the McKenzie Pass route a couple of times, but there is nothing like being able to take in scenery at an average speed of 10mph and to easily stop to snap a photo or just let our jaws drop for a few minutes to take in the beautiful surroundings.
Beginning with the moment we left Sisters with Holly, Jim, and Keith every corner we turned included a sight to savor. From the Central Oregon mountain peaks in the distance to the trees and flowers we passed with each pedal stroke … it was a special treat to be able to share the experience with three people who were seeing this part of Oregon for the first time. And how lucky we were to be able to all ride up over McKenzie Pass summit together and to walk through the lava fields to the Dee Wright Observatory.
Though we would not recommend that anyone take a touring bike on the McKenzie River Trail, it was incredible to be able to ride for a few miles through giant trees along the spectacularly beautiful McKenzie River. I had kayaked the McKenzie a few times, and really appreciated being able to see the river from a different perspective.
Beautiful Campgrounds, Low-traffic Roads, and Free Watermelon!
The aforementioned Paradise Campground lives up to its name! The campground host said they’ve received visitors from as far away as Korea and Australia who travel to Oregon specifically to stay at the campground while they enjoy the outdoor wonders of the surrounding area.
Shortly after we got off the trail at the McKenzie River Ranger Station, we turned onto the low-traffic cycling utopia of Aufderheide Drive. For most of the 60-mile road, the only sounds we heard were birds, the wind, and the hum of our freewheels. We stopped for a soak at Terwilliger Hot Springs the first morning and spent 3 lovely days meandering on the road from Rainbow to Westfir. There were multiple campgrounds to choose from and we were fortunate to spend two nights at riverside sites at Frissell Crossing and Kiahanie Campgrounds. We even had a deer visit our site at Frissell and I’m pretty sure she took a nibble out of my salty brake hood cover when we weren’t looking.
From Aufderheide Drive it was a short hop to North Shore Road, a 21-mile mostly-gravel road that a fellow traveler recommended as a low-traffic alternative to Highway 58. We stopped to camp at Ivan Oakes Campground and only saw 3 cars on the beautiful road that paralleled Lookout Point Reservoir. Though I can’t recommend Ivan Oakes due to the high concentration of poison oak, it was a peaceful and pretty place to rest. And George, the campground host, stopped by our campsite to chat and brought us a huge chunk of delicious watermelon.
The One-Half Bad Day
Of the 10 days we spent riding, 95% of them were good. The 1/2 bad day started on a short hike we took to get drinking water. A couple we met on the trail told us that if we were riding to McKenzie Bridge we had to take the McKenzie River Trail. They looked at our bikes and said enthusiastically, “It’s perfect for your bikes!”
Without considering how much bike riding these folks had done, we accepted their advice with equal enthusiasm. We were eager to avoid the traffic on the main highway and didn’t think much of having to walk our bikes the first narrow and steep mile or so. We kept thinking, “the trail will flatten out soon and turn into the enjoyable ride that our travel advisors promised”… Or not.
It didn’t get any better, but we did come to a flat spot next to a creek where we could set up the tent and crash for the night. That’s when we encountered the mountain bikers mentioned above. Since they were actually riding bikes, we were more willing to trust them. We even asked, “Are you sure that the next section of trail will be OK for our touring bikes and their wide loads?” They looked at our bikes thoughtfully, said “Yes”, and went on their way.
That’s When Things Got Creepy
A guy backpacked in and set up camp right above us. He sat at his picnic table and appeared to be watching our every move for an hour or so. Then he decided that wasn’t quite creepy enough and decided to come and sit on the steps to a creek bridge that was just a few feet from our tent. He was “reading a book” well past dusk and periodically peering into our camping area. He didn’t get up and go back to his tent until after dark.
Mr. G. and I both had a few conversations with him, starting when he first arrived. We agreed that there was something that was just “off” about him. This guy wasn’t just a lonely traveler thirsting for companionship and conversation.
Thankfully we were both exhausted that night and slept well enough, despite my fears that Mr. Creepy McCreeperton would eviscerate us. I think our luck was that we woke up before his serial killer alarm went off. We were out of there and on our way to Paradise Campground before he was able to strike.
Whew! Death and dismemberment averted!
Questions for You, Wise Readers
Am I just paranoid or were our lives truly in danger?
Any thoughts/feedback on our packing list? Do we have too much, too little or just the right amount of stuff?
What questions do you have for us about our bicycle touring plans?
If you answer just one question, please answer this one – ¿Quién es más macho, Señor Grumby o El Sasquatch?